Just when I thought things sucked

My week started out a little low.  I was feeling overwhelmed.  I was feeling pulled in too many directions.  I was feeling like I sucked at my job.  I’ll explain more shortly, but I have to tell you what made me feel better, first.

First, I talked to some administrators, who were very understanding and helped me find some balance.

Second, I got spend my morning doing fun CS stuff with students and having them say things like, “Having us keep blogs was a great idea!” (Thanks, Selena.)  And they just are generally fun to work with.

Finally, today, I walked into my classroom after school to find 3 girls building a robot.  I wasn’t there.  No one else was there. They had missed our club meeting yesterday, so they came to work today. on a robot. for an extracurricular activity.  As I told them, that’s awesome.

But, there were a few things getting me down that thankfully, my students and the environment I work in saved me from.

One is being someone who has skilz. Yes, skilz, with a z.  I don’t know that I’m the only person who can do some things, but I think there are an awful lot of things for which I’m the only person who has the skilz.  Problem is, I’m only one person, and I only have so much time.  And when everything seems important, and I care about everything, it’s hard to say no.

The second is a couple of my middle school classes. I’m trying some flipped techniques, and they’re kind of flopping.  And it kind of sucks because I was all excited about using this, and now I’m rethinking and feeling like I’m not doing enough to fix this.  But what I have to remember is that this is new to me (mostly), and it’s new to them and it’s a skill to learn these to do something before class.  It’s going to take time. Also, my class “doesn’t count” so the students don’t always take it seriously.  And I have a class with 22 students (which I know for public school is way under normal), but it’s a very hands-on, intensive class.  And I feel like I’m losing half that class. After talking with some colleagues, I have some ideas, which, of course, makes me feel better.

Even better, we printed space frog this week.  I’ll let you compare the 2D and 3D version.  What’s not to love about a job where you can help create these things?

Frog Photobombs NASA's LADEE Launch
Frog Photobombs NASA’s LADEE Launch (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)


space frog
space frog (Photo credit: lorda)



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Marathon Week

2008 NYC Half Marathon
2008 NYC Half Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning I thought about how these first few weeks are like running a marathon (which I’ve never done, but I can imagine it).  You prep, prep, prep and then you have to hit the ground running, and there’s a lot of running.  You hit the wall usually after the first day, and then you see that you have a week of not just teaching, but back-to-school nights.  That’s what happens this week, with 3 evenings in a row (the joys of teaching grades 6-12).  On top of that, I have meetings on a couple of days that run up until those evenings begin.  I remember feeling like a deer in the headlights my first year, but now that this is old hat (ha!), I take everything in stride.  I’m still exhausted, but at least I know what hit me.

It’s very difficult to stay motivated and on your game when you get wiped out night after night, but I’m going to try.  I have set aside time during the day to go over my lessons for my classes on the following day, so I don’t feel like I’m floundering during class.  Plus, that means I can collapse into bed when I get back from these events, which is a bonus.

After this week, school returns to a brisk walk–a long walk, but at least it’s walking and not running.

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One Day at a Time

Today, the students come back.  They don’t have classes.  Like us, they have meetings, with their class deans and advisors.  They get their final schedules.  They sort out where they’re going.

I have several meetings today as well, with students, with faculty, with my classroom.  My to-do list keeps growing, and I keep thinking, “Oh yeah, I need to do that next week.”   I’m taking it one day at a time, getting done what needs to get done for today, then moving to tomorrow, etc.  It’s the only way to stay sane.  As I’ve said many times before, “It will all get done.”  And it will, one thing at a time.

One day down

Yesterday was our first full day of meetings.  I started at 9 by meeting all the new faculty, then there was lunch, a full faculty-staff meeting, and then I did technology training for the new faculty.

I posted this picture on Twitter, but actually I didn’t feel like this.  I felt energized and ready to go. I was tired, sure, but I was not completely wiped out, which I think is a first. I may feel differently after the first full day with students, but right now, I’m feeling ready.  I am having some back issues, but oddly, they’re working themselves out as I stand/walk more.  In prep mode, where I’m leaning over a computer, I tend to wrench my back.  In teaching mode, I almost never sit, so my back actually feels better.

