In Search of Structure

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To say the last 3 months haven’t been great would be wrong. I am really getting into my new role of Tech Integration Specialist. The position is more/different/bigger than I thought it would be, and I am still in the place where I don’t know quite what to expect each day. The collaboration has been great, the opportunities are meaningful, and the work is important and impactful.

What I am missing is routine. Granted, I’m the one to blame here. Once the school year was off and rolling, we decided to sell our house (why use all of that free time in the summer when we could do it more methodically?) (please note the sarcasm in that) when we could it while working a new job, handling a new commute, dealing with the usual business of fall, and all that?

Needless to say, we jumped in and sold our house. Moving to our (LOVELY) apartment on Queen Anne took time, but we did it. We did it while managing everything else in our pretty busy lives. Like early meetings, late meetings, weekend retreats, consulting with teachers, planning events, handling new adventures that we didn’t know we could handle. It all happened at once, and we survived.

Mostly.

 

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What I am missing and craving right now is a plan to make my life more stable. I can handle things changing at work in many ways, but my strengths lie in calculated decisions that let me be consistent and disciplined. At our TIS retreat last weekend, we took the Strengths Finder assessment and compared our results as a team. I was a little shocked by mine, but more reflection that have these traits: restorative, empathy, discipline, consistency, and developer.

success-is-nothing-more-than-a-few-simple-disciplines-practiced-every-day-quote-1With the chaos comes ignoring my health and mindfulness of life. At least the goal to be healthy and mindful about life. I’ve always struggled and had issues, and there have been “good” years and “rough” years with physical activity and all of that. But right now, things are just not clicking. And it’s now the holidays, which means there is sugar within reach all day, the weather is not great, it’s dark, and all I want to do is snuggle with a box of cookies while watching The Crown.

So – what does a restorative, empathetic, discipline-craving, consistency-wishing, developer do? Turn these traits back on himself.

Today’s goal is to make a plan and work with it. I hesitate to type “stick with it” because I know that the next 7 weeks predict chaos and fun. But I can navigate these waters with a road map and a checklist. Well, frankly, I need to. This applies to work also, as many things are happening there (when isn’t something happening at work?) that I need to execute well.

So there’s my plan: to actual make a plan. More about work and what I’ve been doing the past 3 months later, but this is where I am right now. And this was Step 1.

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A New Adventure Begins

 

After 5 weeks of hiking, spending time with family and friends, some time in Canada, and lot of just chilling out – my new job kicked off this last week. I wouldn’t be spending my last weeks of summer prepping the library as I’ve done for the last 11 years. This week would start my time at the district office, not entire sure of what I was doing – but knowing that this new role was just right for me.tech class write up

Monday and Tuesday were actually a side trip before heading to me new work location. My good colleague Melissa and I had developed a class that would highlight our district’s technology standards and tools from Microsoft. We had met about this class several times, and were eager to share so many ideas with our class. We covered OneNote class notebooks, did a Mystery Skype with Tammy Dunbar, and used Mix and Sway. The course was fantastic and we both received great compliments from the participants (and the district).

 

So Wednesday morning I walked to the bus, rode to Redmond, and jumped into my role. My overall job is really about helping teachers use our technology to help students meet our technology standards. It means that I help plan and run meetings, facilitate committees, create content for our staff portal and LMS, and think about ways that we can use our resources. I’ll also get to travel to schools to work with administrators and technology teacher leaders.

My awesome team is great. I’ve worked with them in various ways over the years. We’ve spent a lot of time already brainstorming and sharing, laughing and working through situations. Our first big project is an all-day training for teacher leaders in a few weeks, working so I’ve been creating a session on running professional learning in an EdCamp-format. I’m also creating some resources for some new tools from Office 365. Basically, it’s the stuff that I like to do.

We also talked about some things I have used or plan to use this year. Quite randomly I got them to do a Mystery Skype with MIE colleague Kyle Calderwood (which, of course, was awesome). We also talked about BreakoutEDU and looked at my kit that I picked up at ISTE. I think we will do an introduction in December with everyone. I’m also sharing info on Sway and Forms at our meeting.

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Mystery Skype selfie with my team, Holly and Ryan (LWSD colleagues).

 

Regardless of all the projects and details of my job, we are all committed the same central idea. Technology integration is really about good teaching. That’s a must for the vision of this team, and we all believe that. Truly.

I’m excited to see where this leads, and so happy that Mike supports me in this adventure. It’s going to be an exciting year, and I’m ready to keep supporting this vision of the district and my team.

Also – riding the bus across 520 rocks.

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On Vacation

Not much to post these days. I took July off from – well, everything work related. Mike and I are currently on Cortes Island in BC, reading, hiking, playing games, and taking things very slowly. 

I know August will be busy with a high learning curve, so I’m relishing the peace now. I’m trying to at least. I’m finding myself a little out of sorts with the quiet. It’s almost too peaceful. There very little wifi, less cell service, and our yurt is off the grid. We are heading to a new island tomorrow, but I think it will have the same digital limits. 

And that should be good. So a reminder to set goals about unplugging and enjoying the peace of the moment. 

