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2nd Annual Teacher Summit - Make Learning Magical!

Posted by bengarcia01@gmail.com on September 6, 2018 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

     What a kick off to the school year! I had the great luck of having a few amazing partners this year who really made the 2nd Annual SOPTV Teacher Summit - Make Learning Magical a huge success. It started with local MSD549c teacher, now tech integration specialist for the district, Tisha Richmond agreeing to co-facilitate the day long learning experience. Her new book, Make Learning Magical, was the subtitle for the summit and also the motor for her amazing keynote. We also got planning help from PBS National Director of Professional Learning and Children's Media & Education, Kerri Balint. The planning started early, a few clammy mornings in April we met via Google Hangouts and started to plot, and by early June we had our sessions pretty much figured out--an Ignite talk, Innovating Inside the Box, etc. So, I will not spend this whole post discussing the adventures we had in planning the summit, but I just wanted to mention it because a few special things happened that lead to "magical" ideas that stuck with me. Ideas worth spreading (wink) that I hope to really dig into with teachers that I work with this school year.

     One, PD for teachers is everywhere on the net, and when I was in the classroom online professional development was scary, overwhelming, and a huge time suck. But, at our summit, I saw something beautiful. An improvisational Ed Chat that happened via Twitter, using our local handle #OrEdChat. Teachers that had never used Twitter (I was sitting in the audience participating) were not only quickly getting a handle of it, but before and after the prescribed questions/answers they were actually browsing Twitter for content that could help them out in the classroom. It was amazing, and because I've always been skeptical of Twitter as a place to find high quality ideas for curriculum and instruction the last thread of skepticism I had was severed. I spent this whole last year having my own personal Twitter Guru, Tisha Richmond, poking and prodding me to explore it more, but I really saw the light at the summit. It wasn't just the discovery of new ideas from Twitter, but also the sharing of novel ideas via an emerging teacher community by local teachers in the room, all happening live, and we had it projected so everyone could see our new PLN at work!

     Two, the session this spontaneous Twitter jubilee happened inside of was called "Innovating Inside the Box." A lot of other great educators out there have graffiti-ed the internet in indelible text about the important theme of being creative within the constraints you find yourself inside of professionally. It has a lot to do with having a growth mindset, and as it relates to the world of education George Couros delved deeply into this topic in The Innovator's Mindset: "My focus, and the 'why' of this book, is developing schools that help individuals embrace the innovator's mindset. When forward-thinking schools encourage today's learners to become creators and leaders, I believe they, in turn, will create a better world. That's my 'why', and it's the way, I believe, we must approach the 'what' and 'how' of our work as educators." Replace "schools" in that excerpt with 'teachers' and this is the point that Tisha and Jamie (co-facilitator of the session) drove home to the educators in the room. Based on the evaluation forms I read later, they really made an impact on teachers in this session. Also, the inspiration in the room during this session was especially palpable, which was a magical thing to be a part of. BTW, Tisha expands on this concept in her book, in a chapter titled "Innovation", so if you get a chance go to www.tisharichmond.com to learn more--she's got a great blog too!

     Three, the "Pirate Guy" was the phrase of the day. A few teachers in the room did not know Dave Burgess' name, but they knew of his work, and we were lucky to have him speak. I wish I would have recorded him, but his moving 40 min motivational speech in essence revolved around a short paragraph in his popular book, Teach like a Pirate: "Seeking greatness, on the other hand, is a journey that can ignite, stoke, and continuously fuel a raging inferno. That journey begins the instant a teacher chooses to shift his or her mindset and says, 'Yes! I want to be great!'" I saw this shifting mindset in the room throughout the day, but it takes leadership initially because not everyone can spark this magic in themselves. I struggle with this, I always have, and my mentors are teachers like Tisha who inspire me and fill me with hope every time they speak--her keynote was all about her journey from near burnout to "raging inferno". Anyhow, along with the teachers who were inspired by the "Pirate Guy" a few weeks ago at the summit, I have been "seeking greatness" my entire career and will be doing it a lot more intentionally this year through my work of supporting local teachers. I will report back in a follow up blog about how various teachers in my area seek greatness?