Today I meet with our new middle school students, so that may wear me out more.  I have a block of time today to set up my classroom and get a little prep done, then I meet with some faculty to do some cool techie stuff, then we have our welcome back picnic.  So all in all, it should be a good day.  There are so many loose ends to tie up.  I think it will all come together.


Why Connecting is Cool

This week I’ve participated in two social media events that have inspired me and restored my faith in humanity.  Along with Andrew Carle, I help moderate the #makered Twitter chat on Tuesday evenings, which is growing since we started it in May.  The people that join this chat are smart and engaging, even in 140 character bursts.  Thanks to CSTA and EdCampSTEAM, I’ve now met some of these folks in person, which is often my goal with social media.  I either want to maintain a connection that started in person or extend a social media connection by meeting someone in person. The last 2 #makered chats have really gotten me thinking, which is what one wants from any interaction online.  We talk about stuff and projects, sure, but more importantly, we talk about philosophy and approach.  Making, we often argue, is not just about the stuff we make, it’s about the process.  It’s the same approach I take to Computer Science.  Yes, the end product is nice (hopefully), but the journey is more important to learning.  Honestly, I feel honored to be in the same virtual room with many of these folks and to be able to learn from them.

The second event spun out of the previous #makered chat.  We had a conversation about making in other disciplines.  STEM disciplines are often the target disciplines for making, and sometimes art in the form of STEAM.  But what if you teach English or History? How could use use the #makered approach there?  So, last night, we held a hangout to talk about just that.  There were only 5 of us, but it was a great conversation.  I learned a lot, especially from Valerie at the Detroit Public Library.  She had the benefit of not being tied down by the structure of school.  The rest of us were struggling with the usual issues related to interdisciplinary work: schedules, credits, politics, fiefdoms.  Andrew saw making across the disciplines as a direct challenge to those issues, and something we all should embrace rather than shy away from.  We talked about how to collaborate effectively while still challenging the status quo.  As Mike said at the end, “My brain is spinning.”  I agree.  I have a lot to think about and I’m looking forward to thinking about all the issues we raised.

And that was just in two days, two hours of my time that I got so much out of.  That’s why being connected online is so important to me.  It feeds my need for intellectually stimulating conversation.  It allows me to talk about things I might not get to at work (being the only one who does what I do, though I have plenty of colleagues who share my philosophy).  It inspires me to be better at what I do, to be constantly improving, basically to approach my whole career with a #makered philosophy.  How cool is that?

What’s Left to Do

So, there’s about 1.5 weeks until school begins.  Since I’ve returned from my trip, I’ve done basically nothing regarding school.  I’ve checked and responded to email.  That’s it.  I haven’t set foot on campus.  I haven’t cracked open a syllabus or assignment sheet.  I don’t think I could have until after we dropped Geeky Boy off.  That moment weighed more heavily than I thought.  I’m resisting calling him right now to see how his first night went.  Yes, I’m that mom.

Now I think I’m ready to dive back in.  So here’s what’s left:

  • 8th grade prep–all of it, videos included.  I have a rough schedule.  Now I need to put in some details.
  • Physical computing–need to make a schedule and plan at least the first few weeks.  Waiting for the book to arrive.
  • Intro to CS–I have the first few weeks laid out.  Need to go over that again.  This will be my third time teaching it. Mostly it’s just tweaking at this point.
  • Need to work on our Haiku site.  We’re set up.  I need to see where we are with getting classes and students in, and transfer the teachers’ courses who worked on an individual Haiku site (including me).  Training is Monday.  Yikes!
  • Classroom.  Need to unpack and set up and hope that the requested work on it has been done.

I think that’s enough for now.  I have a bit of a break in that my wacky schedule means I don’t have class really the first week.  I meet my CS classes for about 20-30 minutes the first day, but then not again until the following week, thanks to Rosh Hashanah.  That gives me some time to get some prep and other work done.  It’s still going to be some day-to-day prep, I’m sure.  But I like having a general plan so that I can at least say, “Oh, tomorrow we’re doing X.”  Then I can fill in the details as I go.  My mantra for now: It will all get done.

Home Again

We arrived home late-ish last night.  Today I’m dedicated to laundry, grocery shopping, getting the house in order.  I didn’t check email at all while I was away and I’m going to hold off for one more day.  Tomorrow, Geeky Girl heads to sports practice at 8 a.m.  I will likely go in for a bit.

