Live: A Window into a Personal World

Live: A Window into a Personal World #cvtechtalk #edumatch #theteachersjourney #122edchat

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Last week I tried something new. I went “live” to share a personal moment in my own journey as I shared the first Proof edition of The Teacher’s Journey.  I was shocked to see just how many people have taken the time to share that glimpse into my home, into a personal moment of joy and excitement. That event made me realize two things: People like sharing in personal moments and stories (something I did in my book but haven’t done enough on my blog) and people LOVE video.  

I decided that I would be adding some more live videos to share more about The Teacher’s Journey.  I will add them to www.costellocorner.com when I can, but in the meantime, I am going to focus on continuing to share more personal stories.

Today’s personal moments are about managing life, balance, and the insanity of this freight train moving toward May 14th.  I have two amazing children, a five-year-old daughter, and a seven-month-old son. This past weekend my wife returned to working nights, which means I get lots of quality time with the kids.  It also means that responsibilities that we had divided are now up to me. Here is the brutal truth, I have been terrified of the thought. I love being a dad, but being the equivalent of a single parent even five or six nights a week is daunting.  I admire single parents who raise their kids, make all the sacrifices, and do all the things. You are all superheroes. While I navigate this new routine, I am also preparing to launch The Teacher’s Journey (Book), which comes out on May 14th. Despite having most of the “work” done, it is still something on my plate; still something I need to balance.  Knowing this was coming, I planned weeks in advance to be finished writing, editing, backlogging podcasts, and more. I have had to cancel a few events that I was excited to be a part of to make sure life doesn’t overwhelm me. I knew this would be a period where my family would take up so much more of my time, and so I prepared. It doesn’t make it easy, but it has made it easier.  Podcasts come out on schedule, blog posts and this new added wrinkle of live video are just about the only thing left on my plate that takes up much time. That is good because time has been limited and extremely valuable to me. I am still able to hop on twitter and voxer during the day, find ways to help others, but most importantly, so far, I have been able to enjoy the quality time with my kids.  Balance isn’t just about setting aside time during a certain day, it is about making adjustments both on the fly and to plan ahead. I look forward to continuing to share more personal moments, excitement, and the joy of seeing The Teacher’s Journey making its way into people’s’ hands.
You can get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Teachers-Journey-Brian-Costello/dp/1732248702/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1525096691&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Teacher%27s+Journey&dpID=51qpQ5iXrcL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

Own Your Success

Own Your Success #edumatch #satchat #joyfulleaders

This post is long overdue, but after a friend asked me for some perspective, I realized how it is still relevant, timely, and important to share.

“When you published your first book, did you people treat you differently? Did anyone act differently toward you?”

Maybe a little.  What happened most is my own embarrassment.  When Will McGill and the Magic Hat first came out in November of 2015 I was overjoyed.  The feeling that I had accomplished a lifelong dream, that my words would forever be in this neat, beautiful little package with my name on the front, was one I won’t forget.  It was something I had worked on for years.  Something I had been so excited to complete.  When it came time to share it with the world, I was more than happy to share it with people who I didn’t know.  But, when it came to sharing it with those closest to me, especially in person, I shied away.  In fact, it is something I still need to make a conscious effort not to shy away from now.

Why would I hesitate to share something that brought me such joy? The first response in my brain (and in some conversations through not many) was that because I had self published, anyone could do it.  It’s true, anyone can write a book. Anyone can format it, edit it, and share it with the world.  This simple fact led me to devalue what I had done.  It wasn’t special. It wasn’t important.

The other thought was, I shouldn’t brag.  As an educator my first reaction has never been to publicize myself, to shout about my greatness from the rooftops, or quite frankly to call attention to myself at all.  In the classroom I deflect the praise to my students.  After all, it is them who actually do the great projects, I just dream up the crazy things.

So there I was, with one of the things I was most proud of accomplishing in my life (outside of having my family) and I would barely share it with anyone.  Sure I would post it on social media, but I rarely spoke about it to other adults.  It all changed that spring.  I was at a one day educational conference and some friends pushed me to put a session on the board for the open choice section of the afternoon.  That session would be about writing and publishing a book, MY BOOK.

There were some fun parts of the session, including one where I was throwing books out like Oprah. “You get a book, and you get a book, and you get a book.” But, the most meaningful part, the part that has stuck with me most, wasn’t something I said, but a comment by someone else, unfortunately I cannot remember who it was.  I was continuing my self-deprecating description of writing a book when I told the people in the room that ANYONE could do this, it isn’t special.  After repeating that several times this gentleman said:

“Yes anyone COULD do it, but what makes it special is that you DID do it.”

