Saturday, December 31, 2016

Resolve to Be

In 2016 I did not set goals for myself. I felt like I wasn't up for setting some lofty version of my self to try to live up to. I wanted to relax last year and just focus on the work in front of me. I had no time for additional goals.

Well, then life hit. I had back surgery in January. I was the right decision at the time. I feel so much better these days, but it did not come without loss. I was told I could no longer be a runner anymore. Or a mountain biker, that I was a walker now. I was a swimmer. For those of you that know me, that was a major hit to my hobbies. 

In March I attended the most amazing Ed Conference I have ever been to. SXSWEdu is the conference Educators must try to get to at some point in their career. It opened my eyes to the new landscape education is cultivating. This conference showed me that the moving and shaking in education was not happening in administrators offices. It was happening in the classrooms. This was a huge hit to my psyche. I always move up the chain, anywhere I go. I thought I was moving up in the world by heading into admin. But I realized at that conference that I wanted back in with the kids. I hadn't had enough time teaching to make my mark on it. So in June, at the end of the 15-16 school year, I resigned my post and went back to the classroom. I went back but also decided to run several pilots for the school. I went back busier than I ever needed to be. I was only three years removed from the teaching, it was crazy how much you forget while residing in the "Ivory Tower". 

I am now halfway through this school year and the pilots are for the most part going well. In the school systems, it's hard to think about a January reset button. Our resets are typical in May/June depending on the district. Even though it appeared to most that I had it all together, I was flailing about from January to June of 2016. So even though I am not ready for a giant reset, my year is only halfway over, there are a few things I will resolve to do this calendar year of 2017. 

  1.  I will host a once a month dinner party - Want in? Comment below.
  2.  I will go on a minimum of a once a month date with my husband
  3.  I will not miss Skiing on the slopes with Santa and Mrs Claus next Christmas (this year we chose to stay home)
  4.  I will read a minimum of 8 books this year. We got rid of the TV in the living room. So there should be no excuses here.
  5.  I will be kinder. I am a nice person, but I want to be kind too. There's a difference.
  6.  I will learn a new instrument (piano).
  7. Hang out with Anne Beck more in 2017

I think not making goals or resolving to something new left my soul feeling stagnant. I am a shark, I need to keep moving. Maybe not necessarily up, but moving nonetheless. 

8.  Learn to spell necessary without having to use spell check every time. 

So there they are, my goals for the year. Call them resolutions if you must. I may not have all the time in the world, but I am making these 7 statements a priority in the calendar year of 2017. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Second Generation Survivor

Up front I should tell you, I am a hot mess. I have all of these thoughts and feeling inside of my head that I cannot express without screaming or crying. I just found out some real Deliverance type $h!+ that happened in the family tree and I cannot make heads or tails of it. I will dramatize the names and relationships to protect those that wish to continue to remain blameless and clueless.

Beth was an 8 yr old kid. Her father like any red blooded back woods freak had high aspirations of being a Grand Wizard for the KKK.  Beth being only a child with no mother at home (because the mother selfishly left the home leaving backwoods dad to raise 5 kids) loved her father. The father here, who selfishly loved to hate black people, decided that, to make it anywhere in this sick twisted world of his daughters had to be passed around to the other twisted sickos (that hated all non-white/christian persons) for fun little romp of sexual pleasuring for themselves. You might be asking at this point, "What the Suck?". That's fine. I did the same thing. This is a story you might find from the sequel to Mississippi Burning, but it is actually a story ripped from the therapy session logs of my mother.

Cat's out of the bag.

Ok, a month has gone by since I wrote that last bit. I have had some time to process. And while she would be freaked that this was shared like know, at this level, this story must be told. Once I was married, once I had children, I really hated her. I truly did not like my mother. It was fun to play games with friends about the things we learned from our parents. I always had shock factor for the win, Alex. She took so many risks in mine and my sister's childhoods that could have easily gone so badly. She would always tell us that she did the best she could with what she had. This was always an excuse in my book. It sounded to me like there were no regrets in our upbringing. Was there really no room for improvement or "Im sorry"? It wasn't the absolute worst, but the list of gross oversights and grievances is long. I am not talking spoiled middle class teenage angst type complaints, I just mean needing to grow up too quick type stuff. The level of poor we endured was strength and character building, it was the other stuff. We were like the cockroaches of people I suppose, you know they exist, but don't want to find them around your home.

I told myself when my daughter Tatum was born and I whispered in her tiny perfect infant ear, that I would be better. I would do it so much better than my mom had done it before me. My kids are 10 and 7 now. While they still have a lot of growing up to do and I still have a lot of parental screwing up to do as well, I can say that I have kept this promise.

And then the mother in me realized

If she had said the same thing into my tiny perfect infant ear, then she did it. She made a life so much better for us than her upbringing. While my overexposure to life came too early, I was not passed around at KKK meetings or any variance of the sort. Then the guilt sets in. How could I have been so selfish for so long? How could I be blinded to this sacrifice? Thoughtless and selfish she was, but she did it. She raised two girls as a single mom against all odds. Both of these girls have now blossomed in their own paths. Both girls are now leaders due to the independence she taught us. Both girls knowing what it takes to survive early on. Many kids these days ever know what they are capable of because they have not had to endure. She gave us endurance.

