I Got Married!

You may have noticed that in past weeks, this blog has been very quiet, save for Fluco Toolbox posts. And of course, there was no Fluco Toolbox post this week. I’ve been so busy, but that’s because I got married this past weekend! I married the love of my life, Bethany, and we are now beginning our journey together as wife and wife.

We were married on October 15, 2017 at Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia. We had great weather for our ceremony, and a few hiccups along the way. However, in the end, we were married, and that’s what counts, right? I could not have asked for a better ceremony once it got started, and our officiant was fantastic!

You’ll now notice that I’ve also changed my last name. I decided long ago to take on my wife’s last name, and it’s been an adjustment getting used to hearing it from staff and students. All of my social media currently reflects the change, and I’ll start working on the tags on this blog as well.

Now that the wedding is over, I can work on the fun planning for our honeymoon. We are headed to Disney World during the week of Thanksgiving, and we have everything pretty much laid out for that, plan-wise. That’s the easy planning stuff, and way less stressful to deal with when I don’t have to consider a million other factors and other people while I work. Pretty sure I can cross off any notions I had of ever wanting to be a wedding planner! (Not that I wanted to be anyway).

I’m sharing a few pictures from our wedding below. These were taken by our guests, and we’re hoping to get a sneak peek at some of our photos from our photographer this weekend.

Focusing with Music

As I began this year, I was introduced to an article that suggested different Pandora music stations for teachers to use in the classroom. Some of them I had heard of before in my rounds on Twitter, but I’d never actually tried any of them. I read through the article, and then sent it on to teachers at both of my schools. I got some responses back and thank yous. I then began my year.

I quickly found out that once again I was having trouble focusing on staying on task. I dealt with this last year, so it wasn’t new to me. Last year involved having small snacks on hand to deal with the tiredness that might have crept over me. I didn’t want to do that again this year. I remembered the article and pulled up my first choice for a station – Lindsey Stirling Radio. I love Lindsey, and the station was great, but I found I’d be pulled out of the moment when it played one of her more current songs that had lyrics to it. I became more distracted as the song was sang.

Eventually, I switched to the Beats for Studying station, and that is the one I have stuck with ever since. In the weeks I have been listening, only one song has come across that had very soft lyrics, and they were in another language. I have fallen in love with the different string quartets that cover popular songs, such as the Vitamin String Quartet and the Dallas String Quartet. I have used the station at work and at home, and even at the gym for background as I walked and read my Kindle. I have gone so far as to find the songs on Amazon Prime music and download them to my phone so I can have them offline. (Amazon Prime music is free, but you can’t download on a PC).

Since I don’t have a real office at the middle school on the days that I’m there, I am instead in one of the computer labs. Sometimes, a teacher will need extra space to test a few students. On one such day, this teacher came in and asked if she might test a couple of kids. I asked if she needed my music off, and she said no, it wasn’t necessary.

I hardly paid attention after that. I worked, and as I did two students entered to test. The one boy had the teacher with him, and she sat with him as he worked. Both students finished and left, as did the teacher. I was then surprised when the teacher returned to talk to me. I learned that the boy was a student who could not sit still to test, and was easily distracted by the smallest of things. Even when he was pulled into a separate room, he had trouble staying focused and on task.

However, this time, he actually was able to test without so much fidgeting or distraction. He didn’t have to be reminded often to continue to work, or to not be distracted by whatever object he could find to focus on. He simply worked on his test and finished as he was supposed to do. She was amazed and surprised. I explained to her about the music station and why I listened to it. I thought that would be the end of things, and I got back to work on my projects.

Nope, not the end of things. His regular classroom teacher was the next one to visit me, and she demanded to know what the radio station happened to be. She wanted this student to be able to work and focus, and if she had to load up the station on the student’s computer and plug in headphones, she would. I laughed and explained it to her, later forwarding on the article about the different music stations so she would be able to look into it herself.

Music isn’t going to be the answer for everyone, but for some, it’s a great answer, and certainly worth looking into. If you’re interested in the article I am referring to, you can find it here. It has many different stations recommended by teachers.

Embarking Toward Kindness

This year, I have decided to try some different in how I interact with people. A fellow colleague, Tamara Letter, has inspired me with her work with kindness and her own students. I wanted to do my own work with kindness, and though I feel as though I am bumbling along, I feel like I am starting to make a difference, even if it is a small one. I’m finding my way along, so a lot of what I do is trial and error as I come up with different ideas.

My first act was designing the FlucoGram program. I have everything set to roll with this pretty much, and the school will purchase the supplies I need. Once a month during lunch shifts, students and teachers will be able to visit my table. They will be able to fill out 1 card for another teacher or student. I’ll take the cards collected and sort through them to be delivered. Teachers will also be made aware that if there is a student they know of who could use some kind thoughts to let me know and we can send a FlucoGram to them at any point in the year.

While I was designing the FlucoGram program, I also planned to really get new staff at both of my schools off on the right foot. I had already been asked by my high school principal to keep in close contact with his new teachers via email, so I decided to do the same with the new middle school teachers. However, I knew that I wanted to do more, and so ended up writing a welcome card to each new staff member. I had bought some scratch ‘n sniff stickers and put those inside as well. I placed them in each teacher’s mailbox.

