Chaos to Creation

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This week I finally started really teaching my classes (getting into the curriculum we had designed over the course of the past year) and it has been amazing.  While I am finding some aspects of returning to a full teaching role to be frustrating, most of the time I’ve spent in my classroom with the kids has been incredibly rewarding. Teaching three things at once to several groups of middle schoolers has been exciting but at times chaotic. Embracing the chaos has created some incredible moments thus far.

Over the past week I have started to build relationships with my students, get into to teaching robotics, and learning a ton. I have also seen some incredible excitement and creativity from many of the kids with whom I am working.  While I won’t pretend it has been sunshine and roses, overall I am thrilled with where the class is going.

One of the things I have been reminded of as I return to the full classroom setting is how overwhelming the beginning of the year can be.  We are expected to do all of our regular teacher assignments plus incorporate new district initiatives, start our clubs/sports, complete online training (on our own time), set Student Growth/Mastery Objectives, and all the while build meaningful relationships with our students.  It can be easy to focus on the endless list of tasks that need to be done, I am choosing to focus on the incredible creativity and excitement I have seen so far.  Despite some of the outside things that are getting me down, I am falling in love with classroom teaching at the middle school level. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Memories of a Generation

In the fall of 2002 I sat in my comparative politics class. I had an amazing professor who predicted the next 15 years of political happenings from the soon to be Iraq war to Arab Spring, he predicted each.

He also told us about the day FDR died. He was a boy of only 5 years old, but it was undeniably burned into his memory. His parents crying, the funeral procession, the overall feeling. He also described the assassination of JFK. These he said, are moments that are burned into the identity of a generation.

For my generation, a lovely late summer morning like any other was engraved into our memories. We all have our stories. Each year we rehash where we were, what we felt, and what the memory of 9/11 means to us. As years go by we remember different moments less clearly, but all of us have been changed, some far more directly than most.

It’s important to share these memories, to reshape them, and to acknowledge their impact on who we are as individuals and as a group. Here are some of my most vivid memories.

Disbelief: I watched with horror, not believing what was unfolding miles away. I would build close friendships with lots of people who were effected, some directly.

Fear: Living relatively close to 3 Mile Island as flight 91 was being hikacked, not knowing where my brother was or having a way to contact him. There were some brief moments of real, genuine fear.

Community: Not just the brave first responders, not the amazing spirit of the people of New York and DC banding together, or even the wave of American pride that spread, but the hundreds of college students who had just met that banded together to donate blood. By 10am hundreds of us were at the local hospital. They had to set up a whole floor to handle all of the people giving blood. Volunteers and first responders, the helpers as Mr Rogers called them, created a new narrative of hope and community.

Hate: Not the hate of those who attacked us, but our own hate and bias shown through. I had a friend in college who was new to the United States from India. He lived the first few weeks after the attacks afraid to travel alone. We, his new friends, accompanied him everywhere, from class to the corner store. While there was so much positive response, there was also the negative reaction. This event brought out the best and the worst in us. It’s important to remember all of it and look to embrace those aspects we hope to be rather than those that we sometimes allow ourselves to become.

Back to Class

This week after two years as a Digital Innovations Specialist, I returned to regular classroom teaching. While I have taught both students and teachers over the past two years, I am beginning a new journey to create a new course, and a new path in our middle school.

Part of this is building and designing the onFernwood Future Lab, our robotics lab/makerspace/VR lab. My hope is it will become so much more than just a computer or robotics lab.

What is most exciting and also produces the most angst for me is the responsibility I will have in building a special program at the middle school. It has been two years since I have done some of the more generic teacher tasks like attendance and grading. I have had the luxury of working with my head in the clouds, dreaming up great ways to build innovation into the curriculum of other teachers. Now, I need to focus on the details of running and managing a successful classroom culture, building a community, and all the other many things that go into being a great classroom teacher.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s like riding a bike? Fortunately I have been co-teaching much of these last two years, but there is something both exciting and equally terrifying about being solely responsible for the outcomes in a class, especially one that is part of the larger purpose of introducing as many kids as possible to the future of emerging technologies. For them and for all of us, the future can be now.

I’m sure I will have more to say about this amazing journey I have begun in the coming weeks!

If you want to follow what’s happening in the Fernwood Future Lab, follow @famsfuture on Instagram.