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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blessings and Stressings: Reflections from Home



A Break from Traveling
Since July I gave myself five months off from travel. There were simply some things to attend to. My youngest son needed to be tested in more detail (he has dyslexia and a form of ADHD) and my older two - one in high school and one in middle school needed a chauffeur and a cook each night.  Life begins at home and if I should raise children who do not contribute to this world in a positive way then no matter what else I do, in my own mind, I'd be a failure.

Also, we have had the Eracism project to kick off and have been struggling and trying to raise money for the Flat Classroom conference in Mumbai, India still need about ($20K to do a few things we feel like we need) as well as other upcoming projects.  I picked up running the week after NECC (using the amazing Couch to 5K app on my itouch) and have lost another 10 pounds since then and ran my first 5K about four weeks a go (this weekend I run another.)  I'm totally addicted to running and I enrolled my youngest son in Tae Kwon Do two days a week while my husband and I run-- he has lost weight and my husband and I have as well and he has his first testing Saturday.


Opportunities and Challenges
Additionally, I've had several book offers but also have been strongly considering self publishing as well.  I've had to enmesh myself with the legalities of Intellectual Property with some contracts coming my way that literally would have taken Flat ClassroomTM from Julie and I, should we not have been savvy and alert.  It is upsetting but the "nature of the beast," I guess.

Kim Caise has been hired by Elluminate to help Julie and I 20 hours a week with the tremendous growing Flat ClassroomTM projects which we are struggling to keep free, doling out money from our pockets at this point a little too often.  We've also got some proposals out to work with some groups to take some Digital Citizenship education resources out further to others with the Digiteen model.

Computer Lab is Dying
Meanwhile, I am teaching in a 5 year old computer lab with computers dying on me and no money to replace them and working on grants to try to raise the $60,000 I need for upgrades at the school and to just keep my SANITY! Our school is actually growing (surprising) and my classes are bigger than ever and now EVERY class has a major global collaborative piece in it.

Needless to say, it has been busy, but a different kind of busy.  I've really had the time in the classroom I needed to innovate and help my students get grounded before I take off to speak in New York in January, keynoting TICAL in Little Rock, Arkansas in February, co-leading Flat Classroom Strand at ASB Unplugged in February 2010, keynoting MACUL in Michigan in March, my students and I will be leading a leadership workshop for librarians at Valdosta State College in March, and keynoting the TNT Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May and of course ISTE 2010 in Denver, CO.  Talking with a few schools about the summer and organizations about next year and I may have  a few spots that will come available in April/May.  (If you want to talk about what you're doing, just email me to see if we can work it out.)

{Oh, and tomorrow night, November 12 at 7pm EST, I'll be presenting online about Differentiated Instruction and Global Collaboration as part of George Siemen's Online Learning PD Activities (he has some amazing presentations lined up tomorrow.)}

I've got a lot on my to-do list - updating my websites, creating a new website for me, a new elementary science Flat ClassroomTM project, and lots of other things needing handling.Really it is quite overwhelming.  K12 online 2009 presentations (we wrote 3 proposals hoping for 1-2 acceptances and then learned they likely accepted everyone -- well, if they're going to do that, I'm NOT going to do that again and submit one!!)

Halfway Between Hyperventilation and Blackout
Although right now I'm in a break from the conference thing, my life does seem about halfway between hyperventilation and a blackout.  Picking up kids and running places - long late night trips home from ballgames and shopping for a pageant dress for my 6 foot size 4 daughter!  These are the things of life and they are great but it is quite fraying on my sanity! My husband has had to downsize his department from over 120 staff to around 30 and it has been hard on him. (They are dependent on automotive work.)

You know, it is easy to look at someone's life and think they have it easier or better.  My husband got a nice handy little PAY CUT which was unannounced along with all the other employees of his company, so we've had to do a huge share of belt-tightening like many of you.

So, this morning when I woke up feeling pretty rough and knew that I had another full day of Justin Reich, wiki uber-researcher (and now a good friend) observing my classes today, this was the only thing I could tweet:

Overcoming hardship is only glamorous in the movies made years after the tears and sweat have evaporated.
http://twitter.com/coolcatteacher/status/5616541396

Guess I'm sharing all this to bring those of you who are my friends out there or who somehow think that other people have it easy in some way that, it is rough all over! One of my "pet peeves" is when someone calls me a "rock star."  At first, it was cool, but somewhere while running around the track these past months, I realized that I don't want to be anybody like that -- (I mean who wants to be a super popular, lack of privacy alcoholic drug addicted sex addicted mega-millionaire anyway if we play on all those stereotypes.) 