I forgive you mom

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I am a Bully

Hi, my name is Erin and I am a bully. Why the heck can I teach other peoples kids all day long and with the patience of Job, but when it comes to my own children's learning, I reduce myself to tactics that were used against me when I was a child? Those tactics made me angry, mad, sad, defeated, not smart enough. In the act of bullying that is not what I remember. When I am working through the math problems or reading activities and am met with questioning eyes and frustrated glances...all I can see is that some days she reads with ease and some days she is stubborn as hell and for got the sound the B makes. Some days her mental math capabilities are beyond the 1st grade expectations and other days I ask what comes after 46 and tears fill her eyes. My 4th grader can do this to me too...typically I bring both of them to tears once a month though on different days. All the while I am standing over them shouting that she remembered this yesterday.

I did this today. I typically keep my cool, but today was one of those days I had a short fuse and was not willing to compromise. Not until my husband called me out. He is really good at making me see the larger picture. He was pretty sure she was being stubborn too but knew my approach was not going to fix or solve anything. Ouch. I took a breath and went back to the table with a changed approach and we made it through the lesson.

So my question is, does anyone else get this way? How do you combat that double standard? My kids are my students as well, so I know they have never seen me freak out on other students. Why I am I so hard on them? Are you harder on your own kids than your students?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

For those of you that haven't seen the iconic movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, I will give you the short version. Guy meets guy on a plane...connection flight is cancelled so the two travel across country together running into bad luck all along the way.

While Anne and I knew each other (kinda) before adventuring on this modern day adventure, the same kind of bad luck kept creeping its head around every corner. We tried to document much of the chaos and fun on the Facebook page -

We arrived in Denver around 10:30 PM to the AirBNB we reserved weeks earlier. Upon arrival the host was heavily intoxicated and the details from the description on the website did NOT match the house. Long story short, we politely shook hands and told him we would just get a hotel for the night. Little did we know that Denver was sold out. Folks, I mean for real. After calling the list of hotels we Googled the the next two hours and arguing with AirBNB, the closest hotel we were able to find was 65 miles away and not for that was for the next night. We decided that it was inevitable, we were sleeping in the car. I brought the Yukon XL so it shouldn't have been a problem right? No, we brought our bikes which were taking up the whole back of the vehicle. After waking up three short hours later we showered in the room of some friends (Vanessa and Tonya) and headed into the convention for our 9AM session. Through the Twittersphere and #isteRAK, we were kindly hosted by Lisa Johnson (@techchef4u). She had an extra bed in her hotel room for the second night and took in the Okie homeless strays. We told our story to ISTE housing and they really worked some magic and found us a room for the last two nights.

The second day we were there, I dropped my phone while putting it into my pocket. To protect my fingers from getting glass shards pushed through my skin, I bought a screen protector. This was great but only lasted for that day. I had to book it into the Cell phone repair place to get a new screen put on my phone at the price of $150. :-( Phone back to normal we continued live streaming our way through the conference.

While these nuisances continued to pop up, we decided it would NOT get in the way of our fun. We attended evening parties hosted by Edutopia, Gaggle, Canvas, Firefly Computers, and more. We met and were able to have conversations with some of our Twitter Heros. I became part of an Edcamp Global planning group back in November last year and was finally able to meet many of them...though the meetings we scattered through the week.
Laura Gilchrist, Noah Gisel, Nick Provanzano

 Jamie Donally, Debra Atchison
Jennifer Williams, Tara Linney

We also met up with and took pics with several of our OklaEd Tweeps from across the state. 


Anne and I really got to hang out and get to know each other as well. I think our playful attitudes really played well off of each other and she was completely willing to live stream and act right along with me. It was a great time. 


It was a long drive back home where my A/C went out on the car. An hour and $110 later we were back on the road. Great conversations and idea sharing the whole way really made the trip home seem short. I spent the night with Anne in Clinton, OK before heading on to OKC to meet up with the #fiercewomenofOklaED. I half considered going home and skipping the dinner, but I decided I would regret it if I saw pics on Twitter that looked fun, so I stayed. And I am glad I did. Those ladies were a hoot. We talked and laughed and really bonded outside or the Twittersphere. It was funny to me that as each of the women entered the restaurant they looked around lost because not many of us had met in person before. We left fast friends. What started out in jest, turned into a hashtag that bonded a truly fierce group of women. Look out men of OklaEd. ;-)

Claudia, Kim, Sarah, Amanda, Aspasia, Sarah, Jennifer, Christie, Rhonda, Michelle and myself. Many were missing and missed from the dinner and the shot. Brett Dickerson showed up at the end because he was intrigued and wanted to record the event for his blog. When dinner was over I made the tired drive back to Sapulpa and crashed. 

Like in the movie, we had bad luck thrown at us over and over. Having decided to keep a positive attitude throughout the week makes the look back and reflection rose colored. It was a great week and I was pleased to write it down and share with you .