Oh! I did make it up Mount Si this summer. Beautiful. And great to meet a goal. 

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The Path I’ve Traveled Before

I went to bed last night after a perfect weekend of friends, family, laughing, celebrating, and spending time smiling. Mike and I planned a birthday party that turned into a chance to see many friends gather and laugh (and eat a darn good chicken shawarma and nectarine blackberry upside cake). It was fab.

Flash forward to waking up Monday: feeling old, tired, over-exposed, and in need of a change. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling, just one that I get frustrated with. I’ve done the fit/not-fit dance before, and I know that right now is a season of my being my best self.

The pitfall is the morass of “Again?!” that’s easy to get caught into. So, we talked, we made a plan, and here we go. My morning has now consisted of a workout, tracking calories, some basic meal planning, and telling a friend (and anyone reading this) that I am making a commitment to be healthy.

Right there – it almost happened. I wanted to add “this summer” to the end of that last paragraph. My instinct was to limit my goal to a lowball approach that would get me off the hook this fall or winter or, well, any time. In fact, this morning, as I was adjusting the goals in MyFitness pal, I found myself wanting to put in something simple and easy, rather than bold (yet manageable).

So that’s when my PLN kicked in, and I thought about other friends and posts that they have written. Aaron Mauer always pushes himself to do what is right, to not make excuses, and to be bold in what he is doing. I always appreciate his energy and self-reflection, a quality shared by my #MIEExpert cohort. With that inspiration, I made a good, far-reaching, yet (with work and focus) attainable goal.

The same can be said of my professional life. It’s always easy to pick the “oh that will be easy!” goal when faced with having to add something to my portfolio. We are drawn to challenges that we know we can achieve, quickly running away from something that we’re not sure about. The road less travelled is freakin’ scary, and I’m happy to take the path with lighting, a snackbar, gift shop, map, and many other companions.

But doing that means that I may miss something amazing and powerful. The times that I have pushed myself beyond my own expectations have always lead to something great. And stress. And work. And frustration. Those moments of struggle, however, help me break free from the things holding me back, and make me a better teacher and learner.

So as my workout finished this morning (the Y was closed, so I made a plan to exercise at home) and I measured out my snack (yogurt and blueberries), I felt good. Better than I did when I woke up. My day will be spent getting some things inline to help out (bullet journal, calendar set up, cleaning and organizing, and probably a nap). All necessary to make it a good first day.

And I’m trying to figure out snapchat.  It’s going to be a great adventure.

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MIE Expert US Forum

Looking at the date of this posting and the topic,  I can tell I’ve been busy. This weekend (starting on Friday) was our 2nd MIE Expert US Forum. Microsoft flew 100 MIEs to Denver to connect, laugh, teach, learn, and focus on how we can help our students do more. It has been fantastic.

Admittedly, I was a little grumbly about leaving home and not enjoying my summer and

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MIE friends as the airport.

spending time with family and friends. I had already slipped into a summer routine of exercising, cooking, relaxing, and just reveling in the pause. So to get up at 4:00 on a Friday to start my weekend was met with some (anticipated) grumbles.

 

Those feelings left as we boarded the plane. I say “we” because I started running into friends who were on the same journey. This community of teachers has become a small family, and it’s invigorating to see them face-to-face (not just on Skype conversations). As we were texting and laughing on the way to the runway, I started to feel that the weekend was going to be good. When I met up with others for lunch (making new friends), walked around Denver, and headed to the opening night party, I knew the weekend was going to be fantastic.

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You never know who you will meet up with on teacher vacation.

 

DAY 1

Up early with other Regional Leads to prepare for The Hunt. This activity would take us through Denver, using technology, quick thinking, problem-solving, and sourcing to participate in an Amazing Race style challenge. We did this last year in Pennsylvania and this year at NCCE in Seattle, so I knew what to expect. My team was fun and energetic, and we had a great time exploring the streets.

I also gave an Ignite talk about how the library is like your local TARDIS (thanks to my sister’s encouragement to start watching Dr. Who). The other Ignite presentations from Regional Leads were fantastic to watch and to see what passions they have. It was also good to be uncomfortable and to push myself to try something new.

Our afternoon brought around the learning gallery and learning from all of my peers. I was drawn to the displays surrounding staff development and other models from tech coaches. There are some many creative ideas, all focused on meeting colleagues where they are and helping them to move forward.

Our last learning activity was participating in a BreakOut EDU activity. 20160625_232803445_iOSThis was a lot of fun and frustrating at the same time. It did provide me with my own kit, and I can’t wait to take it back to my new team and see how we can use this tool in our district.

Finally, the day ended with our awards ceremony, flash mob practice, and more time to laugh and have fun as a group.

DAY 2

Stony and I started the day by sharing our breakout session  on 21st Century Research. I love that we planned this with Twitter, Skype, shared docs, and using the skills that we promote with students. Stony is such a caring and creative librarian, and I was so happy that he wanted to take this challenge on with me. This is a partnership that will continue to produce great things.

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21st Century Research with Stony Evans.

