Dunkin’ Donuts Drama

Earlier this week I was sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts, drinking some tea, and trying to get caught up on my homework. It is usually a fairly serene place to pretend like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. There are few things to distract me from surfing the internet… ummm… I mean answering discussion posts that aren’t really like discussions but more like people trying to prove that they are smarter than everyone else but that doesn’t make me bitter oh no it doesn’t.

This day was different. There was a young lady sitting in the corner working on her homework just like me. Okay, maybe not *just* like me. She didn’t have a computer and was actually using paper and highlighters. Crazy, right? She paused in her pursuit of learning and made a phone call. Here was her LOUD side of the conversation:

“So (insert name here) told me that you were looking for friends with benefits with her. Is that true?”

[pause]

“Well, I didn’t think so. I told her that there is no way that you would do that. I told her that we were engaged and you would never do that to me.”

[pause]

“Don’t get mad at me for asking! I just wanted to make sure. I figured that she was just confused with the old you. Why would I believe her?”

And more along those lines. You could tell that the person on the other end was getting more and more defensive. Finally, she finished the conversation. Then, when she was done, she made another phone call and was talking about how someone had a disease — not sure what it was exactly– and that she would be pissed off if she had it too. There are so many inferences I could have made from the conversation.

Thank goodness I had my back to her, because I would have embarrassed myself. I was uncomfortable but entirely too amused for polite company. I couldn’t help myself. I awkwardly chuckled. I couldn’t believe that she felt that Dunkin’ Donuts was the appropriate place for conversations like that.

It got me thinking, though, about the differences in generations. Very few people who share my age bracket would have done as she did. Most of us would take conversations like those and conduct them in privacy– or at least not loudly. My teenage students have no such compunction. They share entirely too much for my comfort. They share everything on their tumbly-thing, bookface, tweeters, and whatever else social media they use.

(Putting on my grumpy old lady pants) YOU SHOULD HAVE SOME SECRETS! Nobody should ever know that much about you. It’s like not buying the cow because you’re getting the milk for free. Or judging a book by its cover. Or some other cliche that fits better than the ones I came up with. It just isn’t right and it makes other people (me, at least) uncomfortable. (Taking off my grumpy old lady pants)

Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe having everything out there is better than keeping secrets. Maybe full disclosure will help solve the worlds ills.

What do you think?

Smart Phone Free: Day One

Today is my first day without my smart phone.

I can’t believe it. I actually gave it up. It has been bothering me for years. I was so disconnected from everything because I had the whole of the interwebz at my fingertips. I would sit on the couch, playing games, and checking my social media statuses. Last time I had a phone upgrade, I was so tempted to get a simple phone, but I chickened out and got another smart phone.

This time I didn’t give in to my addiction.

My hubby graciously let me use his upgrade to get a more simple phone. He was completely content to use my smart phone instead of getting a new one. I think he was really happy to get me back.

So, here’s my phone.

Isn't it shiny?

Isn’t it shiny?

I know it isn’t much to look at right now, BUT there are many colorful cases that are so inexpensive, I could buy a different one for every day of the week and only spend a little more than the black, boring case I bought for my smart phone. Imma be stylin’!

Get this! It has T9 texting! Inorite?!?!? I remember when I could do that with my eyes closed. It is already coming back to me. One thing I still have to practice is answering it. I always hang up on the person who is calling. I’ll get it though.

Another thing that is awesome: I have battery life again. I used it all day and still had the five bars of the battery. It really does wonders to not be on facebook/twitter all day. I am more content now than I have been in a very long time. I don’t have the urges to check and see what is going on with the my social media.

I’ve had time to write. Rather, I’ve recaptured the time I spent avoiding life. Writing is work if you want to do it well. My smart phone gave me an excuse to not do it. Maybe excuse isn’t the correct word. The obsessive/perfectionist part of my brain seized on it as a way to protect me from failing at writing. Yay, mixed up brain chemicals!

The only issue that I have had so far is a feeling of confusion in the morning. I would wake up, sit on the couch, and check my social media. Sometimes I would play a game or surf the web. It was my morning ritual. Instead of having coffee, I used my smart phone. I am sure that it will pass as I create new rituals.

My heart is happy with my choice. I feel like a burden has been lifted and I can get back to being me again.

Haters Gon’ Hate… (but it still hurts when they do)

The Nobel Prize winners have been announced (Yay, smart people who are changing our world!)

One recipient, John Gurdon, is receiving extra attention not because of what he did but because of what was done to him. Someone dredged up an old report card of his from high school in which the teacher lambastes him for being a rebel, an outside-the-box thinker. The words that the teacher uses are horribly unkind and, if they were written today, the teacher would lose his job before he could say lawsuit.

