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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Remembering who I am

Remembering who I am

I am not an avatar nor am I an id
I am not my twitter nor my SL identity
I am not my diigo and wikis aren't me
I'm a mom and a teacher in all simplicity.

Tis easy to get caught up in "being something" more
when what I am to be is often the two feet on my floor.
No one else can hug my kids nor wipe a wet tear
love the unlovely or calm the raw fear.

The pressure from "somewhere" to be some kind of star
is deceiving and distracting from helping us be who we are.
Balance, perspective, focus, and time offline
will become successful habits of the overachieving mind.

Reject the invisible hand that pushes you to stress
think what you want and how time should be spent best.
Choose your life's course, don't just flow with the stream,
you can be more...but it should fit with your dream.

Words from my heart
I love my true friends through the Internet. The amazing teachers and "real people" out there who are just the "salt of the earth" as we say in the south.

So many amazing people who are just wonderful and thrill me with their presence. I enjoyed unplugging last week during spring break so very much. I was literally offline and disconnected for 6 days! I really was able to spend time with my family and think.

When I returned and looked at my inbox, I saw it through a fresh lens. I am 37 years old and at this stage in my life, I already gave up one career to be a stay at home mom. My focus has to stay my family or I'll give everything up again!

This is what I saw:
  • A ton of Diigo invites and friends -- not a lot of "stuff" and pretty easy to handle, but still it was there.

    The effort of setting up a "new" network. Someone needs to handle this friend thing or there is going to be an inherent obstacle in starting something new. Now, I weigh heavily my decision to join anything. A lot of us do. This just reinforces that and although I believe Diigo is definitely a place to join, I will continue to think twice about where I join and what I recommend that others join as well!

  • About 10 emails from people I've never met, that have never commented on my blog and as far as I know don't participate in our educational communities ASKING to be a guest blogger on my blog.

    At this point, I have had one guest blogger. I share everywhere and I'm glad Louise made such an amazing post, however, I really feel like the one place online that is truly ME is this blog. This is me and who I am as best as I will share publicly, I guess.

    Having a blog that is gaining readership is exciting, but I still think that 1 comment is probably worth more to me than a lot of readers that might just have added me to their RSS in some workshop but never take a glance.

    I'm inspired by Dale Carnegie and remember sitting in my bathtub as a 6th grader reading his book How to Win friends and Influence People and not being able to put it down. Across the years he spoke to me and helped me.

    If I cannot help people, I don't want to blog. And when I hear from readers... the real people it means something. If I hear from people who are genuinely interested in education and me as a person, that is great too. If they want to tell their story, I love that.

    However, if I'm just someone that they want to use to accomplish their own thing and don't care a rip about me or my readers... just our pocketbooks... get lost.

    It is about authenticity and caring about real people.
  • Some comment spam - I had a few people who had good comments and several who just commented and had a link to their own work. The comments were like "nice blog, see what I'm doing here." Again, poor netiquette and comment spam.

    I can tell everyone from personal experience that this blog has been built upon my own commenting in other places and not just stingy posting here. Haven't had time to comment or read much lately, but I'll be doing that again soon!

  • Some cool messages and stories. I love those. I'll never forget the message someone e-mailed me from a coffee shop in Virginia about how a post had gotten to her at just the right time. She was discouraged and the post had her crying in her coffee with joy. Wow! To be a part of something like that means a lot to me. Those stories keep me blogging when I get discouraged.

  • Requests for appearances, workshops, etc. This is where I feel somewhat of a double edged sword. I'm booked through December of this year and that is fine with me. I'm very excited about the fact that Julie and I are working out the final details to offer a TWO DAY intensive Flat Classroom Workshop in July in St. Louis. We'll share more later.

    I want to help people and do things and meet people, but I'm only going to take three appearances a semester. I just have to do that. I want to be here for my family and my students and have done the travel thing. I don't want to go on the "rubber chicken eater" circuit (as Doug Johnson calls it.) I want to stay home with my children and run around on the farm. So, although many ask me when am I going to quit teaching... I can tell you... it ISN'T happening any time soon.

    I am contemplating the types of work that I will do when I do something... when I get out, I personally want it to be with the people who have the vision to do something with what I'm sharing. I think that more teachers are going to have such opportunities and it is important to be choosy or else you will just feel very, very burnt out.

