Summer, maybe

School ended almost 2 weeks ago and I’m still wrapping things up.  Because of my new administrative duties, there’s a lot of things to do.  I leave on Friday for an actual vacation.  I’m going to do my best to disconnect and not think about work.  When I return, I face a whirlwind of conferences, most of which I’m looking forward to, but it’s work still.  I’m not doing this to myself next year.

I am still teaching of course and I have a new course on the books that I have to develop.  I’m going back to where I started and teaching a web design course.  I have to relearn some things and learn some new things, but I have a good sense of the structure of the course. So I’ll be working on that this summer.

I’m giving a very big TED-like talk in October, and I need to prepare that.  I’m looking forward to it because it’s a topic I’m passionate about: women in CS.

I have some administrative things to tackle over the summer as well, but they’re not huge.  Most of what needed to get done got done this last few weeks.

Finally, I have some household things I want to address.  There’s a room we’re using for storage that has gotten out of hand.  We need to have a garage sale and do some major purging and reorganization.

I’m planning to alternate days in terms of work.  I find it easier usually to focus on one thing at a time, so one day will be class work, one day house stuff, one day administrative stuff and just keep rotating.  I’m hopeful that will work and that I’ll have some time for relaxing in there as well.  Seems like this happens every summer, but I don’t mind.  I’m working at my own pace, and I know from past experience that everything will get done.

Getting through the end of the year

This time of year is always hectic for teachers and students.  Students are finishing final projects, taking tests and preparing for exams.  Teachers are helping students through those tests and projects, creating exams, and then there’s the grading.  And there are meetings, lots of meetings, because everyone suddenly thinks, “Oh, the end of the year is coming and I need to meet with x committee.”  Here are some ways I’m finding to get through the craziness.

1. Take it one day at a time.  Don’t think about all the stuff you have to do or that you will have to do next week.  Just work on what you need to get done now.

2. Take breaks.  Luckily this time of year usually coincides with lovely weather.  Go for a walk. Have a cup of tea.  Play a quick game of Candy Crush.  Just don’t think about work.

3. Celebrate! Think about your successes and your students’ successes.  This is the time of year when we’re doing that anyway, and it makes all the work feel worth it!

Solving problems

I like to solve problems.  It’s basically how I got involved in this whole tech thing in the first place.  You need your WordPerfect 3.1 document in a Microsoft Word 5.1 format? I’ll figure it out.  You want to create an animation of the solar system? Cool! Let’s figure it out.  You need data on how many people click that apply button? No problem, let’s figure that out.

Those are techy problems, but I also like solving people problems. Students who are struggling, faculty who express opposition to an idea, those are interesting problems to solve, too.  Or bigger problems, like what education should look like in 2020 and if we want education to look like that, then how do we start building something so that we can get there?  And that, I think is where I’m headed with my new position I’ve taken on, Interim Dean of Academic Affairs.  It’s somewhat undefined, but it loosely means I, along with the division directors, department chairs and the Head of School, am helping to solve the problems that we may face or challenges we set for ourselves.

While I’ve been a little skeptical about the path I’ve set myself on, I do find that I enjoy tackling these larger problems.  It’s like a know that need undoing.  I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by a lot of smart people who can give me advice, and who have great ideas of their own.  I feel like we’re in this together.  So we’ll see how this goes for the next year.  It should be an interesting journey.

Don’t Panic

I probably have at least one other post with this title because I know in the past, I’ve often gone into panic mode when things get busy.  For some reason this year, I started out that way, but now I’m all zen about it.  I think I’m busier than I’ve ever been.  There’s no way to get everything I need, much less want, to get done in a day that I just do what I can and leave it at that.  I don’t work late into the night, though I do usually do a couple of work-related things at some point between when I get home and when I go to bed.  And for a deadline, like grades, I work until I’m done, which does sometimes mean a late night or two.

And while I wish I were plowing through my to-do list sometimes, I also don’t feel ridiculously behind, and I don’t feel that stressed.  I’m starting to really feel what I’ve understood intellectually for years, that stressing over how much work you have is counterproductive.  Go figure.  I will say that it’s kind of a weird feeling.  I’m not sure how to explain it really, except to say that I feel like I’m taking it one day at a time.


English: A typical Deutsche Bahn railway stati...
English: A typical Deutsche Bahn railway station clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work a fair amount in the summer, but it’s at a completely different pace.  I get up later.  I have coffee and breakfast.  I go out on the deck with my computer and work.  I’ll take a break and then work some more.  I’ll eat lunch and then, depending on how motivated I am, I might work some more, or I might work around the house.

