As 2013 comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the past year. 2013 proved to be quite a transformative one. Considering that this is my first post since September, it has also proven to be a busy one. Here are some of my thoughts on the past year.
2013 began with the honor of being named PAECT‘s Teacher of the Year in February. Being recognized with the award was quite a surprise and due to my limited ability to miss days at work, I was not able to be present for the presentation of the award, which I regret. PAECT is a wonderful organization that connects educators involved in educational technology across the state of Pennsylvania. I have met some amazing educators through my involvement with the organization.
March brought another momentous occasion. John, my boyfriend of over 8 years, and I decided to get married. On July 13th. I never was one of those girls who dreamed of her wedding day, so planning a wedding in less than 4 months was quite an experience, but more on that later. In March, two of my students won 1st place in the Programming category at the District Computer Fair, which was very exciting as I had been on my own journey learning about coding.
In May, I was elated to learn that I had been selected to be in the 2013 class of ASCD’s Emerging Leaders. This would give me an opportunity to make a difference in educational leadership outside of the educational technology realm I was used to inhabiting. I also connected with a number of Pennsylvania educators in the class and we have been collaborating with the Pennsylvania affiliate of ASCD (PASCD), which has been an exciting endeavor. This work will continue through 2014. I am also excited to attend ASCD’s annual conference in Los Angeles in March to connect face to face with many of the Emerging Leaders and participate in ASCD’s first “unconference.” May also brought the 3rd annual Edcamp Philly unconference, which I helped organize.
End of the School Year/Summer 2013
In June, I made a huge decision to leave my school of the previous three years to join the inaugural team of the Science Leadership Academy’s new Beeber campus. I had to quickly make sure that I was leaving my school in a good position to continue the technology program we had been working on for three years. This meant organizing paperwork and getting it to the right people, triple checking our inventory, leaving curricular materials with the instructional director. I also had to begin the process of returning to the School District of Philadelphia, which included doctor’s appointments, visits to the District’s main offices and many phone calls. At the same time, I was dress shopping, seeking out a venue, putting together a guest list, choosing a caterer, designing invitations and all of the other nitty gritty details that go along with planning a wedding. I spent hours on the phone with my mother, hours on Pinterest getting ideas and hours hot gluing and putting together the table signs and escort cards for our guests. Thinking back, it’s amazing I made it through the month of June at all.
June was also exciting as it was my first year working with TechGirlz Summer Camp, an amazing week of entrepreneurship for teenage girls in the Philadelphia area. We had an amazing group of girls who came up with some really great companies and did some inspiring presentations. They worked with local developers and entrepreneurs to develop their products and companies throughout the week before presenting their companies to their families and a panel of “investors.”
After the blur of the wedding, we were off to Hawaii for 10 days. No work emails, no blogging, limited tweeting, and no one telling us what to do and where to be. It was blissful.
As soon as we returned in late July, reality came crashing down as worked a week teaching a Space and Aeronautics course that I designed and wrote before the summer began. It was a ton of fun. After that was a week spent with my new colleagues at SLA at Beeber. We spent an intense week breaking down project based learning and the ins and outs of life at SLA. It was exhausting and energizing at the same time. A week later, we spent a week getting to know our new students during Summer Institute. My exploration group spent a rainy afternoon exploring Paine’s Skate Park and I had some time to get to know my advisees, with whom I will be spending the entire four years of their high school careers.
The fun didn’t stop there. Opening a new school is not for the faint of heart. We spent hours cleaning the third floor of Beeber Middle School that we would inhabit. We moved furniture, including desks, chairs, bookcases and cafeteria tables. We set up the office and the cafeteria ourselves, completing the last of the cafeteria tables and chairs the day before the first day of school, a day that most teachers had off from work. It was a heroic effort.
We hit the ground running on Day One, welcoming students to the new school. The last few months have been a whirlwind. I often use the metaphor of building the plane while flying it. There are so many day-to-day decisions to make, procedures to rethink, pedagogical ideas to explore, problems to be solved, along with the every day complexity of teaching 120 fifteen year olds with all of the joys that come along with raging hormones, identity exploration and with no upperclassmen to help guide them. We also provide students with a lot more agency and freedoms than many of them are used to. It’s been fascinating to watch them navigate these new freedoms and energizing to support them along the way. I have also really enjoyed the advisory program, through which I have gotten to know 19 students very well and have enjoyed discussing various issues as a group, traveling outside of the building together on trips and having individual conversations with each of them. I have also enjoyed teaching ninth graders for the first time. It has been insightful hearing their thoughts, opinions and reflections on Digital Citizenship and using technology. It’s also been an incredible journey transitioning from a lab (yuck!) to a classroom where every student has his or her own device. I look forward to supporting my colleagues with creating opportunities for students to use their devices effectively and creatively throughout the rest of the year.
One of the exciting events to end 2013 was the Philly EdTech Meetup‘s holiday demo night in December, which brought one of our largest groups of attendees and truly reflected the community that my co-organizer, Donna Murdoch, and I have been working hard to build since we joined forces in 2012.
Obviously, this year has been fast-paced and transformative. The school year has been busy, sometimes stressful and always energizing. One of the toughest parts of the school year is November to December, when we have our narrative report cards due and hold report card conferences and also work multiple weekends interviewing students for next year. It was also at this time that my husband and I were hit with the surprising and exciting news that we would be welcoming a new addition to our family in July 2014. This has created an entirely new kind of reflection. Over the last year, I have spent more time focusing on home and married life, and the time commitment of opening a new school has taken away from time I had spent in the past running around to conferences and other events, blogging and tweeting. My exhaustion over the last few months due to first trimester woes has also slowed me down.
This news will force me to rethink my lifestyle overall. I have spent most of the last 4 years engaging with educators around the globe, tweeting, blogging, traveling, presenting and focusing, well, on me and my career. At times, this has affected my relationship with my husband, though he has always been supportive. I don’t need to change my engagement with community of educators I have connected with over the years. It doesn’t mean that I need to stop blogging or even stop presenting or traveling. I do know, however, that my focus will undoubtedly change. There have been times when I have been working so hard that I haven’t seen my husband for days. 2014 will no doubt require me to change those habits. I already know that I want to refocus and reflect on what parts of my professional life I will be able to keep up with once this new addition arrives.
It looks like 2014 may rival 2013 for life changing events! I am thankful for all of the support and positivity that has come my way this past year from colleagues, friends, acquaintances and strangers. I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2014!