EduCon 2.8 // January 29-31, 2016

I want to tell you about EduCon. It weirdly changed my life.

EduCon is how I found SLA (and later how SLA found me). It's one of the reasons I didn't leave teaching the 38th time I almost quit.

The first time I came, a few years ago, I had never heard of EduCon, or of SLA, and barely of Philadelphia, to be honest. I happily tagged along with a colleague from the Writing Project with zero expectations.

It was January of my sixth year. I had worked enough to know progress existed, and seen enough to feel defeated and deflated. Burnout was a legitimate threat.

I had no idea how badly I needed a refreshing perspective about this thing that I do.

Unlike any conference I had been to previously, EduCon was hosted in an ordinary-seeming high school.
It appeared to be run entirely by the students.
The place was filled with people who cared about learning. I didn't see any vendors.

All of the sessions were conversations, where many voices were heard and participants were encouraged to connect and discuss and bring in their own experiences.
Socializing and networking were encouraged and facilitated. I met so many wonderful educators from all over the world.

I got to see inspiring classrooms in action. I pocketed about 800 ideas to take home.

We talked about real issues facing schools and classrooms. Every conversation was one I didn't know I'd been craving.

I mostly walked around and exclaimed, "YES! THIS!"
For two and a half glorious days.

I went back to my own teaching world feeling rejuvenated and excited to continue the conversations with the educators in my building and online with the folks I'd met in Philly.

Now. I had no idea I'd ever end up at SLA, or that I'd find myself a co-chair of EduCon.

But life is freaking nuts, y'all.

And I genuinely want to invite anyone reading this to join us.
Come to EduCon.
Be a part of the conversations.
Take the experience with you into your own pocket of education.

Our modest little unconference will take place this upcoming January, conveniently timed between the three-day MLK weekend and the Superbowl.

Register to join us.

And, better yet, propose a conversation for the weekend.

And I can talk about what an incredible experience it can be way, way more, if you'd like.
And I can answer all of your questions.
Please do reach out.

Will we see you there?

All photos from my Instagram, many EduCon moons ago :)

In My Brain // 09

Queen Of Earth // I saw this film this week (on a school night, y'all) and I can't stop thinking about it. The depth reached in this character study is incredible. I can't help but think of how my students would devour it and analyze the heck out of it. Check out the trailer.

Why Pronouns Matter // I love teaching grammar. (Honest. It's oddly thrilling for me.) I might order this to use for some added flavor in lessons.

14 Psychological Tricks Everyone Should Know // We're fascinating creatures.

Flair // I'm happily convinced that a comeback is realistic.

Heart Eyes // Charley Harper

My dear friend, Kristin, whose aesthetic sensibilities are always spot-on, recently taught me about the artist, Charley Harper. I know I'm way late to this party, but I can't stop scrolling through his works.

I'm especially taken with his "Animal Kingdom" series. He called his style "minimal realism." I love how simple colors, shapes, and textures result in such stylized pieces. Especially because this all came about before Adobe Illustrator forced artists to break things down that way.

I want all of the prints.

This one's my personal favorite:

Year 10. Let's go.

This September marks an incredibly gentle start to my tenth year.

The academic calendar is full of blocked-out closings; Jewish holidays plus the Pope's visit to Philadelphia allow for fewer than a dozen teaching days. A three day weekend, followed by a four-day weekend, followed by a five-day weekend.

The school gods are letting me ease back in for this one. In the previous nine years this has been far from the case.

Year number ten. School number three. The relief of not feeling quite so new anymore.

At this time last year I was expending all of my energy, and digging deep into the reserves, to keep my head above water. And I'd be lying if I said I was succeeding before, like, February.

But now. I spent most of last week giving attention and care to my students, making sure my advisees are set up for a great 11th grade year. Navigating rosters, adding and dropping courses, setting up internships, checking in on all of the feelings.

It was hectic yet peaceful. An I've-got-this kind of busy.

We have some rockstar new teachers at our school this year, and I'm finding myself very aware of their ... um ... eager apprehension.

That feeling isn't very distant in my mind. It wasn't so long ago that my eyes were darting confusedly around the room, that I had no idea what we were talking about or voting on during staff meetings, and I was filling notebook pages with questions to ask later.

I got to have some PD time with the new teachers before school started. I was glad to convey to them: If I can survive the madness of my story, then you're already eight steps ahead, and you've totally got this.

I spoke the mantra that helped me at least three times.

When you're new you have no idea how much is actually on your plate. You're swimming through a creek, which feels like doggie-paddling across the Pacific. Everything is hard, the small stuff is in your way, and even when you're doing it right it doesn't quite feel successful.

Year 10 so far reveals a comfort in the chaos. A calm in the constant running. I'm nervous about some of the new challenges I'm taking on, but ready to prove to myself that I won't screw them up. Because I've already survived, I have in the recesses of my mind an understanding that I'm okay.

So yeah. Here goes. Let's do this.

The First Back-To-School Nightmare

Last night I had my first teacher nightmare of the school year. 

I spent the entire dream holding my best I-will-wait-until-it's-quiet staredown, and I never got it. 

I stood there looking into the distance of my extremely long and narrow classroom (which is long and narrow in real life, but was exponentially so in the dream) and realized I couldn't even see into its distance; it probably packed 200 students into the class -- oh gosh I would never learn their names. 

At one point I squinted and saw in the vast distance one student get up and physically carry another student out of the room. I couldn't make sense of the situation, since I couldn't even really see those students from how far away I was, and I kept my stoneface and thought to myself, "Bah, I guess I'll figure out who they are and deal with it later." And then I waited some more.

The thing about my fitful sleep is,

I'm about to embark on my tenth year of teaching.

Ummmm, excuse me? What? When did that happen?

When I started I certainly imagined these dreams would be out of my life by now, that I would at this point in my career be sleeping soundly and having dreams where every student submits the assignment on time and gives me compliments about how much they learned while completing it. I would give a proud smile to each student and say warmly and honestly, "Oh, I can't wait to read this!"


This phenomenon is so humbling. Getting the sweats thinking about the first day of school is a weirdly pleasant reminder about this job: there are a lot of unknowns, I'll never learn all there is, I'm only one piece of an impossible monster of a puzzle, and every year is a brand new challenge. 

image source unknown

Classroom Decor Fantasy

In my fantasy teacherlife, there's a decor fairy that comes around every September 1st and delivers a special little monetary allowance for everyone to make their classrooms magical.

I'd spend it in a jiff and cover the walls with these treasures:

Nina Simone by HogArt Design // Let's Color America by Allison Kerek // T.S. Eliot & Coffee by ObviousState // "Science" Chart by Gritty City Goods

Also: Typography Posters For The Classroom