Taxi Cab Confessions

When I take cabs by myself, I often feel like I’m playing Russian roulette with what kind of driver I will get. Am I going to get the one that asks a million questions? Or perhaps the kind that wants me to pay cash but can’t break my $20? Or, if I’m extra lucky, will it be the one that has no idea where we are going?

On a recent trip to Chicago, I Uber-ed a cab and spun the driver-roulette-wheel. Much to my surprise, I was met by a sweet old man in his late 60s. While I couldn’t quite distinguish where his accent might be from, he did quickly apologize for his broken English. Then, much like listening to an interesting story from a grandparent, he began to speak of his journey to America. He told me about how he had lived his whole life in Albania and always dreamed about what life in the states must be like. His fears of culture shock, language barriers, and the financial burden of such a move had always held him back. That was, however, until his two sons made the dream happen for themselves — they left Albania and moved to Chicago. He spoke of how proud he was of his boys for taking the risks that he, himself, had always been too scared to take. Being newly retired and knowing of his sons’ success, he and his wife decided to take the biggest leap of faith they had ever taken. They packed their bags and set forth to start a new life in America. He explained that when they reached the ‘Windy City’ five years ago, he decided that the best way to acclimate would be to dive right in. So to learn English and better understand his new surroundings, he began a new career as a cab driver. He explained that while his new life has not always been easy, he would not trade the opportunity for anything.

While reading this story here may not seem like much, his honesty and sincerity touched me in a way that no conversation with a stranger ever had before. As we neared my stop he said to me with a glint in his eyes, “All my life I had dreamed of coming here, but I always let fear hold me back. I love being in this city so much, but now I am just an old man and won’t have as long to enjoy it.”

How often is that the case for many of us? We allow fear to hold us back. We allow familiarity and comfort keep us from new and exciting things. We fear failure so much that we refuse to take risks; when in reality, failure should not be feared. Failures make us stronger. They force us to look at things from new angles and perspectives. They force us to try again. And in the end, it is because of all of those obstacles and hardships that we can truly admire and marvel over our accomplishments. More often than not, we tell ourselves that failure is not an option. But it should be. If failure is not an option, then we are not pushing ourselves far enough or hard enough. The confessions from my cabby reminded me of just that — we are never too old or incapable of pursuing our dreams.

LSC eLearning Conference

Day one of the Making Waves eLearning Conference = Awesome!

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Loved spending time with Megan at the conference. Believe it or not, this girl and I have been friends since 6th grade.

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One of my favorite sessions for the day – Lightning Round, presented by Mr. Matt Miller. He loaded me up with 60 awesome apps in the span of a 45 minute session.

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Spent some time goofing around with props.

20140617-171849.jpg I caught my first pod cast/web show featuring the talented Nick Provenzano and iPad gurus, Brad Waid and Drew Minock.

20140617-171913.jpgThe highlight of my day — meeting George Couros. He even attended one of my sessions!

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I’m finished. Now what do I do?

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In our classroom, we utilize Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math programs. To help students stay on track of meeting 100% of their quarterly goals, I set weekly goals for them. Students who meet their weekly goals early have permission to play designated “games” on their iPad. Motivation has greatly increased because of this. And, best of all, each of these “games” reinforce concepts we are working on in class. It’s a win-win! …Also, gone are the days of, “I’m finished. Now what do I do?”

My Students Aren’t Perfect

Well I said it, they aren’t…

 

They talk when they shouldn’t, they do things they shouldn’t, they make mistakes.  No matter how many times I beg of them to “do the right thing and make great choices,” they don’t always… and I couldn’t be happier.  Truth is, in the simplicity of it all, I am just like my students; and I smile every day knowing that with these imperfections, we are mirror images of each other.

 

“Make mistakes,” I told my students on the first day of school, “it’s the only way we grow as people and achieve great things.”  Mistakes are what have made me in to the person I am today.

 

Yesterday, I left my class in the hands of a guest teacher so that I could visit another school district for some educational technology collaboration.  It never fails that my students make some of their larger mistakes when I’m not there.  When returning to school, I found out that one of my boys had made some particularly poor choices in my absence.  An hour into our school day, I quietly mentioned to him that he and I would need to chat later.  As I made my way over to work with another student, I heard him quietly respond by saying, “I know, Miss Sickler… I messed up pretty bad didn’t I?”  I looked back at him, smiled, and slowly nodded my head in agreement.

