I spent the last 9 days in Burlington, Vermont at one of the best professional development events I’ve ever attended, the 2013 DEN Summer Institute. This time around, I was on the “other side” of the event because I was not a regular attendee, but staff. It felt different, but not in a bad way. There were plenty of opportunities to meet new faces and connect with others, as I’ve done at past events, but there was plenty of work to do to help make the event a success. This year, there was a new challenge. I’ve known plenty of DEN members from my time on the LC and have, for lack of a better word, “history” with many. (History isn’t the best word to describe what I mean, but read on and it might make sense.) I’m still working on balancing those personal relationships with the ones that are now professional. I can tell you, it’s not easy as I’d like it to be. I’m so fortunate to be working on a team with Porter, Lance, Steve, Kyle, Dean, Jannita, and others. It is unbelievably awesome. They are some of the smartest and nicest people I know and they challenge me to live up to the DEN standard they’ve set. I’m constantly working on it.

Throughout the week, I watched all of them interact with the community, prepare for each day, and figure out the best way I could help. I attended DENSI as a teacher in 2010, but this year, needed to make sure my role was that not of an attendee, but as a Discovery Education team member. I wanted to attend sessions and connect with others – which I did, but that wasn’t the first priority. My priority was to the team. Luckily, I love my team, so keeping in constant contact wasn’t difficult. Continuously checking to make sure things were under control was a necessity, but there were still opportunities to learn great stuff during the day and network in the evening. This week seemed to go off without a hitch and it’s because of the awesome team, specifically Porter, who does such an amazing job putting things together. I’m sure there were things that didn’t go as planned, but from my point of view, it was incredible. The sessions were awesome, the field trip was great, the unconference rocked. And let’s not forget about the DEN swag. Porter has really set the bar high for next year, but there’s no doubt that she, with the help of our team, will put together another amazing event in 2014.

Before I share some of my highlights, I want to share a couple of regrets. I’m terrible at introducing myself to others. It’s something I need to work and I, again, didn’t do a good job this past week. Not introducing myself to attendees I didn’t know is inexcusable and will not happen next year. I must do better with names and faces. There were also a couple of things I personally wanted to get done this week, but didn’t. These are things for future projects that I wanted to get done at DENSI because we had so many great community members present. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to all of them.

On to some of my personal highlights. Some of yours might be similar, with a few names swapped out.

  • Meeting new faces and developing friendships and connections that I hope continue well beyond DENSI. Linsday, Brandon, and Carlos were just some of the people that helped make the week special.
  • Reconnecting with people I’ve only seen a few times – the Idaho crew, my DENapalooza friends like Mary Carole, Kati, and others, the Texas twosome of Rafranz and Kristy.
  • Good friends that go back a few years, it’s always great seeing them. Dennis, Traci, Jan, Kelly, Tim, Rachel, Katie, Cheryl, Connie and more.
  • Having lunch with Team Canada and discussing ways to share and grow the DEN north of the border.
  • Helping Gina Powell get going on Twitter. She was a newbie, but with her hard work, and a little help from me, accomplished her goal of 100 tweets and 100 followers during DENSI. Way to go!
  • Chatting with Terra-Lee about her Passion Project, DENPals, and helping her get her blog set up to share it.
  • My presentations. I think they went well, or at least that’s the feedback I got. It’s always nice to hear good things when you share with others.
  • The got den? shirt challenge. I had a blast giving those shirts out and thinking of fun challenges as our supply dwindled. Seriously, I had so much fun during this time, I was probably annoying Porter and Steve way more than they let on as I kept popping in and telling them how awesome it was.
  • TV show trivia game – TWICE! It was such a blast sitting around with over 50? people yelling out the answers. If only he would have put together songs from movies for another challenge.  I’m sure it wasn’t that difficult for Dean to put together the 200 songs for the tv show challenge wasn’t really. Oh and Lindsay’s scoring – she needs work on that.
  • Friday. Dean’s closing. Brilliant. And the Unclosing, WOW, what a fantastic idea. Allowing others to share their experiences was awesome, but sitting back and listening was even better. I wish we could have captured Kate’s words, along with those of many others, to share with the community.
  • Knowing that I helped play a small role in making DENSI 2013 a huge success.

Honestly, I could have stayed longer. Obviously, I missed my family, a larger shower, and the comforts of my own bed, but the experience was so awesome, I didn’t want it to end. Based on the tears I saw as people left the dorms, I don’t think I’m alone. It’s sad to think that it might be a year before I see many of the faces again. My only saving grace is that I get to communicate with you all via communications from the DEN. It’s not the same as the face to face contact, but it will have to do.


A Classroom Website or Blog is a Must for Every Teacher

As the world gets more and more connected, and more and more information is accessible, isn’t it time that every teacher has a class website or blog?  I was in a meeting earlier this year at a school and a parent asked the teacher if she had a website.  The teacher replied that she did not, and in not so many words, said she wasn’t tech savvy enough.  At first, I just shook my head and wondered why.  Lack of interest?  Her lack of time?  Lack of time?  But the more I thought about this, the more I got frustrated.  To me, it’s simply not acceptable anymore for a teacher, especially a classroom teacher, to not have a class website or blog, or even a wiki – something to share the successes of the classroom, keep parents up to date on what’s going on in the classroom, and to build a strong relationship between school and home.

