Note: this post is not about education or technology. It kind of comes back around in Part 2, but it’s really more about me.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I posted something new here. It’s not because I don’t have anything to share, or because I’ve lost interest in blogging. Actually, I really miss it. But, I guess I needed a little bit of time away to focus on something else. For the last year I’ve been working on finding a more balanced approach to life than I’d had for the previous eight years or so. It all started on September 14th.
On September 14th (our first PD day of the year, coincidentally), I woke up with a shooting (and I mean shooting) pain in my upper-right back, just under my shoulder. It was so bad, I couldn’t move for at least an hour. I really couldn’t even talk. It was painful.
Eventually, when I could see straight, I realized that this must be my first gallbladder attack. I’ve had gallstones for a few years (because I have the beta thalassemia minor trait, and they’re unavoidable for me – but, hey, I’m less likely to get malaria), and I knew it would be coming, but I didn’t know when.
The Long Wait
This little wake-up call very early on a Friday morning began my adventure to remove my gallbladder, and as a side benefit, find a better balance in my life.
After confirming that it was indeed my gallbladder causing the problem, and finding a surgeon who spoke enough English to make me feel comfortable, I was informed that it would be at least six weeks before I could actually have the surgery (not that I was looking forward to a hospital stay, but I certainly did want to just get it over with).
Oh, and until the surgery I could eat no fats. Well, except olive oil. No chocolate, no cheese, no fried anything, no butter. No. Fats. Hmmm… to be honest, I had always wondered if I was a person with willpower. I mean, if a doctor told me I would die if I didn’t stop eating chocolate, would I do it? Turns out, yes, yes I would.
During this time I attended Learning 2.012 in Beijing, where the team took such good care of me that I had my own (fatless) meals organized in advance (thanks Mads and Annette!) and then participated in our week-long grade 6 Field Studies trip to Hakuba, where I flummoxed the hotel restaurant chef day after day with my bizarre food requests. And, yes, there may have been a few angry incidents in the grocery store as I discovered that fat is in everything delicious. But, I survived. And, I kind of felt better.
Six weeks with no fats and I wasn’t hungry all the time, I was eating more veggies, snacking less, and generally kind of proud of myself. But, let’s be honest, I was planning a cheese and chocolate party the day I came home from the hospital.
Here in Japan, doctors are very cautious. So, my gallbladder removal was a whopping six days, five nights in the hospital. (I think in the US it’s almost become outpatient surgery). Thankfully, I was in an outstanding hospital (Jikei University), with absolutely fantastic care, and had my own private room (with a bit of a view). Nevertheless, this was my first surgery, first inpatient procedure of any kind, actually, the first time I ever had more than a cold, so I was a little nervous. As luck would have it, I had a bit of a comedian as a surgeon. When I told him how nervous I was the night before, he said with a hearty chuckle, and arms spread wide, “Why are you nervous? I’ll be there!” Surprisingly, this made me feel much better.
It turns out my anesthesiologist was also a bit of a jokester. Just before he put me under, he showed me the anesthesia and said “You know Michael Jackson?” I nodded yes. He said “Same for you!” And I was out like a light. This was all after I waited for a few minutes in the surgery prep room with a soundtrack of the theme song to Star Wars. Actually, it’s a good choice to pump you up before surgery.
Anyway, everything went smoothly. I was gifted with my removed gallstone the day after surgery (although Alex got to see my actual gallbladder right after it was removed to prove the surgery was successful). I’ve named him Tim and he made it all the way home with me.
You might say that laparoscopic gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy for those who want to be technical) is no big deal. I think it’s actually the most common surgery in the world. But it was a big deal to me. And even though I had a very successful, and actually kind of pleasant, stay in the hospital, that week was enough to convince me that I never wanted to go back.
A Turning Point
So, after I got home from the hospital, I decided I was going to keep up the eating habits I developed before the surgery. I tried to eat cheese, but found I had really lost my taste for it. I knew that eating fried foods and other fatty choices would be hard to digest without a gallbladder, so I continued to stay away from those too. Plus, I was so happy to be less nervous about another sudden gallbladder attack that Alex and I were spending more time outdoors, enjoying the day, rather than working the day away. And before I knew it, I noticed a biiig change.
