Reflections

2017 in Review

2017 has been an okay year. Just okay. Not the 100% fearless year I was hoping for, however I had some phenomenal opportunities to learn and grow thanks to some fantastic friends. One big thing I learned is that being fearless isn’t a heroic feeling, sometimes it feels like the worst thing ever because I’m doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Where I Was (December 2016)

  • I was getting more involved in presenting around California and the rest of the country. It is always fun to travel and meet new people!
  • I was contemplating where I want to be in 5 and 10 years. (Spoiler: I still don’t have an answer…)
  • You can read more about where I was a year ago in my 2016 in Review post.

Where I Am (January – December 2017)

  • In January I transformed the old lab desks in my classroom into whiteboard desks. My students love using their desks to diagram science concepts and provide feedback.
  • I started Virtual Vikings, a monthly BathroomPD newsletter for my school–it has been a huge hit!
  • I got closer to fantastic individuals, Meagan Kelly and Aubrey Yeh. I can confidently say these two push me beyond where I think I can go, and are constantly sources of real and honest conversations. They’ve taught me to dig deep and address how I’m feeling, why I’m feeling that way, and take a step back before making a decision.
  • In March I was awarded CUE’s Emerging Teacher of the Year and in June I was honored with an ISTE Emerging Leader award. Both of these are humbling, especially knowing there are many other deserving individuals. I am grateful that someone took the time to nominate me.

    maricue
    Receiving my 2017 CUE Emerging Teacher of the Year award
  • In July, Fueled by Coffee and Love: Real Stories by Real Teachers was published (buy yourself a copy on Amazon here!). I loved collecting stories from teachers all over the world, and sharing them with you all. (Volume 2 to be published in 2018!)
  • I keynoted my first EdTechTeam summit in November in Redding, CA. This was definitely an opportunity to be fearless. I was nervous, but also felt confident knowing I had fantastic people supporting me along the way.
  • One of my favorite classroom things in 2017 has been my weekly science lessons with our mod/severe special ed class. I adore their teacher, and I love coming in and doing science with her class. Last spring, we did a unit on plants. This fall, we did units on 5 senses, nutrition, and chemical reactions. Next year, we’re looking forward to integrating some of her class into my class for labs and activities!

    each finger has a different texture: hard, soft, squishy, rough, and smooth
    5 senses activity with my favorite mod/severe class
  • This fall, I had my very first student teacher. It was an incredible growth opportunity for both of us–I supported her as she began her teaching journey, and she forced me to be more reflective on why I make certain classroom decisions. We debriefed everything! And, it got me into more friends’ classrooms, not just to say hi, but to observe and learn.
  • Personally, I did a much better job of keeping balance this year! I created rest habits by not working on Sundays and doing less school-related work at home. Meagan, Aubrey, and I came up with our “work rules” to keep us accountable. Being less stressed is definitely a journey, and I’m actually enjoying the ride. In order to rest more, I’ve renewed my love of crocheting; my favorite part is that I can’t play on my phone or computer while crocheting! Double win!
    each fingertip on this hand cutout has a different material for hard, soft, squishy, rough, and smooth

Where I Am Going (2018 and beyond)

  • One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2017 is that I need to be intentional about surrounding myself with people who have my back, are willing to ask me tough questions, and will support me no matter what. In turn, I have had the opportunity to be that friend in return!
  • I look forward to continuing to present and share my love of edtech with all y’all.
    I’ll keep blogging. I wrote about 2x a month in 2017, and I’ll either keep that pace or increase it slightly. Speaking of blogging, I’m moving my blog over to WordPress in early January…stay tuned!
  • I’m looking forward to reading lots more books in 2018. There are a bunch of debut YA novels I already preordered for 2018! (I’m always taking recommendations for any and all books.) I finished 56 books in 2017, including 26 audiobooks and 30 books. I’d like to read at least this much in 2018.
Reflections

Takeaways from my National Board Certified Teacher Journey

My National Board congratulations letter

It is such a huge accomplishment that I can now say I am a National Board Certified Teacher! This has been a challenging journey, and I put in many long hours planning, prepping, compiling, and editing. And, it was worth it!

I first heard about National Board Certification during my credential/masters program, and I liked the idea. I put that aside, started teaching, and forgot about it all. In 2015, I got an email from my district about getting into a National Board lottery to have the district pay for me to go through the program. I was selected, and attended the San Diego County Office of Education support workshop. SDCOE offered both in-person workshops and online support through the two-year process. I was excited to have this support, but was quickly disappointed that it seemed disorganized and overall ineffective.

So, I took matters into my own hands and pushed forward. I spent a significant amount of time studying the components to figure out what they were asking, planning lessons, and completing incredibly detailed reflections.

Here are some of my takeaways from the National Board Certification process:

1. I am a good teacher, even if I second guess myself and my ideas. As I planned out my lessons and skimmed through the reflection questions, I kept doubting my lessons, not feeling like they were innovative or student-driven. On the positive side, it made me really consider and reflect on classroom practices, and push me to design better lessons for my students.

