Monday, February 29, 2016

The 30 Day Blog Binge: Day 1

We self-edit. We stop ourselves before we begin. We cross out words and ideas and in our heads before they hit the paper, screen or parchment (if we're old school like that). And in doing so, we lose the potential to connect, express, and create something. To create art.

In one of many library wanderings, I picked up Seth Godin's "The Icarus Deception." I was probably more attracted to the bright green cover than anything else, but I've read some of Godin's work before and it's always thought-provoking. This book is no different, even though I felt like the first 60 pages were a sort of orientation session to a choppy, stream-of-consciousness kind of musing on creating art in our industrial complex of a world.

At one point, though, Godin says "No one ever gets talker's block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say, and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down. Why, then," he asks, "is writer's block endemic?"

Godin goes on to say that we perceive talk as cheap, so we don't feel it will come back to haunt us. We're okay with talking poorly, so we don't get talker's block. But because we're not afraid to talk, we get better at it, in microscopic increments, over time.

But we're afraid to write, so we don't get unstuck or get better. We get blocked.

As someone who's been suffering through a bit of writer's block, a LOT of thinker's block, and maybe a touch of doubt at his current choice of profession and all its oversized challenges, this verged on prophetic. Godin says "Just write. Write poorly. Continue to write poorly in public, until you can do better."

With that in mind, I break ground on my "30 Day Blog Binge." 30 days of writing and posting each day, no matter how poorly, just to be writing. Knowing that I have to write again tomorrow forces me to see the world differently, to get out of my own head and look for something new, or look at something old in a new way. I'm sure some of these posts will be edtech, and I'm sure some of them won't. After all, I'm more than edtech: I'm human. And I think I do a disservice to the community of learners I'm a part of by denying the full range of humanity that exists in me.

So welcome to #30DBB. Feel free to follow along, or, even better, start your own binge. Is it scary? Yeah, a little. I have no idea what I'm writing about tomorrow. But on the other hand, as Godin says elsewhere "Real artists ship."

For the next 30 days, I ship.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Teachers, a Reminder That You Matter...

In the craziness and chaos of a teacher's daily routine, it's easy to forget how important you are to your students. It hit home with me yesterday as I sat holding my sobbing, broken-hearted six-year-old.

My youngest daughter is a goofy, bright-eyed kindergartner who loves everything about school, especially her teacher. A veteran educator who has taught all levels of elementary school, she knows how to prepare her young charges. While fulfilling her educational role, she also clearly values each one of them for who they are. She's amazing.

After coming down with a fever Wednesday night, my daughter stayed home from school on Thursday and missed her Valentine's Day party on Friday. My wife went up to the school to pick up the cards and party favors, and was handed a note from the principal: Friday was going to be my daughter's beloved teacher's last day. She was moving out of state.

My wife called me at home, and I had to be the one to break the news. I held my daughter in my lap while she cried, then my wife picked her up to go tell her teacher good-bye for the last time. I realized in that moment how central the role of a teacher is in the life of a child, even the ones who come from what most would consider a stable, well-adjusted home.

This got me thinking about the students I've worked with over the past decade. For many of them, school is the only constant in their lives: single parents work long hours, so the kids are shuffled between caretakers throughout the week. Sometimes they cycle between apartments on the weekends. Some of them even live in long-term hotels because they can't find more permanent housing. Coming to school is, for them, the most predictable thing they know.

And it's not limited to the primary grades. Middle-schoolers look to teachers as they search for identity in the frightening chasm between elementary and high school. Teenagers crave role models, and teachers often fill the void their social ecosystem may otherwise leave empty. Even though they may not say it, they have the same longing for everyday certainty as a student who has just entered their first year of formal schooling.

So no matter who the child is, no matter how secure their living situation may be, and no matter how they act when they get to you, you are stability for them. It's easy to forget, but a sobbing six-year-old reminded me that, in the eyes of a child, a teacher's value is impossible to measure.