Those words still echo in my head anytime I am hesitant to share things that I have done.  Whether your thing is a book, an article, a blog post, an image or picture you created, presenting on a topic, or anything else that you do, remember that it is special not because it COULDN’T be done, but because YOU DID IT.  Give yourself permission to accept that you have accomplished something.  Celebrate it. Share it.  If you find that there are people who aren’t happy for you, they don’t deserve to bask in your sunshine.  Do not allow others to throw shade on your joy, your celebration of accomplishment.  Whether it be from jealousy or some other misplaced personal issue, their problems are not with your accomplishment, they are with you.

I always welcome feedback, pushback, and I value where I can learn from the questions of others.  But looking to tear others down for the sake of diminishing what they have accomplished? I will no longer accept that as the norm.  Surround yourself with those who will question you, but who will also share in your joy.  As I approach the publication of my 3rd book, and my first non-fiction teaching book, I am absolutely reminded that there will be people whose only joy is in the shadows the can cast upon the world.  I won’t allow myself to stay in those shadows, nor will I go any longer without sharing that message with others.  If you have accomplished great things, or small things with great meaning, own it.  Own your successes with the intensity and vigor they deserve.

Are You a Helper?

As a character in the journeys of others, choose to be the light. - Brian C

Teaching is hard. It can drain you physically and emotionally.  I don’t want to pretend it is the only profession that does that, but teaching does take its toll at times.  There are so many things that can go into how we react to our profession.  One thing that has become clear to me over the years, more teachers deal with anxiety, depression, and other aspects of mental illness than I would have ever imagined.

That tells me a few things. First, if you are suffering right now, you are not alone.  The stress, frustrations, and frequent isolation from peers while working can augment many of the difficulties we face, but you are not alone.  I am inspired by teachers who share their own personal experiences with anxiety and depression so openly.  I can only hope it leads to more awareness and less burnout for teachers.  Second, the way you approach your job and the way other people around you at your job approach you can make a huge difference.

Each one of us is the hero in our own journey.  We are not, however, the hero in the journeys of others.  We are merely the other characters in the story. How are you helping? It is something I try to live by in both my professional and personal life.  How are you helping others in their own journeys?  Or, are you hindering them? Are you the obstacle or the enemy they need to overcome? Too often in education and in life people can get caught up in the details.    Little things that in the grand scheme of things that matter only because we want them to matter.  Take some time today to reflect for yourself. Are you helping others, or hindering them?

“Look to the helpers” as Mr. Rodgers would say.  My challenge is that whenever possible, we should be helpers as well.

In the end, we must decide who we are and who we want to be.  I know we as educators already seem to be prone to stress, anxiety, depression, and more. Because of this, I choose to be a light.  I am not anyone else’s hero, just something to aide them along the way.  Something to help them when the darkness sets in or they need to find their way.  I try to live this way.  Sometimes I fail, but so do we all.

 

This same thing applies to kids. They are people too.  We can either help them or hold them back.

How are you finding ways to help? How can we help one another?

Balance is the Story of Life

Balance is the Story of Life

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Born into a world  adrift

We roll with the waves

trying to hold our salty breath

Going under  only to resurface

A perfect balance alludes us.

 

As we seek to understand and determine how to find balance in our lives, remember that balance is not a static act.  Like the tight rope walker, we move forward making constant corrections.  We stay afloat by making constant corrections. Balance is a fluid thing. It isn’t something you find, or something you achieve, it is something you do.  Balance will never be perfect.  It will always tilt toward one direction or another.  Our goal is to stay afloat, not to be sucked under for too long at any one time.

 

 

 

What’s In a Name?

I want to talk about Branding.  Educators, schools, consultants, it seems to be the big thing in the education world.  Over the past several months I have been thinking more deeply about branding because of my upcoming book, the podcast, and this blog.  I have a message I want to share with the world, and using my “brand” could theoretically help me get it to them.  I have had this conversation several times over with different people, found interesting viewpoints from different audiences, but time and time again I am drawn back to the same fundamental issue I have with branding: I am more than one thing.

Last weekend while I was enjoying another incredible ECET2NJPA event (I am fortunate to have been at 3) someone asked me, “hey, you’re that breakout guy? right?” In fairness I was presenting a session on breakouts, one I have given many times.  I have also built a number of games both physical and digital and share them widely.  That’s not the point.  The point is that I struggled with the label.  Afterwards, while I was talking with a new friend, she recommended, “Just go with it.” The reality is, breakouts are something I am good at.  It is just one minor piece of a much larger puzzle.