I was starting to become a healthy person. Not that I wasn’t healthy before, but now I was paying attention to the food I was eating, I was spending time outside, I was saying no to some aspects of working that I had always done without question before, I was prioritizing. And side benefit, in only two months after the surgery, I had lost 20 pounds. In five months, I had lost 40 pounds. At this point, I’ve lost a total of 60 pounds, and I’m still working towards another 10 – 15 (which is not nearly as scary or intimidating as it would have been a year ago).
I did not set out last year to lose weight. In fact, I’m sure I wouldn’t have done anything like this had it not been for the surgery, but I’m glad I did, and I’ve learned a lot more about what makes me happy in the process. So, although I’m not blogging nearly as much (although I haven’t stopped entirely, since I’m still writing on my various YIS blogs and my COETAIL blogs), I’m feeling increasingly better about myself, and starting to find ways to get back into positive old habits while retaining the new ones I’ve built in the last year.
What’s been really fun, over the past year, is how I’ve been able to merge my geekiness with my new healthy habits. I’m seeing a whole new side to technology that I really wasn’t taking advantage of before. And it’s awesome!
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll share all the geeky goodness I’ve been infusing into my more healthy lifestyle!
- On the way to the hospital by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Sunlight on the Bridge at WAB by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Sunrise Over Tokyo Tower by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Warning! You might not want to see my gallstone, but here it is! by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Beautiful day for a hike up Spencer’s Butte by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
One of my goals for this year is provide more opportunities for authentic student leadership, specifically in the tech support and training that we do with students and teachers. We have a very engaged and supportive learning community here at YIS, and in addition to our fantastic student councils at each division, we have a great opportunity to add more student leadership in an area where students are often the expert: technology.
Facilitating a Student Tech Team
Throughout my career as a teacher, I’ve always facilitated some sort of middle school student tech team. In some schools it’s been a hang-out time for students who enjoy spending more time with technology, in others it’s been more like an extra class where we have actual lessons, in other schools it’s turned into a movie making club or some other form of creative use of technology. In each school, of course, the dynamics of the community and the group of students have had an impact on how we spend our time.
Over the last two years at YIS, I’ve facilitated our Middle School Student Tech Team, and each year I’ve learned a ton from my students. My biggest take-away has been how much they want to share their expertise with others.
In my first year at YIS, the MS STT was a voluntary club, held after-school once a week. Because we had a majority of students in grade 6, who were learning about blogging in MYP Technology, we developed a STT blog. We used that space to share resources we found online, and to create a personalized one-on-one tech support for teachers during lunch or after school. Although we had some success with the teacher training, the after-school timing made it more difficult to stay focused and productive. Also, because the club was voluntary, we didn’t really have a true Middle School team (students were mostly from grade 6).
So, with the implementation of our Connected Learning Community last year, we have included a student representative (similar to a student council model) from every homeroom to create our MS STT. Having this equal representation from each homeroom has had a positive impact on the growth, the reputation and the skills set of our team.
Sometime in the middle of last school year, we realized one of the best ways for our team to share their knowledge was through tutorial videos. Each month, at our middle school assembly, the MS STT had at least one tutorial video to share. Of course, we had the blog from the year before, so that became the repository for all of our tutorial videos.
In fact, the MS STT became so good at creating tutorial videos, that they created the entire CLC Essentials for Students site with all of the training videos for our CLC Orientation this school year. This was a huge improvement to the way we introduced the laptops in our first year of the CLC, because now students can work at their own pace through a selection of student-created tutorials, and we had our MS STT lead the sessions at the beginning of the school year.
Now that we’re in our second year of the CLC, with a more established STT role in the school, thanks to their leadership in previous years, we’re ready to build in even more student leadership. During our first meeting this school year, I asked our team (of 17 students in grades 6 – 8) what they would like to do this school year, focusing on being more active leaders among the teachers, students and parents.
