Today’s #BFC530 topic got discussed frequently during October because of Connected Educator Month, and I often told my own story as this: I signed up in 2011, never really used Twitter, then started using it at the occasional conference or event, but never really understood the draw or found it very useful. Even as recently as June I saw Twitter as a place I could go to connect with a couple fellow conference attendees or to find a keynote quote that resonated with me so I could RT (retweet) instead of trying to type it out myself and risk butchering the words completely. In August 2014 I happened upon the hashtag #BFC530 and somewhere between then and now a Twitter chat and its amazing community changed my life. But more on that later…
Where it all begins (sort of)…Joined Dec 2011:
This story may or may not mean something to anyone else, and in all honestly if I were the casual passerby of my own blog I’d probably take one look at its length and run in the opposite direction, but that’s ok..because my first rule of blogging is there are no rules, followed closely by rule #2 – I write blog posts for myself, I share them for others (on the off chance it may be of benefit to readers now or sometime in the future.)
In either case, I’ve decided to give you the TL;DR right at the top, because I recognize that I am nothing if not verbose when reflecting and processing at midnight.
My 3 year Twitter history. No Tweets my first 4 months after creating an account, a teensy bit of activity in 2012, and a slight increase in 2013 and early 2014. #InnEdCo14 & #ISTE2014 helped me out significantly over the summer, and it wouldn’t be long until my 10-30 Tweet per month average would become 1, 087 / 2, 825 / 2, 399 Tweets a month…thanks #BFC530!
3 Tweets in May 2012
- What the heck is a 3-way balance beam?!
- Tweet #2 still holds: In this context Google IS the answer (we have GAFE now, in addition to Outlook for official email/calendar)
- Not sure what sessions I attended, but here’s some craziness…I help plan these district PD events now. It has been a crazy awesome 2 1/2 years, and May 2012 was just the beginning of the journey!
June 2012 – Wrapped up my 3rd year as an educator, having survived my 1st year as a full-time classroom teacher. Some days it feels like another life, other days it’s as if I was just outside playing basketball with my sweet, hilarious 5th graders. At the time people probably thought I was crazy for leaving my school/district after just 1 year, but as painful as it was to leave my kiddos and the most amazing teammate I could have asked for I knew in my heart it was absolutely the right choice.
- The week after school was done we went to Europe, staying several days in Rome before & after a cruise to Italy, Spain, France. It must have been amazing, because it warranted 1 line in another Tweet to Beth. Huh…
- My mother-in-law pulled her state math specialist strings & snuck me into the Utah Common Core Academy for Math. I geeked out on collaborative math tasks and saw CCSS in depth for the first time. We also went shopping, drank root beer freezes, and ate all the fry sauce. Musta’ enjoyed the maths more than Europe? It sure got more Tweet-time.
- Brittany and I went to see Florence and the Machine (for the record, it was awesome. FloMo Pandora station got some serious air time for months after). Of note: My use of the word “bestie” followed immediately by “ftw” sans “#” – clearly I had no concept of the hashtag at this point in my Twitter life.
- Registered for my first #edcamp – This is the beginning of more awesome, people! Get ready for it…
- Discovered the brilliance of Larry Ferlazzo
- Still grumpy the district had yet to adopt GAFE. #nuffsaid
- Went to my 1st #edcamp & it blew my mind. I called my mom on the way home, exuberantly talking her ear off about all the amazing educators I had met and the crazy cool possibilities my mind had been opened to. It was the first time I got so completely geeked out over education and could viscerally feel the excitement of learning in this context. Thankfully I have since found many more opportunities for this feeling, and have the awesome privilege of trying to create those experiences for other educators. Some highlights:
- Savinay Chandrasekhar had me in absolute awe with his thoughtful, serene approach to education and to life as he discussed change management. He talked eloquently about Change By Design and Flow which would eventually find their way onto my “favorite books” list (it’s a big list). To this day a chat with Sav leaves me calmly energized (it’s a Sav thing, just trust me) and centered, ready to re-enter the world with a whole new perspective and the feeling that I really can make a difference.
- Glenn Mosses sat in a beanbag chair in the corner of a classroom and talked about hacking classrooms and school in a way that had me wondering what the heck school was, what it should be, and what its purpose was. Michael Wacker sat backwards on a chair several feet from Glenn and they discussed crazy no-box ideas, seeming to both agree and debate each other at the same time. I believe Derrick McNeill was also there, interjecting concisely brilliant statements or, more often, questions that left me thinking for days.
- I had a chance to introduce myself to these guys at the end of the day, and remember being an absolute nervous wreck just saying hello and trying to hold my own in their company. On the drive home I told my mom, “and THEY work in DPS TOO!! Can you BELIEVE IT?!” I don’t remember much else of that conversation, but I remember the feeling…A feeling of possibility, for what school could be and for what my future could be. I didn’t quite know how to name it at the time, but I think there was an inkling that somehow I would be involved in the kind of work these educators were engaged in. Perhaps it was a lucky coincidence that I happened upon it all, but more than likely on that day I was setting goals for myself that I couldn’t quite define…yet.
- I legit have no idea what I was talking about in that 1st Tweet. It sounds urgent and uber geeky, though.
- As is the Twitter story of so many educators, my account got sparsely used save for a conference here and there. #NAGC (The National Association for Gifted Children) was packed with ridiculously brilliant presenters and educators in the field and I was thrilled to be there since G/T had been my passion for years.