Creating a site has never been easier.  People no longer need to know how to code or do any complex computing, in many cases, posting something as simply as text is about as easy as sending an email.  In addition, I would bet that there are students in almost every classroom who would love to help not only set up the online class space, but would also work to create the content.  It wouldn’t be that difficult to update the site at least every few days.

Am I wrong in thinking that teachers not having a class site should no longer be acceptable?  Should we, as parents, be raising this concern with our school and district leadership?  My child, when asked about his day, rarely give me anything of substance.  I’d love to be able to see what’s going on by simply heading to a class page.  Why not document the excitement, learning, and cool things going on in our classrooms?  When teachers and the education system are getting bashed, we need to be sharing the wonderful things happening, but most teachers are not.  School leaders need to make this a priority.

Am I crazy in this thinking?  Do you agree?  What can be done to help some this problem?


Advice to Young People: Become a Teacher

This post is in contrast to a recent post by Randy Turner, who tells young people not to  become teachers.

I spent 15 years in public education before moving out of the school system and into the private sector.  I enjoyed my time as a teacher and found it exciting, frustrating, rewarding, and tiresome.  I had great days and made great connections with young people, some who I still communicate with today.  For me, after 15 years, it was time for a change.  Will I ever go back?  Who knows, I’m not ruling anything out at this point.

While I don’t disagree with much of what Randy shares in the article, those of us who taught when things were much better certainly can compare today’s job to the job we had 10 to 15 years ago.  It’s very different.  While the job has changed for seasoned educators, those entering the field these days can’t make those comparisons.  They don’t know what’s it was like when there was less pressure on standardized testing and less teacher bashing.  Those entering the profession now should know what they are getting into and what today’s teachers face.  If they don’t, they’ll be in for a rude awakening.  If they are aware, and if they still want to be a teacher, I say, go for it.

When you’re a teacher, you’ll experience some of the greatest joy you’ll ever have when you see a smile on your student’s face.  When you help a young person learn and grow and see that light bulb go on.  You’ll be frustrated, for sure, but the joy will easily outweigh the frustration.

When you’re a teacher, you’ll have access to some of the greatest tools and resources available.  These resources and tools weren’t around ten years ago.  Use technology to build a PLN and use your network to help you become a better teacher.  Use technology to expand the walls of your classroom and do things teachers couldn’t do 10 years ago.

When you’re a teacher, you’ll have to defend your job and your career.  You probably won’t get rich either.  In most cases, the people giving you the hardest time about teaching wouldn’t trade places with you in a second.  They don’t want your job.  They know how hard it is.  You should be proud that you’re willing to take on the challenge.

My mentor teacher’s daughter is considering going into education when she starts college next year.  When I first heard this, my original thought, much like Randy’s, was to tell her she’s nuts.  But the more I think about, we need young teachers who want to be in our classrooms and work with our children.  We need these teachers who are eager, who want to learn, and want to succeed.  We shouldn’t tell them to stay away, we should encourage them to be brave and simply go for it.  We should tell them, Be A Teacher.

Good Reads

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a articles that I’ve found interesting.  Enjoy.


Things to Read

I became aware of the articles below through Twitter, my RSS feed, or an email.  Regardless of how these articles made it to me, I found each to be interesting and thought provoking so I’m sharing.  Enjoy.

  • I came across this great site for resources on digital citizenship and social media.


1 Second Everyday

When you work with great people, their brilliance is bound to rub off a little.  Earlier this month, a few of my colleagues told me about an app called 1 Second Everyday.  The app allows you to create a video made up of a photo or one second video clip from each day of the month.  When the app came out, I downloaded it and have been trying out the app this month, taking photos and video clips when I remember.  For the month of January, I put together the video below.  It turned out okay, but I need to figure out the audio portion.  The pics and clips are very random, but I think for next month, I might try to put together something with more of a theme.

If you’re interested in sharing what goes on in your life, one second at a time, give the app a try.

What I Don’t Miss

Last week marked my first full year with Discovery Education.  In a blog post I wrote last week, I noted a few of the things that I miss from my old job.  The things listed are just a few of the good things I miss.  An article in the local paper about teaching brought to mind one huge thing that I don’t miss – the bashing teachers and their jobs.   Over the last year or so, Wisconsin hasn’t been the greatest place for teachers and I’ve read my fair share of teacher bashing articles. Why I even decide to read the comments is beyond me.  Perhaps I like getting upset.  Below are a few screenshots from the comment section of the above article.  After reading these, you’ll certainly understand why I don’t miss these types of discussions about the teaching profession.  What other professionals take this kind of abuse?  It’s just sad and truly shows a problem with education that no one mentions – respect for the people doing the job.