Sunday, August 25, 2013


I have watched the movie Reality Bites several times - and one scene that popped in to my head this past week was when Lalaina (Winona Rider) is coming home from a job interview where she was asked to define the word irony and she stumbled over her words and was not able to fully explain the meaning of the word.  When she got home, she asked Troy (Ethan Hawke) if he could define irony and he said (without hesitation), "It's when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning".  And in some way that is how I am feeling during this first week of the school year.

I knew when the school year started that this was not going to be my typical year.  I knew that I would be leaving the classroom in just a few weeks so that I could work with some awesome teachers that were on special assignment in ed tech.  But I had already set my goals for the year (see them here) - and one of them was to try and be paperless...or at least use a lot less paper this year.  

So since I am not going to be teaching the entire year (if you want to know why read this) there was a big room change during the first week of school.  My room was taken by another chemistry teacher, and I ended up moving to a different room in a different pod.  So where does the irony come in you ask?  I was moved to the closest room to the copy room!  There are teachers who would love to have this room - steps away from three copy machines.  My resolution of not using paper makes the location of my room somewhat worthless.  We are one week in to the school year and I have not used 1 sheet of paper yet - our AP Environmental Science teacher has used over 1,000 sheets!  So while I am doing my best to be paperless, at least my new room allows me to see many teachers each day :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Decision Made!

As some of you already know (from this blog post) - I had some decisions to be made as the school year started.  I have a wonderful schedule at my current school...I would almost call it my dream schedule!  I am teaching 4 periods of chemistry and 1 period of video production.  I have a passion for both and I like the science team, the school, the administration and just about everything having to do with this school year.  But...(and isn't there always a but) a week before school started I applied for a technology TOSA (teacher on special assignment) position that recently opened in the district and I also applied for an assistant principal opening within my district (at a school where I taught for 8 years).  

A day before teachers were to report back to school (we come back 3 days before the students), I had my interview for the TOSA position.  I felt I did well in the interview and I was excited at the opportunity to work with other teachers with the integration of technology in their classrooms.  Later that same day the executive director our technology department gave me a call offering me the position!  I was excited - but knew that I would be interviewing for the AP spot in a few I accepted the TOSA job with the understanding that if I was offered the AP position I would have to take the administrative role instead.  He was very understanding and wished me well in my interview and let me know that he would hold the position for me.

Two days (and a lot of prep work) later, I went in for the AP interview.  Again, I felt I did well and was hopeful to get a call back for a second interview.  The call came later that day - and I was schedule for a follow up interview on Monday - after our first day of school with students.  I met with the superintendent and the assistant superintendents of human resources and instructional services (doesn't get much higher than these people in our district!).  Once again, I felt it went well...I answered their questions as best I could and let them know why I felt I was the best person for the job.  They let me know that I would know in the next day or so - and I was anxiously awaiting the call for the next 24 hours!  The next day I had a message on my phone from the assistant superintendent of HR!  We exchanged phone messages and we ended up speaking the next day.  When I spoke with him he let me know that they were selecting someone else.  I wasn't devastated - I knew this was a possibility - I was, however, a little disappointed.   The good news was that I had students that were going to walk through my classroom door in about 30 there was no time to think about it - I had to move forward quickly!

I realized while I was teaching my first class of the day that I was no longer in decision limbo. The decision had been made - I am going to be a district technology TOSA this year!  No more wondering what if...I now had some clarity in my school year.  Now I can focus on things like My Big Campus, Google Docs, Cloud computing and so much more.  I am very excited about my new position and having a different role in the district.  I know it will allow me to learn so much more as an educator and it will afford me the opportunity to work with many other teachers in our district.  So I am jumping in with both feet!  I am going to need a new name for my blog and a new Twitter handle (any suggestions for either?).  I do have to wait about 3 weeks before I can fully invest the time to be a tech TOSA - until the district hires someone for my current position.  Anyone want a great chemistry job?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do you ever turn off your iPad?

About 2 years ago I was lucky enough to win a video contest from Turning Technologies for an iPad - here is the video I created that won first place!  Since I received the iPad I have downloaded many apps - some are educational (TED, Elements), some keep me connected (Twitter, Edmodo), some are for a purpose (Evernote, Diigo), some are specifically for my kids (Fish School, Alphabet Games) and some are just a waste of time...but they are fun (Turbo, Hill Climb Racing).  But in the 2 years that I have used my iPad...I have only turned it all the way off two times!  Once was at a school in-service when another teacher said, "You know you need to turn it off at some point to let it reset" and another was this morning - because some of my apps were not working correctly (Google+ and Feedly).

This got me to thinking - as teachers I suppose we need to be turned off and restarted at some point too.

My family and I just returned from a week long vacation where we had no cell service and no electricity - we were "off the grid".  We stay in a little cabin in the mountains of Colorado with my in-laws and the cabin has no electricity.  This gives us family time with out the distractions of cell phones, computers, iPads or television.  To some this may sound horrible...and others may think it is the best thing in the world - it just depends on what you like for your vacation.  As for me I am happy to spend time with the family and fishing with my little girls is a great way to be together...but after they are in bed I would enjoy reading through a few blogs, checking my Twitter account and maybe play some mindless game.  But before you start to feel sorry for me let me explain that we were not totally out of reach to the real world!  If we wanted (or needed) to be a part of civilization again all we have to do is drive in to town (about 30 minutes) and we can get a signal on our phones - back "on the grid".  So I was not totally out of touch for the entire week...but to someone like me who is typically always "plugged in" - it sometimes felt like it!