  • A few freelance articles -- This is what I love to do... write! Writing, web appearances and a few in person things... that is fine with me. I dream of having my book on the rack in my books a million and on having an article that helps people understand technology in Woman's Day. Silly dreams, but it could happen.
So, you ask, why do you even share this stuff?

Well, I share it because there are some other teachers out there who may be struggling with being "sucked into the vortex." This vortex of educational change is like a wild stallion... you can jump on his back, but if you're not careful, he'll control your destiny and you'll not master your own.

There has got to be some common sense with all of this. (and lots of prayer) Everyone having instant access to everyone else is sometimes NOT a good thing, particularly when some of the people want to use you.

If you are just starting or really becoming "known" in educational circles, I just want to encourage you to learn from what I'm experiencing:

  1. Know your friends. They are often the people who talked to you and others when you were "nobody" and just starting out. Do they talk to beginners?... if not, watch out.

    If you're starting out, see how the "established" people treat you. If they treat you with respect, they're worth following.

  2. Filter Spam ruthlessly - Spam might be e-mails. It might be people who IM you constantly. It might be wasteful twitter accounts.

    If it is email and you use folders, filter that person or account if you really have to read it to one place so that you will not be distracted. If it is facebook or some other place, replace the e-mail with RSS. Take time to look at every e-mail and apply filtration rules. Can the spam and take back your life.

  3. Filter focus ruthlessly. I follow the time honored strategy of having a top 10 - to do list daily. I have a master list with the rest of the items, but this gives me focus. And yes, blogging was on my list today!

    I find that I have to take a hard look at the places that "suck me in" and won't let me go. And, when I go there (like twitter), I use a handy timer widget on my desktop that I downloaded from Google Desktop.

    I also made a folder in Google Reader called @HOTLIST (the @ puts the folder at the top of the list -- some people just name this Aardvark but that is a little silly.) This includes my 10 must reads of the day. This too is a secret, but I'll tell you that I often focus on those people who I know and work with pretty frequently as well as a few other sources who are dissenting or different viewpoints.

  4. Invest your time in things that save you time. I've been having a little trouble with airset, so I set it to synch to Outlook. I set outlook to synch with Google Cal and then started using an amazing site called Time Bridge to schedule my appointments. It lets me invite people to a meeting and give 5 times that work. People RSVP and it sets the appointment AND puts it on my calendar for the best time. Then, it reminds everyone automatically. Isn't that amazing?

    I also love using the diigo auto blog posting feature and replaced the delicious posting with this one which allows me more characters and thoughts for each bookmark as well as tagging and annotation. I'm not sure what I think about it yet and may set it to not post daily. Still thinking on this one. I don't know if I like the autoposting of the links. Before, I just spliced delicious into my feed only, and now my blog looks a little "linky" -- I wish I could customize the blog post from diigo a little more.

    I also love that I can twitter and access the standard tags for the Horizon projects from within diigo. All of these things make it a HUGE time saver for me.

  5. I have also used twitterfeed to post the things I KNOW I will post anyway. It just saves me time. This includes, the Wow2 show, Wow2 links and my blog posts. That is it. I've seen some use it to excess which means I unfollow their twitter in a heartbeat!

  6. A good old dose of common sense - When I feel like all of this "stuff" is stressing me out, I listen to myself. That is when I send myself offline. My mile wide rebellious streak kicks in and I take an little vacation from it all. This is why I refuse to get a blackberry. Online is PART of my life it is not my ENTIRE life! It will have its place and its limit or it will be gone. Period.
In this period of overchoice, we must learn how to make choices that make our lives better and help us further our dreams and mission in life.

It is OK to disconnect. It is important to remember that popularity comes and goes and not to get hung up on it. Be who you ARE not who you THINK people want you to be.

I guess it always bothers me when I see someone twitter
"I'm reconnecting with my long lost cousin"

"I'm seeing my grandad for the first time in a month."

It niggles at my mind that perhaps their fingers should be off the cell phone and their eyes and hearts should be connecting with those they love.

Like the mother I saw a couple of weeks trying to fly a kite when her son while talking on a cell phone... we still need the humans in our lives. We need to do a better job of focusing on the things in front of our noses.

If us tech-heads cannot achieve balance, people won't want what we have.

Master time lest it master you.

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