I spent many long hours planning, writing,
and revising. Thankfully Ollie kept me company!

2. The video reflection, Component 3, was one of the more challenging and rewarding sections. Recording myself teaching is something that makes me nervous, although in a productive way. When I video myself teaching, I really have to be “on” all the time, and it makes me clue in to every little thing I do and say. I am much more present and reflective when I have the Swivl set up!

3. I’m grateful I chose to do this over 2 years. It was a lot of work, and while do-able in one year, my sanity thanks me for doing it in 2 years. The first year was Components 1 and 2, and the second year was Components 3 and 4. The component were recently revised, and I was in the first certification year to complete some of the new requirements. Overall, I can say it all four components were relevant to my teaching practices.

4. I wish I had gone through this process with other people I know. It started that there were 2 other people at my school who were going through National Board, but both of them dropped out halfway through. The SDCOE support system was a nice backup; however, for me, it does not replace friends or colleagues that I can bug and bounce around ideas.

5. I’m grateful for this experience. I don’t need a fancy certification to know I am a good teacher, but it’s always rewarding to earn such recognition for the hard work I put into my teaching.

If you’re considering going through the National Board Certification process, let me know!

Reflections

Work, Work, Work…What About Life?

This post is cross-posted on Mari, Meagan, & Aubrey’s blogs.


Mari is a middle school Science & AVID teacher and Blended Learning Specialist in San Diego, CA.
Meagan is a middle school Math, AVID, & Technology teacher and the Team Technology Leader in Hesperia, CA.
Aubrey has been a music teacher & Summer Learning principal, and is currently an Educational Technology Specialist in Boulder, CO.



Teach kids all day, then bring grading and lesson planning home at night. Does this sound familiar? If you asked a room full of teachers, I’m sure nearly every head would be nodding – this is the story of our lives! According to an NPR article, “Attrition is high, and enrollment in teacher preparation programs has fallen some 35 percent over the past five years — a decrease of nearly 240,000 teachers in all.” Budget cuts, paperwork, behavior challenges, and ever-increasing demands add extra stress to our already stressful jobs.


Work/life balance has always been struggle for all three of us. We have this tendency to work many hours past the required hours of our teaching days. It’s very common for us to get into work early, leave an hour after our days finish, and spend a large portion of our nights working on lesson planning, grading, blogging, or various side projects. If you’re thinking this sounds like some “Woe is me” story – it isn’t.


In the end, the underlying issue is that we love what we do. We love being teachers, working with students, developing lessons and, yes, even grading and reviewing their work. Education has never been just a “job” to us – it’s a major part of our identity. It’s our passion. And we spend a large portion of our days working on various projects because we enjoy it. However, we began to realize that it isn’t healthy for our work/life balance or the relationships with those around us to work the majority of the week.


Enter the idea of Work Rules. We each began to create boundaries for ourselves, unique to our specific situations, and write them down. We were amazed (and horrified) at how challenging it was for us to try to define some limits to our work! We also included reminders of what we could do instead of work [behavioral therapy concepts – you can’t just extinguish a behavior without developing a replacement behavior] and why we were doing this in the first place. Then we gave permission to hold each other accountable, which has been key to changing our habits.


Aubrey: I’ll be honest, there is no silver bullet to finding and maintaining balance. I still bring more work home than I would like and don’t always follow my “work rules”. That being said, I have noticed a definite difference in my mindset as we’ve gone through this journey. A night without work is becoming something to be celebrated, rather than a reason to feel guilty. I find myself asking, “Does this really need to be done at home, or could it wait until tomorrow?” more often. And I am slowly getting better at setting limits for myself, such as only bringing one project home (instead of everything that needs to be done) or setting a timer for how long I work (once it goes off, no more work for me)! The accountability and camaraderie has been huge – for picking me up when I am struggling, for spurring me on to do better, and sometimes just to have a place to share how hard this is! In this ongoing journey of living LIFE to the fullest, I am grateful for friends who are not afraid to ask the tough questions and provide gentle reminders when needed. It’s not always easy…but it is worth it!


Meagan: A couple of months ago, I really began to reflect on my work/life balance.  Around this time, Aubrey and Mari shared their idea for “work rules” and…it was amazing!  I quickly began to develop my own set of rules in hopes of developing some balance in my life.  As Aubrey mentions above, I still struggle with maintaining balance and following these rules but I can tell that there has been a definite shift in my mindset.  Although I have always been a good time manager, I’ve started to balance when I will do “work-work” (site/district) and when I will do my “side work” (blogging, presenting, etc).  I’ve been able to use much of my time at school to finish my lesson planning, grading, and projects which has opened opportunities to work on my “side work” projects at home.  Before, I was doing both and it was clear that this would not last forever.  I have also tried to set aside one day of the week where I do not do any “work-work” and at least one night where I do not do any work related to education.  I’ve definitely broken these rules several times but it has been helpful to have friends who check-in and encourage me to keep with these goals.  I still have a long ways to go on truly creating a work/life balance but…you have to start somewhere, right?
 
