A New Way of Teaching-SAMR and Wrapping My Head around Blended Learning

Note:  I began this draft a week ago.  Now I’m spending days with Apple learning how to implement my iPad in lessons.

This morning I convinced myself I needed to wake up.  It took a lot of coaxing and convincing.  After all, this is my last week for being lazy.  This week alone I’ve watched two seasons of New Girl and several episodes of Inspector Morse.  Please stop looking at my like you’re disappointed.  I have not binge watched anything at all this summer…with the exception of Stranger Things with my husband. I feel no guilt about this.

Most of my former colleagues have gone back to school this week.  Right now, they’re sitting in a hot library or a too-cold cafeteria learning about the new policies for next year.  It’s strange not being there, but while they are gearing up for starting school in August, I’m wrapping my head around an entirely new way of teaching for a brand new job in a brand new grade level.  Whoa!

For the past four years, I have taught in a classical school.  I’ve used traditional models of educating students, focusing mostly on discussion and the Socratic method.  It’s a model that fit my teaching style very well, but I’ve decided to try something new this year.  This year I will be teaching in a performing arts  in a 1:1 iPad environment.  It’s exciting because I know the possibilities are endless, but at the same time, it’s also incredibly daunting.

I consider myself moderately versed in technology.  I keep this blog, I began a YouTube channel for my AP students last year, I use social media, and I even required students to utilize technology in my classes.  It wasn’t easy, because in a classical school, we were committed to not over-utilizing technology.  We had some Chromebooks and some laptops, but if you wanted to use them in your classroom, it was an all out war to reserve them.  I hate war.  I hate confrontation, so in my classroom, I mostly avoided it.

Now here I am in an environment where my students will ALWAYS have a device.  Where I do begin?

In education, implementation of technology follows a the SAMR Model-Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.  Substitution is fairly easy.  The task assigned to students doesn’t change.  Students could type a journal entry in a word processor instead of handwrite it the old fashioned way.  You’ve just substituted a program for paper.  Easy peasy!   Now when students begin using spell check and other tools, you’ve now entered the realm of augmentation.  Augmentation occurs when the task doesn’t change but because of technology you’ve improved it.  I feel very comfortable in these two stages. It’s the other two that I’m going to have learn a whole new way of educating my students.

The final two stages are modification and redefinition.  Modification means that a task can be significantly redesigned.  Because of technology, the task you’ve assigned students changes. For this stage, students can download a book, annotate and mark it up through an app like notability.  Taken a step farther, you can redefine the task.  Redefinition means that you create a new task that was previously inconceivable without technology.  Students can use the information they’ve learned through their research and notes to create collaborative mind maps using an app or web-based site like Mindomo.

So how does a classical teacher maintain her classical ideals utilizing technology?  Lucky for me my school encourages blended learning.  Blended learning allows a classroom to utilize technology for content delivery that it curated, supported, and delivered by a traditional classroom teacher–me. I guess you’ll have to stay tuned.

Origin Story

I’m applying to graduate school this week.  I earned my Master in Secondary Education back in 2o12.  I thought that would be it for me, but it seems like opportunity has begun knocking upon my door again.  I’ve decided to answer it–this time in the form of a Education Specialist degree (Ed.S.).

Part of an application to graduate school includes a letter of intent.  In this 2-3 page essay, I am supposed to give my life story.  Where did I come from?  What were my goals?  What do I hope to achieve?  Ayi, ayi, ayi!  I feel like the dumbest person on the Earth as I sit down to try to hash this out every day.

What is my origin story?  How did I become an educator?  I wasn’t bitten by a bug…or a spider (literally, anyway).  I did not endure a large parental tragedy that left my seeking revenge on the criminals of the city.  I also did not survive some sort of nuclear science experiment, but I do have an origin story.  We all do.  Here’s mine.

I grew up in small town Texas.  Compared to some of the other surrounding areas, I was in the big city, but truthfully, it was small town.  Every one knew every one.  My state of knowing others was compounded by the fact that my mother grew up there and my grandparents had lived in the community for many years.  We could not go to a restaurant or movie without seeing someone my parents or my grandparents knew.  We would run into people from church, from sports, from work, from school. It was neverending.  Sounds quaint, right?  Not to me.  Part of the problem with everyone knowing everyone is that everyone knows everyone…or at least thinks they do.