Once school starts, the day gets broken up into 1 hour and 15 minute increments at best and 40 minute increments at worst.  I don’t generally have 3 hour stretches of time to focus on one thing.  This year’s schedule looks much better than previous years.  I’m crossing over divisions less–only one MS class.  And some days, I really do have an almost 3-hour stretch.  I’m hoping to use that time wisely.

Last year, I had 7 preps.  This year, I have 3.  If you’re a teacher, you know how much better that is.  Even if I only spent 15 minutes or so on each of my middle school classes, that was still 45 minutes of prep at a minimum.  Most days, it was more than that.  I do have a couple of students who want to do an independent study, so that will eat up an hour probably on a couple of days, but we’ll see.

I remember fondly my senior year in college when all my classes were on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  My day started around 9:30 and didn’t end until 4, I think, but 3 days a week were all mine.  I had a job, but it didn’t start until 3:30 at the earliest and mostly I worked on the weekend.  I spent a lot of that time writing at my dining room table, also sleeping and eating.  Hey, it was college!  I can’t even remember having a schedule like that for years except when I wasn’t working.

So, here’s hoping that my time won’t get too eaten up, that I can find ways to make the best of it and that I can find time for myself.

Jump start

I kind of took yesterday off.  I had to go into school to take care of some things, and I had intended to do some work when I got home, but instead I sat on the couch and did nothing.  I had lunch, puttered around, went for a walk, and then Geeky Girl and I went to the pool.  I’ve worked almost every weekday this summer.  I felt I needed the day off.  My family has traveled a lot separately, so we haven’t really seen each other that much.  We had the week at the beach, but then after that, Geeky Girl was off visiting my dad; Mr. Geeky went to DC; I left for NH, then Chicago, and Geeky Boy went to Seattle.  We saw each other for a day, maybe in between all that.  We are trying to plan a family trip sometime before Geeky Boy heads back to school (he starts earlier than the rest of us).  So I’m kind of in a limbo mode of being sort of on vacation and sort of needing to do some work.

I’m going to try to jump start my work mode today by doing some fun things.  I have an origami garden thing I started with my students at the end of the school year that I’d really like to finish.  I think I’m going to use the Hummingbird Robotics Kit I have to finish it out.  We’ll see how it goes.  I also want to build a motion detector for our cat/dog door and see if I can calculate how many times the animals come in and out–just for fun. 🙂  Most of the work I’ve done so far this summer has been plotting out curriculum and lesson plans.  I enjoy doing that, but I need to play a bit before I dive into more of that.  In fact, what I really need to work on is my 8th grade elective, which I haven’t taught before.  I have a general plan, but need to see what will work.  I especially need to think through the plans for the physical aspects of the course.  The first 6-8 weeks, I think will focus on coding and digital skills.

The other thing I want to dive into is figuring out a badging system.  I want to use Mozilla‘s open badge system somehow in all my classes, and especially in the 8th grade class where, yes, I will have to grade some things, but want to use the badges as additional feedback and incentive.  Sounds like a much more fun plan than just writing lesson plans and maybe it will lead to writing those plans.  Here’s to getting a jump start!

Back to the grind, of sorts

Vacation is over and now I have to get back to work for a bit. I have a week before I go to back to back conferences and I’d like to see if I can get something done before I leave. Which is crazy, I know, but I’m hoping to take some more time off later in the summer, and I’ll feel better about that if I’ve gotten something accomplished. One of these days maybe I’ll spend a whole summer doing nothing but I’m not sure I’m that kind of person.

I managed to not check email of any kind while on vacation. It helps that I barely have any kind of connection, wifi or cell. But I basically didn’t think about work for about 10 days. I think we all need that once in a while. It’s hard to do for many of us, especially when you really like what you do. I do enjoy my time off, but I also always look forward to getting back to school. Which is, I guess how it should be.

I won’t do much today. I’m dropping Geeky Girl off at the airport in a while, and I have a meeting later in the morning but I’m planning to just get the house back in order and play the other stuff by ear. Tomorrow, I’ll jump in a little more. I may feel like there’s a lot to do but I like that I get to decide at what pace to do it.

Back from hiatus

It’s the last day of spring break.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been in a bit of a time crunch.  Just before break was incredibly busy.  I basically unplugged for the first 3 or 4 days.  I was on my computer, but I was playing games mostly instead of checking email or reading blogs.  The weather here kind of sucked and most of the family was sick (and now I am, yippee), so we spent a lot of time on the couch, reading and watching tv.   I did tackle a few household projects, but didn’t push myself.   It was enjoyable to not feel pressed.

We have a little over 8 weeks of school left, which seems mostly manageable and it’s peppered by a couple of long weekends.  I want to make the most of it and try to get some significant work done as well as push my students to get their best work done.  And I want to do that without feeling halfway insane.