Mari: It’s been a constant battle for me to find the right work/life balance because teaching is both my passion and my job. However, I began realizing that in order to be the best teacher for my students, I also need to take care of myself. Prior to creating the Work Rules with Aubrey and Meagan, I felt guilty if I didn’t work all weekend and most weeknights. That pace was neither sustainable nor healthy for me. Now, I give myself all of Sunday off from anything education-related, and use this time to recharge, relax, and pursue fun things (like napping!). As both Aubrey and Meagan said, there are times the rules have been bent or broken; while I’m routinely committed to my Sundays off, I haven’t always given myself a few work-free weeknights due to school commitments or interruptions/distractions during my prep period. I’m so grateful for our group. Not only do they keep me accountable to my work/life balance commitments, but also they encourage and push me to be a better person!
 


We are on a journey together – far from perfect, yet always growing. Frequently just before or after work, we check in with each other to see what the day looks like and what our work/no-work plans are for the day. This keeps us centered throughout the day and into the evening.

 

What steps are you taking to balance work and life?
Reflections

Navigating the Sea of Shoulds

Welcome to our adventure. Please keep your hands, feet, and shoulds inside the bus at all times.

Should is a word that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Every time I hear, think, or say this word, I cringe. I’m trying to change my mindset, by first changing my vocabulary.

I don’t run a makerspace. I don’t fully integrate robotics and coding into my science curriculum. I haven’t tried flexible seating in my classroom. I don’t [insert edu-buzzword]. I’m not certified in every app, tool, and program out there.

Some of y’all are thinking, “oh my gosh Mari, you really should try __________.”

Should. Should. Should.

I know I am a great teacher. I build great relationships with my students, I design engaging lessons, I empower my students to be curious learners, and we have lots of fun in our class. I try new things and take risks, and I am transparent with my students on my successes and shortcomings. I want to be the best version of me.

One of my favorite authors and experts on the topic of shame and vulnerability is Brené Brown. She has published some phenomenal books (Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, I thought it was just me (but it isn’t), and more), as well as done some incredible TED Talks. I highly recommend them, especially Listening to shame (TED Talk).

My favorite takeaway from Brené Brown is when she differentiates between shame and guilt, “Shame is, ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is, ‘I did something bad.’” I feel guilty when I forget to submit my attendance. I feel shame when I’m not doing all the things in my classroom and with my students. After reading her books and watching her TED talks, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one struggling with attaching self-worth to what we do and don’t do.

When I get excited about a new tech tool or idea, I immediately sail out onto the Sea of Shoulds with the Shame Sharks ominously circling my boat. I’m 100% sure I’ve sent subliminal shame messages to friends and colleagues as I’m trying to get them to use this “Awesome New Tool” that they just can’t live without. When I say, “You should try this!” it becomes less about the tool, and more about their shortcomings as a teacher.

When I start attaching “shoulds” to my suggestions, I am also unintentionally adding shame to the conversation. Me telling you, “you should try this!” inherently attaches shame–the hidden message here is “You’re not doing enough. When you try _____, you’ll have more value in this edu-world.” I apologize, and hope you’ll give me another opportunity to share…in a different way.

I am working hard to reshape my language and approach. Rather than telling people what they should do, I am taking time to hear their needs and ask how I can support their needs. When I am beyond excited for the “Super Awesome Thing,” I’m shifting my language to “I just learned about the Super Awesome Thing, I’d love to share with you how it’s impacting students in my classroom.”

Thank you all for being on this journey with me!