I went to several elementary schools when I was growing up.  We would move to a new neighborhood, and I would move to a new school.  Where most people would view this a fresh start, it wasn’t.  I always ended up at a school that either knew me or knew my parents.  For my brother this wasn’t so bad.  He was popular and likeable, but I was THAT girl.  I was sickly, overweight, and uncoordinated.  I suffered from severe allergies, asthma, and my undiagnosed heriditary angioedema (HAE).  I would miss a lot of school which put me on a lot of “teacher” lists.

“She’s smart.  She’s just lazy.”

“I don’t think your daughter should be in honors reading.  Yes, I understand she reads grade levels ahead, but she just misses too much class. Yes, I understand her TAAS scores are high and she’s in our GT program.”

“I’m not sure she should go to college.  I’m not sure she would make it.  Perhaps she should stay close to home.  Maybe try to get a job.”

Little did these teachers know just how sick I was.  Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.  I endured tests and unnecessary surgeries in an attempt to figure out what was going on. (Because of my rare condition, I wouldn’t find out what it was until my thirties).

The way teachers reacted to me in class didn’t help my social life. Given the fact that doctors would prescribe steroids to control my asthma or unexplained abdominal pain (that turned out to be HAE), I was puffy and larger than most students my age.  I was called “fatso” and “ugly.”  One of my most horrific memories was when I received my period early (5th grade), which meant I had to carry feminine products with me to school in my purse.  One day, this blonde popular student began ridiculing me in the cafeteria.  She stole my purse, looked inside to see if I had anything worth taking,  and pulled out my small supply of pads and tampons.  I was horrified.  She then ran around the cafeteria calling me out and teasing me for no longer being a girl.  Suddenly something that was supposed to be celebrated became my scarlet letter.  I never quite recovered.  I was in a small town and stuck with these people through high school.  I was always THAT girl.

I suppose my origin moment, my spider bite, came when I was a junior in high school.  I actually heard my high school counselor call me a loser in front of another student.  I was mortified.  If I had been more confident and wiser to what was expected of adults in that position, I would have reacted differently.  However, all I knew was shame, and after years of being called a “loser” by my classmates and apparently adults.  I actually finally believed it.  It led me to make decisions that I am not proud of but led me to understand the desperation of   teenagers later on.

Loser or not, I went to college anyway.

And I flourished.

I was challenged.  No one knew me, so it was a fresh start. A Brand Spanking New Beginning.  I became president of clubs.  I was an officer in other clubs.  I made very good grades…better than I ever made in high school (and I didn’t make bad grades in high school).  I cared about what I was doing.  I was still sickly, but the flexible schedule helped tremendously.  I had a group of incredible friends and extremely encouraging professors.  Encouraging.  Wow!  What a difference that made!

When I graduated, I went on to a successful career in sales.  (I know, the social outcast becomes marketer–crazy, right?)

After Madeleine was born, I decided that I would go back to school to become a teacher.  I had work to do and wrongs to make right. I vowed that if I was ever in a classroom that my one daily goal would be that EVERY student felt safe in my classroom.  EVERY student would feel valued, and EVERY student would feel encouraged.  No student would ever feel like a loser.  If they learned some skills along the way—great!  But if they felt valued, safe, and like they could do anything, then THAT would make the real difference, and it would allow them to learn more than they thought possible.

And that was it.  A high school counselor referred to me as a loser. I vowed that no student in my classroom would EVER feel that way from me.

I won’t write most of this in my letter of intent (or at least I’ll work to put it down more eloquently than I did here), but it’s true.  I became the teacher I am because someone did not value me.  It gave me the will, strength, and determination to value others.


I Don’t Want to Go

I love Doctor Who, and anyone who knows me knows that the Tenth Doctor is far superior in all ways than any of the others, or at least that is my belief.  Many who also know me might also assert that the Tenth Doctor is my favorite because I love David Tennant (they wouldn’t be wrong), but for me, the Tenth Doctor’s story line has resonated emotionally with me many times.  In fact, my literary analysis side has gone so far as to call the Tenth Doctor a Christ-figure. (Don’t worry, I’ll save that for another post).

