This is patio seating at an airport. On our way back from NCCE.
“You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
― A.A. Milne,
Piglet Needs Pooh to Get Him Out on an Adventure
My friend and teaching colleague, Deanna, is the Pooh to my Piglet when it comes to educational opportunities. She's heard there's educational honey somewhere, and has decided that we are going to out to find it. She's not intimidated by the Heffalumps or the Woozles that could stand in our way.She doesn't care that Rabbit or Eeyore has told her no, once, twice, or maybe many times. She isn't even bothered by the fact that we might walk around in circles for a long period of time on our way there. Twice she and I ended up on the Canadian border while trying to navigate to and from educational conferences, none of which were in Canada by the way, but that is another story.
Every teacher needs a colleague that gets him/her out of their comfort zone. We all need that extra push sometimes to feel brave enough to try something new, or ask for something that we know will benefit our classroom and our students. I need my friend Deanna for inspiration because my nature as a teacher is to bury myself in books and ideas. I study them, and I read about them, and I ask so many questions that the task can seem overwhelming. Instead of acting, I can often sit on my idea, and before I know it, that is all it ever is, an idea, that I never tried. Before Deanna started to work at my school, I often felt too timid to get out there and dip my paw/hoof in the actual honey pot.
Deanna has a different approach as an educator. She grabs a hold of an idea, and simply says I'm doing it, and your coming with me. She's so confident that I become convinced that not only should I go with her, but that I should, and can, become a part of the action.
The first Googlefest that I attended, I became a presenter because of Deanna. I had never been to a Google training before, I didn't have any experience as a presenter, and I didn't have an idea for a presentation. However, because of Deanna's confidence, all of those things didn't matter. She didn't know exactly what she was going to present either, in fact a lot of the presenters were fine-tuning, or coming up with new ideas to add to their presentations the night before the conference. I learned that a person doesn't have to be an expert to teach other people something. Sure I wasn't a master of the Google Apps, but I did know more than many other teachers. I could use docs, slides, drawing and forms. I had created lessons and activities for my students, and used them in the classroom. I presented The Collaborative Classroom with Deanna, and while I don't think I blew any one's mind with my presentation, I did get to network, learn amazing activities from other presenters, and more importantly feel like I was a part of the educational community.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Things
Deanna has also taught me to not be afraid to ask for things. She convinced me to ask for an ipad when I was attending a tech conference. In the registration application you could check whether you wanted your school to include an ipad or a chromebook in your registration fee. Being the polite, budget-minded teacher I was, I hadn't checked that option. I thought it was enough that the school was just letting me attend the conference. Why not just ask? Deanna prompted me. The worst they can do is say no. So I reluctanly followed her advice, and guess what? They didn't say no. I got an ipad for my classroom. That ipad made it possible for my students to create story trailers in my reading classes, write and perform commercials in English, bring poems to life , film examples of camera shots, create imovies, and so much more. My students wouldn't have gotten to do any of those things if I had stayed quiet and not asked for the ipad.
Sometimes teachers get upset because they didn't get a piece of technology for their classroom, or they didn't get to go to attend a conference that they really thought sounded amazing. However, many times those teachers never requested to go to the conference. They never wrote a letter about how they would use the technology in their classroom, or even talked to anyone about what they wanted. They are baffled by losing out on an opportunity that they never let anyone know that they wanted. Our administrators are not clairvoyants. If you are really passionate about learning something, or getting an opportunity, or resources for your classroom, the very least we can do as teachers is ask.
Don't Give Up When You Fail, or You're Told No
Pooh Bear doesn't give up when his plans for honey fail. When Pooh falls out of the tree, he doesn't go home and cry, he finds another way towards his goal. He disguises himself as a little black rain cloud, borrows a balloon from Christopher Robin, and gives it another shot.
Deanna taught me how to keep fighting for what you really want for your students and your school. She wanted our school to adopt Google Classroom when it was first introduced, but the administration didn't want to open up our domain to make it possible. So Deanna convinced me to buy a domain of our own, and go rogue with Google Classroom. That fall our middle school was up and using Google Classroom long before many other schools had even heard about it.
When she wanted chromebooks in our classrooms she did the research, she looked for deals, she wrote letters, she gave presentations, she made phone calls, she got in some arguments, and she asked over and over and over again until it happened. Our school is currently 1 on 1 with chromebooks grades 3-5th grade.
3rd Graders working hard on their chromebooks.