     Lastly, I'm not sure if anyone reads these blogs, and I'm just as insecure about writing as anyone else, so if you stumbled upon this blog and I said something that caused a twinge of maybe a sort of response inside of you--critical or celebratory--just respond with a short post. It would be fun to have my first exchange on a blog in my short history of blogging. Also, how do you seek greatness?

A Brave New Venture

Posted by bengarcia01@gmail.com on April 5, 2018 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

As Polonius put it in Hamlet ““Since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief…” which is sometimes a difficult task for me, but I will try. Thus, to quickly get to the point: why did I leave the classroom to become Southern Oregon Public Television’s "Teacher Ambassador" for the PBS Teacher Community Program, and how’s it going so far? It’s a long story, but the short and skinny of it is that after six years of teaching I got burnt out and actually switched careers entirely. I was six months into a new job, as an employment specialist, when the sirens call of education lured me back into the field. And I’m so blessed to have returned because I feel my current position is an opportunity of a lifetime. I get to do the incredible work of supporting local teachers, and maybe just maybe, I might even help put a tiny dent in that daunting burnout figure where about 40% of teachers permanently leave the profession within five years of starting. This isn't my only goal, and to borrow a few lines from our station’s sleek elevator pitch (designed by a professional PR firm!) about the program: “In my SOPTV Teacher Ambassador role, I’m working to address educator needs in our community in ways that are authentic and effective. My goal is to connect local educators with each other and with the station, which is a resource for them to network, access peer-to-peer professional learning opportunities and enhance their teaching practice.” But, before I get into the details of my work I will quickly relay some related background information about yours truly.

I started teaching in Portland Public Schools, in an all girls high school, and one of the first skills I quickly yet painfully learned was the art of building relationships with my primarily African American students. They weren't quick to recognize me as someone who deserved respect, and I was a bit too eager to offer them anecdotes about how as a Latino growing up in extreme poverty I knew what it was like coming up with unique struggles and hardships. It was a fight to earn their attention, and recognition as a human being who was worthy of dignified treatment, but by the end of the school year I felt I was a dynamic person in their eyes; I was more than the static “new teacher” character. With each new teaching job I felt I have fought this same fight over and over again, whether it was the super elite Chinese students I worked with in Guangzhou China, or ultra wealthy Mexican students I worked with in Mexico; I had to prove I was worthy enough to be their teacher at each stop. Even though I’m back in my hometown, and I know a lot of teachers and administrators here in the Rogue Valley via one or two degrees of personal separation, I’m again fighting this same fight: am I qualified enough, worthy enough, distinguished enough to be a PD trainer, a workshop leader, a conference organizer, an Ed tech integration specialist--or however it is that local educators see me and interpret my work as a “Teacher Ambassador”? I’m fighting not only for visibility, but relevance and validation.

This TCP undertaking is a beautiful struggle, and I’m privileged to support the noble work that teachers do every day as educators, role models, therapists--swiss army knife adults--and in general mentors to many young Americans. I experienced this first hand in my short six years as a teacher, but it’s a little bit different now that I’m in a support role and I get to experience education from a different lens. To get teachers to invite me into their classrooms was a hard fought battle. For example, a few months into the job I started to offer PBS LearningMedia 101 workshops--getting the word through any means possible--and of the handful of teachers who came to my first workshop a teacher named Geoff decided to gamble with his career, telling me after the workshop “sure I’ll take you up on your offer of support because I think that teacher ‘Lesson Builder’ tool could really be useful for me; I just need help learning how to use it and connect it to my Google classroom.” And thus a synergetic relationship sprung to life and eventually he was helping me form a PLN at his school and co-facilitating my quarterly PBS LM 101 workshop. So through some luck, and a little hard work, I’ve built a loose network of teachers who see value in the various projects that are now in motion.

The Southern Oregon Public Television (SOPTV) Teacher Community Program (TCP) is now in up and running, and there are so many stories I could tell about hardworking, overwhelmed and overachieving teachers that for some reason chose to work with me. I’m proud to say that all our work reaches groups of other teachers and offers tools, strategies or even inspiration that helps keep other teachers motivated and interested in their craft. My goal with these blog posts is to tell the stories of these heroes, and the work we are doing together to “support our shared goal of improving learning outcomes for the region’s students.” I hope this very short (insert wink emoji here) post has provided you with some insight into this grand experiment that is SOPTV’s TCP.


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