Summer Plans.

Business Plan
New Newspaper Rubric
Learn Schoology
Purge Desktop
Redo Keynotes

This is the list I started last week, a list of what I need to accomplish this summer. It will only get longer, I am sure, because I know I need to complete at least one Udemy class (just so I don’t feel like a failure–I have half a dozen in my queue) and I plan to do as much of this as I can.

I spend plenty of time during the summer watching movies and sleeping, but I also spend plenty of time looking at how I can improve my classes and my teaching, as well as learn something new.

I’m also trying a class through EdX. It’s from the University of Pennsylvania, and it’s called “Hollywood: History, Industry, Art.” It will make my film unit in pop culture so much better than it currently is.

I will enjoy learning for learning’s sake this summer. Once our final issue of the newspaper is put to bed next week, I will start sketching out a summer syllabus for myself. This will keep me motivated and prevent me from watching all seven seasons of The West Wing followed by all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls.

I’m excited for this summer, and even though I’m not taking any big trips, I’m not finishing a book or taking on any fellowships, I will still learn and fine tune my craft.


April 25.

Twenty-five days ago I planned to blog every day. And I did really well until last week. I did not plan very well, even though in the back of my head I knew the last two weeks would be rough.

Since last Thursday, I have been immersed in journalism adviser duties. When we returned from state journalism at 6:45 tonight, I took a breath and thought, “Whew. Nothing journalism until…oh….”

I forgot our final deadline is upon us.

So many things have fallen through the cracks the past week. I am scatter-brained on a level I can’t ever recall reaching. I’m in the home stretch of the 2016-2017 school year, but it doesn’t feel like it. The end-of-year motivation and focus I usually feel hasn’t kicked in yet.

Today I realized I made a couple of big mistakes. I’m trying to focus on the wins though–literally. Three students placed at state journalism. I’m proud of them and their hard work. And the mistakes? I did my best to rectify them, and I have the hope and promise that tomorrow will be better.

I haven’t been in the building since last Wednesday, and I’m actually looking forward to seeing my students and catching up with them. I’ll grasp at that feeling, make a to-do list, and hope my brain picks up its scattered pieces and starts working right again.

Reasons and Resilience.

For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.

I missed yesterday, but the prompt is apt for the past two days (and the next three), so I’m writing about this: What makes you resilient? Why are you still teaching today?

I spent the past two days at an ed tech conference. I heard keynote addresses that inspired me to take time to notice more good things in my life and classroom, seek for ways to implement diversity, and my favorite: reevaluate my current “benevolent fascism” approach to teaching and classroom management. I learned about BreakoutEDU and Canva, and my head buzzed for two days about how I can reimagine my classes.

This is what makes me resilient: I learn from others. And I want to keep learning. Just when I feel I’m at my wits end, I look for something to learn, something to inspire me. Sometimes it’s a TED talk, sometimes it’s figuring out a new trick in InDesign or reading an 11-page article about the film Casablanca.

Why am I still teaching today? Two reasons: first, because I tried not teaching and it didn’t sit well. Second, because of my students. Yesterday three of my editors went to the ed tech conference with me. They looked for stories, set up interviews, took photos. Today, two of the editors spent the day at the conference. Tomorrow, I will take two students to a luncheon in which they will be recognized for winning a state-level competition. Sunday, I will take four students to Norfolk where they will compete at a different state-level journalism contest.

The kids are why I’m still teaching.

One of the keynote speakers challenged us to tell the stories of the kids who succeed, the kids who do good things. He reminded us that 95% of our students are kids who want to learn, kids who make us laugh, kids who improve. But we don’t tell their stories. We tell the stories of the kid (notice the singular) who tried our patience, who stormed out of class, who mouthed off, and sometimes we let that one kid define our day, our class, our entire year.

So I’m telling you this story: I spent yesterday and today with kids, and I’ll spend the next three days with them too. And though I’m exhausted, they’re the reason I’m willing to push through that exhaustion.


