Sunday, August 17, 2014

Brown-Nosing? Or Giving Thanks?

When I was a young kid, my "showing respect" to a teacher was sometimes called 'brown-nosing'. I always thought that shiny apple I gave on the first day as a peace offering. I always thought having the stapler positioned just as the teacher wanted it was following directions. I always thought the end-of-school-year thank you card was just that--a big old thank you.

Now, as I'm about to blog what I'm about to blog about...I get all concerned that I'll be called a brown-noser again. (I never did like that term and always tried to justify it in order to toss it away. I mean, I don't do nice things to be given something. Karma often works that way, but it's not my purpose.)

But, I'll risk the name calling, knowing this is nothing more than a big old thank you.


Kevin Honeycutt is the man.

Last Tuesday, I attended (and spoke) at a conference in Zeeland, Michigan. Great conference, by the way. Good #MichEd folk there. Lots of good learning from West Michigan educators.

But Kevin Honeycutt was the draw. I don't know too much about him, but I know this: he has, after 10+ years in an art classroom and now 10+ years of speaking on education internationally, developed quite a following--allowing his message to spread to thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of educators and, through them, countless students.

What's his message? He's got too many to name. On Tuesday, though, my take away was that creativity still matters in our profession. And so does technology. And so does sharing this with the world. And all of those can work together. At the keynote, Kevin allowed all 100+ participants to try on his GoogleGlass. Then, this paraphrased exchange:

  • Participant: Why get GoogleGlass at all?
  • Honeycutt: To stay relevant. If I'm not staying with or ahead of the technological curve, then I'm going to fall behind quickly and lose my relevance in the classroom.
He then went on to show us some incredible apps and external tools that allowed students of all ability and language to play music. As he demonstrated, music is a common language for people. Music, especially of this handy and efficient technological kind, has connected him to students when language and physical ability could not otherwise. Technology might just be the tie that binds educators and their students. But once it does, he reminded me that we must share that connection.

If we, as educators, do not share the messages and stories of the incredible things that are happening in our schools, then we are allowing others to do that for us. In a time when funding is hard to come by, we must work harder at showing our value. He encouraged social media to share that message. I'm so proud to see Spring Lake Public Schools (and foundations and parent organizations and individual teachers) have a greater presence over the last year or two. My hope is that it will continue.

But more than any of that gadgetry, I remember this statement: "None of this matters (pointing to his awesome presentation), if we don't have relationships." Everything begins with relationships and, while I know that, it's critical to hear again and again as it can get lost in the other demands of the job. It all comes back to relationships.

I live by that. I know that.

So--call it what you will: a shout out, a thank you, or even one heck of a brown-nosing job. This man deserves a lot of credit for inspiring educators and their students.

You, Kevin Honeycutt, were exactly what I needed a month before starting the new school year.

Thank you!

Follow Kevin in his social media places here:

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Calm Before The Storm--Good Thing I LOVE Storms

Today, I read for leisure. Yesterday, I took an hour and a half kayak trip through some local waterways. Last week, I had three dinners with friends, a round of golf with extended family, and a hike in the woods with my dog. The three weeks prior--the greatest calm of my life--my family took a three-week road trip where we covered natural beauties, man-made phenomenons, and 7,058.5 miles. I take many things from that particular moment of calm: 

  1. I LOVE my family more now than I ever thought I could. We tackled unlikely excursions with each other's support. When we found ourselves in unique, uncertain situations, we did not tear each other down; we lifted each other up. With my family, I'm willing to risk more, to do more, to be more.
  2. I live in a magnificent place. While driving across the country, my wife and I kept wondering where "that" place would be where we felt we'd have to go--a place that made us feel we were in the "wrong" place. It never happened. West Michigan has it all: beautiful landscapes, beautiful weather, and beautiful people.
  3. This calm is necessary because the storm is coming. I've said it for years now: teaching is hard work, really hard work. While I have the ability and time to create calm in my life, I will. And I will not regret enjoying the calm.

Now, the storm is coming. 

Thing is--I LOVE storms. If I'm not dancing in the rain, I can be found on my front porch taking in the sights and sounds. When a storm hits, I go to the heart of it; I don't distance myself from it.

The storm

  • The standard teacher work which, by the way, is more than enough in and of itself though MOST teachers I know take on a storm much like mine. This includes planning lessons, grading, managing student behavior, etc.
  • A new adjunct position at Muskegon Community College which is ENG 101--their entry-level composition. I'm so excited to be teaching a new type of student two nights a week.
  • I'm particularly excited about one of the turns my career has taken: speaking to fellow educators at Michigan conferences. At this point, I have about six lined up and will be applying for more throughout the year. These conferences allow me to hone my skills, to focus on the things I find most important in teaching, and to learn from others.
  • In the spring, I'll be teaching a couple of sophomore classes at Spring Lake and it's been a while since I've done that. I'm very excited to dig back into that curriculum.
  • Thanks to our community passing a school bond, every teacher and every student will receive a personal learning device. For the past two years, I've been piloting device use in my classroom and it has helped tremendously in my teacher transformation. Now, I very much want to share that with my colleagues and students. I want to be a person who is available for questions.
  • I intend to keep up with my personal writing of this blog and of other projects. These skills keep me sharp in my classroom observations and reflections. They keep me in the writing game. It's good to be doing it when I'm trying to teach it to others.
  • I'll be maintaining, with plenty of colleague help, the ski club and Stratford Shakespeare Festival trip while adding a new student group called The Task Force which is charged with raising money to support school/student initiatives.
  • I will be promoting a book that a student, Carlyn Arteaga, and I edited by using 20 stories on empathy written by various contributors--both local and across the nation. This is meant to continue the empathy discussion that our community started by using Emily Bazelon's Sticks and Stones. I'm proud of the book and look forward to every opportunity that might come from it.
  • Then, of course, there are all of those things that I don't even know about yet, but will surely pop up. The unexpected shower, if you will. 
The rains of this storm will be heavy. But you can find me in them without an umbrella.