Monthly Archives: March 2014

Adventures in Student Blogging

I’ve dedicated every Friday as “Blog Day”. 

The first Friday we spent setting up an account and designing the look and feel of the web page. Before we headed to the lab, I introduced them to Weebly and walked them through my web site and how they could set up their own.  Then we meandered, (because 8th graders can never just walk), to the Library Lab. I was glad I had on my comfortable sneakers. My dogs were chasing their tails. “Mrs. Allison! Mrs. Allison!” So many questions to answer. “How do you change the background color?” “Can I add a picture?” “What do I call this?” “What’s my email address, again?” More than anything, though, the students were excited. That was huge. I radiated hope.

The next week, I thought, “It’s time to blog!”  We had just read a story about a boy who had a hard time dealing with change. We had also revisited the Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. Perfect! We’ll blog about change. I can be so optimistic sometimes. Back to the lab we went. Disappointment hit. So many students weren’t ready at all to blog.  “Where’s the website?” “What’s a URL?” “Which email did I use to sign up?” Sigh. I think I forget sometimes they’re only 13 and 14. I need to wear a pedometer to see just how many miles I can log on these shoes. 

Third Friday. This time I had an epiphany to send each student an email listing everything that should be included thus far on the website! This will work, right? 
More running. 
“Wait, what are we supposed to have on the site?” 
“Check your email.” 
“What’s my email password, again?” 

Tomorrow we go back again. 
I might need new shoes.

Secrets of the Freemasons Revealed

As an educator, you often get asked an off the cuff question, “Why did you become a teacher?” In fact, just the other day my daughter asked me that very question. Seems like I should have a obligatory answer packed away in my psyche somewhere, but I never have truly been able to nail it. There are the moments, though when it’s clear. Last Monday night was one of them.

The school had received an email from a Deacon at the Masonic Lodge asking if we had an outstanding student we would like to recognize at a dinner. The student would receive an award and the teachers were invited to speak on his or her behalf. It is a monthly dinner and this month was Chilton’s turn. One student immediately came to mind: Ravina. 

Trusting my GPS to lead me into old Roseville in the pouring rain, I managed to find the lodge near the old theater on historic Vernon Street. I forget this part of Roseville still exists, near the train tracks that founded this city. I climbed the old stairs of the building and entered the hall. There sat Ravina and her family, greeting me with the warmest of welcomes.

The Masons had cooked a fabulous corned beef dinner, apparently for two days, (we sat with the cook) and it was absolutely delicious. Ravina wasn’t as keen on the food as the rest of us, but luckily they served ice cream and brownies for dessert. Visiting with her parents and brother, it was evident why Ravina is such an amazing young lady. 

Then came the time for the recognition. Ravina and I were asked to come up to the front, where I had the honor and pleasure of saying a few kind words about her. Now, Ravina is absolutely amazing. Every assignment she ever completes is not only good, but impeccable. She is involved in Leadership, and is always one of the last to leave a function. She stays after to make sure everything is in order. Ravina is also a first class athlete. Most of all, she does it all with a smile on her face. Her positive attitude is infectious. Although, I do admit that I love her even more because she laughs at my jokes. 

The Masons awarded Ravina with $50, and even gave me a granite plaque. 

It’s these opportunities that help me answer that question of why I became an educator. I get to work with kids like Ravina. It’s just one part of the puzzle, but a part that is vital. 

Leaving that night, I realized that I had not only experienced an amazing night as an educator, but I had done something few had ever done: unearthed a secret from a Freemason. I learned that after boiling the corned beef, slather it with brown sugar and spicy brown mustard. Delicious!

Coding, What?

I was in a meeting a few months back, and a parent was talking about how there really are so few women computer engineers in the work force.  He added that not only that, there are just so few engineers. My mind immediately went to my uncle.  The man was a whiz at computers, but socially could barely hold a conversation with even his family. He enjoyed solitude and would have never been the life of any party. Not exactly the job I envision for my daughter. This is the stereotype that has lived in my head now for decades. That all changed when I attended the GAFE Summit. 

Google Apps for Education is a network of educators and trainers designed to implement and integrate focused learning using Google Apps for Education and other tools. It teaches educators to promote student learning and bridge that ever needed gap of creating 21st Century students. But, I took away much more than that in that weekend at Roseville High School. I was inspired. Giddy. I realized I needed to pass along that enthusiasm to my students, in some way. Any way. So I decided to jump.

Now I am a planner by nature. I want to know what the weather will be like, have on the right outfit, slather the correct amount of SPF, and even dip my toe in the water before I swim.  However, something happens when you’re a teacher, mom, wife, marathon runner, and locator of all lost objects–you have little time. I figured, if anything was going to happen,  I needed to start swimming fully clothed. 

Last week I opened the lab and simply instructed the fifteen or so middle schoolers who came by, to explore. What happened? They were engaged. They were playing games and actually exploring the world of code. Now, I still don’t fully understand it myself, but it didn’t seem to matter. They were showing ME different sites. Teaching ME! It was truly inspiring.

I got an email the next day from the parent who had initially mentioned the statistics in that meeting a few months back. He was so excited I had started this new club. He has a friend who works for Facebook and even bragged to him.  The response, “How many girls showed up?” I searched my head for the picture of the computer- lined room–I only counted three. Guess I have my work cut out for me.

My goal as an educator is to inspire. I was inspired. Now it’s time to pay it forward. The water is perfect.