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Blade Wielding Lives Matter

WARNING!!! I have no idea how many obscenities will be thrown around in this post. I am a good gal but came from a down-home-say-it-how-you-like-up-bringing...

My good ol' buddy Tyler Bridges was so great to point out to me today some of the great pieces of legislation that came of of this session while I was so focused on the education bills. I cannot be in all subjects at all times, so thank you Tyler. Thanks for highlighting some of the real gems.

Ok, what? What the hell is this horse hocks? Daggers? Sword canes? Who the hell is so worried about this and petitioning and lobbying about the need of this that it was necessary to pass this bill this year? I am kind of serious here. Please if you are one of these people step out. Let me in on what I am missing and why it is so imperative that 2016 was the year this needed amended?

Let me tell you who is stoked about this newly amended law. My 9 year old daughter Tatum who does have a dagger. She is so into the FAIRY TAIL WORLD of C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia that she asked for and received a dagger for her birthday. Just like little fictional character LUCY PEVENSIE.

(Yes, the caps are on purpose because I am literally yelling this as I am writing it.)

We are in the midst of a year where a budget came at the final hour, and was so f***ing short that we cannot get a vendor to write a textbook to our newly adopted standards that THEY (legislators) VOTED INTO PLACE!!! Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Senator 1: "Oh man, my daughter is total into Narnia we need to amend this bill so she can legally carry this dagger."

Senator 2: "Well, my 80 yr old father has this bad ass sword cane that it would be totally dope if he could carry that around. That way if he happened to stab someone with it while protecting himself from muggers...he wouldn't get ticketed for carrying it...his sword cane"

Senator 1: Well, I am sick of trying to figure out this budget thing for a can wait...lets draft up an amendment to some archaic ass law that allows for these things to happen...wanna?!?!"

I have to assume that this is the way it went down because who the F*** else gives a S***?

Please I implore you to leave a comment if I am wrong. If I should shut the hell up because blade wielding lives matter. If...I don't know who else might fight me on this one. But if it is you...leave a comment.

If you also could care the heck less about the new blades you can legally carry because you are not 80 or 9 years of age, then forward this on to your legislator.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Financial Shortfall and the Lay-Person

I was in a conversation with a gal the other day and she was asking me questions about why Oklahoma is in such a bind when it comes to education. She went on to say she passes by several schools on her drive and they are adding on or building up the school. Her question was - how do we have money to build and not the money to pay teachers?

I had to explain to her that unlike personal banking accounts where she can decide if she has a vacation fund or pay the bills fund or buying a new pair of shoes fund. In the financial world that the education system must live in, you cannot take from the vacation fund to pay your bills. If you have a vacation fund, you go on vacation and let the water and electric get shut off. You buy the shoes and let the house go to repo. She was pretty upset at that point. She (the lay-person) was not informed as to how the situation worked.  

As a typical human being with typical senses (who may have also survived the single semester of personal finance requires by the state), if the end of the month is coming and I don't have enough money to cover my mortgage, I will use my savings to cover the month. If I have no savings, I liquidate some assets that would be considered luxuries. I have sat in on grade level meeting in schools where a text book is adopted and then because of an emphasis on math and reading, is rarely used. How much sense does this make? I being an intern greenly asked why, and the answer was it was their turn in the rotation. That year 45 teachers did not get their jobs renewed due to budget cut backs.  It's a heck of a way to manage your funds. There was a time and a place for it, but now, desperate times call for desperate measures. We are past the old school way for managing funds. Something needs to change. Until this conversation, she could not understand why we were in such dire straights. I am sure she is not the only person in Oklahoma with a thought process as such. We need to get this message out loud and quick. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


This is really nothing more than a quick shout out to my new friend Josh Flores

I absolutely love when worlds come together. In the past couple of years, I have kinda run in the same circle as the #OklaEd staple in Josh Danger Flores. For those of you that don't know him to well because maybe your circles haven't collided, he is a beer drinking, blog and podcasting sonofvagun with a love of coffee and education.

We have tweeted back and forth and narrowly missed each other at conferences (actually, I did sit in for like 15 minutes of his Evernote presentation at Recharge in Clinton last summer). Today however, we sat down to get to know each other the only way two people really can...with microphones shoved in our faces for an actually listened to podcast.

Joking aside, he was great. We shared the love of a few different things, namely professional development, coffee and teaching. I was at ease the whole time. Josh had a way of not letting it feel like we only knew each other via Twitter and that we were having a recorded conversation.

We talked about SXSW, my loves in education, a lot of Epic Charter Schools and my pet peeves in education. We will obviously have to have a few more rounds of this delightful version of conversation because we really only scratched the surface. I am looking forward to hearing more about his crzy adventures with PD and other projects in the works.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Stop the Fear Mongering

Where the do you think anxiety comes from? 

If you look up the causes of test anxiety on the internet, Google suggests answers from all over the map. One thing that most of these answers have in common is that anxiety is MANUFACTURED and manifests itself in the brain. I am not suggesting anything like - people with anxiety are kooks - because I have dental anxiety. I do freak out when I am sitting in the dentist's chair with my mouth wide open looking up at the blinding lights. I am sure some of you just probably had your own little experience as I said that. BUT I am seeing my Facebook and Twitter light up with every person's child having test anxiety. I get that there are probably several out there that get an honest to goodness feeling in their gut before sitting for a large test...but oh my freaking freak! many chapter and unit tests have they taken before this day or 5 in April? How many spelling tests? How many quizzes? Why the deuce are these kids freaking out?