I have thought about what branding might look like, might mean for me, and for me all I can settle upon is this: I am me.  I have many passions, an occasionally odd sense of humor, a tendency to overuse gifs on social media, and a love for debate.  Even these brief descriptors, as accurate as they are, fail to come close to explaining me.  Branding is an odd concept in education. I see where it can be useful, but I also see it as limiting.  So, as I will almost certainly share, and likely  overshare what I do, I refuse to confine myself to being a single label. All of us should aspire to be more.

Isn’t This What Student Voice is All About?

All across the country students in middle and high schools are having the same conversation: should we walk out?  They are asking the question of each other and starting to ask their teachers.  As a teacher there are some caveats, we are always told we should remain politically neutral.  Whether you believe that or not is a wholly separate discussion.  What does matter is how we respond to students who are asking these questions.

I hear people all over the world talk about how much they value Student Voice.  So many in education have followed the trend to embrace student voice.  So when your school has a walk out, when your kids start to stand up for something and actually use that voice to make a difference, what then?  You don’t even have to agree with their position, only support their ability to use their voice to make a difference.  I have heard of schools that have threatened students who plan on walking out as a means of protest.  I have heard of schools instructing teachers to barricade the doors.  How can we say we support student voice if we don’t actually allow them to use their voice?

Our school just had an incredible assembly that chronicled the lives and actions of young people during the Civil Rights Movement through images, stories, and songs.  It focused on how so many of the people involved in protests, marches, and speaking out were young people.  Many of the most important moments that took place during the movement did so with the help of students.  Their voices mattered. They stood for their beliefs, knew the consequences of their actions, and persisted anyway.  The assembly was created to remind our students that they have power in their voice.

Student voice isn’t about the ability to pick between using Google Slides and using a 3D design.  It also isn’t just about making school lunches better. I tell my kids when they start the year that I want them to make a difference in the world.  I tell them that they matter.  So what do I do? What do I say? If I don’t support them then how do I pretend to support student voice? I will undoubtedly be joined by countless other teachers over the next few months in making a choice.  While many schools will support student voice, many will try to suppress it.  What we do then will be telling.  I only hope to be able to live up to my own words and help my kids learn how to use their voice for good.

Here is a link from the ACLU to help your students learn what consequences their actions may have if they choose to walk out.

The Road Goes Ever On

For almost four years I have maintained this space as a place for me to share my reflections, ideas, thoughts, and recommendations on all things in education and beyond.  I have found incredible value in using the space to think through and begin to understand all that I have seen in my career.  This space has been good to me, and for a while, I was good to it.

Over the past year or so I have moved away from blogging. In part, because of the various other projects, I have been building upon, but in part, because I wasn’t sure what else to say.  After having written somewhere between 400-500 blog posts it almost seemed like I may never feel moved to write this blog again.  But I have found a renewed vigor and passion for this space.

Over the past six months, I have been pouring my soul into a new project. The Teacher’s Journey.  In it’s most simplistic form it is a book about life, learning, and helping others.  To me, however, it is so much more than that.  It is the romance I have with education and where I see myself in it now.  It is no longer enough to just be great in my classroom, I only get to teach so many kids in my career after all.

The Teacher’s Journey, the book, the podcast, and now this blog will be devoted to helping teachers recognize who they are, what they need to thrive, and how we can all give that back to others.  This is just the beginning. The calm road that leads from home.  Though we all may view the paths we walk in different ways, none of us should have to walk them alone.  I look forward to sharing this incredible journey with any and all of you that care to share the road.  You will be able to follow along with the entire Teacher’s Journey at http:www.theteachersjourney.net 

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Another Year, Another #OneWord2018

 

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Another year, another #oneword post for me to share with the world.  In 2017 my word was Voice.  While I don’t know if I did that the way I was planning on doing it, I definitely found my voice in a few new ways.  I certainly didn’t blog more and I also don’t think I am more active on twitter.  I did however give my first ignite talk thanks to friend and fellow innovator Kat Goyette during Tech Rodeo.  I presented in new an interesting places, started a YouTube show, became an innovator mentor, and had my words published in two collaborative projects (one upcoming in 2018).  I published a second children’s book and have nearly finished an education book on professional growth, a writing that is significantly longer than anything I have ever done.  I have moved much of my voice from the 140 character blasts to address greater hopes.

 

I always find it important to reflect on the year through this lens.  It reminds me that of where I was last year at this time, where I am now, and where I want to go.

This year my one word is Grateful.  I have a tendency to look to the future.  I also tend to focus on what I still want to accomplish.  There are so many things.  The unfortunate side effect is that I don’t take time to stop and take stock of the wonderful and amazing things I have in my life.