Anyway, back to my thought about turning off the iPad.  When I turned my iPad off and let it restart, the apps I was trying to use worked.  This is something that we all do...but never really question - if a computer (or electronic device) isn't working...restart it and see if that works - and it typically does!  So as teachers we need the summer as our time to "restart".  Some people (who are not teachers) think that we have 2.5 months off in the summer and that is our time to rest, relax and re-energize for next year.  But if you are like me...and if you are reading this in August you probably are - you spend a large part of the summer months planning for next year.  We try to find new things/ideas to use in our classroom - new apps, different ideas, work on fresh strategies and just try to make our classrooms a better place for students.  So while we are not waking up at 5am and driving in to school - we also are not powering down and restarting either.

So I am glad that I was able to take this past week to unwind, unplug and relax.  I officially am due back to school in 2 days...though I was at school today and I'll be there tomorrow.  I am hopeful that my trip to Colorado will serve as my "restart" and will give me the energy and excitement for the first week of school.  I also hope that you have found time during the summer for your "restart"!  Have a great last few days of sleeping in, reading a book and not grading papers :)

How can you not be happy and relaxed when you see something like this?
Don't worry...she ate the fish :) 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

I have been teaching for 16 years - the last 9 have been in the same district (8 years at a MS and last year at a HS).  I have been trying to move from the classroom to the administrative level for the past few years.  The move to the HS was to help with my administrative aspirations - my plan was to teach at the HS for at least 3 years and then start looking for admin positions again.  This would give me more experience at the secondary level and help round out my resume.

I must say that I am really happy with where I am right now.  I am teaching at a school I love in a district I think is one of the best in the county.  My schedule this year is just what I wanted (4 sections of chemistry) and I am teaching an elective class that I am passionate about (TV news and video production).  I am also the school's Advanced Placement coordinator and I look forward to all that this duty entails.  This upcoming year I have some great new technology in my classroom - an Epson BrightLink 475Wi interactive projector along with an iPad and Apple TV!  All summer I have been prepping for these classes and I am excited about the upcoming year - I even blogged about it here!

A few tweets, emails and phone calls later, everything changed.  Over the course of a week two other positions in our district opened and I was torn whether to apply for them or stick with my dream schedule and 3 year plan.  The first position that came up was a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) for secondary educational technology services - a mouthful I know!  I spoke with the executive director of technology for our district about the position and he laid out the job details and they sound awesome!  Everything from training teachers to use GAFE (Google apps for education) with their students to helping open a new high
school and working through the ups and downs that would come with new infrastructure.  I called the person who previously held the position and he encouraged me to apply (he had moved to an elementary administrative position).  He talked me through what he had done, what he was working on and what he did day to day.  I was excited and nervous at the same time!  I thought this position sounded great...but I was really excited about my current position too.  I only had 7 days to decide if I was going to apply - and 5 of those days I was going to be in a small town in Montana fishing with a poor internet signal and virtually no cell service!

The lower level was our room!
My brother-in-law and I were sharing a room in Twin Bridges, MT - and if you've ever been there you'll understand when I tell you that the cell service was basically non-existent for Verizon customers (can you hear me now - nope!).  Also, this is not the kind of place where the front desk person gives you a wi-fi code with your room key (in fact he said - it's probably unlocked...but here's a key just in case).  So with no wi-fi and my cell phone not picking up 4G, 3G or any service whatsoever - I pulled out my iPad to use my Kindle app to read my book.  Just for fun I thought I'd check the wi-fi to see if I was able to get on someone's network - not crossing my fingers since there wasn't even a stoplight in the town.  Well to my surprise I found an unsecured network named TBPL.  I looked around and couldn't figure it out?  Where was this faint (1 bar) signal coming from?!  Then I saw it - across main street I saw what TBPL was - Twin Bridges Public Library.  So I had a wi-fi signal at last!

I tell you all of this because what I saw when I was able to check my email almost made me fall over!  The assistant principal at the middle school where I taught for 8 years had changed schools - leaving an administrative vacancy - a position I have wanted for a long time - and another decision I would have to make.  To fully understand my shock you need some background.  She had been an AP there for 16 years - and during the 8 years I was there she was awesome (she was probably awesome before I got there too).  She gave me tips on how to become an AP, helped me when I was a substitute AP in the office and she talked to me about being an administrator on several occasions - encouraging me to make the move.  I had always hoped to work with her someday - and now I was hoping to fill her position!

So when I got back home - to a strong cell service and wi-fi - I started to make some calls and figure things out.  I spoke with the principal and the other AP at the school (there are two APs at the school) and I texted with the AP that had changed schools.  I knew this was a position I had to go I found the listing on edjoin (where/how we apply for jobs in our district) and I applied.  I love the school and would love to be part of the administrative team - so I had to change my "3 year plan".  I have great rapport with the teachers, support staff and the other administrators...and I hope that I do well at the interview!

As you can see I have some decisions to make!  Obviously I will have to interview for both of these positions and nothing is a sure thing - I am just hoping for the best.  I would love to become an administrator at my old school.  I have been working toward that goal for quite some time now.  If that does not work out I think the TOSA position would be awesome - working with secondary teachers to use and implement technology in their classrooms would be really fun and rewarding.  But if neither work out - I know that I have a terrific job waiting for me - like I said, I am excited for my current class schedule and the school I am at right now.

I guess I can't lose in this situation - I have three terrific opportunities and I look forward to what is next :)  I'll keep you posted on what happens!