What was funny was that I did hear back from those teachers. Not every teacher, of course, but some of them. They were grateful for the kind words. One teacher even told me that she was worried and doubting herself as the year started, and then she received my card and the words just spoke to her. What had seemed like just words to me made a powerful impact on her. That made me smile. Doing this is not about receiving thank yous or accolades, but it is about making others feel good, making them smile. That’s all I care about, whether they tell me about it or not.

Because of this bright start, I’m going to pick some staff members from each school every week and write them a small card. I have plenty of extras, and I want to make them smile as well. I have a list of staff from each school, so I can easily track this and try not to miss anyone. It will be a lofty goal, as I have almost 100 teachers alone at the high school. No one said it was going to be easy though.

I do have another plan for my Kindness Project, but I’m not going to share it just yet until I get it rolling at both schools. It will be in the media center, and both library media specialists have approved the idea. I just need to get things rolling with it first because I want to have some images to share as well.

I hope to have more ideas and inspiration throughout the year. I just want to try new things and make my schools a little bit brighter for the teachers and staff. It’s hard work, but it’s fun and it’s rewarding, and that’s what matters most.

3 Friendly Reminders for Teachers With Social Media

As the school year begins, teachers start fresh. New ideas, new plans, new room layouts. While the new year prep work is completed, teachers shouldn’t forget to double check their social media accounts.

From Facebook to Instagram, Snapchat to Twitter social media has found its way into our lives. Not everyone is on social media, but those who are, especially teachers, should remember to keep these points in mind:

  1. Privacy– It’s always good to do a privacy check every now and then for all of your social media accounts. Check to see what things are shared publicly, and how easy it is to find you. Some teachers opt to use different parts of their name instead of their true last name. This is really up to the individual’s tastes and desires. However, do keep in mind that no matter how locked down you think your account is, it isĀ not private. Those party pictures, drinking, or somewhat inappropriate posts can easily be used against your with screenshots by any of your friends or family, no matter how unlikely you think it is to happen.
  2. Friend Requests– As the year begins and things begin to settle into a routine, you may find yourself receiving friend requests from students and parents. Student requests should never be accepted. Some teachers opt to tell the student that they may send a friend request the day after their graduation from high school, while others do not want to friend students at all, even beyond high school. Parent requests are a tricky beast because while you may get along with the parent at the time, there’s always the chance of fallout. It’s better to be safe than sorry and refuse parent requests. I usually message students and parents who try to friend me to let them know my thoughts, and then I leave them in friend request limbo. Leaving them in limbo means they are always showing on your friend requests page, BUT they can never send a second friend request as long as they still have one pending.
  3. Content– Content brings our social media to life, but it can also be used against us at any time. No matter how locked down you think your account is, it’s not going to keep your content absolutely private. If you’re sharing drinking photos, party images, or anything that might come across as possibly offensive to someone, be cautious. The rule of thumb I usually tell others is that if it’s not something you’d want to share with a respected older person or religious figure, then it’s probably not something you want on your feed. Even if your account is locked to a certain group, always consider everything you post as having the potential to be very public.

If you keep these three things in mind, then you’ll find your life on social media much easier. Of course, you can avoid social media all together, but then you leave yourself open to other issues. That’s a story for another time!

Teach Like a Pirate: A is for Ask and Analyze

Upon reading this chapter (for the 1st time, I might add) I was reminded of an evening last week. It had rained heavily earlier in the afternoon, so there were puddles everywhere. I went walking around my apartment complex with my fiance, Bethany, as we often do now after dinner. On parts of the property, there are Southern magnolia trees scattered about. When the petals fall, they land on the ground and look like large white scoops. I had picked one up before and turned it into a hat upon my head. On this evening, I picked up one and twirled it in my fingers as we walked. Not too far from the tree, I had deviated from our path and headed toward a long puddle. Bethany asked me what I was doing. I replied, “It’s a boat!” She found it odd, but watched me put it in the puddle and float it about.

Every time we made another lap around, I added another petal to my collection until I had 4 “boats” of varying sizes. The wind was picking up, so I would talk about how my boats were being tossed about, or were horrible at floating. One kept flipping over. My little armada was gone the next day, but my creativity was not. Again I found the petals and this time I talked of how it would make a water cup in the wild or a food bowl.

The focus of this chapter is on asking and analyzing. Creativity is a large part of it, and how looking outside of the box for potential in any items or objects. I’ve always had an active imagination, and let my creativity stem from that. It doesn’t come easy or always flow easily, but it’s there. Throughout my life I’ve been told at different times that I’m so creative, that [other person] couldn’t do that.

I used to take the old greeting card creator computer program that my family had and make my own cards using the clip art provided instead of using the pre-designed ones. That eventually turned into me designing photo books on Shutterfly that told stories. My most recent one tells the story of Bethany and I, while featuring our engagement photos. I have been finding ways to be creative since way back when, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

But… creativity takes work. Dave is absolutely correct about this. It’s not easy to come up with and it’s not easy to implement. It often takes me a long time to come up with ideas or plan them out, which is usually done as a cross between handwritten plans and computer-based ones. If it were easy, I suppose that I would have way more ideas than I do. However, I prefer to let them simmer and work themselves out over time. If something doesn’t seem right or a decent spark, I let it simmer and see what happens.

