Sunday, October 30, 2016

A glimpse at Fall CUE 2016

I was one of many attending Fall CUE this weekend. Today I will offer you a glimpse, an overview of my experiences.

I arrived on a dark, rainy Thursday night in an unfamiliar area. I found parking easily and made my way to the badge pick-up. I found it easily and everyone I encountered treated me with kindness. We were off to a good start. Then I followed directions to the cafeteria to grab a bag, a badge holder, and best of all...ribbons to add to my badge. A saw a familiar face, John Eick, and said hello. I made it just in time to get my badge. As I made my way back to my car, others heard words I feared I would hear, "Sorry, we just shut everything down for the night."

I selected a hotel about 15 or 20 minutes from American Canyon High School and the drive worked out pretty well on Friday and Saturday.

Friday started with the opening keynote delivered by Dave Burgess, author of "Teach Like a Pirate." The theatre packed full quickly and easily thus leaving some of us out in the rain. But only for a moment. Organizers worked to get people settled in overflow rooms quickly and efficiently. I ended up in the comforts of the cafeteria with coffee, a cheese danish, and a decent view of the screen broadcasting the keynote. I read "Teach Like a Pirate" over a year ago and it inspired me to keep doing things I was already doing, as well as to bring out my costumes and really take some of the things I did to the next level. I looked forward to this keynote so much so that I dressed in my full pirate costume for the day. (I received great, positive feedback and that made it even more fun, of course.) Standing in the cafeteria, listening to Burgess speak, I had one thought above all others.

"Wow! He talks really fast!"

He does. And you have to try to keep up. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you're still making a note about the I in PIRATE while he starts his big set up for A. (I exaggerate only slightly.) Here are a couple of my big take-aways from the opening keynote Friday:

Student Powered Showcase
"You don't have to have permission to learn."
* I try to instill in my students the idea that they can and should always dig deeper, ask questions, seek answers, and look beyond the face value of questions they are asked. If I ask them to tell me what they know about current events, they will give me headlines and I want them to go beyond the headlines. That is a goal we have for the year. When I give them a math problem, I don't want them to show their work just for the sake of me seeing it, but I want them to be able to go back and find where they made a mistake or discover different ways to solve the same problem. Sometimes we will do this on paper, sometimes I will have them create a model of the problem in Google Draw. Right now, I am guiding them through these processes to some degree but my hope is that eventually they will come to do it naturally. I only have them in these classes for this school year, but they need to continue learning and they need to remember that they do not need permission to learn. They need to feel free to discover and learn on their own as well.

"We are in the life changing business."
* Yes. See my notes above. If I can make the difference in the lives of my students and if I can get them to ask and answer difficult questions and if I can get them to pursue greatness in all they do, then I have done my job. I may not do this for every single one of them, but if I can do it for at least one of them, then I have succeeded. It's like the story of the starfish. (More on this in a moment.)

"Bring more of myself to work everyday."
* Precisely! As I noted above, reading "Teach Like a Pirate" inspired me to dig into my closet and begin incorporating my costumes into my teaching, but I have more I can and will do. I can wear hiking boots and take them on virtual hikes that I find on websites or that I create myself. Why? Because I enjoy hiking and there are valuable lessons to learn: math, science, literature, observation skills, and so much more. Let's go for a hike! That inspired my #EduAwesome #Adventure seeking in my lesson planning. I love adventure and can bring that into the classroom. Back to the costumes, I wear my Steampunk costume for STEAM events and teach Pirate speak on Talk Like a Pirate Day. But now, I see more. We will read "A Christmas Carol" coming up soon and it will all come together just before Christmas break when we celebrate with a party in the spirit of Charles Dickens' writing, costumes fully encouraged.

"What is unique about you makes you powerful and effective."
What is unique about you? I have found some of my uniqueness and I strive to live it, be it, and teach through it daily. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fall on my face. The key here is I pick myself back up and try again. Sometimes a lesson may not work with one class but will with another. Sometimes a lesson just needs to be reworked and strengthened. I started this school year asking my eighth graders what their super powers are. What makes them unique? I will ask them

Closing Keynote Saturday, October 29

again toward the end of the year and we will compare this. I look forward to seeing how they change and how they stay the same. I look forward to seeing the greatness in them grow. It starts with us. We must fi

rst show them that we embrace ourselves, our strengths, our unique approaches to life and to teaching. We must demonstrate what it means to be a lifelong learner and encourage them to become lifelong learners themselves. Be powerful. Be effective. Be you.