Reflections

2017-2018 School Year Goals

It’s fun to reflect back on where I was a year ago, and the goals I set for my classroom (read more here). I was ready to hit the ground running with Restorative Practices in my classroom, including using circles regularly. And, I generally did an okay job using circles and restorative conversations. Toward the end of the year, circles became fewer and fewer, so this year a big focus is sustaining Restorative Practices. On the bright side, using restorative conversations with individual or small groups of students was incredible helpful (blog post coming soon).
As I look to this school year, I’m excited to focus on a few new things with my students and refine my practice on last year’s topics.
Right now, I’m temporarily winning the battle against the Shoulds. There’s an overwhelming pressure to do all the things, and be a pro at all apps, tools, and teaching practices. And, I don’t have the time or energy to jump on board with every single one. I can’t be the only one that feels this way, right?
So, I’m really going to focus on building relationships with my kids first, and everything will come second.
7th grade science
My big goals for 7th grade science are to use social media better to connect with my kids and have them connect with experts, and to guide my students to be more self-directed and in charge of their own learning.
With social media, we have classroom Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts. Last year, I had students dictate some tweets as we were asking questions to local meteorologists. This year, I’d love to turn my iPad over to students (with supervision) to post to classroom social media accounts. If anyone has a way to introduce this to kids, (target length: 45 minutes), let me know. I’m planning to accomplish this with a Common Sense Media digital citizenship lesson and social media certification.
I think using more purposeful social media will also lead to the second science goal of building more self-directed learners. My goal is to empower students to take charge of their learning, ask more in-depth questions, and work more independently within groups. One step I’ve taken toward this goal is to create group work roles; I’ve tried this in the past, but haven’t been consistent.
8th grade AVID
Last year in AVID 8, I had my kids start blogging. While it fizzled out a little bit during second semester, it was a lot of fun. I want to build this back up this year, and connect with at least one classroom. Last year, we did some commenting between my class and Aubrey Yeh’s class, which the kids especially enjoyed.
As with social media in 7th grade science, I hope this gives students a platform to express their ideas and thoughts.
Blended Learning Specialist
Within my technology role, I’m trying to maximize my time again this year–I only have a 2. (one class period) dedicated to technology. I’ll continue to run monthly Parent Tech Breakfasts, and post monthly Virtual Vikings newsletters in the staff bathrooms. Additionally, we’re continuing with Viking Tech Crew, our student tech club.
One of my big goals for my BLS position is to be in classrooms more and work one-on-one with teachers in a coaching context. It seems that a lot of teachers don’t know what I do in my role, and do not know I’m available to work with them. For now, I’m going through coaching frameworks to find one that feels comfortable to me, then approaching teachers who I think would be willing and interested to start this coaching journey with me.
Additionally, our goal is to become a Common Sense Media Certified School and help other schools in our district become certified as well. I’m working on adapting the Common Sense Media lessons to fit within core content, which will help with school-wide buy-in. Our amazing AVID department will help me push out content to the content areas (we have AVID teachers in all 4 core departments!), and will also each become CSM Certified Educators.
This is going to be a great school year! Kids came back on Thursday, July 20th, and I can already tell I have a wonderful and hard-working bunch. They are goofy, and also know when it’s time to be serious.
If you do any of these things, or have insight, I’d love to hear it! Comment below, or email me at mari.venturino@gmail.com.
Reflections

Work Hard, Rest Hard

As I am getting more and more involved in the edtech world, working on education related projects, and presenting at conferences, I’ve found myself really failing at the work/life balance. I can’t be the only one struggling here, right?

On weekdays, I get up, go to work, come home from work, make dinner (usually while working), then work some more. Not all of this is lesson planning and grading–much of the work I do when not at work is via social media, working on projects, or preparing for conferences. It’s still work. On weekends, I wake up, work on something on and off all day, taking breaks for naps or to run errands. Even when I’m not directly working, I find myself thinking about work. Throughout teaching, the one positive limit I’ve had for myself is no work email on my phone.

I’ve found myself stressed and easily overwhelmed with the amount of things I think I need to get done. And struggling to differentiate between things that need to get done, and things I want to get done. I know I’m not giving my best self to myself, my boyfriend, our dog, and my family/friends.

Simply unplugging doesn’t always work for me because I feel guilty for not working, and be constantly thinking about what I should be doing. (Sidenote: Should is my danger word. I’m frequently wrapped up in the shoulds and should nots, rather than what’s best for me.)

I needed to make a change. ASAP.

I made the decision to gift myself Sundays.

I set guidelines for what can and cannot be done on Sundays.  I’ve decided that working on projects or work-work is off limits, including work email. I can chat with friends on Twitter, do chores around the house (even if my brain tries to talk me out of it because it’s my rest day!), hang out with friends, or do absolutely nothing.

A typical Sunday might include waking up slowly (sleeping in until 7am!), playing with the dog or going on a longer walk, going to church, grocery shopping, taking a nap, reading, catching up on MasterChef and Food Network shows on the DVR, crocheting, watching baseball without multitasking on work, doing laundry, and making a more involved dinner. I enjoy doing everything on this list (except for putting away the laundry)!

Even throughout the long and difficult process completing my National Board Certification (NBCT) this spring, and coordinating my book project Fueled by Coffee and Love, I didn’t do any work on Sundays. I found myself more focused on Saturdays and at work, knowing I couldn’t do last minute things on Sunday.

My one exception to this “no work on Sundays” rule has been conferences. However, when I’m at a weekend conference (usually an EdTechTeam summit) I’m having so much fun that it doesn’t feel like work!

This change has been absolutely magical! Because I know that all of Sunday is off-limits for work, I don’t feel guilty for relaxing. I’ve found myself less stressed, and more present in both work and rest. Additionally, I’ve found it easier to limit my work on weekday evenings.

This is what works for me. It may or may not work for you, and that’s okay. Maybe you pick a different time period, or your “rest rules” are different. There is no judgement in how you choose to rest and rejuvenate yourself.

It’s less about the amount of time, and more about the practice of it.

What do your rest habits look like?
Reflections

ISTE 2017 — aka the Wizard Convention

“Words are in my not-so-humble opinion, the most inexhaustible form of magic we have, capable both of inflicting injury and remedying it.”

— Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

I love ISTE. It feels like a wizard convention.
Jennie Magiera – Tuesday keynote!

I just got back from ISTE 2017, now know as the Wizard Convention (thanks to Jennie!). Now that I’ve taken a full day to sleep and recover, I can properly reflect on my ISTE 2017 experience.

This is my 2nd ISTE, and it was even crazier than last year at ISTE 2016. Crazy, as in I want to hug as many friends as possible and have great conversations. Needless to say, it’s 5 days where I have to suspend my introvert self, and be a social butterfly.

I spent a lot of time being present with the friends I saw and met, that I really didn’t have much time for Tweeting, Instagramming, Snapping, or taking selfies. I’m ok with this, knowing that the memories are more powerful than internet likes and photos.

Friends!

ISTE is like one big family reunion! I loved seeing my #COL16 family (Google Innovator cohort), and knowing that I always had cheerleaders coming past my poster & playground sessions. Plus, I saw a bunch of friends I’ve met at other conferences and on Twitter.

Some of my COL16 Innovator cohort.
COL16 Family!

One of my ISTE highlights is I got to spend some quality time with my mentor and good friend, Crafty! It’s amazing to think I met him a year ago at ISTE, and then the Innovator Sorting Hat assigned us together after COL16. Lucky is an understatement!

I loved cheering on Jennie Magiera (Go #TeamYoshi!), the Tuesday morning keynote. Since I received an award (see below), I had a front and center seat for her keynote. Jennie inspired us to tell our stories, and to believe in ourselves and our experiences as teachers. While keynotes are generally inspiring, it was even more powerful knowing Jennie is my friend and Innovator coach, and she is 100% transparent–thanks for living and sharing your story.

Another awesome part of ISTE was helping the one and only Sylvia Duckworth win her epic Demo Slam at the EdTechTeam booth. I was a backup dancer for her rendition of “Come and Get Your Chrome”! Watch us rock on Periscope!

Trailblazer Academy aka Keynote Camp aka Confidence Camp

On Sunday, I was beyond lucky to attend the full-day Trailblazer Academy, really though, it was keynote camp! I spent the entire day working with critical friends to develop stories and structure for my future (and finally in progress) keynote, and learning from Molly Bennett and Jennie Magiera. A few days later, when talking with Jennie, Crafty, and other friends, Jennie said she noticed how much my confidence level went up by the end of the day. The best part is that I felt that happen! In reality, it was confidence camp more than keynote camp.

Poster Sessions, Playground, and Expo Hall

Receiving my Emerging Leader 2017 award
Receiving my Emerging Leader 2017

award

One of my favorite parts of ISTE is the poster sessions and playground. The general sessions require me to wait in line, and there’s a good chance I might not get in; with such limited time, I honestly don’t have the patience to wait in line for an hour, stuck in one spot. Instead, I wandered through the poster sessions, learned from friends at the playgrounds, and perused the expo hall–all while walking and chatting with friends.

Emerging Leader 2017 Award

Most of my friends told me “why didn’t you tell us?!” when they found out I received an award…hint taken, friends. So, I’m happy, thrilled, honored, and humbled to announce I am selected as one of the ISTE Emerging Leaders of 2017! I received my award at a fancy lunch on Monday, and it was also announced before Jennie’s keynote on Tuesday morning.

ISTE Pro Tip

Snacks and peanut butter & jelly supplies ready for ISTE!
ISTE breakfast & lunch!

My big ISTE (and other big conference) advice is pack food! If a conference doesn’t have food provided to all attendees, then your best bet is to pack some food. Why wait for an hour(s) for expensive subpar food, when you can sit down and eat a packed lunch? There are enough socials, mixers, meetups, and friendventures to handle dinner options.

I got a lot of eyerolls when I told friends I devoted a whole section of my suitcase to food: bread, peanut butter, jelly, applesauce, granola bars, cuties, and candy. Plus, other essentials like ziplock bags, plastic knives, napkins, and wet wipes. The best part is I made extra PB&J sandwiches for my friends! I was flexible to eat breakfast & lunch when I was hungry, wandering the expo hall, or sitting on a bench chatting with a friend.

See you all in Chicago for ISTE 2018!

PSA — Remember to create a more accessible internet by adding in alt text to pictures and closed captions to videos! Learn more from Melissa Oliver (@maoliver17) at www.createaccessibility.com.