Here is where I make my enemies today...because teachers and parents - you are doing this to them.

I have seen posts on FB that say their student's teacher told the class that she could get fired over bad performance. What? As far as I know my school is the only one in Oklahoma with performance pay, and you have to do a way crappier job than have your class bomb all their tests to get fired for it. Why are teachers putting this pressure on the kids? Not all teachers do this. I know.

Parents...if your kid is bad at test taking, stop labeling them with test anxiety. This is not the end of the world. Nobody is looking at your kids 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th grade scores to get into college. Seriously, unless your kiddo is some sort of amazing the only scores people are looking at are ACT and SAT scores. Now if you are looking for scholarships, that's a different story, but then teach the kiddo some test taking skills and move on. Tests will not be going away. Even if the legislators vote to end EOI testing, that doesn't mean that benchmarking and performance will altogether quit being tracked. You take tests. Even into adulthood tests keep coming. To get a job selling insurance you take tests. To become a certified teacher, you take tests, To spray bugs, you test every four years. If you don’t pass, you don’t buy groceries. It doesn’t get any higher stakes than that. To become a physical therapy take tests. If your kiddo can not read as a third grader, do you really think it is best to move on to the next grade level and let them get farther behind? If it was a single bad test, your administrators know that there is something called a good cause exemption. Use it.

Test anxiety has become a self induced pandemic on the feeds. I get that there are some, but the odds of every person I see posting about this actually having a child that has non-parent or non-teacher induced actual anxiety has got to be a lie. Stop scaring the hell out of the kids. Stop feeding this absurdity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What does #oklaed mean to me.

So, I started my #oklaed journey around 2 years ago. My friend Anne Beck invited me to EdCamp Tulsa, hosted by Jenks PS. My very first session was a Twitter 101. I was already on the Twitter, but I was fumbling. Tobias Brown, aka Doc Brown, split the room in half and taught the fresh fish how to set up an account, whilst walking the new-tos through what it means to chat and how to be a little more specific with your Twitters. It was game on from that day forward.
Sitting in the Mountains enjoying a Sunday evening #Oklaed chat

Scott, is the guy who sent out the challenge to write about what we thought #oklaed meant to us. In his 3/22 (today) The Drive, he talked about the growth a teacher could get out of take a video of themselves teaching and sharing. Well, I don't teach these days, so my blog posts are my way of doing just that...putting myself out there...being vulnerable to the criticism and the hits that might come my way.  I can write up a blog post of my thoughts and feeling on different topics, post it our on the Twitters and find that people either validate my thinking or tell me they feel I am still apart of the problem. Either way the feedback is amazing.

Another amazing thing that has come from #oklaed is the couple of wonderful small groups I am apart of on Voxer. These two groups have individuals from across the state. We are an unlikely band of educators that without the hashtag and the app Voxer, would not exist in a world together. So the #oklaed is a mixer for intellectuals. I can post a question to the Twitters... hashtag it with the #oklaed and get may different responses in return. I can ask my question to the Voxer groups and get immediate feedback. I can find people to oppose me and challenge me to grow.  I can find people to lift up my ideas and help me expand my thoughts.

#Oklaed has grown so much since I started. Today it is my PLN. It is my tool for growth. It is my teacher...way cheaper than Grad School. #Oklaed is my peeps.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rules Were Made to be Broken

I know I still have to fill you in on SXSW day #3, but my husband had a few words that resulted from a conversation with several teens yesterday.

Rules were made to be broken.

If there is one common saying that infuriates me to the point of blood boil, it is this one. A philosopher that I am quite fond of, Os Guiness, tells us that the best way to show a person that their belief is a fallacy is to encourage them to follow it to the end. This means, to get a little stuffy here, to use deductive reasoning to follow premises to their logical and necessary conclusions. Rules were made to be broken. Am I safe to reword this phrase a couple different ways for the sake of clarity?

-The reason rules are made is so that they can be broken.
-A rule is made for the purpose of being broken.
-The purpose of a rule is for it to be broken.

If we are in disagreement that all these statements are the same, then I suppose I’m attacking a straw man. But if they are the same, if you can infer the reason and purpose in the “were made to”, then this statement falls apart under the most elementary scrutiny. So, let’s just follow this thought to its ugly end. If rules are meant to be broken:

-My rule for my daughters to brush their teeth daily is meant to rot their teeth. That’s the purpose of the rule.
-Rules of algebra are meant to be broken (a+b ≠ b+a). The reason for this rule is to cause incoherence.
-My rule of no cursing in my house is meant to encourage foul mouths.

This becomes even more fun if we can include “laws” to be rules - which I think we can agree on:

-The speed limit in driving is meant to be broken; its purpose and reason for being posted is so we know what speed to exceed. Agree with this one do you? Then don’t complain when a guy flies by you in a school zone – he’s being a better steward for the purpose of the law than you are.
-Laws against murder and burglary are there so we can break them.
-The tax laws are there for you to keep your money.