I'd really rather be a normal person out here who encourages other normal people to strive to be excellent in their profession of loving and educating this amazing generation of students in our classrooms. Truly, the lowest points of being able to help anyone are when I started believing that stuff and that somehow the fact that some really cool people read my blog that it made me right all the time.

My dear friend, Terry Freedman always makes me laugh when he says "I'm quite proud of my humility."  Well, it isn't about being humble - you can be confident without being arrogant.  To me, it is about being usable and relevant - usable to be used to help others achieve and do and learn more and relevant so that perhaps some of you can identify with this woman who put her keys in the refrigerator yesterday but still somehow manages to educate her students well.

Pie Day
This past Sunday was "pie day" in my house - the self-proclaimed day after Fall Festival when everyone is allowed to eat any homemade pie or cake that they won at the Fall Festival the night before.  Well, we won 12 pies and 3 cakes!! Not kidding! It was too much -- so I froze some of them for later. If we'd gotten in to all those pies, it would NOT have been pleasant and we would have ended up wasting some of it. Well, in my life I sort of feel like I felt when I looked at all those pies on my table Saturday night - that if I try to take it all on it is too much - -that I'm outmatched and am not up to the task.

So, I ramble up to a couple of points here:
  1. If we really look at our lives, we are all blessed in many ways: family, friends, children, rewarding careers.
  2. If we really look at our lives, sometimes the blessings are also stressings:  family, friends, children, careers.
  3. The Blessings and Stressings are Part of Life:  Get Over It, Get Up, Get Going and sometimes Get a Nap!
Today, when my students in the Arab Israeli Conflict Simulation where sharing the most important things that they had learned, one of the students playing Barak Obama said,

"I've learned that these things take time and all these other world leaders want results NOW but it just takes time to work these things out.  Sometimes freaking out makes the situation much worse - you basically have two choices - blow everyone up and make  a mess or take your time and work it out and improve things for everyone."

OK, so he said it - but I listened for my own personal life.  If I freak out, it makes the situation worse.  If I blow up -- it makes a mess.  But if I just take my time, plod ahead and do my best, I can improve things continually for everyone:  my family, friends, children, and career.

Blessings and Stressings
These Blessings and Stressings are part of the fabric of life and if you haven't noticed we're all having to cut budgets, cut out expenses, get creative, and keep our chins up. (Yes, I said chins! ;-)

I don't know about you - I've got a life to live here and why on earth am I going to ruin it whining and having a pity party about any of my struggles - there is always someone with more and always someone with less.  I am thankful I do have a God to take these worries to each morning to help me through them. Who am I to think that somehow I "deserve" to live in the best time in history? (As if there were a best time.) 

Did our forbears deserve to live through the great depression and 2 world wars? 

There is more than enough hard work to go around but if I 've got to do it anyway, golly pete, I'm not going to fuss about it. 

You know, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill and Ghandi were not born into happy go-lucky fun times when everyone could afford a vacation, they were great because they had great leadership, insight, and vision and they were able to inspire people who would have been hopeless otherwise. 

They were able to somehow stand up against the tides of dissent and cesspools of despair to churn up their own tidal wave of change that rocked the shores of society!

This is a time of great change for all of us. If you look at when societies struggle, it is when they somehow think that money can buy anything worth having.  Money CANNOT buy as good of an education as having an involved caring parent and teacher and hard working administrators.  Money CANNOT pull a nation or world out of economic depression or recession-- only hard work and wise counsel. 

The problem with many of us is that we'd rather watch TV for four hours a night than to spend that time with our kids or helping them do homework.  WE don't complain about the kid who plays on the Xbox for 20 hours a week, but God forbid the teacher send home 30 minutes at night!  If you asked us to restrict kids to 30 minutes of TV a day, we'd balk.  Where are our priorities?

I hope that we will all take a look at what is happening and realize that we can't spend money we don't have, that we have to choose how to spend our time and not allow it to go down the drain of mindless activity and that no matter our generation or the strife of our societies that we can, my friends, choose our attitude.

Thank you for allowing me to ramble. I'm always nervous with such a long, stream of consciousness post that I'll have mistyped or said something wrong here -- "In many words is folly" and the more I write the more likely I'll mess up by mispeaking or writing. 

My Heart ForYou
However, my heart for you, my friends out there, teachers, educators, and technology buffs is one of wanting to encourage you whereever you are, whatever you're going through to get up, smile at the sun (or the Son as in my case), enjoy the snow on your eyelashes or fragrance wafting towards your nostrils and:

see the blessings around and have a good attitude towards the stressings that are also inherent in life today.

Keep the faith.  Don't quit and remember, as my Granny always said,

"Sometimes you gotta let the rough end drag and it is OK!"




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