Reflections

2016-2017 School Year Reflection

Year 5 is in the books!
I am amazed at all I’ve accomplished. And I’m grateful for the incredible people that have surrounded me on this journey.
One of the big themes this year has been overcommitment. Now that the school year is over, I am exhausted. I took on way more than I should have, but it is a learning experience. Now, after a week of summer break, I’ve almost recovered.
I know we live in a time where busy is a status symbol, and if that is the case, then I am a queen. I have been blogging more, presenting more, and taking on new big projects. One of my big accomplishments this year is a collaborative book project called Fueled by Coffee and Love! It was a lot more work than I expected, but it was work of love. The paperback and ebook should be published sometime in late June 2017.
That’s not to say I haven’t loved every minute of everything I’ve done! It’s just been a little more than I should have taken on. And, it has taken a few extra naps to get there.
Paper Airplane Lab in Science 7
Although this has been a very busy year, it is also been a time of reflection. I have identified that I am overcommitted, and I have tried to take steps to reduce my commitments and say “no” more often.
My saving grace is this year was teaching 0 period. It may sound strange, getting up extra early to teach at 7:19am, but it was worth it. One of the benefits is that I was done with school early on Tuesdays and Thursdays giving me a couple extra afternoon hours to relax (teaching periods 0-5, on block schedule). This allowed me to take better care of myself throughout the school year. I spent those extra few hours running errands, napping with the dog, reading, and not working.
Science 7 and AVID 8
Even though I was involved in a lot of professional development activities and events, it always comes down to my kids. As long as I am doing the best job for my students, then I know that I am doing a good job as their teacher. We had a lot of fun in science this year with plenty of hands on labs and activities. My students love that we are active in our classroom.
Touring UCLA with AVID 8
This year, I took on our new AVID 8 0 period class. It was my first time having 8th graders, and I love them. The best part was getting to loop with the kids–I had about ⅔ of the class as 7th graders in science and/or AVID, and knew the rest of them from around campus. In AVID, we went on college field trips to USC and UCLA (yes, on the same day!) and CSU Fullerton. We researched colleges and careers, and did 20Time Impact Projects.

Science with Mod/Severe
Crayon art with leaves from the
school garden
One of the highlights of my year was doing science with our moderate/severe special ed class. For the last seven weeks of school, I did science with this class once a week during my prep period. We grew tomato plants, made observations about our tomato plants and school garden, and kept a blog. (Eventually I’ll write a whole post about this.) I love working with this class because they are capable and imaginative learners, and love hands-on science. The goal for next year is to do science together once a week. And, we want to occasionally combine class so that our students can spend time together.
This class has been a second home to me, and their teacher and support staff are so welcoming. I love being their science teacher!
Unified Sports
Additionally, we are also bringing Unified Sports to our campus thanks to my friend Val Ruiz. I think it is important that all our students have the opportunity to interact, no matter their physical, emotional, or intellectual abilities.
Recording green screen videos in
Science 7
Blended Learning Specialist
Another highlight of my year has been my technology role as a Blended Learning Specialist–I have a .2 (1 class period) to work with teachers, provide tech resources and support, and work on tech project. Additionally, I still run monthly Parent Tech Breakfasts. One new things this year is I started a “Virtual Vikings” newsletter that I post monthly in the bathrooms. Our staff LOVE this, and I got lots of positive feedback via text message, email, and in-person conversations.
Technology Adventures
This school year, I had the opportunity to travel many places to present and learn with teachers from all around the country. I’ve been to New Mexico, multiple places within California, Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas to present at conferences and EdTechTeam summits. One of the best experiences was Google’s Geo Teachers’ Institute back in July. Although I missed days 4 & 5 of school, the learning opportunities were so worth it!
Goals for 2017-2018
Some of my goals for next school year include making my class more student centered and student run. I would like to turn over some control to my students. Another big thing coming up is that we are creating a few teams in our school. I am teaming with a math, English, and history teacher to better support our students, and we will share the same 90-100 kids. I’m looking forward to having the time and space to build better relationships with our students.
Thank you all for making the 2016-2017 school year fun, productive, and a learning experience.  
Reflections

Building Breakfast Habits

Melissa d’Arabian’s Instagram post
It all started when I was scrolling through Instagram and saw Melissa d’Arabian (Squirrel note: she was my #1 pick on the 5th season of Next Food Network Star from the first episode, and I literally jumped for joy when she won. I adore her!) post a picture of chia seed pudding she makes for her daughter. I took a screenshot of the recipe, and made a mental note to try this when we got back home from winter break.


In the next few days, I had some seemingly random conversations about breakfast, breakfast foods, and how we remember to eat our breakfast in the morning. Obviously this was a sign that I needed to change up my breakfast habits.


My personal breakfast journey
Growing up, my dad was the breakfast pro. He always made me breakfast, either cereal, frozen waffles, toast, fruit or other relatively healthy breakfast foods. When I’d visit my Nonno and Nonnie (grandparents), they always made breakfast and sat at the table together. My Nonnie’s toast was the best, mostly because she made it. But since they were grandparents, I could often find Lucky Charms and Pop Tarts at their house.


Once I left for college, the only breakfast I usually had was coffee in the morning. Now, 5 years into my teaching career, that’s generally what still happens. Coffee, sometimes a banana, yogurt, or protein bar. Real talk, I feel like I’m not adulting properly if I don’t eat breakfast.


