Like You’re On Vacation: An EdCamp style Post

This is not your regular blog post. After all, the blog is Rockin’ The Boat, so if I don’t bust out of even those preconceived blog post parameters every now and then, I’m not doing my job and would need to re-title this blog and rethink my life.  Good thing I’ve been blessed with a healthy dose of oppositional defiance to all things status quo, even blog posts, so here we go. Like an EdCamp, you can choose what fits you, but instead of using your feet to vote, just scroll around and read some or all of this post. There’s a nugget in there for everyone so help yourself.

Don’t Need to Wait for an Invitation

This “session” is for those who don’t take risks because of the assumption the administrator will say no. While this is not generally an area where I struggle, I do see teachers everywhere worry about trying anything new, taking a risk, or stepping outside the comfort zone of their building or district simply because there is a perception that it won’t be supported, approved, valued, or condoned. I have probably been guilty of that myself a time or two, but for the most part, I just do it. Whatever initiative, activity, strategy, or tool I want to try, I do it. Part of it has to do with trust in the administration at whatever level you are on currently. All of us have to report to someone. I have been fortunate in my last two districts to have administrators who trusted that the crazy (new, different, not how it’s always been done) methods or tools I use will enhance my students’ learning. Not everybody has that relationship with administrators, but you can, for the most part. In fact, I am starting this year with a brand new administrator, and I have already let him know that I am a risk taker. Now think about your relationship with your current administrator for this school year. If you were to teach a lesson about the Power of Masks and the roll that plays in the novel, Lord of The Flies, would you ask your principal for approval? No, because you don’t need to bother administrators to get approval for doing your job,  But if we were to Teach Like A Pirate for that lesson and wear a clown mask fashioned after the movie, IT, and have students paint their faces according to the emotion they chose, and then discuss the power students are feeling with their faces painted and the impact that plays in the novel when the hunters paint their faces, would you ask permission for that?  Actually, I have worked with plenty of teachers who would not even ask to do that because they work on the assumption that the answer will be No. If you fee that you are one of those teachers, rock your boat right now. Assume the answer is yes. From now on, you will not back out of taking an educational risk to better the experience and deepening the learning for your students based on your assumption of a NO from your administration. Assume yes. If you are well aware that your administration will not condone anything out of the ordinary AND you have explained and asked permission to take a risk but were told no, then that in and of itself can shift your boat even if it did not rock. That is a bit of a different scenario. In those cases, always have a well thought out plan when you approach your administrator. That being said, remember that this “session” is targeting those who generally don’t ask but just assume the answer is no, and seldom take a risk. I did let my principal and superintendent know that I wanted to pilot flexible seating in my high school classroom. Both were enthusiastic. That is a bigger change than just improving your instruction and pedagogy, so that one is a good of example of when to ask for permission. But ask, do, and assume Yes. Don’t wait. There likely won’t be an invitation. As Nike is fond of saying (business tag line), Just Do It.

You Gotta Live Like You’re on Vacation

This “session” is for those of you who are still up in arms, one side or the other, about how teachers should spend their summers, which ever side you are aligning yourself with on this debate. I am not sure why it is such a hot topic, but for some reason there are aggressive  proponents of both camps: the Teachers Should Do PD And Get Better all Summer and Teachers Should Totally Unplug All Summer. I haven’t weighed in on this, but I’ve done both, and I currently do a hybrid of the two. The nature of my job as District Communications Director and District Webmaster prevent me from actually unplugging fully, but I can for stretches of time, and I do. I also presented at 5 conferences (GRITC in Fairhope, Alabama is my last one. Beach and PD is a great combination for me.) and went on a 4700 mile vacation out west with my family. I read professional and fiction books. go to ballgames, attend birthday parties, play gigs with my band, plan events for school to build a positive culture, go out with my friends, see movies, and the list goes on. I will log a lot of PD hours, and that’s fine. It’s me. I get recharged and so super pumped when I attend conferences. I also get fired up and recharged when I am in the mountain air or standing on a beach in the heat and mist of the ocean. The point is, life is not a guarantee. There is no set time that you have to enjoy your life and do the things that recharge you, that fire you up to do better and be better. You do you. Take the time and decide what you need during your summers and during the school year, then do it. If you need to work on body and mind by getting in shape and doing mindfulness to help with stress, do it. If you want a summer of conferences, do it. It truly doesn’t matter what your “WHAT” is as long as you know your “WHY,” which is to enjoy your time, make the most of it, and do what fits your current needs. No guilt. No quarrelsome posts on social media when someone isn’t doing what you’re doing. They’re fit isn’t your life fit, so let them be. Find the best way you can taste life with the time you have left this summer and be you. Just do it.

There’s Something Sweet You Can’t Buy With Money Lick It Up, Lick It Up

To continue (just a little bit since it is my EdCamp style post I can do what I want) with the section above for just a minute, think about vacation. What is it that you love most? When I say vacation, what do you think of automatically? Everyone’s favorite vacation will be as different as their opinion about what teachers should do during the summer break. Here’s something to think about though when it comes to vacations and living like you’re on one every day. In my world, there are two types of vacations: the ones where you travel from destination and destination on a wild car or plane ride to see the sights and soak it all in then return home exhausted but happy, and the one where you arrive at one destination and stay a specified length of time (cruises count in this category since you aren’t packing and unpacking daily). Do you know which one suits you better? I do, and although I enjoy both, I do get more rest and revitalizing from one more than the other, so why can’t I apply some of that to life? I can. Let’s find small (Or big ways, if you prefer. I’m not the boss of you.) to bring some of that vacation thinking home with us. It can sustain us throughout the school year as we work incredibly hard for our students during the time we’re given. Indulge, explore, have fun. Just do it.

It’s All You Need, So Believe Me Honey

In the rush to learn more technology tools that we can use in our classrooms, this “session” of the post is dedicated to celebrating the instructional side of things. I love all things tech, but I don’t just use technology to be using it. I leverage it’s power and reach so that my students benefit because of a sold foundation in pedagogy that is then coupled with technology as needed to take them to the next level. we all have standards that our students need to master. Having a full toolbox of tech tools is awesome and one I continually work to fill and keep updated for myself, that isn’t all. I also find avenues of pedagogy that I can see helping meed the needs of my students, so I have a toolbox for that too. As you turn your thoughts to your classrooms and curriculum this year, don’t forget that you need two toolboxes, not every tool works with every lesson, variety is the spice of life, and students require personalized learning experiences. What we do is hard work, but it is fun. It is rewarding, and it is just around the corner. Brush up on current best practice, play with the latest versions of your favorite tools or find a new one. The new school year is coming so be ready. Be your best self. Just do it.

It Ain’t a Crime To be good To Yourself

It is NOT a crime to be good to yourself, no matter what negative feedback you get on social media. It is NOT a crime to be good to yourself in ways that are different from how other people are good to themselves. In order to teach effectively, we need to take care of ourselves, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take a breath. Savor the sweetness in the days you have left with your family, friends, and do those things that remind us of summer. Make sure you are plugged in to whatever does recharge you so that your batter is fully charged when students and staff start pouring back to school. Create an atmosphere of awesomeness, of wonder, exploration, and struggle. Do this for whatever are of the school you can control. Make school amazing again. Just do it.

Partial lyrics taken are from Lick It Up by KISS.

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