Let’s get crazy and have even MORE fun:

-The 2nd law of thermodynamics means my hair is about to grow back and my car will slowly repair itself.
-The law of gravity is there so we can fly. Evidently its purpose is to send us floundering in space. I’m glad the laws of the universe were not meant to be broken.

No, rules are not MEANT to be broken. They are MEANT to create order and predictability. Does this mean I blindly follow all rules? Emphatically and resoundingly NO - but the saying is not “Ridiculous rules should be broken” or “Meaningless rules can be broken”. My guess is that this saying became popular strictly from the absurdity of it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

SXSWedu Day #2 rundown

Anyone happening on this post because of the SXSWedu title, please know I am no writer...

So this post Im writing at a much later time than last night and under a completely different disposition. Today was a bit less inspiring. Great...but less yesterday. But one thing today did have over  yesterday was experience. There are lots of links in this here post, feel free to click on all of them. But especially the video I made today.

Here's the rundown. But there is no possible way I can articulate the awesomeness (in my mind) of each of these things. But I'll give it a try.

Todays sessions were todays sessions. The morning was filled with a little learning. I made a dance video in about 30 minutes. It looks like it, but I have never created in this fashion before. If you watch this video, first click the green flag and then I think you have to click the space bar to get it to start. And its a continuous loop, so shut it off when ever you get sick of me. Which will likely be after about 5-6 seconds.

Next I went to a mentor session with Brooke Miller. She used to curate content for Khan academy and now is in the content building video world. I too am doing these things, so she gave me some great insight on some things to use to make the videos just a little better.

There was no time for lunch AGAIN today, because I was off to a panel discussion with a few of my favorite youtubers. Tyler Dewitt and Paul Andersen are my go to science guys when I need a little more than the curriculum or myself can offer when it comes to higher level science. I got to meet them and take selfies with them which was a little more fun that it should have been. I had a nerdy geeky celeb sighting feeling I hated having.

Paul Andersen

Tyler Dewitt

From this discussion, a couple more sessions and then I met The Dan Rather. I got to let him know I was disapointed he wasnt reporting anymore, and that I would really like to know what he thought about the campaigning.
He said, "Hun I don't know much but it looks like we'll be in for a rough four years no matter what."

Telling me about the future state of the US

After Rather, or Dan as we that know him like to call him...I was off to my last session of the day which was NOT the session I thought it was going to be. I did however, end up taking the most notes for the day in this session. It was about these new tech integrated school, but when I say tech, I mean like welding and podcasting and maker like schools.

I went to dinner with our very own Golden Boy of Oklahoma, Shawn Sheehan. He would probably shrug his shoulders that anyone would call him as such, but that is just because he's a humble guy that is just a regular schmoe.

From here I say I will have one drink at the after party...because it will be free. Well, In the after hours establishment. I meet a lady, whom I have talked to for 5 minutes says she is having dinner with a few other people, she has room for another 2 people and grabs me and the other person I met that day and says please come. Sooo, I went. She, as it turns out is the CEO of PARCC and I was at the table with 7 other people that were all movers and shakers of their compartments in the education world. We all exchanged stories and cards. We all agreed to help each other out. She bought the table dinner and two hours was done. I walked the long walk back to the hotel and am trying to get all of this out before I go to sleep. Its 12:30, but if I don't get it out...tomorrow it would not have been as exciting to write about. I might have glazed over a portion. Maybe some of you are thinking she could have glazed a bit more over this post.

Monday, March 7, 2016

#SXSWedu Day #1 Ramblings

Alright, someone told me right before the opening keynote this morning that by the end of the day my mind would be absolutely blown.
I was all like, "Yeah, ok, Ive been to conferences before"
And he was all, "But you've never been to SXSWedu"
And the I was all like, "Ok, we'll see"

Ya'll, wow!

This place is like Edcamp meets ISTE meets TED talks. The ideas. and then I get ideas. And then I think that the Ministry of Education would not approve of my ideas.

So the opening keynote was Temple Grandin. I had never heard of her before today. She is #amazeballs people. She is a 68 yr old woman that is on the spectrum and also works with the beef industry and more...designing cattle runs to the processing plants. She speaks about her autism and how we should make these kiddos great at their one (or more) thing. Here is a link to her TED talk from 2010. I did not grab a video of her today, but you will see in this video why I instantly fell in love with her. She is cranky and particular and weird. I would have to say she is a woman after my own heart.

From there I went to a session on how to to Inspire Little Learners to Become Big Thinkers. This one was a selfing session because I have two little thinkers at home. I have to tell you, the gut checks you get around this place are insane. I have two girls. One that thinks just like me and one that is just like my husband. The one that is just like me is the quickest to get on my nerves when I am teaching her something, because she like to give up. Well, it dawns on me in this session, that she is too much like me. I would have needed to do while it was being explained and I needed short burst of informations rather than long lists or step by step narratives. We need to support their steps to arrival of a conclusion. We are talking little here. Like preK to 5th. We need to allow them to grow in their, genres, places. This is obviously where the divide in educations starts...birth to elementary. I learned that astronomy, a class most do not get until HS would be a perfect start to science for the littles because it is observation based.