I’m reading a book called Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time about how we all work too hard and women, especially feel crunched for time as they work full time and then shoulder most of the housework and childcare–still.  One thing I like about the place I work is the culture is mostly about working hard during your work hours, but there’s no expectation to respond to email or otherwise publicly engage with work outside of normal hours.  Most of my colleagues grade and plan after school or in the evenings, but it’s not constant and most do it without much complaint.  I still struggle with the Puritan work ethic myself and feel like even my leisure time needs to be occupied with “valuable” activities.  Just sitting, watching tv, doodling, whatever, that’s not good enough.

Laura, at Apt. 11D linked to an article with a similar theme.  Her readers find the data a bit spurious.  There’s a lot of data in Overwhelmed.  Her readers should read it. 🙂  We really do work too much.  40 years ago, economists predicted that we’d all work 20 hours a week and that would be considered full time.  We’d have more time for volunteering and general leisure.  I know, you’re laughing.

I aim to use my time wisely, including for leisure, for the rest of the school year.  We’ll see how it goes.

Exciting Things Coming Up

The week ahead promises to be super busy but super fun.  We’re in the middle of exam week, and in fact, I’m spending this weekend writing an exam, grading final projects, etc.  My exam falls on the last exam day (Thursday), so I’ll be frantically grading on Friday in order to get my grades in.

Here’s what’s in store for this week.  First, I’m guest hosting a #KidsCanCode Twitter chat on Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST. You should join us.  We’ll be talking about girls in CS, something I’m passionate about.

Next, I’m co-hosting my usual #makered chat with @tieandjeans at 9 p.m EST.  We’re prepping a bit for our #educon #makered design sprint.

Friday, #educon begins.  This will be my 5th one.  After the grading is done, I will head downtown to meet up with friends for dinner–a tradition, then hit the opening panel followed by the reception.  I’ll head home.

Saturday, it’s back downtown for #educon, day 2.  I’m leading a #makered design sprint with Andrew Carle, Jim Tiffin, Jr. and Sylvia Martinez (and whatever other #makered folks show up!).  I’m excited about this as I need to actually design some stuff myself.

I smartly booked myself a hotel this year, as I always end up staying too late at the after-party and the trains run at odd times on Sunday, so I have a hard time getting myself to SLA in time.

Sunday, #educon, day 3.  In the morning, I’m leading a conversation with my colleague from the Science department on our 1:1 program and how we rolled it out in a grass roots way.  We know others are in the process of this or have btdt, so we hope people will share their successes.

After that, I sleep–a lot.  The very next weekend begins 3 weekends in a row of robotics competitions.  To think, I sometimes feel like I don’t do enough.  That just made me laugh out loud.


I need more time. There are a million things I want to do.  A million things I need to do.  A part of me is feeling a little like I’m doing a crappy job at some things because I’m not putting enough time in.

But let me give you an example of what often happens to me.  Today, I taught CSI and Physical Computing (8:25-11:00). I had intended to grade labs in CSI over the weekend but I drove down to my dad’s for his birthday (a 10 hour drive) and had limited time and Internet access.  CSI is working on another lab.  Physical Computing is holding its own, and I’m keeping up with commenting on their blog posts.  I ate lunch at 11:10, headed back to the faculty lounge around 11:35, where I checked email for the first time.  Also, tried to recall what I was planning to teach in 7th grade.  At 12:30, I taught my 7th grade class–graphics in a drag and drop version of Python.  After that, I ordered some things for Physical Computing.  Then I graded CSI labs until 2:40 (about an hour) until robotics started.  At 3:30, I randomly got called in to help with a web workshop.  Stayed until a little after 4:00.  Somewhere in there, I talked to our librarian about doing a digital citizenship session for 5th grade.  Then I ran out to get stuff for my CS Teacher meetup (which was awesome!).  I was back by around 4:45.  I straightened up the classroom and the first teacher arrived around 5:15ish.  So we talked robots and Python and C++ and other stuff.  Everyone else showed up around 6.  We talked CS until 8.

Now I’m all hyped up (can’t you tell?).  But my days keep getting parcelled up like this.  And I want to play with my Arduino stuff.  I want to try my hand at programming a Nao.  I want to practice some advanced programming (that I never get to in my classes), but stuff keeps getting in the way. I have a chunk of time in the morning.  Will I grade? Will I prep? Or will I spend some time with the other fun stuff I want to do.  I’m going to guess that I’ll grade or prep.  I tell myself if I get it out of the way, then I’ll have time for the other stuff.  But that almost never happens.  Can I organize my way out of it? Will I end up working on stuff late at night? I don’t know.  But I have this feeling that I really need to work that out.  It feels important. I’m just not entirely sure what the answer is.