I always pack myself breakfast to eat once I arrive at work. However, (squirrel) I get too busy and I forget to eat it until about 10 or 11am…and by then I’m hangry.


So, I realized that I need to make a change for myself. In a seemingly unrelated quest to be more mindful and take better care of myself, I realized I can double up by getting up a few minutes earlier, eating breakfast, and spending a few minutes relaxing before starting the day.


I can’t be alone in this breakfast struggle, right?!
Do you breakfast?
So, I created a Google Form (bit.ly/doyoubreakfast) and sent it out to my teacher friends on Twitter. My goal was to get at least 250 responses. Within a week, I had 258 and counting! I received responses from 11 countries, and 38 US states. Thanks friends from USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, China, Spain, England, Ireland, Netherlands, and Iceland!

 

If you’re interested, here’s the link to the raw data from the survey.


So, the survey results**
I was really surprised that 198/259 (76.4%) of you all eat breakfast every day! I’m impressed!
 
As for when you all eat your breakfast, nearly half (124/264 = 47%) of people surveyed eat breakfast at home before leaving for or starting work, while 24.2% (64/264) eat breakfast on the way to work, and 20.5% (54/264) eat breakfast once they arrive at work.
 
So, what is everyone eating for breakfast?
Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 1.26.53 PM.png
I wasn’t surprised by the number of people who have coffee for/with breakfast. Seeing my colleagues walking around campus before school, many of us are holding a coffee cup. I was pretty surprised that so many people eat eggs for breakfast, seeing as that takes a while to make and clean up. Quite a few recommended hard boiling eggs at the beginning of the week; great idea, too bad I’m not a fan of hard boiled eggs.


Tips from the breakfast regulars
  • “Have kids that you have to feed you will feed yourself as well.” — This was said by a few people, and made me laugh! I’m not at the kid stage of life, but noted for the future.
  • “Build a habit! I get up early enough to work out, shower and get ready, then eat breakfast and pack my lunch before leaving for work. Also find that things like “Overnight oats” or egg casseroles, that you can make ahead, make it easier.”
  • “Leave out what you need to make breakfast the night before (or make it the night before while packing a lunch).”
  • “I try not to limit myself to an idea of what breakfast “should” be and eat whatever is easily available – a salad, rice and beans, apple with almond butter, whatever. But I make sure I eat or I get cranky quickly!”
  • “I’m am more hungry at lunch and make poor eating decisions if I skip breakfast.”
  • “Put it on your calendar if you struggle to remember – make it habit”
  • Get up a few minutes earlier


Ideas for breakfast:
There were so many great ideas for easy breakfasts, things to make ahead, and methods for remembering breakfast.
Here are a few that looked especially yummy:
  • Use muffin tray and fill with eggs and/egg whites plus cheese, onions and assorted veggies. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Bake 2 loaves of bread (banana,  blueberry, etc.) on the weekend.  Slice and freeze – ready to grab and go.  Add fruit/yogurt/juice if you’d like.
  • Put the bowl, spoon and cereal out on counter the night before.
  • “Make entire pack of eng muffins, eggs, cheese sandwiches and freeze them. Microwave frozen sandwiches for 1:30 and enjoy!”
  • Include protein, good carbs, and good fats. Think of your small plate as thirds and fill each section with each of those. http://greatist.com/eat/whole30-breakfast-recipes/amp
  • Smoothie; frozen strawberries, blueberries & banana w/spinach, kale and vanilla Greek yogurt and add fresh POM juice or orange juice, crushed ice and blend in my NutriBullet. Provides a nice burst of energy to get the morning going.
  • This site is where the idea came from to make the cups. http://showmetheyummy.com/healthy-egg-muffin-cups/
  • Plan the day before for breakfast
  • Easy Green Smoothie – 1/2 cup of unsweetened ice tea, handful of fresh spinach, parsley, juice of lemon, frozen fruit of your choice (blueberries, banana, strawberry etc), Stevia if you like it sweetened. Have all ingredients ready to go the night before in frig. Avocado can be added to this smoothie.
  • Make breakfast fun! Nothing wrong with waffles with chocolate chips, especially if layered with fresh berries!
  • I tried making overnight oats. Added coconut and dried
    cranberries to one, and blueberries to the other. Success!
    Smoothies are great for people who don’t have time to stop and sit down to eat breakfast, you can keep it in your hand while you are running around doing that 12 million things that always have to be done in the mornings. I always eat my breakfast at my desk while I am catching up on emails or planning for the day.
  • My favorite breakfast is toast with almond butter, a TSP of chia seeds on it and topped with dried blueberries. Quick, easy, delicious, and keeps me going for hours.
  • Easy is better when trying to get going in the mornings – even something as simple as a banana can really help my energy level throughout the day!
 
Something to consider…
Really interesting, someone shared a link to a NY Times article called Sorry, There’s Nothing Magical About Breakfast. It was a thought-provoking read with great ideas to consider about breakfast and marketing. For me, I often don’t get hungry until about 11am, but when I skip breakfast, I find myself (1) eating a ton more for dinner, and (2) more likely to get hangry.