From that session, I went to a session on the #tinyisbig movement in schools. This can be many things, from starting to work small calculated changes into your existing school to creating small actual schools. They took the idea of pop up dinners, a concept I had never heard of before. This is where I, someone wanting to start a restaurant but don't have it all together yet, can call up a local restaurant and ask if on their day off or at a time when they are closed, could I come in and host a dinner of my own menu with their kitchen and equipment. Weird right? Then if that does well, the person might buy a food truck to test the waters with minimal losses. And then go for the restaurant. So in the session, we split into group for form the pop-up version of a menu of our fav foods. Next we created food trucks. Then we talked about if it would work as a restaurant. All of this was the metaphor for an idea for schools. Well their concept anyway, is that you start with a small idea and work it into your already existing school.

After the session were over, I went to the edu playground. This is much like ISTE in that it the newest of the new and the funnest of the fun. I was gamified. Literally, they ( put me into a game by taking two pics of me looking like I am running and then we got to answer questions about cells and they reproduction processes. They will be sending the gamified me to a link where we can all play it soon. I will share with all of you and then YOU TOO can watch me run through the maze while answering questions on many topics of science. The scoop is, they sell the templates and you add your questions. Super fun way to start small with this trendy movement.

I walked the long way back to the hotel trying to get in a little sightseeing. I walked by many places, but the state capital was photo/selfie worthy. So now after day one is done and in the books, I start to piece together my tomorrow. So many sessions happening all at the same time. All of this to say. The guy at the opening session was right. This is so much. So good.

I apologize for all the selfies here.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Guest Blog - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Challenge

Travis Barnes, aka, the hubs, has guest blogged for me before. I challenged him last month in a bloggers challenge. And because he won't get his own blog - here he is taking over mine.

What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?

  1. My ONE biggest struggle this year has been keeping a positive attitude about the school’s administration. When I started with this school the environment and culture was small and personable - it’s now big and mighty; bureaucratic and formal. This has left me feeling disenfranchised, and I’ve used that word more this year than ever before.  

Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.

  1. In contrast with my struggle, I have managed to form an even closer relationship with my students and their families. Every year they feel more like my extended family and my confidence in knowing their goals, ambitions and learning styles is even higher.
  2. I’m proud of my “Double Platinum ‘A’ Teacher” status, even though I have mixed feelings about this. My students did the work - not me. I’m proud for them.

What are THREE things that you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

This question feels like a stuffy “What are your three measurable objectives for this quarter?” and because I’m so bored of this type of thinking, I’m going to list the far more important things that cannot be measured and put on a #$$@%&! spreadsheet:

  1. At the end of the year I’d like every student under my tutelage to have a positive attitude about their accomplishments of the previous year and enthusiasm for the next.
  2. I would like to have increased each student’s confidence in themselves and empower them by stressing an internal locus of control.
  3. I would also like to get my own internal locus of control in check and not let the administration’s Cohorts, Protocols, Policies, Task Forces and Mandates frustrate me.

Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.

  1. Are you kidding me? The culture is rough everywhere. I came directly from a police department, trust me, the grass isn’t greener anywhere else.
  2. I genuinely love kids. I think any philosopher must love kids. They see the world better than we do, and it’s so refreshing, fun, insightful and healthy to be around.
  3. At the end of the day, this job really matters. How many people, or what percentage, can really say that? And when we are on our death bed, I bet our only wish is that we had invested MORE of ourselves into our students lives.
  4. Summers off.

Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?

Sorry I don’t do this type of thing. This has been fun though, so if anyone else wants to do it - you should. This post might paint me a bit like an anti-establishment guy or having a problem with authority, but it’s really not like that at all. Rules have their place until they are no longer useful or until they hinder something of greater importance; after all, God made the sabbath for man, not man for the sabbath.

Cutting Funds...AGAIN

What could you do with $106 million dollars? 

State Dept be like...cut funding to the kids so we can Make It Rain.

The state of Oklahoma send out another memo saying that there would be another hit to education

Are you serious? 

I am wondering if the state of Oklahoma would like to or be willing to account for where they would like to put that $106 million dollars, an accounting for or a reckoning of the shortfall to the children and families of Oklahoma. I understand being in the hole. I do. I was once a reckless youth that while in college I overspent in my checking account. I paid the overdraft fees and then then learned a lesson. The lesson I learned was that you don’t spend money that you don’t have. 

I expect there is much more to running the state’s checkbook than that. And they are trying to do the fiscally responsible thing right now, they ARE trying to cut spending

But here is the deal…because there is always a deal. You also cannot continue to cut the funding to schools and also think you will be able to keep up with the Jones family one state over. According to The Huffington Post for the year 2014, we ranked as the 36th state when it came to educational systems and this school year we are ranked a whopping 48th in the union when it comes to education spending and gains. Surely one cannot draw a direct line between spending and outcomes.  Please oh please do not cut our funding for fiscal responsibility and then turn around in June or July and ask why the pudding is the same flavor. 