Earlier in the week leading up to the Fall CUE Conference, I talked with my parents about wanting to take and wear my pirate costume in the spirit of the opening keynote. They both encouraged me. My mom said, "Be you." So, I did. I am almost 40-years-old and hearing my mom encourage me still to be myself can make all the difference. I am a little silly, a little fun, a little adventurous. I have a background in writing and theatre. I love bringing that to the classroom and continue to expand on it. So, why shouldn't I do the same when spending time among other educators. One of my presentations begins with showing "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." It asks, "Are you afraid?" "I'm not a afraid," declares a sea of children's voices. As adults, we must do the same. We must declare that we are not afraid and take our students on the bear hunt of education.

I earned all possible badges to earn in the Fall CUE Game and that was pretty cool. Initially I wasn't sure I would even try. Then, I realized how easy it was to do one. Then another. All I had to do was document things I was doing anyway. I greatly enjoyed time in the STEAMpunk Playground and I wanted that badge. So, I took more pictures. I have a dream of bringing drones into my classroom, so I spent more time with the drones than anything else. Now, I am curious about more, especially the VR experience that was available there. I am hopeful to have a chance to experience some of these things at CUE Annual in March.

Another highlight for me at Fall CUE was the Breakout EDU session with Ari Flewelling and Ben Cogswell. I keep glansing at Breakout EDU and "thinking about it." Their session helped me see how I can use it in different ways. I have ideas for my math, history, and language arts classes. Now, I just need to work on getting set up for them. My goal is to do three Breakout EDU lessons (one at each grade level) by the end of the year.

Now, back to the starfish reference.

I shoved a small strip of paper in my pocket at the Breakout EDU session. On it is a single question.
What can you learn about failure from playing?
This is a wonderful, beautiful question.

Two of my favorite educators:
Doug Robertson and Jon Corippo
My answer includes this: if we quit because we hit a roadblock only then have we actually failed. However, if we continue and are persistent, then we have blown failure out of the way and eventually meet with success. The only failure is in not trying or in giving up and quitting rather than trying to do things differently. As teachers, we know this. We know we have not failed unless or until we quit trying. That is precisely what we need our students to learn. We can model it for them, but with tools such as Breakout EDU, they can actually experience it. So, what tools can and will we bring into the classroom to allow our students experience missteps only to look failure in the eye and say, "Not this time. I got this," and then find their own way to success?

As teachers, we have to remember that we may not reach our ultimate destination or predetermination of success with every single student on every single day. But, we can and we will do our best. If we help one student, we have made a difference and we have succeeded. Just as the boy threw starfish after starfish back into the ocean hoping to make a difference, we must go in and take our unique skills and interests to our students through our lessons and strive to make a difference. We can and we will make a difference.

Fall CUE is a very different experience from the CUE Annual Conference. After attending Palm Springs three times, this was my first trip to Fall CUE. I knew it would be smaller and different, but I still had to experience it to get it. The networking is more personal. The idea-sharing is different. Relationships are strengthened and lessons taught, lessons learned. Just before i left for the conference, someone asked me, "Why do you do it?"

1. I can grow as an educator.
2. I can help other educators.
3. And the biggest reason of all, the true "payout" from experiences like this: the benefit to students. My students, my colleagues' students, students in other places throughout the state, across the country, and around the world. Students benefit from teachers who strive to do more, be more, share more, learn more, explore more...We are lifelong learners now in hopes that our students will become lifelong learners themselves.

Why do I do it? Because my students deserve the best me I can offer and this helps me on that journey.
Why do I do it? Because I can and I will make a difference, one starfish (err...student) at a time.
Why do I do it? Because it is what I am called to do. It is my passion and in being true to myself, I must follow my passion.

I am a lifelong learner, a passionate educator, and my students are going to journey their way through potential failures on the road to success and they will have a guide along the way.

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