In the Tenth Doctor’s final episode “The End of Time”, he sacrifices himself so that Wilfred (Donna Noble’s granddad) would survive, and instead, he, the Tenth Doctor would undergo radiation  poisoning leading to what everyone believed would be the Doctor’s final regeneration.   As the radiation  poisoning flows though the Doctor’s veins and in and out of this two hearts, the Time Lord visits many of his friends and companions.  He saves Martha and Mickey from an alien sniper.  He exchanges a knowing look with Sarah Jane.  He seeks to find out from Joan Redfern’s granddaughter if she turned out happy.  He attends Donna Noble’s wedding and leaves Wilfred with a very significant present. Finally, he visits Jackie and Rose where he declares to Rose that she will have a very good year.  Then he heads off to the TARDIS and says these emotional words before regenerating, “I don’t want to go.”  See the scene from “The End of Time: Part 2”.

These are the same motions and emotions that I have gone through over the past few weeks. I said goodbye to a group of seniors who in many ways were my companions. They sojourned with me through time to many places– ancient Greece; Verona, Italy; Mantua; Hell; Mississippi; Wessex, England–signing on to some of my crazy plans. I’ve said goodbyes to colleagues, all different, all brilliant, who taught me more than I could imagine. Today I said goodbye to a school where I believed I would stay until retirement. And now, I feel it. “I don’t want to go.”  It’s my favorite line of the Doctor’s, and for me this year, it rings poignantly true. But like the Tenth Doctor and the Doctors before him, I know the can exist too long. I know it’s time to move on…to regenerate…to become something new.

The Myth of Replacement

There are people in this world–leaders and decision makers–who live under the assumption that people can be replaced.  They tell themselves that if someone leaves, someone else can come in and do it too. It’s a myth.  The right people can’t.

I will concede that someone can step in, collect a salary, attend meetings, make decisions, but I cannot concede that just anyone can be replaced.  There are people whose influence is so imprinted on the fabric of an organization that someone can only leave a mark over an already established intricate pattern.

I started this blog post almost a month ago after some difficult news.  On my return to school after Thanksgiving,  my principal announced her resignation, and not for the reasons one would hope.  She’s not resigning for greener pastures (although it is my sincere prayer that she finds them).  She is not resigning because she’s taken on a a new calling.  I won’t go into the reasons she’s leaving the school she helped build; what’s important is that she is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about John Donne’s “Meditation 17”, and while it’s generally regarded as a brief essay on the connection of people through church, it has been on my mind these last four weeks.  Donne writes:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

Even though Donne focuses on death and it’s impact on an entire body, I can’t help but feel its application.  I cannot help but think that there are departures, not just deaths, that  will make a deep impact on our building–that our school  body is diminished for it.

This loss rattles me.  For the past few years, this woman has inspired me through her passion for students and served as a driver for my own success in the classroom.

As a leader, she has endured challenges that most principals at a school our size couldn’t fathom–poor student choices, employee misconduct, humanist lawsuits, difficult decisions.  Each one she conquered  with grace.  She graduated our school’s first class last year, walking with them every step of their four year journey.

Personally, she supported me through some of my most difficult challenges.  She was there when I needed someone most–when I received the news that my father was gone.  That moment she covered my class so I could get on a plane.She can never know the gratitude that I feel for her–how the only end to my deep sadness upon our move to Colorado was her offer of a teaching position at our school.  She took a chance on me, and for that I am overjoyed and thankful.

It’s deceitful to think that this woman can be replaced.  For me, she never will be.



How to Win CoWorkers and Alienate Fewer People

Sometimes it’s hard to work with people.  Not everyone is going to like you.  You can’t please everyone.  These are truths I know as an adult, but I’m finding that I have a hard time putting them into practice.

We all have at least one person we work with who is not our favorite coworker. Sometimes this person is a bully or just a flat out jerk.  Usually it’s much easier to deal with if the person in overly obnoxious or causes problems for multiple people. Sometimes the person is surrounded by people who are willing to let it slide.  Often times they will say, “Hey, it’s just the way Joe is” or “It’s Joe being Joe.”  Whatever the case, you have to learn to deal with difficult people.  This is a lesson I am learning right now.

I’m a pleaser, a peacekeeper, a compromiser, but I am not a fighter. That’s part of the problem.  I’m not good at sticking up for myself.  This is the year I intend to learn.