As I am sitting here in front of BORDERS, waiting to meet my family, I am struck with a sudden sense of longing. This store has been a part of my life for many years. I’ve bought books I loved and some I hated. I’ve had countless cups of tea while writing in the coffee shop. It has been a refuge for me when I needed to get away from everything.

Now I sit in the empty parking lot. It is humbling to know that things can disappear so completely. In retrospect, I’ve seen it dwindle. First the music left. Next, the video section. It was so gradual, though, I didn’t realize the ramifications of the slow disintegration. A part of me thought it would be there forever.

I was a part of their demise. Buying online is less expensive and more convenient. However, BORDERS did not help themselves by becoming more innovative about the way they interacted with their customers. Their online presence was spotty and difficult to navigate. They didn’t change with the times.

As educators, we are all at risk for “going out of business.” If we don’t stay innovative in our approach, our students will stop paying attention. Meeting the needs of our customers while maintaining high quality product is essential. If we can’t keep up, we’ll fade, just like BORDERS did.

So, farewell, my favorite bookstore. I miss sitting in you and being surrounded by books. I hope I can learn a lesson from your closing.

My Last Weekend of Summer Vacation

This is the last weekend I have as a mom and a wife only. Come Tuesday, my classroom will be filled with the chatter of brand new freshmen and a few repeat students. It is a bittersweet weekend. I love spending time with my family, but I cannot wait to embrace this new group of kiddos and become a part of their support structure.

The great thing is that I have had quite a few of these students before as seventh graders. When I check my rosters, there are little pictures of them. There are so many of their little faces that I recognize and it fills my heart with happiness. I can’t wait to reacquaint myselves with them and to get to know the others whose faces are unfamiliar.

My summer has been filled with so much professional development. ISTE, Anita Archer, Teach like a Champion, posts from my PLN on Twitter and Google+. Honestly, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all of the new ways that I have to reach my students. I decided that this is the perfect time to reflect on what I’ve learned and set goals for myself.

I am going to keep my goals SMART this year. If I do so, I will be able to develop a good plan to achieve them. So, here goes:

  1. I will keep my word wall up to date by posting my words in the morning on the day I teach them.
  2. I will give my students more choices about how to learn their objectives. There is more than one way to get to mastery.
  3. I will create authentic audiences for my students, even if it takes more time to find them.
  4. I will faithfully preassess before every unit. I do this for many of my big units, but I sometimes just wing it on others. 

These are my goals for this year.  I will revisit these and see how I’m doing.

What about you? Do you have any goals that you want to focus on for this upcoming school year?

Being off the Grid

I recently had an opportunity to go completely off the grid for a week. Well, it wasn’t an opportunity, really, more like a forced exclusion. I visited my father in the middle of Missouri– three hours from St. Louis and three hours from Kansas City. It was out of network for my smart phone and not even on the map for Internet access.

That’s right. I went a whole week without Facebook, Twitter, email (all 7 of them), and all things cloud-based. Crazy, I know!

At first, I was in a panic. How would I keep connected with the world? How would I blog about what I was doing? How would I get my online class started? I was like an addict, freaking out about my next “fix”. However, being the trooper that I am, I soldiered on.

I left my smart phone in my room (gasp).

The first day was very hard. I kept on clutching my pocket, seeking the rectangular security that I usually found there. Feeling the absence of its assuring weight was alien to me. I felt a little lost, especially when I wanted to share with my friends what we were doing. It felt strange to not tell people what was happening on my vacation. The thing is, I found myself paying even more attention to my family and sharing with them.


Mighty Fishermen!

Because I was forced to let go of my Internet “leash,” I realized how much I have been missing in the present moment. It has made me think about how inundated I was getting with extraneous information. It made me realize that so many of my students probably feel exactly the same way.

When I returned from my vacation, I wasn’t as frantic to get online. I deleted my Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone. It has been three weeks, and I still don’t miss them. I still check both networking sites daily, but I am not checking every hour. It is kind of nice to not feel the urge all of the time.

Have you ever been disconnected unwillingly? If so, how did you deal with it?