Sending Geeky Boy off to college on Tuesday feels both like just one of those things we have to do this week and a hugely momentous occasion. I think his close proximity to us makes it feel less like a production, as it was for me when I went 8 hours away from home.  He’s got a lot of his stuff, but if he forgets something, it’s a quick train ride home to retrieve what he needs.  With him away a couple of times this summer without us and with him following his own schedule, we’ve sort of gotten used to the idea of him not being around.  I’m sure it will be more profound than that, but it’s hard to anticipate.

After next week, it’s going to be a whirlwind of meetings and getting ready for school. I’m glad we stepped away from that for a while and I’m now in a state of mind where I think I can approach the coming busyness in a more relaxed way, methodically even.  Here’s to being home and cherishing that feeling for just a little longer.

This is a work week

I have had meetings the last two days.  I’m going to a conference today.  And I have a meeting tomorrow.  I spent a good bit of time dealing with email yesterday.  Let’s face it.  I’m working.  I was in denial before, but now I can’t deny it.  Oh well.

I still have class prep to do, and we’ve decided as a family to take one last trip before school begins.  In fact, Geeky Boy will be leaving 3 days after we get back.  That makes me a little nervous, but I’ve decided that I deserve it.  The work will get done, even if it’s not at a point where I want it by the time school begins.

I think I’m going to be ready.  I kind of have to be.

Teaching Teachers Computer Science

If you’d asked me 3 years ago if I’d be teaching other teachers how to do anything related to programming any time in the near future, I’d have told you no way.  But yesterday, that’s exactly what I did. CSTA Philly invited me to do a workshop on Python, and I did, and I actually knew more than the people around me, which was weird.  I mean, they could have taught me a ton about Java or C or whatever their language was, but very few knew anything about Python.  I showed them Calico, the IDE Mr. Geeky helped to develop and used by many schools.  There are several libraries specific to Calico that I think are great for teaching.  I showed off the Myro library for manipulating robots, and the Graphics and Processing libraries for creating graphics and animations.  I actually heard one person say, “This is really fun!”  Which is exactly why I use it with my students, too.

Yes, I’m excited that I’ve reached a level of proficiency that means I have some knowledge to share, but more than that, I’m developing a community of people with whom I can learn.  I had fun working with them because as a group, they were willing to try things, just poke around and see what happens.  While we’re all at different types of schools, we share many of the same issues getting Computer Science recognized, recruiting students, and developing appropriate curriculum.  The problem of recruiting women and minorities to CS is one everyone is struggling with and I’m happy to see so many teachers really thinking hard about how to address this problem through recruitment and curriculum.  I think K-12 teachers are ahead of college professors here.  Maybe it will trickle up.

I was exhausted at the end of the day yesterday.  I stopped by school after the workshop and chatted with the handful of colleagues who were around.  Although I’m enjoying the time away, I was reminded of how much I enjoy my work and how much it’s my colleagues that remind me of that.  I’m headed back later this week to catch up with folks over lunch.  I’m very much looking forward to it.  I’ll still get my rest and relaxation in, but when the school year gets here, I’ll be ready.

The Trouble with Summer

Description unavailable
Description unavailable (Photo credit: lorda)

Don’t get me wrong.  I love summer.  It’s one of the best things about teaching.  That concentrated down time is really great.  But I don’t quite feel like it’s summer yet.  Yes, I was away last week and yes, that was good. But I’ve been working every day that I haven’t been on vacation.  I have a lot to do to prepare for school and I don’t want to find myself two weeks before school starts with a million things to do.  So I’ve been poking away at it.  But poking away at it has meant several hours a day: 5 or 6 at least.  And I’m feeling a little resentful.  It has been yucky outside so at least I’m not missing that, but it’s still meant concentrated time in front of the computer.

I need to schedule more down time, not just an hour lunch, but whole days. Otherwise, I think I’ll be annoyed and won’t be well rested when school does begin.

I do enjoy the things I’m preparing. It’s fun, but it’s also work, using lots of brain power. And using the same kind of brain power for the most part. I need to change it up. Otherwise, the summer is going to fade and I’m going to feel like I didn’t really have one.

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