Next was my first attempt at doing something in Minecraft. Stephen Reid showcased his students and the amazing, standards-based, creative, imaginative, and academic work they are doing with Minecraft. Before, I had a hard time imagining how students could really use this tool. Now I can’t stop imagining the possibilities.

Our day concluded with panel discussions, motivations from Microsoft leaders, and one last time to connect as teachers.

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THE TAKEAWAY

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Honored to be honored for being helpful.

I was most excited about talking with other tech coaches. One connection created aconversation of anger, frustration, and “what else can I do?” attitude that was concerning to me. I wanted to brainstorm ways to help this person out of the struggle and to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but I didn’t know what to say. Other connections were more encouraging and affirming of the possibilities and my motivations behind going into this adventure.

Micrsosoft’s theme has been to empower our students to do more. I think I will take that to my teachers and admins as how can I help empower them to do more. To help them share their voice as professionals, to help students understand their role in the world, to work in ways that produce great results, and to use the resources we have to do the work we know we need to do.

I think being present is also an important reminder for me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “if only we had…” or “someday we will finally be able to…” If that’s my focus, I will miss what I can accomplish with what I have now – and rejoice in what that is. Not that we can’t be future-minded (we have to be!), but not future-dwelling. My readiness and eagerness for my new job is palpable. I will be present in my summer and time with friends and family, so that I can be a better resource for my colleagues this fall.

Thanks Microsoft and all of my MIE family for feeding my teacher-heart this weekend. It is a fantastic PLN – and a darn good group of people.

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Weeks 39-40: Moving On

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Hollolens!

This was a great year at KiMS. Projects, activities, OneNote, technology, change, struggles, laughter – all of it was memorable and worth all of it.

 

The last few weeks were good because I did my best to be present and not focus on summer. This relates to my last post about getting grumbly and not doing any good with that attitude. The result was enjoying my time with staff and students and seeing the joy in where I was. Attitude really is everything, and I can always be in control of mine.

I spent time going through the collection (both digital and print) to make sure it was “ready for company.” I even went through the school webpage and organized links, deleted old files, and made sure information was accurate. All of that, combined with trying to get books back from students and take care of technology, was time well spent.

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Mystery Skype in Mukilteo.

 

And now I’m looking at summer, a new job, travels to ISTE, and vacation time with Mike. Friday was a training in Mukilteo (thanks to Tammy Dunbar for the awesome Mystery Skype), and there is a short UW presentation next week. The summer will be full, and my mind is already jumping to the fall. However – in the spirit of staying present – here’s what I want to do:

  • Focus on physical health this summer: oof, the spring has been busy, and I’ve neglected my health.
  • Read books again: there’s more to do during down-time than stream Dr. Who.
  • Explore Seattle: I keep meaning to do this each summer, and I always get too booked out. I’ve purposely left the summer open, so I want to visit my city (on foot/bike/bus).

These goals may adapt and grow, but they are on my heart right now.

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Friends bought t-shirts and danced to Golden Girls music. Best sendoff ever!

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Week 38: Hiking

 

 

20160605_143851776_iOSMike and I got up early today to a)go for a hike b)get ahead of everyone else who was going for a hike. Our voyage took us out to Rattlesnake Ledge in North Bend, a beautiful (and very popular) spot east of Seattle. 2 hours later we had some great photos, plenty of exercise, and were eating breakfast as a local café (eggs + bacon + biscuit = happiness). It was a perfect Pacific Northwest morning.

My other mornings have not been so perfect, as they have involved hurrying to work, getting frustrated with things, being short tempered, and (in general) wishing it were summer. Even as I type that, I think “well that’s a stupid attitude” – and I know that other teacher friends are there as well. The school year is a marathon, and those last few weeks are hard – because we all just want to be done.

Which is, in itself, a weird emotion. I love my  job, and I’m excited for next year’s adventure, but why is it so easy to get caught up in this “I just want to be done!” mode? It doesn’t do any good, and it certainly doesn’t help kids or promote a positive environment. I know that I get to counting the days and announcing “next to last Friday!” as kids leave the library – just like others. I start crossing days off the calendar and putting files away that I will no longer need – just like others. But where I struggle is not being in the moment and appreciating where I am and who I’m with – just like others?20160605_143824516_iOS

If you go on a long hike and keep thinking “I just want to be done!”, then you will certainly miss the beauty of where you are, the joy of the experience. While I get ready for a break, I don’t think I approach hiking or camping or travelling that way. I do with the school year. Maybe this is some taboo thing that I’m not really supposed to write, but there. I’ll admit it. I get eager for summer – maybe more than the kids do. And doing that, putting myself mentally and emotionally out the door, does very little good.

So in these last few days, I commit to being in the moment and appreciating what is around me. This last week, I was lucky to do my last book talk with Sarah from KCLS. I was fortunate to collaborate with Stony about our MIE/ISTE project. I was glad to have Sheila, my library assistant, brainstorm ways to make things go smoothly during laptop and textbook turn in. And I was privileged to have a good Office 365 training with my friend Jeff (and get asked to do follow-up training with his team in the future).

I’m not at the summit of the school year yet, so I will stop wishing I was there and enjoy the view of the approaching horizon.

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