I have a great many things to be grateful for in life.  This year I plan to find ways to appreciate them.  I haven’t decided if it will be a weekly blog post, video, podcast, or something totally different.  I have decided however to take some time each week to reflect on something for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for my incredible family and the joy we had this year in welcoming our baby boy Lucas. I am grateful for having had so many incredible opportunities of the past few years.  I am grateful for the wonderful people I have found as mentors, friends, and connections that have helped me achieve so many of my goals.  I am and always have been someone who looks upon the horizon, trying to reach out for the next step.  It is time for me to take stock of the many reasons to be grateful, large or small and to be mindful of all the good I have found in my life.

So you did #HourofCode Now What?

 

Coding in the classroom, thank goodness we did that for that one week in December.  Time to put it away until next year when we can give a single week to Computer Science yet again.  Most people don’t really say that, but that is the way Hour of Code is treated all too often.  We celebrate and become aware of this important field for a few days or maybe even a few weeks before moving on.  What doesn’t happen? We don’t find ways to meaningfully integrate code into our student’s experiences of education.  It isn’t about using coding in some way that is separate from the rest of life, but in using it to solve problems, create new things, and express what we know.

If you are lost in that endeavor, you are not alone.  Fortunately, there are many coding opportunities to continue the learning for you and your students.  I have never written about a product specifically before, but CoSpaces is something I use often with my own students.

 

One of my favorite ways to incorporate coding is through projects in CoSpaces.  CoSpaces is the combination of two incredible fields in computer science: Virtual Reality and Coding.  With this students can create anything in a 3 Dimensional world and make it come to life.  In my classroom I have used it for multiple subjects. It tends to be easy for the classes to pick up and hard for them to put down.

The best part about CoSpaces though, is their responsive, helpful team of developers who meet the needs of their users as often as possible.  I am thankful to share with the world that they are doing that once again by creating a new, FREE version of CoSpaces Edu.  That’s right, so, one less excuse for integrating some meaningful computer science into your regular curriculum.  I don’t often talk products, and in fact I am typically a big proponent of trying everything and or making your own.  In this case, there simply isn’t anything else like it.

You can read about CoSpaces Edu Basic here: CoSpaces Edu Basic Press Release.

I have also posted a few projects my classes have done using CoSpaces Edu on our Fernwood’s Future Site.

Here is a preview of the possibilities I made last year. Since then it has gotten to be even better!

 

SO if you started with #HourOfCode start taking the next steps. Start coding actual learning experiences with your kids.  It provides them with incredibly meaningful opportunities that will engage your kids in new ways.

What Do We Remember?

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The saying “we will never forget” is burned into the legacy of my generation.  We went to bed in one world, and woke up in the next.  Everything changed.  I was half asleep, just waking up for my second week of classes when my roommate’s dad called and woke me up.  I can still picture the phone we had in our room, turning on the TV, so many details from that morning are etched into my memory.

I also remember a friend on my hall, new from India, who we stood by to protect.  He found himself feeling unsafe in public, not because he was doing anything wrong, not because he was a Muslim (he wasn’t), but because he was brown skinned.  We all made sure we went with him whenever he had to go somewhere.  He didn’t travel around alone for nearly a month.  I also remember the interesting, powerful conversations I had with another hall mate and friend, Adnan.  He was both Muslim and Pakistani, and one of the nicest, most peaceful, intelligent men I have ever met.  I also remember the helpers.  A whole college full of kids that made their way to the nearest hospital to donate blood while waiting to find out if Flight 93 was heading toward nearby 3 Mile Island.  The auditorium full of young people sharing uplifting stories, or the friend I hadn’t met, who lost his mom in the towers.  I remember so much of those days.

Fast forward 16 years.  What I remember and associate most with September 11th isn’t terror, isn’t the horrific change in the world that took place on that day, but the story of one man, Joseph Tomasello.  He wasn’t a first responder, though I have a good story about one of them too.  He was a helper. Called to duty by his country to help sort through the debris and rubble.  He was given inadequate safety supplies, but he worked tireless hours to help clean and sort through the mess.  He is the person I now think of most, that I remember most.  Mr. Tomasello has since passed from a years long battle with cancers he gained while working in the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings.  The most memorable thing I remember is asking him, “Do you ever regret that you did it? Do you wish you had said no? You wouldn’t have cancer now.” he looked at me and said, “I will never regret my service to my country, nor to the people who suffered during that day.  Do I wish I had better gear? Sure. But if you are asking if I would have not gone knowing what the outcome would be? No. I would go every time.”

I am always in awe of his conviction to helping others.  This is the legacy we must remember.  We won’t forget the many images that those planes burned into our minds. If I never saw the films again, I would still be able to picture it clearly.  But what we must truly remember, is the spirit of the promise of America. Together we can do great things. Our nation has forgotten all that we hold dear only 16 years after that fateful day.  People like Joseph Tomasello deserve better, and so do we all.