- I worked at a G/T school my first year teaching, my Master’s work centered primarily around highly gifted and talented research, and I loved to talk about Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration to anyone who’d listen (or pretend to listen anyway). I loved teaching G/T because I so closely identify with how these kiddos think. They’re my people, I get them and they get me! It was kind of amazing. This work was not only a passion for me as a teacher, but it was the first time I started really piecing together the G/T-ness of me. I was able to read research that said, “Hey! Giftedness isn’t all sunshine and roses, it can even have some pretty gnarly side effects, and you aren’t completely crazy-sauce!” In all seriousness, I was learning to accept all of who I was, not just the parts of me that I perceived okay to share with the general public. I realized that perhaps some of the things I thought needed fixing could actually be benefits, albeit somewhat rare and often confusing to others. It was so liberating and ignited a fire in me to help kids start to learn these lessons a whole heck of a lot earlier than me, hopefully sparing them a great deal of confusion and pain. While I still think that G/T kids deserve that, I also know now that the struggle is part of the process regardless of what you may be struggling with. Do I wish I had come to realize some of these things about myself and the world a little sooner to spare me the crazy rollercoaster of intense emotions, depression, confusion, and a general feeling of being quite “different”? Sure, that would have been swell. But I also realize that all those tribulations along the way are now pieces of me, and I think they are pretty important. Heck, I’ve even grown fond of some of them in more than a “badge of honor” kind of way.
- So yes, the conference was awesome. But it was also a turning point and reality check for me as a teacher. See, I attended the conference with my “bestie” (see above) who teaches G/T and some former colleagues from the G/T school I taught at. Both these schools are fairly high performing, and while no school is without their struggles these 2 are just about as close as you might get in the current climate of education. All these educators work their butts off every year, and continue to teach me what a passionate educator really looks like, but there was something distinctly different about the mindsets they were in and the lens I was coming to the conference with. In October I was 2 1/2 months into the year of teaching that almost killed me. No really, most days took everything I had to stay patient and keep my shit together in front of the children before sending them home and collapsing into a heap of tears at my desk. On the good days I kept it together long enough to get home around 8 or 9pm (my “normal” time) so I could share my intense stress with my poor husband before crying myself to sleep or zonking out on the couch promptly after eating a very unhealthy dinner. The conference was rough because I was trying to explain how hard it is to spend every day… handling behavior, not “teaching”. Calming a student down in the hallway because they’re afraid to go home, not “teaching”. Giving a statement to the police, calling Child Protective Services, making countless phone calls home, trying desperately to get help for kiddos who can’t physically or emotionally function because of the untreated trauma in the past and present…not “teaching”. What I had all along perceived to be “teaching” – delivery and discussion of content to students – was something I rarely felt able to do because I was so busy handling the social-emotional welfare of 30 students and floundering along with a severe lack of resources and support to do so. I was angry, I was intensely sad, and I was quickly becoming hopeless and a little bitter that so many educators had no idea the life that so many colleagues face on a daily basis. Somewhere mid-conversation with my fellow G/T teacher-friends I realized that they had no idea how to access the story I was telling. They cared, they wanted to help, but the solution on the table was to leave my school. Had I thought about it? Heck yes, just about every day. But I knew that wasn’t the answer, because as long as those kiddos were coming to class every day I had to figure out how to make school a place they felt safe and loved. I had to stop worrying so much about lesson plans, the scope & sequence, the standardized test and the standards that were years out of reach for the majority of my class. Instead, we had to enjoy the year. We needed to learn to love and support each other, creating a community despite and because of the baggage each kiddo was bringing to our room each day. If someone wanted to question my teaching ability based on test scores and how many math units I had completed then so be it, but during that conference I began a turning point in realizing that was the hill I was willing to die on for my kids. At the end of the year not 1 student had a dry eye walking out of class for the last time, and they shared the same message over and over again. “I’m nervous for 5th grade because our community is being split up and we won’t be here together every day. I’m afraid 5th grade won’t be as fun as 4th grade was. I’m going to miss our family.” If that isn’t a teacher win I don’t know what is. Those kiddos and I still have an intense bond and many of them email, text, call to ask for help on math or invite me to an activity they’re in. Again and again they impress me with their resilience and inspire me as a person and educator. I couldn’t be more proud of them and I can’t wait to see how some of those kiddos strike out on their own someday to change the world. (For what it’s worth, out of 18 kids who were significantly below grade level in reading at the beginning of the year, only 4 were below at the end of the year, and several students grew 2-3 grade levels. Huh, go figure…a safe and warm classroom that encourages a joy of reading helps kids to grow as readers.)
- Yet another tech complaint. Equity & access issues anyone? I am actually so thankful we didn’t have usable tech that year because I learned a great deal through those experiences that continues to inform and inspire me to find solutions to the divide that is very prevalent in so many schools.
- Another special event that brought out a few Tweets. I remember seeing one of my Tweets scroll across the Jumbotron at Diamondback Stadium and feeling like a mild celebrity for no less than 3 seconds before it moved on to the next. In retrospect these holiday parties were my first lessons in how to properly use a hashtag. Thanks, GoDaddy.
What an incredible year of growth, discovery, and finding my voice as an educator. For just 35 Tweets I sure captured a lot of things to reflect on. I can only imagine what 2013 and 2014 will remind me. Stay tuned….