My Time At NETA.

For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.

Instead of writing to the prompt today, I’m writing something of an ode to my district and an ed tech conference.

I can’t remember the first year I went to the Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA) conference–I think it was 2010. What I do remember is how deflated I felt by the end of the two-day tech-fest.

So much of what I saw I knew I could not do in my classroom–not because I was unwilling, but because at the time, my district just lacked the infrastructure, hardware, and software to do the innovative ideas shared at NETA.

I went two consecutive years, and then I stopped going–I was teaching AP Lang and Comp and the conference fell too close to the test date. I felt like I was abandoning my students, attending two days of sessions in which I might find one idea I could shoehorn into the resources available to me. It just wasn’t worth it.

Fast forward five years.

Oh, how things have changed. This impresses me, this hindsight, because in my personal life I feel like life pretty much stays the same. Last year I returned to NETA as a presenter. It was a completely different experience than my first. When I attended sessions, my mind raced with how I could implement the ideas in my own classroom. Excitement replaced discouragement. Possibility replaced unlikelihood.

Public schools have become an acceptable prejudice; be as unfoundedly critical of your local school district, and few–if any–will come to the district’s defense. I’m not saying my district is perfect. But the technological changes I’ve seen in the past five years instill a hope that I never thought I’d feel. We have a much improved network. We have rover carts in most classrooms. Some teachers (myself included) have iPad carts.

Sure, I have days where YouTube doesn’t work or my entire Mac lab loses internet (both of these things happened today), but most of the time, I can troubleshoot and get things running again, I know who to ask for help, I’m able to do what I want to do–and that includes trying new things.

I get to go to NETA again this year, but this time as a journalism adviser. NETA reached out to local high school journalists and invited them to the conference. So I’m accompanying my Editor-in-Chief, co-Editor-in-Chief, and Managing Editor to NETA. They have researched story ideas, developed interview questions, and contacted sources. I will attend a handful of sessions, but my primary responsibility is to advise them as they work on their stories. I’m excited for the opportunity they have to see passionate educators collaborating and learning how to create more engaging classrooms.

The best part is knowing that in the sessions I attend, I will not feel hopeless. Yes, change is often slow in the realm of public service, but I am encouraged by the increased support and resources dedicated to improving educational technology in my district. It’s not perfect, but it’s change for the better.



Truth in Advertising.

For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.

The best unit I teach is the advertising unit in my Pop Culture Studies class.

Every year, I toy around with starting with film or television or maybe music. But so much of what I teach throughout the semester builds on the advertising unit.

My students learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, about gender binary, and how both of those are used to construct our world view through advertising. We talk about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the problematic nature of a company telling women they are beautiful…while also selling them beauty products (and we get into the mind-twisting reality that Unilever is Dove’s parent company…and Axe’s parent company…so looking at both product lines’ ads, it’s clear the right hand knows not what the left hand doeth).

We look at naming rights of stadiums and product placement and athletes’ endorsement deals, pulling back the curtain on the staggering amount of money that goes into getting students and parents and all of society to consume.

It’s a bit of a mashup between visual rhetoric and critical media studies.

We learn about male archetypes in advertising–because as much as women are objectified in advertisements, men are reminded that in the advertising world, masculinity has a narrow definition. Neither gender escapes advertising constructs unscathed.

It’s the unit of study that students tell me affects them the most. They watch ads differently, and eventually it spills into how they watch television and film.

A student asked me earlier this semester what the point of the class was. I told him the purpose was to critically analyze the media they all consume, to help them be smart and informed and see through media manipulations.

The advertising unit I teach is probably one of the most important units I teach, because literacy exists not in just knowing what words on a page are saying, but also in understanding how images and sound and words work together to create compelling messages. That kind of literacy, in the 21st century, is vital.

Every semester, I’m excited to teach the advertising unit. It’s one of the units I teach that I know makes a difference.