 

**This is by no means a proper scientific or statistical analysis. It’s all for fun, and for qualitative life improvements. And, as I was writing this blog post, a few more people responded! Love more data!
Reflections

2016 in Review

2016 was a great year for me, filled with lots of amazing adventures and opportunities. In the same theme as my “2015 in Review” blog post from last year, I will format my reflection in a “Where I was, where I am, and where I’m going.”

Where I was (December 2015)

  • I was overcommitted and exhausted. I said “yes” to way too many things, was working too hard at work and bringing lots of work home. My weekends were extra time to get things done, and I wasn’t spending nearly enough time relaxing. This put unneeded strain on my relationship, and too much stress on me. 
  • I presented at more conferences in 2015, including San Diego CUE, CUE, and CSTA. Overall, I felt more confident within the edtech world. 
  • I was onboarded as a board member for San Diego CUE, excited to learn and work with an excellent team. 

Where I am (January – December 2016)

  • 2016 started with a rush of excitement and new projects. Justin Birckbichler and I launched a project, Teach20s, focused on empowering teachers in their twenties to embrace this unique time in our lives. Ultimately, Teach20s didn’t catch on, but it was an excellent learning opportunity. 
  • I continued to work on other projects, especially EduRoadTrip and FlyHighFri. And I got to meet both Justin and Greg in real life! 
  • In March 2016, Justin and I launched Digital Breakout, which soon became Breakout EDU Digital. This was an amazing adventure, and caught on in the Breakout EDU community like a wildfire! (Read more here
  • In March 2016, I went to my first GAFE Summit. The only person I knew was Ari Flewelling, so I sat next to her for the morning keynote. Little did I know that it would turn into an amazing friendship, and my gateway to even more edtech and EdTechTeam excitement. 
  • In June, I attended ISTE for the first time. It was an entirely overwhelming experience, but well worth the exhaustion. I met many of my Twitter friends face-to-face, hung out at the Breakout EDU Bus, and learned from some incredible people. 
  • This biggest part of 2016 was becoming a Google for Education Certified Innovator! I attended the COL16 cohort in Boulder, CO, just after ISTE. It was an intense 2.5 days of thinking and learning from 35 other innovators, our coaches, and program managers. A few weeks after the academy, we were all paired up with our mentors. I am so lucky to have Chris Craft as my mentor–not only is he guiding me through my innovator project, but also he’s becoming a great friend and true mentor. Thanks Crafty! 
  • Our COL16 cohort, coaches, and program managers.
  • This year, I also took more time to blog. In August, I miraculously stumbled upon other aspiring bloggers and we started #sunchatbloggers. We have continued to grow and support each other via a very active Twitter DM group chat. I’ve been able to reflect on my blogging experiences with them, and compile my top blog posts.
  • One of the hardest parts of 2016 is that my good friend, Justin Birckbichler, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. We’ve had to take a break from our various projects so he can focus on his treatment and getting better. Meanwhile, he’s been hard at work to spread awareness through his new blog, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor. 
  • The fall also brought some tragedies at my school. In September, we lost a history teacher to cancer. She taught 3 classrooms down from me, and would stop by my room at least once a day to say hi. Then, in December, a 7th grader suddenly and unexpectedly died at home. Having to tell students, and sharing that grief with them is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. The student was not in my science class, but he was a member of my Viking Tech Crew club. 
  • Ari and me at the LA County Summit
  • Overall, I’ve done a much better job of balancing my personal and teaching life.  I finished 66 books, including 17 audiobooks. I’m doing far less work at home, and spending more quality time with my boyfriend and our dog. In fact, I’ve also cut back on social media in an effort to be more present with the people around me. I deleted Twitter and Facebook off my phone in November to stop the mindless checking. 

Where I’m going (2017 and beyond)

  • At this time last year, I felt a giddy excitement for 2016. There were so many things I wanted to do and accomplish, and I was ready to go out and take on the world. This year, I feel a bit more hesitant, though not in a bad way. Lately, multiple people (notably, my incredible mentor Chris Craft, and good friend Ari Flewelling) have asked me where I want to be in 5 and 10 years. This question has been nagging at my core and I don’t quite have an answer…yet. 
  • I’m currently working on my first keynote, and hoping to keynote an EdTechTeam summit in 2017. This is a huge step, and I’m ready to take this risk. If you would like to see the very drafty keynote trailer, watch my Ignite from the San Diego Summit. 
  • Personally my goal is to begin training my dog for the AKC Good Citizen exam, and then consider training him to be a therapy dog. We have a wonderful trainer who has been working with us since Ollie was 3 months old.
  • One thing I’m sure of for 2017 is my #OneWord is Fearless. Even though I’m uncertain about a lot of things about my future, I am sure that if I can let go of some of my fears, then so many new doors will open!