The cuts to an already crippling education system make me wonder if we can ask for more transparency as to where they will apply the money and find out what matters more than our future. I know it sounds cliche to say, but that IS the hope right? That is what our students will become? Maybe I am wrong. Maybe we do not need them to be the future. But leading as an example and teaching by modeling is part of the learning process. If all they see if continued hits to EDU, then what can we expect them to do when the time comes? 

This is just one girl's rant. Go here for more info

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fully Functioning and the Quest for the Meaning of Life

Fully Functioning Human Being 
and the quest for the meaning of life.

In this little trip of education, I have taken a path down Educational Psychology. In this trek we talk about many of the greats; Maslow, Locke, Erikson, Bloom. All of these names have so much to say about the way we teach, motivate, and demonstrate. In the quest for an A, I am always looking for a different voice saying more. I have landed on Scott Barry Kauffman. You should read his stuff. He is a modern day Ed Psyc guy that, in my opinion, is evolving the way we should approach education.

Due to insane back problems that lead to surgery 2 weeks ago, I had to drop my semester and "rest". But my dedicated readers know, that really doesn't "happen". I am always looking into this, trying out that...helping to plan another edcamp. I just love being involved.

Well, a tweet from Kauffman caught my eye this morning. He linked an article that he had read...
I wasn't even through the first paragraph when I saw another name we study, Karl Rogers. I yeall out to my husband the line in the article about the "fully functioning person" and the conversation took off.

Sidebar - Travis' grandfather passed away last weekend. He man was amazing. He was literally into all of the things we read about in how American developed through the 30's to today. He life is like an action-adventure meets romantic comedy then what ever the hell genre The Notebook is...the bawl your eyes out genre. None-the-less, Trav and I have been talking for a week now about the natural things of life and death that follow an event like this.

So in the conversation about fully functioning person, we quickly moved past the day to day Special Education life skills type stuff and onto the word fully. The idea of fully ran onto things like a fully invested wife, fully engaged mother, fully aware educator, fully dedicated to, I was immediately exhausted by all of the things I was fully trying to be. And then all of a sudden was made to feel (in my own head) inadequate. I started thinking what does it mean to be a fully invested wife? Could I do more? A fully engaged mom...could I do more? A fully aware educator...Tyler Bridges would tell you I have a ways to go ;-). How can we get more fully functioning than we are. Then of course you start hinging about making goals and setting check points. I want to______ by ______.

So the question is...think hard here.
1. What is it you want; what will make you live to be a more fully functioning person?
2. Will there be checkpoints?
3. When are your deadlines? 3 yrs? 5 yrs?  
4. What is the end game? What to you think will come of it?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mentor and Mentee Relationship Goals

I’ve mentored quite a few people in the last couple years. These mentees either know they’re in over their head and know they need help. Or they didn't realize they were sinking because the ice burg hit three weeks ago. No matter which category my new friends fall into, they have no idea what to ask me so they could start the process of change.

In a mentoring relationship, it’s generally the responsibility of the mentee to take the initiative–not the mentor’s. In my current role (there are three of us), we are trying to stay proactive in our approach to leading this year. All Epic Charter Schools first year teachers have one of the three of us to connect with, learn the ropes, and grab tips and tricks for their approach to everything. A sounding board if nothing else to all thing Epic and EDU. Our non-first-years, get the opportunity (their choice) for monthly meet-ups to new tools and approaches to education. We basically do the research for them so the teachers can remain focused on the students. 
If you have ever been in this situation, here are a few questions I try to ask when someone needs help finding a way to progress. 

3 questions to ask your mentee:

1. What are you working on right now? It doesn’t matter the person is seeking your guidance on finessing a lesson to deliver over Causes of the Revolutionary War or figuring out the classroom management for this student or this class.  This question helps them focus and prioritize their time and processes.
2. What are your next steps? The very act of asking will get them thinking about how to move forward. Goal making with scheduled completion should be setup (if possible) at this point. Having an endpoint to a goal, whether we have a "do-gooder, hop to the task right now" person, or a procrastinator (can you tell which I might be?) allows for a conclusion. This is also when I might follow-up. 
3. How can I help? Whether needing a crucial tip to hook the students or the right contact to another person that can help - feedback on their strategies or just confirmation they’re heading in the right direction is necessary for growth of this relationship. 
If you’re the one seeking guidance from a mentor, it’s easy to turn these questions around.

