Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Goals 2014

So, it's been two weeks since the end of school and it's been two weeks since I've last blogged. That was intentional. I needed some time off. I've still been tweeting, I've been working on a new Schedule B school position, and I've been reading. So, it's not that I've needed time OFF. I just needed a small respite from blogging.

And I needed to revamp. I've been spending time finding a new look for my blog and I think I'm finally happy with it--and ready to share.

But the look is not all I want to share.

I want to share my summer's goals. I've found, by making my goals public, I have a different level of accountability. If I make my network of friends and colleagues aware, they can continue to push me.

So, five goals for two and a half months:

  1. Have fun with my family. Every open house I attend for a graduating senior, the parents instruct me to take advantage of the time I have with my children. "It doesn't last," they say. I'm already feeling that. My oldest daughters are on the verge of pre-teendom and I need to squeeze the most out of my "cool" as I can.
  2. Write--it's time to finish the ELEVATE EMPATHY community writing project. The stories have been collected and edited, but there are still some finishing touches. It's been a great joy to receive these stories and work with my co-editor, Carlyn Arteaga, and publisher, Dan Ireland. The book is scheduled for an early fall release, but some final touches need to be made.
  3. READ--at least three "for fun" books (though this one, I can report, is already done--Smile and Persepolis and Dad is Fat have been unique and quick reads) and three professional books. I have two selected: How Children Succeed and Mindset. I'm looking for the perfect third book. Any suggestions?
  4. Time to restart the community book club. Last fall, our community went on a great literary journey by reading Emily Bazelon's Sticks and Stones. I want to present the community with a new challenge. Mostly, though, I want to include the student voice even more. It will be fun to plan this again over the summer months.
  5. Connect with friends. During the school months, my wife and I work hard to make this happen, but it isn't always easy. Lives, as children are growing, get busier and busier. The summer months are a great time to reconnect. And, over Nikki and my fifteen years of marriage, we have said repeatedly that what matters are the people with whom we surround ourselves. It reminds me of David Brooks's TedTalk "Should You Live For Your Resume...Or For Your Eulogy?" Take five minutes and give it a watch.

I'm happy to say that, if I'm doing life right--like I plan to this summer--I'll be busy connecting with family and friends. I'll be reading, writing, and connecting with community. I'll be thinking deeply about my job. 

I'll be doing all the things I care about.

And that makes for a pretty great summer.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rewarding, NOT Easy: The 2013-2014 School Year

As the 2013-2014 school year fades, I can't help but look back on it as the best year in my professional career. Teaching has become doing and creating with students and community. It is my zone. But it is NOT easy. This teaching thing is hard work and my colleagues and I are deserving of our upcoming time to read professionally, to create new ideas, and to work on implementation. Truth be told, if I didn't have last summer, I wouldn't have accomplished much of what my students, community, colleagues, and I did this summer.

For a personal recap, here's the Top Five List of Accomplishments in 2013-2014:

5. Speaking Engagements at Mattawan, Jackson, Whitehall, MACUL, and More. By engaging in these conferences, I get to reflect so much in my preparation. Through it, I get to question my own practices and strengthen my convictions in them, too. Along the way, I hope what I present makes a difference in other educators' practices. During these talks, I've been able to meet phenomenal, motivated educators in other districts, people who are keeping Michigan education strong. Conversations with Brad Wilson, Andy Losik, Rebecca Wildman, and Aaron Koleda have kept me motivated to get better at my craft.

4. This Weekly Blog. Now in its second year, this blog has been a beacon of professional development for me. Publishing my thoughts keeps me accountable. Like I express to my students, words matter. Whether the audience is small or big (one post hit upwards of 500 views), someone is reading my words, so I need to make them matter.

3. Creative Writing. The first time, officially "having" the Creative Writing class has led to some wonderful surprises and some phenomenal work from my students. Between our hybrid blogs, our public readings, and our soon-to-be published book, we've done real work--real writer's work. It's been so much fun leading these young writers in what writers do: think, revise, write, struggle, celebrate.

2. WORDS HAVE POWER. The past summer allowed me to set up the WORDS HAVE POWER essay among my fall Advanced Composition classes. We used our words and research to argue on behalf of local non-profits. With the generous gift of the local community foundation, we were even able to award cash prizes (which had to be given to the non-profits) to essays that classmates thought were best.

1. The Community Book Club. This fall, our community--with the support of the entire school district--worked through an important book: Emily Bazelon's Sticks and Stones. Through great online and face-to-face conversations, we traveled to a place of more empathy. And that is never wrong.

So, the work was not easy. But invigorating, important, rewarding work never is.