The Moments That Make Us (part 1)

I have been training for a half-marathon in April and as my runs get longer and longer I get a lot of time for introspection. As teaching is life, most of my thoughts turn to the various moments over my life that have made me the educator that I am. Today’s post is titled: You Should Have Just Made A Poster.

It is my Junior year in HS and I am taking US History II. We are learning about WWI and my group has been assigned the task of explaining the events that started the war, specifically the assassination of Archduke Fernidand. Being a non-traditionalist, I convince my group members that we should film a news broadcast that include a breaking news segment about the assassination. We decide to include other things that are going on at the time including a sports report, other news that occurred that day, and even a commercial for Hershey’s chocolate (with sound effects!). Now, this might not sound impressive for 2018, but this was 1995. No one had video editing equipment. We used my family’s video recorder (that was so large it sat on your shoulder) and had to film everything in order because there was no way to edit clips together. In our main segment, we cut “live” to the back streets of Sarajevo (area behind an elementary school) where the locals (members of my HS fencing team) were chasing down the assassin (played by the team captain because he looked the oldest). For the commercials, my parents did the voice overs and sound effects off camera while my group sat at the “news desk” (my kitchen table).

It was raw, but it covered everything the teacher asked. We explained the details based on our research, discussed other noteworthy news of the time, and referenced information from class. When the day came to present to the class, I had to hunt down one of the 3 TVs that were on a cart that had a working VCR machine because the teacher had no clue where they were in the school. We show the broadcast to the class and we got a “C.” The only comment we received was “You should have just done a poster.” I was devastated. Mostly because I was one of those kids who never got less than an A, but also because I was being punished for being creative.

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 8 so when moments like this happened to me I was quick to file them into my “things I will never do to my students” folder in my brain. I never almost never squash my students’ desires to be creative. Usually, I criticize them for not being more creative and setting the bar higher for themselves. Maybe my video didn’t cover the material well, or maybe it was a little too unpolished, but I didn’t get that as my feedback. The teacher had set his expectations for the project so low that, when a group exceeded them, he didn’t know what to do.

As educators, we need to set our expectations high for our students and let them rise to the challenge. Some will, some won’t. No matter what, we are showing them that we expect more and they should expect more from themselves. And those that do will be that much better because of it.


MiddSouth Innovates #8

February 22nd is National Digital Learning Day. While the event focuses on the integration of technology into learning, the piece from the site that resonates with me the most is “It emphasizes high-quality instruction…“. As I say often, learning needs to be the focus. After discussing this with our Media Specialist, we both agreed that we wanted to turn the Media Center into a collaborative learning environment for groups of classes to work on innovative projects. The Media Center should not be just for research, but a place where any class, or groups of classes, can come to work on an activity. Since in Middletown we “live digital learning every day” (thank you to my edtech colleague for that quote) we were looking for a little more. Luckily, we have plenty of teachers itching to try something new this year and be a little more innovative.

In this issue, we highlight the work of 3 Biology teachers who developed a collaborative jigsaw activity based around various evolutionary scientists. It involved going paperless, Google Docs, Google Classroom, Google Expeditions, and Flipgrid. Students from different classes and different levels came to the Media Center to participate and it was a great change of pace for everyone. As one teacher said, she has been in the school 13 years and it was the first time she ever brought a class to the library. Now she is looking to see how she can do this type of activity every marking period!

I hope you enjoy MiddSouth Innovates Issue #8!MiddSouth Innovates 8


MiddSouth Innovates #7

I had such a great time making Issue #7 of MiddSouth Innovates! I love getting the chance to sit down with passionate educators to talk about learning activities in their classroom. These world-class educators were so excited to talk about their students and their classrooms.

In our tech-related classroom highlight, I talked with a Journalism I class about LucidPress and how it helped them publish their class newspaper. In our non-tech related activity, I talk with an Art teacher about how she is using Perspective art with an Autistic class. Included at the bottom is a feedback form. If you are reading my MiddSouth Innovates, I would greatly appreciate you filling out the form so I can improve. Enjoy!

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MiddSouth Innovates #6

Another Monday, another issue of MiddSouth Innovates.

In this issue, we look at some of the classes that are using Google Expeditions to take students around the world to look at both the past and the present. We discuss storytelling and how it relates to giving good presentations. And we highlight some of the amazing work that’s being done in the Media Center.

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My favorite part about writing each issue is getting to work with amazing educators and students, and helping them find awesome technology to enhance learning. I hope you enjoy all of the work the #middsouthnation is doing.