 

I didn’t revisit the conversation until later in the afternoon.  I wanted it to marinate with him for a little bit.  Time would allow him to collect his thoughts and be present in our conversation with rationalization, not with anger or a defense mode.  When I finally sat with him to talk, I let him carry the conversation, asking simple questions for clarification.  Not only did my student admit his faults, he provided himself with a very reasonable consequence.  Did I need to yell at him?  Take away privileges from him?  Not in the slightest; and words cannot describe how proud I am of this student.

 

Do I think he will screw up again and make more mistakes, some even bigger than his most recent?  Absolutely!  Don’t we all?  If your last mistake was eating paste decades ago in primary grades, well then you deserve a medal of honor… or placed in an institution for overlooking all of the mistakes you made last year, last week, and an hour ago.

 

Our students don’t need another critic, they need someone who will accept them for imperfections, embrace them, and encourage them.

Milk Crate Seats

Thanks to Pinterest and handy friends, my classroom is slowly getting a make over. Tonight’s project were these cute milk crate seats that I saw some others posting on Pinterest.

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Seeing as I’m not the handiest person, I knew I’d need to team up with one of my gal pals who knows how to use a saw. I’ll admit, the price of the project added up fast. But it was totally worth it and the final project looks awesome!

Our list of supplies included:
-milk crates (purchased at Walmart– approximately $4 each)
-a large sheet of wood from Lowe’s (approximately $25)
-fabric from Hobby Lobby (approximately $15)
-foam (ugh… sadly costing about $45)
-ribbon for pull-tabs ($3)
-staple gun
-saw
-utility knife (for cutting foam)

Like I said… It added up fast. But I ended up with enough material to make about 10 ottomans, as well as a bench that measures 6′ long. Premade ottomans at Target and Walmart run $15-$20 each. Which means I would have spent $200+ just on ottomans had I gone that route. This way saved me about $100-$150. I’ll take it.

Here is a little glimpse at our process/ finished project.

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Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

Remember that Bonnie Raitt song from the ‘90s? “Let’s give them something to talk about… A little something to talk about…” There is a lot of wisdom in those words. As the new school year has begun, I have heard a lot of teachers say, “I just can’t figure out how to make my class be quiet.” My thought is, why make them be quiet?

Okay, I get it, you are a teacher, therefore you must teach; but why must that mean your class has to sit quietly all day and listen to you. How boring?  Here is my perspective.  A chatty class is a class that has already established a foundation for working with one another.  They are already open to the idea of sharing their thoughts and opinions with others.  So, just as Bonnie Raitt said, let’s give them something to talk about.

I cannot tell you how many times this year I have been on the cusp of telling my students to stop talking; but instead, I started listening and realized that they were having productive conversations.  They were explaining how to do things.  They were helping one another.  They were pushing each other to expand their ideas or consider different perspectives.  Why would I want to stop this type of collaboration? …And when their conversation has strayed from our curriculum, I realize that it is because I am doing something wrong, not them.  It is up to us, as educators, to figure out how to light that spark in our students and to motivate them to WANT to learn.

How many times have you gone on to YouTube and started watching a video, but when you realized that it was longer than 3-4 minutes, you went on to watch something else?  I do this all the time.  Why?  Because usually after the first few minutes, I have lost interest.  The same goes for our students.  If your lecturing is dragging on and on, your students have stopped listening.  Learning has stopped.  They might be sitting quietly, hands folded nicely on their desks, staring back at you, but what is the point?  They aren’t listening and they certainly aren’t learning.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am still very guilty of being a rambling teacher.  I mean just look at the length of these blog posts.  On the flipside, though, I am actively looking at ways to change my teaching to avoid the disconnect/shut down of my students.  Griping to your coworkers is not going to make your class stop talking.  Similarly, making strict consequences for your chronic chatters is going to accomplish little, except for maybe causing your students to respect you a little less.

Give them something to talk about.  Look at Pinterest for engaging ideas.  Read Dave Burgess’ book Teach Like a Pirate.  Use Twitter to find outstanding teaching strategies.  Collaborate with others.  Learning doesn’t have to be a silent sport.