One of my favorite FB sites, “I f*cking love science” posted a graphic with the remarks paraphrased– check it out here. I have no issue with the comments being brought to light. I do have a problem with the comments that follow the post.

There were some positive posts:

And then there were some not-so-positive posts:

And my all-time favorite:

Don’t forget the one that caused a WTF, YOU IDIOT! moment:

Huh? This doesn’t even make sense at all. Respect has to be earned. I work hard to ensure that my students respect me by being truthful, straight-forward, and fair. I expect the same from my students and won’t tolerate any less. I’ll be damned if I will “respect” <— WTF does that mean anyway??— > my students just because they might be a Nobel prize winner or president or a tyrannical dictator someday. If they are not at the level they should be, I let them know as kindly as possible.  But they still need to know. How can you improve if you don’t know the truth about your abilities?? I’m so tired of  being expected to coddle little (insert student name here) when they really need the truth and encouragement to get themselves out of the hole they’ve been allowed to dig for themselves.

Okay. Rant over. Wait… maybe not.

I know that I shouldn’t let it bother me, but it does. Every day people get bombarded by how horrible teachers are. Every day. You rarely turn on the news and see something positive about them. Every day I see the media/parents/students/my favorite authors talk about how horrible educators are.

Nobody asks us. Nobody tells our story.

Do you know how many principals I’ve had in the last 6 years (just in one district, mind you)? Four. Four changes in command. Four people with very different management styles and different focuses for the school vision. Four adults who my students feel have abandoned them. I don’t think everyone realizes how much kids yearn for stability. Sometimes school is the only stability that they have.

Did you know that, every year, teachers are told that their methods (that were successful the year before, btw) are now COMPLETELY wrong and have to be changed immediately? Not just a few aspects of their methods– oh no– everything that they do. Never mind the fact that they are master teachers and can show it because their students are LEARNING beyond the test. The new strategy du jour is more effective than anything else (even if it is largely untested).

Did you know that most teachers provide the basics for their students in the classroom? If I want to do anything with my students beyond pen and paper learning, I have to purchase all of the supplies. According to the district, there is not a budget for those things. Asking my students to bring their own doesn’t usually work– very few do. One teacher I know actually got reprimanded for asking students to bring supplies (not with my current administration– they’re lovely).

Did you know that, because of legislative budget cuts, most teachers in my district are getting paid much less for doing more work? Yet we still do it. Teachers are on campus at 6:00 in the morning working hard to give their students a head start. They stay until late grading papers and making parent phone calls. (I don’t even want to get started on parent phone calls. It is apparently the teachers responsibility to let the parents know if their students aren’t passing classes. If they aren’t passing classes, it is because teachers haven’t made the lessons entertaining or engaging enough. Because, you know, jobs are ALWAYS going to be entertaining and engaging… bah.)

____________________

I guess I’ll close with this. Teachers are PEOPLE. Yes, they are imperfect, but who isn’t?  So many forget this, I think, and are vitriolic in their criticism. If someone did tell the teachers’ story, would anyone listen? Or is it so much easier to have a scapegoat for society’s ills?

How Twitter Saved my Life

When I tell people that I use Twitter, they either get a glazed look in their eyes or look at me like I am crazy. They imagine me sitting on my couch, tweeting things like “Oh, my cat just crawled on my lap, how cute” or “today I am going to have pizza for dinner” or even “boy, do I have to go to the bathroom. Don’t worry, I’ll take you with me.” To be honest, I felt the same when I first signed up for work.

You see, Twitter was supposed to be a way to develop my own PLN a.k.a. a professional learning network (education loves acronyms). I was going to follow a million, kabillion master teachers and bask in the glory of their tweets. Through this network, I was going to strengthen my professional life and become the best teacher I could ever be. Go me!

I followed teachers, then I followed teachers they followed, and then I sat and waited. And waited. I tried following one of the many edchats that occur regularly but, as a twitter noob, they went so fast and I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. I tried to read every single comment and was quickly overwhelmed. This was not a good thing for me. I unfollowed almost everyone and stopped checking my twitter account. I did not see the use of it.

Move forward a couple of months. I decided to try it again. This time I didn’t follow any teachers. I started following celebrities– Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Through them I discovered the Bloggess. It wasn’t so bad to lurk all over them. They had so many followers that my silent stalking would go unnoticed. Then I realized that they were REAL people. Granted, I squee whenever one of them RTs me or even remotely recognizes that I am alive. In fact, following these wonderful people actually helped me get supplies for my classroom. I wrote a post about it if you want to see it. Thus began my education in the way Twitter works. Understanding how to use it has changed my life.


I know, so stereotypical.
It was the only think I could think of.