Here’s what we have planned:
The STT tutorials are popular with students and teachers, and having them all centrally located on our STT blog makes them easy to access. Our goal this year is to continue to help students become more efficient and effective with their technology use, prioritizing tasks and skills that we weren’t able to highlight last year when so many features of having a laptop were new to everyone.
So far this year:
- Idan (grade 6) has created a tutorial on using Google Calendar to record homework,
- Brian (grade 8) is working on one to show how to use Activity Manager effectively so that you can maximize the processing power of your laptop, and
- Aiden (grade 6) is creating one for organizing and managing files in Google Drive.
Teach the Teachers
Our STT is really excited to start leading more training with teachers. They want to run sessions that will help teachers understand why they use technology the way they do, and to help teachers become more efficient and effective with what they do on their laptops.
So far this year, we’ve had students featured at our first SpeedGeeking event of the year:
- Michael (grade 8) presented on Facebook privacy settings and how to use FB for academic purposes
- Keigo (grade 8) and Joseph (grade 6) shared an intro to iMovie
Based on their success, they will be offering after school hands-on sessions to any teachers or students that are interested in learning more.
In addition to featuring students at our SpeedGeeking sessions, they’ve also come up with a number of hands-on sessions to run during lunch times and after school:
- Ashley (grade 6), Charlotte (grade 7) and Jack (grade 7) are working on a blogging session,
- Keigo (grade 8), Brian (grade 8) and Joseph (grade 6) are working on a QuickTime and iMovie session,
- Idan (grade 6) and Loretta (grade 6) are working on a Making the Most of Your Mac session, and
- Idan (grade 6), Keigo (grade 8) and Brian (grade 8) are developing a session on Minecraft.
All of these will be offered to students and teachers, starting after our October break.
In addition to these group sessions, we’re also going to continue the one-on-one teacher support through a simple survey linked on our STT blog. Teachers can request a specific STT member, or topic, and a specific time to be trained. We keep track of all the training we’ve completed using a shared Google Spreadsheet.
We are very fortunate to have a 2-day orientation at the beginning of each school year. For the past two years, this has been primarily focused on introducing our Connected Learning Community. Next year will be our third year, so we would like to see more of a focus on team building and getting to know each other.
To support this more collaborative and social environment, we will have the STT lead the majority of our CLC-focused sessions. We have a team working on an a YIS Orientation iOS app, another team will work on developing age-appropriate activities, and another team updated and expanding the CLC Essentials for Students.
We have a very active and engaged parent community. A number of parents who regularly attend our Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings have requested one-on-one tech support. The first time I was asked, I thought maybe our superstar YIS-graduate tech support staffer, Kanna, could help. But then a few weeks ago, I was asked again, and thought it would be great to have a list of students willing to help, along with their specialties.
It was no surprise to me that when I shared this idea with the STT, they jumped at the chance! We’re just in the early stages of planning, but we’d like to have a central list of STT members (and others, if they’re interested, perhaps CAS students?) who would be willing to tutor parents in technology, along with a short bio, photo and their list of specialty areas.
Learning New Skills
Our whole team wants to learn more about technology. As we learn, we will teach each other. One of the teams is really excited about learning how to create an game for iOS devices (any experts out there? We’d love some help).
I’m really excited to see where this team will go! They have already organized themselves into sub-teams with leaders in each group who are responsible for reporting back to me on their progress. Each student is able focus on an area of personal interest or growth to add to our growing list of responsibilities. Already I’ve been impressed by the time and effort they have put in to each task – by our second week, the group had already asked for two meetings a week! Now we meet on Wednesday and Friday during lunch. I’ve also heard from other colleagues that whenever there is a tech problem in class, the STT members “swarm” in to help. It’s taken a few years to get this kind of energy about student tech leadership going, and we’re just going to keep on growing!
Do you have a student tech team at your school? What do they do? I would also love to see if we can collaborate with other student tech teams around the world – perhaps some Skyping to share tips? Or even starting some collaborative resources if we have similar school communities and needs? Interested?