One Foot In Front Of The Other

I happened to talk to my cousin, Matt, on Christmas. I think this was the first words we said to each other in a decade. He is a few years older than I am and we have never lived near each other so we were never close. He mentioned that he was preparing to run his 20th LA Marathon this Spring which will be his 120th marathon overall! So now let me tell you why this is so impressive.

Matt is smart. No, that doesn’t cover it. Matt is probably genius-level when it comes to math and computers. I remember back in the 80s him being so good that his teachers would have him teach the class because they couldn’t challenge him in any other ways. He was bored in everything else and got average grades. He would spend his free time programming games for his computer and learned the various computer languages he needed on his own. No teacher, he would just get the book from the library and learn.

He went to college (I think to major in Mathematics) and that is when addiction found him. It didn’t take long for him to drop out of college and that is when the real problems started. His drug addiction was so bad his father had to kick him out because he was stealing from him to pay for what he needed. He was homeless and an addict by his  early 20s. I don’t remember how long he was living on the streets for, but his family found him, brought him home, and nursed him back to health. And his dad demanded he get a job.

Matt is not a person who could work in an office or behind a checkout counter. He is just too much of a free spirit. So, living near LA, he finds a job at the beach riding one of those bicycles with the cart behind it that takes people up and down the boardwalk. Matt was always athletic. He was a fantastic runner in HS and it probably would have earned him a scholarship in college (he used to run a 4 min mile!!!). So riding a bike for a living was perfect. He could set his own hours, be on the beach, and get exercise at the same time.

Matt noticed immediately that very few people got in his cart just for the ride; they usually were heading somewhere specific. So Matt decided to talk to a few of the businesses along the boardwalk about sponsorship for the vehicle. He told them that if they paid him a flat fee each month, he would put their name on his cart, and any time someone asked for a recommendation for a [restaurant, bar, swim shop, etc.] he would ride them right to door to the business. The owner of the cart (she owned several carts on that boardwalk) loved what Matt was doing and put him in charge of the riders of the other carts. Within a year, Matt had made enough money to buy the carts from the owner and buy 7 more to have a total of 10 carts working for him. He also hired people who were down on their luck (especially the homeless) because they could work any time of the day and the work was entirely cash based. He gave them pagers and later cell phones, all paid for by the business, so that customers could reach them directly at the end of the night to get them back to their hotels or cars.

In just a few years, Matt went from being a homeless drug addict to an entrepreneur. He was now making steady money, enough that he was able to replace the teeth that had rotted out from being on the streets (a several thousand dollar job!).

Matt no longer needs to work. He expanded his business to other beaches in California and makes enough to cover all of his expenses. He is currently living in Florida taking care of our 98 year old aunt. He is by no means rich, but he doesn’t need to worry about his expenses either.

Ok, so what’s the moral of the story? I guess that depends on where you are in your journey. Maybe the lesson is to be patient; personal success takes time.

If you are a parent who is frustrated that your child isn’t living up to their potential, maybe time and support is what they will need to eventually find themselves.

If you are that kid who isn’t finding success in school, don’t measure your success by your peers. I graduated with who kids who wanted to be doctors/lawyers/engineers and very few ever made it there. Some dropped out; some changed majors; some became that thing and hate every day they are at work.

No matter what path life takes you down, live with passion, find your moments of joy, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.


MiddSouth Innovates #5

Assessments are being heavily debated in my district right now. When PARCC first arrived, we switched from Midterms/Finals to Marking Period Quarterlies. Now Quarterlies are up for discussion again. So, with assessment being so heavily discussed, I figured that should probably be the focus of this issue of MiddSouth Innovates.

First, you will find a glimpse into Mrs. Bach’s Biology class as we look at Thinglink and how she used it to provide more meaningful feedback on student-created study guides. Second, you find some key points from the book How To Grade For Learning, K-12. This book focuses on the research and writings of a variety of influential educational scholars and what they have learned about assessments in schools.

Happy New Year!!! And remember to click the image below to see the full MiddSouth Innovates Issue #5.

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MiddSouth Innovates Issue #4

I apologize about forgetting to post our end of the year MiddSouth Innovates. One of the best parts about my new role as Educational Technology Specialist is going into classrooms all over the school and seeing how technology is being used. In this issue, I had a chance to join one of our math teachers in an Algebra I lesson using Desmos. In the last 2 years, Desmos has moved from simply being an online graphing calculator to a full activity hub for math teachers. As you will see below, this math teacher runs the entire lesson from Desmos using direct instruction, individualized feedback, and both individual and group responses. I was really impressed with both the lesson and tech application.

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