I’m busy putting my schedule together for ISTE14 and wow….it is PACKED! I was invited to be a guest blogger for ISTE this year and one of the topics that I am going to focus on is Chromebooks and Chromebook deployment. My district is beginning its 1:1 Chromebook initiative this fall and I have so many questions. I found a few terrific poster sessions that I want to attend, but unfortunately they conflict with another event that has been on my schedule for months. (Go Braves!) So I am going to do what any seasoned ISTE veteran who wants to talk about a particular topic does—-I’m going to schedule an informal session in one of the lounges to discuss this topic!
If you have experience deploying Chromebooks, managing them, or if you are interesting in being part of this discussion, please head to the Bloggers’ Cafe at 10am on Tuesday July 1. Hopefully we can get a discussion going! Please mark your calendar!
I want to thank my friends and family who have reached out to me and sent words of support to me during the last few days. Your support has given me the strength to be there for my students during this crisis. I have needed time to process what has happened and to come to terms with the loss of a student on my own terms. Anyone who knows me understands that I am a writer and not a talker. Sharing Selana’s story on here is my therapy and I hope it will provide you with a glimpse into the life of this young lady whose life ended way too soon.
I don’t remember the exact date, but sometime in December a prospective student came to my school for a tour. After she left I told the other teachers that I was very glad that a particular male student would be graduating in just a couple of weeks and would not be there at the same time as this young lady. This young man flirted relentlessly with the attractive girls at school and this new student was stunning. She carried herself with an air of confidence that many teenage girls do not have yet. Over the last five months I got to see so many sides to her complex personality. In some respects she was a typical teenage girl. There were days when she was happy and on top of the world and other days when she was moody and despondent. What was absolutely not typical about her was her dedication to school. She was there every single day for two quarters in a row! During the entire time I taught at VALTS I do not recall any other student every having perfect attendance two quarters in a row. I would like to think that perhaps she enjoyed school more than she wanted to admit.
Tuesday evening…..May 27 8:15pm. I had just returned home after watching my daughter play softball. Near the end of the game I noticed an ambulance running red lights and sirens drive past the ballfields and onto the highway. I didn’t give it much thought because we live just a few blocks from where the ambulances are dispatched and we hear them multiple times during the day. I had just gotten settled on the sofa to work on some things online when I received a phone call from my husband, a deputy sheriff. By the tone in his voice and the sounds in the background I could tell something was very wrong. He asked me if I still had access to my online gradebook because he needed me to get in touch with Salena’s parents but he did not tell me what was going on. As I was logging into the site I asked if she was OK. His exact words were, “No, she was in a car wreck and she’s dead.” Salena was on a gravel road and lost control of her car. She lost control and was partially ejected when her car rolled over twice. She was not wearing her seatbelt. My husband was the first law enforcement officer on the scene and he told me that he knew that it was one of my students as soon as he began walking toward her car. During the accident papers flew out of the car as well as a dreamcatcher that she had made in math class. He remembered seeing them hanging in the hallway when he was at my school last week.
Tonight a group of Salena’s friends, family, and teachers gathered at a local park to remember her. We sat around a firepit, made s’mores, and shared our memories of her. It was a celebration of her life that was filled with happiness as well as sadness. As I was listening to the stories I watched the tears stream down the faces of everyone seated around the fire. Some cried quietly while others openly wept. Toward the end of the evening we all were given a balloon to release with messages we had written on them for Salena. As we gathered around to release the balloons I reminded the young people there that the very last words I spoke to Salena on the last day of school were, “Buckle up! Put your seatbelt on!” If only she had listened she would still be with us today. But it wasn’t the cool thing to do. Most young people in my region (and I’m guessing in the entire United States) don’t wear their seatbelts. I went on to tell the group that they have the power to help prevent other young people from dying by buckling up and encouraging others to do the same. They have the power to start a trend and I really do believe that with all my heart. Her father, a volunteer fireman and EMT, addressed the group as well and reinforced what I said. It just takes 2 seconds to buckle up. Perhaps if Salena had done so she would still be with us. I hope that each of her friends will never ride in a car again without wearing their seatbelt. They owe it to her. Alice said it best- “seat belts for Salena.”
If I could have one superpower it would be to make teenagers learn from the mistakes others have made. Far too many young adults are killed each year because of poor choices. Distracted driving, drunk driving, and driving under the influence have killed an extraordinarily high number of teens in my region during the last few years. The most tragic part is so many of these accidents could have been prevented. I cannot help but wonder what each of these young people could have achieved during their life if they had not died at such a young age. Perhaps one of them may have become a great musician, a teacher, or a researcher that developed cures for diseases. They will never have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
My heart is heavy knowing there will be an empty seat in my former classroom that was meant for Salena. The absence of her contagious laugh will be noticed by everyone who knew her. The next few days, weeks and months will be painful, but eventually life will return to normal. Salena—while the sadness we are all feeling will gradually fade, please know we will never forget you. You were an amazing and beautiful young lady and you made a positive mark on the world during the 17 years you were here. Please look after your friends and family who are still here on Earth and keep them safe- you are their angel now.