- Student tech team filming & reviewing a laptop responsibility video on the fly with an iPhone by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- So proud of our MS Student Tech Team members for leading teacher training today! by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- MS Student Tech Team members teaching teachers during SpeedGeeking by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
Last week we started our second year of our Connected Learning Community (1:1 program) at YIS. Although our program ran really smoothly last year, including our first 2-day orientation at the beginning of the year, we learned a lot and made this year’s orientation even better!
Here are a few highlights:
One of the major improvements we wanted to make based on last year’s orientation, was to include more student leadership right at the beginning of the year. Since we had such an outstanding Middle School Student Tech Team last year, we thought they would be perfect to lead our hands-on laptop sessions during orientation. In order to make things as easy to manage (for the students) as possible, our five grade 8 Student Tech Team members, made a series of video tutorials introducing all the important skills for managing a student laptop at YIS.
Along with the video tutorials (see below), they were able to run the sessions entirely on their own (with the teacher to facilitate). Not only was this a great way to demonstrate student leadership in the school, but the teachers really enjoyed having the students lead the session. We were able to take the pressure off the teachers from having to teach all of those skills on the first day back, give the students a chance to lead, and allow the class to move at their own pace, work together and finish up on their own time.
Student-Created Video Tutorials Site
At the end of last school year, the Student Tech Team developed the list of skills with me and a few other middle school teachers so we would be sure to target the skills students and teachers really need. We spent a few lessons last June recording the tutorials so they would be ready to go right on the first day of school.
Over the summer, I took the tutorials they created, and compiled them into a simple, streamlined Google Site. This allowed our superstar Student Tech Team to lead the sessions during the scheduled times, and the rest of the students to watch and proceed at their own pace during the session, and to finish up at home.
This CLC Essentials for Students site has all of the basics that our students need to know to actively participate in our CLC. Over the year, we’ll add more videos as we create them, to continue to build a variety of skills for our students and teachers. I’m also planning to create a similar site for parents and teachers with video tutorials and resources relevant for them. Hopefully this series of Google Sites will become a one-stop-shop for everything each stakeholder group needs within the context of the CLC.
More Streamlined Schedule of Events
One of the great things about our orientation days is that they are completely off-timetable. We structure the days with the sessions as needed in order to make the most of our shortened school days. Last year we realized a few sessions were too short, others too long, and some not needed altogether. This year we revamped the schedule to better match the needs of the students, and we put the whole thing (including all the lesson plans) on our Digital Dragons Google Site (this is where we house our digital citizenship curriculum). Hopefully this made the sessions more practical and efficient, as well as making all of the resources easier to find for teachers.
Updated Parent Presentations
One of our very important sessions is for parents of new students and 6th graders to introduce the CLC (6th grade is the first year they can take their laptops home). Over the course of last year, we learned that parents needed more support in how to manage the new laptops at home. They were mostly concerned about balance and time management. So in May of last year, we hosted a great parent session with our admin team called Living With Laptops. We highlighted some of the strategies that we use at school to help students develop understandings about balance and time management and gave the parents an opportunity to strategize about how they can mirror those support structures at home.
This year, we used a slightly revised version of that presentation, with our own advice, along with tips and lessons learned from YIS parents, and added it to our introductory presentation. I’m thinking it was probably a lot of information – too much for most people to really absorb all in one go at the beginning of a school year – but it hopefully started some conversations. The best part is that we give these presentations to the whole family – the parents and their children together. Therefore the message about what happens at school, and what could happen at home, goes to the whole family at once, directly from us.
Updated Student Presentations & Activities
Since we’re in year 2 of our program, we are confident that most students understand the expectations, and we use this time to highlight both digital citizenship and general guidelines for behavior and use of laptops at school. We had:
- An image-based “quiz” for all students in grades 7 – 10 (returning to the CLC) to help remind them of our expectations, delivered by our admin team.
- A scavenger hunt for grade 6 to introduce them to all of the important people, places and expectations, run by the 6th grade tutors.
- A session on digital citizenship, using Common Sense Media lesson plans, in grades 6 – 8, to highlight the importance of online behavior.
- A discussion-based session in grades 7-8 with scenarios that actually happened last year (well, most of them) to help remind students about the expectations in our CLC.