The six words story was indeed powerful. I hope I get to hear it in person to see just what an impact it has on others. I need to remember this the next time someone tells me something similar. I’m going to take to heart that creativity is not a natural-born talent. It’s something that anyone can harness, if they open their mind and work hard to follow the process through to the end. It’s not enough to just have the idea; one must work at it, nurture it, and let it grow.

One thing I am going to take from this chapter is the idea for note taking. I don’t currently have a system for writing down my ideas all the time, and I should. So I’m going to download a simple note taking app and have it available to me whenever I need it most. I know there have been times I have needed one, but didn’t have it so didn’t write down whatever I was thinking. If I were really desperate, I would email it to myself, but that was a rare scenario.

Already I feel inspired and ready to move forward. I’m getting more and more pumped for Copenhaver and looking forward to 3 days of learning!

Check out my other reflections on Teach Like a Pirate

Teach Like a Pirate: R is for Rapport (2.0)

Rapport is one of the best ways to gain the trust of a person, student or adult. I have always found it easier with students, and harder with adults. It’s easier for me to build connections with my students than with my teachers, as it’s hard for me to find ways to connect to their interests. Instead, I have to find ways to be personable and friendly, and listen to their needs.

If there isn’t good rapport in a setting or atmosphere, something will feel “off”. You’ll notice it in the body language and spoken language of the others around you. They may be distracted, or there may be some form of tension in the room. Simply put, they’d rather be somewhere else at that point in time. I’ve been part of those meetings before and felt all of these. It’s horrible to be a part of. Without rapport, you’ve most likely no trust, and no respect.

On the other hand, building rapport means that these same activities are pleasurable, or at least, something that’s not dreaded. The language in the room changes, and the atmosphere is charged. You can tell when there’s rapport amongst those gathered, even if you’re a stranger in the room.

Rapport has always been my easiest way to connect to students’ interests in the past. I learned to play Minecraft because of up and coming students. I started using Classcraft one year instead of Class Dojo because I had a room of gamer kids. I always bought books based on the interests of my students in that particular class. When I passed out book order forms, I told them that if anything looked like we needed to buy it for the class library to let me know. The list goes on and on… My goal was to build those connections.

With adults, it’s harder because I don’t share many interests with most of my colleagues. I try to understand their world and likes, so that’s a start. Building rapport there is going to be more about talking about their classroom and observations, as well as their home life activities. Then combine that with breaking into the classrooms where I know teachers are more likely to be open to using new technology.

In this particular chapter, Dave shows ways that he began the year with building rapport with his students. I remember the one question I had the last time I read this chapter was how to have this big of an impact with elementary students. With older students, it’s easier to do these “big bang” activities because the bell dictates the class schedule, whether it’s 45 minutes or 90 minutes or something else. With this up and coming training, I’m curious as to how this applies to elementary, or what ideas other teachers may have.

Clearly, I need to figure out more ways to build rapport with the adults I work with, as this is an area of weakness. Hopefully I can figure out some new methods and improve on this area.

Check out what I wrote in the 1.0 version of this post

Check out my other reflections on Teach Like a Pirate

Teach Like a Pirate: I is for Immersion (2.0)

Immersion is putting yourself into an activity or event mind, body, and soul. You are caught up in the moment, you are focused on what you’re doing, and it’s hard to pull you out of the bubble you’ve gotten yourself into. Teaching can bring about this same immersion, though we don’t always find ourselves immersed.

I know I’m guilty of this. There have been times in my position where I’ve not been myself, or felt tired, or not up to the task at hand. I can think of many reasons why I felt any one of these things, but they all show that I was not immersed in the task at hand, and I’m sure my fellow peers noticed it as well.

When I was a teacher, I remember immersing myself into my favorite lessons. It wasn’t hard to do because I had a great love for those lessons and had fun teaching them. I remember my Mighty Morphin’ Rock Cycle skit, my “That’s a Nice Number” rounding lesson with Donkey from Shrek, and all of my hands on science labs. I also remember the not so immersed lessons, the ones I’d just rather get through and be done with. Of course, this links back to passion and the lack of passion I felt for those particular lessons.

Beyond working with others, I find myself at times becoming distracted and not immersing myself in the moment in my every day life. I have often found ways to distract myself or put off things, even if I love them. It is something that I’ve noticed throughout my life, so it’s nothing new. I have been working on it. I try to force myself to focus on what is going on at hand, and to immerse myself in the task. Sometimes it’s really hard to do though. It’s definitely a work in progress.

I’m hoping to find ways to work on my immersion, and become better at it. Beyond this particular book, I’ve also picked up one calledĀ How to be a Productivity Ninja, which I feel can also help me with my immersion, especially when I am working on tasks at my desk. One thing’s for certain: I have to keep working on improving myself!

Check out what I wrote in the 1.0 version of this post

Check out my other reflections on Teach Like a Pirate