Once in a while things happen that put everything into perspective. As most teachers are celebrating the end of the year and looking forward to family trips and other summer activities, one of my local colleagues is facing some challenges that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. I want to use this blog and my personal learning network as a way to share her story so that we can rally around her and her family in their time of need.
Jessica Martin is the music teacher at Longfellow Elementary in Scottsbluff, Nebraska where my daughter is a student. Last week a letter was sent home letting families know that Jessica’s four year old daughter, Lilly, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Here is the Facebook Group that was created to support Lilly and her family.
I’m fortunate to be blessed with a personal learning network that encompasses the entire world. I’m calling on it to embrace and support one of the members of our teaching family. Please make a monetary donation to assist the Martin’s with their expenses and keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Their goal is to raise $2000 by May 31. If everyone who reads this post donates just a few dollars we could easily help them reach and exceed this goal.
I applied for the Google Teacher Academy for the second time a few weeks ago. For the second time I was rejected. If this was a few years ago I would probably be upset and I might not even apply again, but over the last couple of years I have learned a few things. I have learned that everything happens for a reason. A couple of years ago I applied for a job that I really wanted, but I wasn’t even given an interview. At the time I was upset, but my husband told me to be patient and that the right position would eventually open up. About a month ago I interviewed for (and landed!) my dream job!
Last year when I was rejected for the first time from GTA I cried. Today was different. I realized that it just wasn’t my time. I’m thrilled for the people who got in, but I am even more excited at the thought of applying for the GTA in Austin. While I have been a Nebraskan for 20 years, I actually claim Texas as my home state. I grew up in a small town just down the road from Austin so Texas will always have a special place in my heart. Two women I admire more than anything in the world will also apply for GTA in Austin and as much as I would love to have attended an academy in Atlanta or Mountain View, it would mean so much to me to be in a cohort with them. (You ladies know who you are!)
So instead of giving up I will try again. It is hard to accept that I was not quite good enough to make the cut, but maybe next time I will come out on top. I’m not about to give up! I will risk rejection once again because I want this more than anything! Over the last few years I have started to fully appreciate that in order to get what I want in life I cannot be afraid to put myself out there. You will never know what you are capable of unless you take risks. If you are reading this and you are at a point in your life where you are not sure you want to do something because you are afraid you will fail I strongly encourage you to just do it! Apply for that new position. Ask to go to that conference that you want to attend. Try that new idea with your students. Whatever it is—-just do it! You might fail but as Chris Lehmann would ask, “What is the worst consequence of your best idea?”
About four years ago I had some time left at the end of the marking period so I decided to introduce my students to some of the various Google Apps that we had not had time to explore in class. They were fascinated by Google Video chat and Google Voice. One of my students was apparently quite impressed that I knew so much “stuff about technology.” I will never forget the words she spoke to me that day. She said, “Miss–why do you teach social studies? What you really should be doing is teaching other teachers all of these things that you know!” Earlier today I had nearly the identical conversation with a student who needed help figuring out some of the settings on his blog. With a couple of clicks I was able to fix his issue. He told me that I should be a “computer tech” because I am “really good at figuring this stuff out.”
What neither student realized was that working with teachers was my dream. It is something I have been working towards ever since 2008 when I attended my first ISTE conference and learned that some districts employ teachers whose sole job it is to help teachers understand how to integrate technology into their classrooms. I feel like virtually everything I have done over the last seven or so years has prepared me for the next step in my career.
Earlier today I was offered the position of Instructional Technology Integration Specialist for Gering Public Schools. Starting in August I will begin working with teachers as well as students in this brand new position. Words cannot even express how excited I am to have this opportunity!
This year marks the tenth year of my teaching career and this is the ninth year I have been in my current position. I have been so fortunate to teach in a school where I have had nothing but support and encouragement. My colleagues are like family to me and it is going to be very hard to say goodbye at the end of the year. I am not mentally prepared to even think about saying goodbye to my kiddos. Each time I think about it I get a lump in my throat and my eyes well up with tears. I just can’t go there yet……..
When I was preparing my application for this job I knew I needed to do something that would make me stand out from the other applicants so I enlisted the assistance of my personal learning network. I asked 65 or so of my colleagues to write a very short recommendation for me and explain why I would be a good fit for the job. I took their recommendations and I made them into a slide show which I linked on my CV. It definitely helped me drive home the point that by hiring me they also get all of my connections. Four of these individuals were also my references who wrote traditional letters of recommendation for me. THANK YOU so much for taking the time to help me catch my dream. I also want to thank Kris, Emily, and Madison. They are the best family anyone could ever ask for!