You see, because of my feelings of social awkwardness, I find it difficult to talk to other people. I always feel imperfect and judged and stuff. It is not comfortable for me in social situations.  This severely limits the number of friends that I have made. Twitter was a place where I could be myself without having to be near someone. I could interact with people and not have to worry about them judging me or, if they did, they would be able to just unfollow me. After all, they weren’t REALLY people.

The thing is, as I learned more about using social media, I realized that I can truly create friendships with other people. When I first started blogging, my friend Amy at Lucy’s Football gave me the encouragement I needed to continue. When I couldn’t write or tweet because I was having extreme anxiety, she was not upset with me when I cam back. Instead, she acted as if I had never disappeared. I don’t recall ever feeling that sort of acceptance from any person not in my close family.

Through my contact with Amy, I learned that people aren’t going to hate me if I go away for a bit. They will also remember me when I come back. If they don’t, meh, who cares. Through this interaction with others, I was able to gain confidence in my friend-making abilities. I have been putting myself out there and cultivating the itty bitty buds of friendship IN REAL LIFE! I’m still a bit skittish about trying to meet new people, but I’m getting better. In fact, one of the real life friendships I’ve developed over the year has made me so happy. In Jen, I have found a friend who is not demanding but still likes to spend time with me. She’s a wonderful person who gets my fears and feelings of ineptitude about friendship. And she *doesn’t* care. We have fun when we are together; sometimes I forget to breathe because I’m laughing so hard. This might not have occurred if I hadn’t learned how to be a friend through Twitter.

Geez, this is long. It was much simpler in my head when I started organizing. Bear with me, you guys!

Last week, I had to go to a retinal specialist. My eye doctor thought that I might be on the verge of a detachment. That is some scary ish, I’m not gonna lie. I went straight to my Twitter family and asked them whether or not they’d experienced a retinal detachment. Even though none of them had, they immediately offered me support. My friends were there when I needed them. People think that friendships made through social media aren’t real. I know that they are.

So, thanks to Danielle, Megan, Amy, and Bridget for taking the time to be there for me when I really needed you. Thank you, Jen, for making the time to take me to the retinal specialist so I didn’t have to go on my own. You have all touched my life in such a positive way.

You guys deserve a sunshine award.

Go you, lightbringers!

Ripples in my Pond: Twitter and My Donors Choose Project

Right now I am completely in awe of the power of social networking. I recently submitted a project to Donors Choose to purchase a classroom set of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Donors Choose is a place where teachers can post projects and donors can donate as much or as little as they choose. I heard of it through comments on this post by The Bloggess (who is really very sweet, in spite of all her declarations that she is not).

I looked at the website and immediately thought, “Oh, this will never happen. I don’t know enough people.” Then I started thinking of my social media network. I follow some of the most amazing, generous, funny people. I decided right then and there that I was going to do this thing. After all, you never get anything unless you try, right?

So, I spent a couple of days filling out the proposal, stressing over every word. When I submitted it, it came back approved. *YAY* The next step was getting the word out.

Last night I turned into to a human spambot. No… a spamhuman. (Oh great, now I am hearing Monty Python in my head. Lovely day, innit?) I have never been very good at self-promotion. Asking for help makes me feel all funny inside. Asking people for help with MONEY makes me feel like … well, I don’t want to put a disturbing image in your mind. Let me just say that it is incredibly uncomfortable.

My followers were very kind and didn’t jump ship when I started asking everyone I knew to retweet my project.

My twitter friends Amy (@lucysfootball) and @patrixmyth assured me that I wasn’t a spambot. It was good because I was beginning to wonder. Lisa (@lgalaviz), another generous person though she tries to deny it, decided not to retweet it just once, but a million times. If you don’t follow them on twitter, go, do. If you aren’t on twitter at all, sign up, then follow them. It is easier that way.

My heart swelled when pnut from my favorite-band-of-all-time-forever-and-always 311. If you’ve never checked them out, you need to. They are an amazing group of guys and their music is the rockin’est.

Then Neil Gaiman HIMSELF retweeted it. Not only that, but he replied to my request for a retweet! I think my hubby thought I blew a gasket. I was jumping up and down from the joy of the response. I thought I was too cool to react like that. I guess I am a geek at heart. I am embracing that part of me.

All of this ties into the novel itself and the unit that I am going to be teaching. Every action has meaning. If I had read that comment and not done anything about it, I would still be sitting here, trying to figure out how to get a great book for my students to read. I made the choice. The velocity of that choice allowed me to experience this awe-inspiring moment. Because I took this step, my project was funded in less… than… eight… hours!!

To all the donors and those who helped me: Thanks for being the ripples in my pond.