Three things to discuss with your mentor:

1. Here’s what I’m working on right now. Tell them where your gaze is resting and where your priorities lie at the moment, what your big picture looks like and where you see them and yourself in it.
2. These are my next steps. What current projects are you giving the most attention? What’s your plan for moving forward? How have you decided to deploy your resources–time, money, energy–to accomplish these things. Have you set a timeline for yourself on when to make things things happen?
3. Where can you help? Let your mentor know if you are looking for encouragement, or critical feedback? Do you want them to introduce you to someone who can help your career, or review your proposal/lesson/task before submitting it to your boss? Do you need granular advice about making it through the school day or school year? 
Sidebar - Don't quit unless you absolutely suck. We need to #makeOKgreatEDU find a mentor for your certification, job title, etc. We can help you with a particular task even if outside or your district. People like Anne Beck from OU, Vanessa Perez from Clinton PS, Anthony Purcell from Stillwater PS, Scott Haselwood Doc candidate at OSU, and myself have all discussed cross district professional development. DM any of us on The Twitter. 
Don’t let a mentoring relationship get stuck because you don’t know how to move forward. If you’re feeling stuck try asking yourself or your mentor these 3 simple questions. If your mentor sucks...try to find another that fits your style. BUT FOR THE LOVE, please do not let this relationship become a negativity perpetuator. If you are getting advice, please TRY to put into action. Do not come up with excuses as to why it will not work. Do not play the blame game. You never know what will work until you have given it a try. What will you lose? Another day? 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

5,4,3,2,1 - A bloggers challenge

Alright, I have been tagged to be apart of the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Challenge. Originally posted by Anthony. I think that Scott, who called me out, probably looked at my recent post history - the fan that he is - and desired to read more of my off the cuff - lacking the educational background - too many commas, 'cuz that's actually the way I speak - style of writing. 
Sidebar - I have thought about deleting this whole blog many times due to the fact I am not a writer. I'm a conversationalist
 I’m sure that’s it. But alas, here goes...

What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?
  1. This school year in particular I have struggled with my ever changing job title/description. The year started out like last year, but I was sinking. I have a teaching background but my current job which I had become very good at, had evolved over the last two years into a largely systems background. The biggest struggle was wanting to know everything about everything when it came to our curriculum options - I like that, and that was very good at it - but It was not teaching, it was not my passion. I am happy to say that mid-year I have been asked to change job titles into professional development. I cannot tell you how excited I am and my struggle is waning now everyday.  And I still get to know everything about everything. :-)
Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.
  1. Most of you know that my school is different from most. We are a public, virtual, blended charter. Got that? I can go into all the ways to defend that to you nay-sayers, but that’s another post and a past post...keep reading. My daughters are students at Epic, they are with me everyday all day while I get to do my job. They are watching me do my work and also plan the EdCamps on the side. The oldest likes to pretend regularly to be like me. She has recently said that when she grows up, she would like to plan EdCamps just like me. She is a 3rd grader and now has a Voxer account with her friends and is planning all kinds of things from a vet club to lemonade stands. So. Proud.
  2. This one is kind of cheesy, and probably won’t mean much to anyone...I inherited the ownership and upkeep of a database built in Google Sheets that was a train wreck. It was started by someone who, God love her, just didn’t know the capabilities of Google and all the Googley tools out there. I took this thing that she was sharing as like 45 sheets at a time, built it into itself - Have I lost you yet - and am finishing it. Still has a little ways to go. It is now a fully functioning Wiki, and can be shared as one link and is fully operational. It shows each of our 15 curriculum options and where they hit and miss the Oklahoma standards, And the teachers now once they get the hang of using it, will have little guess work when it comes to re-teaching standards and filling gaps. I know, it’s a dorky accomplishment and I probably lost half of you, but you should see the thing.   
What are THREE things that you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?
  1. Finish the Wiki.
  2. For my new job - find the best way possible to teach 200 teachers across the state of Oklahoma, virtually, while building a connected culture for our teachers. In B&M schools, you can breathe in the culture of a school when you walk through the doors. I have been to some of your schools over the last year…...I want to build a culture so that when we come together as a whole school our 4 to 5 times a year, you can feel the excitement in the room. Our last PD days, which I had a part in the planning process, were a huge jump in this direction. I won’t bore you with the details, but our teachers were very pumped at this event.
    Rick Cobb and Jun Kim - Last year at EdCamp OKC - Your South Moore was beautiful and your student volunteers were inspired. Rob Miller - Your school on my visit had me missing walls with all the high 5-ing we did. Kim Bearden and Ron Clark - There are no words to express the culture you have built in your school that set your teachers apart from the pack.

  3. Find a way for my daughter Tatum to help in the organizing of EdCamp Global as we start the planning process for the June event later this month. I expect to see your faces you can wear your pj’s and attend from home.

Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.
  1. Serving our kids - I think we can do more.
  2. Helping students become self engaged learners and researchers.
  3. The connections that I have made over the year via Twitter and Edcamps and now Voxer.
  4. Knowing that I make a difference in the lives of kids everyday everyday.
Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?
  1. Noah Geisel - @SenorG - A teacher of the year educator from Denver CO, whom I have met through Twitter. His work the badge systems and  I find intriguing. Tagging him might be a stretch
  2. George Couros - @gcouros - Probably need no intro, but first Edublogger I started reading and retweeting. The busiest man on Earth. Tagging him might be a stretch
  3. Scott Barry Kauffman - @sbkaufman - genius of an educator, who has inspired much of what I write about in grad school. His work in individuals, their motivations and their differences is what my school is all about. Tagging him might be a stretch
  4. Yolanda Merriman - @Yymerri - who is probably one of the brightest actual friends I have
  5. Travis Barnes -@tbarnes211 -My husband, who typically is overlooked because he is so quiet, but who has the point of view that is always more meaningful and existential than mine.