- The hands-on sessions for setting up and managing your laptop, led by the Student Tech Team.
We are so lucky to have these 2-days of orientation at the beginning of the school year. It’s great to be able to ease our way back into the school year with some great opportunities for team-building and getting to know each other. This year, naturally, went smoother than last year, but it was still exhausting – especially for the MS Tutors. Basically, for MS Tutors it’s two-days of non-stop contact time.
Next year it would be great to have more sessions led by students, not only to give teachers a break, but to demonstrate how much our students can do. At the very end of last year, we had a fantastic visit from Robyn Treyvaud (more on that later) and she really inspired a number of our students to be more actively involved. I hope we can build on that momentum to design an orientation almost entirely developed and run by students!
The most challenging thing about having more student leadership at this time of year is that it’s actually the very first two days of school, and we haven’t seen the students since the year before. Of course we can’t ask them to come in early to prepare, and sometimes it’s hard at the very end of one school year to really envision and prep for the upcoming year. Having said that, I was really impressed at how professional and prepared our Student Tech Team members were this year, so I know we can do it again, but of course, any strategies or advice would be greatly appreciated!
How do you start the school year? Do you have any tips for building in more student-led events?
As part of COETAIL Course 3, which focuses on Visual Literacy, we talk a lot about design and often end up discussing (and comparing) résumés. I love seeing how different teachers represent their personality and philosophy through the way they share their experiences!
At our last COETAIL meeting for this school year, we happened to look at a few really unique examples: Sonya, Tasha and Jamie. In each résumé, you can really get a feel for each individual’s perspective and approach, simply based on the design and format. Looking at these examples made me realize that my résumé needed a lot of work. Even thought it’s served me well so far, it had just become an endless list of bullet points. As Jamie said when he looked at “you can tell you have a lot of good stuff here, but you don’t know what to do with it.”
So, inspired by Tasha’s look and feel (and Jamie and Sonya’s beautiful and unique designs), I decide to rework my résumé (and the rest of my professional portfolio). It’s not an infographic, or a visual résumé - not yet – but I am considering adding that option eventually. I also looked at Jeff’s, Scott’s and Angela’s for inspiration – I’m sure there are tons of other great examples out there, I just happened to remember liking something about each one of those at some point.
For now, I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve got, but I would really like some feedback!
I wanted to make sure that:
- the printed version was only 2-pages (down from a 4-page epic saga)
- the web version was streamlined and easy on the eyes (with plenty of white space)
- I highlighted the consistent themes from all of my work experience, rather than each job on its own
- my personality and approach was more prominent than just a list of tasks completed
- everything included in the two pages was worth reading
For the rest of my professional portfolio, I was really focusing on:
- showing a more personal side (rather than just the professional)
- highlighting the different types of consulting work I can offer (thanks to Angela for this idea)
- re-organizing my presentations page (which used to be a long list of slideshare and youtube embeds that took forever to load)
- featuring the workshops I can offer, separate from presentations, so that it’s easier for schools to see examples of my previous experience
- making it easy to keep my experience up-to-date more regularly (since I normally only update when I’m recruiting)
I’m not planning on going recruiting anytime soon, but I do want to apply for the MYP Workshop Leader training (which will have to be for next year since I clearly missed the deadline for this year), and I do want to make sure that it’s easy to find out more about me and what I can offer a school as a consultant.
I also really wanted to make my whole website look more like a portfolio than a modified blog. Thanks to Jeff, I discovered WPExplorer, who has tons of beautiful (free and premium) WordPress designs to choose from. This particular theme was so easy to customize, and ironically looks a lot more like my old portfolio from about 10 years ago that I designed with Dreamweaver (but this one was about a million times easier to create and modify!).
Although it may be a while before my portfolio is used for full-time recruiting, I think (hope) this design will still look good – simple, clean and easy to navigate, while highlighting my skills, experience and personality.
What do you think? What am I missing? Can you find out everything you would want to know without being overwhelmed with information? What should I change? Have you seen other great examples of educators’ professional portfolios that you can share?