Where Am I Going?

First off, a very quick update: My wife has been pregnant, and we’re about 23 weeks in (more than half-way there). She’s beautiful, she’s wonderful, and we cannot wait until we get to meet our baby boy Theodore ❤

DSC03203-03

This was taken at the half-way point.

So as we’re preparing ourselves to become parents, one thing comes to my mind: career. There’s a ticking time bomb in my honey’s belly, and when it erupts, I need to make sure that I’m setting myself up for a career that will both be fulfilling for my soul, but also be monetarily capable of providing for my family. I am lucky that Lily will be the breadwinner in our family, but that should not make me complacent with my own position in my career.

I need to make more money, and teaching like this will not help me achieve that.

There are ways to squeeze out some extra cash in my district. I could be an adviser, I could teach summer school, or maybe even have a crack at doing some tutoring. There are plenty of avenues to make some extra cash in education, but it seems like there’s too much work added on for the few hundred or thousand that it would yield. The growth of my career will allow me to make about $90,000/yr… about 20 years from now. When I’m 50. That just won’t do, and who knows how much that will change over the years, given how volatile the American Education System is right now (and it does not look like it’s going to get much better anytime soon).

The common trend for most people in my situation is to go back to school, get a master’s degree, and join the administration. I could, if I pushed myself, become a principal or even a superintendent one day if I go that route. To be more humble, I could also pursue a degree in being a guidance counselor, which I think I could do a decent job at. I’ve considered those two routes extensively, but I know at least where my heart lies: neither.

 I want to be in educational tech.

At least in my district, there seems to be a massive misallocation and mismanagement of investment into technology. You always hear these hyperbolic motivational speakers ranting about how America is falling behind in the tech department and so needs to bring their education up to speed on it. Well, my district at least attempts that, but squanders a big chunk of what vital tax-payer money we receive.

  • We provide students with laptops that are not built to last (and are so bottom-of-the-barrel that they end up failing within a few months) and also a lack of infrastructure to keep up with maintenance. So we say we are one-to-one, but in reality we are not.
  • We have, as a staff (in my place at least) that is technologically illiterate. We prefer to use pencil and paper simply because it is what we know, and we are afraid of treading into foreign territory.
  • We are battered and overwhelmed with a large number of third-party programs, applications, websites, and “tech” tools. This would normally be a good thing, but the lack of integration and ease ends up boggling even the more seasoned veteran users of technology. Test taking programs, math assistance programs, that one website that students can use to check their grammar, and the millions upon millions of dollars we promised to Blackboard Inc. to provide us with a horrible user-unfriendly and outdated workflow management system… these things run the staff into the ground, and thus run the students into the ground with them.
  • The training provided to both staff and students is abysmal. We aren’t taught how to utilize the tools at our disposal, and whenever we are, it is in the most pain-staking way possible. (We once had a training where we had to listen to a monotonous speaker showing us heavily distorted images and watching a video of a dude watching a video) We are given tools and not taught how to use them before being ordered to use them.
  • We are just archaic in so many senses. We waste paper by creating “order forms” for things like copies, discipline, and other administrative tasks. We have so many redundancies and inconsistencies in just the way our system functions that every single task becomes incredibly tedious.

The administrators, the teachers, and ultimately the students are then turned off by technology because of these things, and it pains me to see it because it is not difficult. The whole point of technology is to make life easier, not more complicated!

stock-photo-asian-frustrated-businessman-cutting-his-computer-with-a-big-scissors-93040882

F*** this s***, bruh

Technology is Horribly Implemented

That’s where I want to come in and help. This is where I want to focus my career, and this is where I want to build my legacy. I want to be the teacher (or even the tech coach or tech adviser) who is responsible for making the little everyday things in the classroom run smoother because of technological integration. I want to be the one who smooths all the bumps and pockets of disruption caused by misunderstanding. Let me make this clear though: I do not want to be in IT. I want to be a tech-minded educator.

I want to teach teachers and staff to incorporate Live Documents. I want every student to use Edmodo or Google Classroom (and thus Google Drive) so that they can never lose their essays or homework assignments again. I want to create a paperless system so that teachers can navigate through their essential tech tools without feeling like they’re digging through a pile of junk. I want to figure out a way for schools to embrace social media instead of avoiding it and being fearful of being destroyed by it. I want to teach the teachers, the administrators, the support staff, and the students how to use certain tools to make their lives easier and also make school more engaging. That’s what I want to do.

My game plan is simple: if I stay within this district, I’m now under the strong impression that I need to really champion for myself. I’ve been very humble since the start of my career. I’ve helped teachers learn some of the district-pushed technology (despite my qualms for it), and I’ve even gone out of my way to teach teachers some of the things that I use (in regards to tech) for my classroom. I need to make myself more known. I need to establish my credibility to my superiors that I am capable and adept at pushing technology to the staff and to train them.

Will this remove me from the classroom? Yes and no. If I become a tech coach, I won’t be able to teach as much, and that’s okay. My students will no longer be children, but adults (and actually, probably students eventually when I need to push something). I will be able to affect more individuals and allow learning to be achieved in a tech-friendly environment.

The Dream State?

A coworker of mine–Paul–and I spent a lot of time last year day dreaming about this, but we have an idea. We want to start up our own consulting firm centered around this idea–to push on tech incentives and to teach teachers how to use technology in their classrooms and to teach schools how to use technology to their advantage. I don’t even know where to begin with this kind of thing, but that’s where I want to be. I want to set my own hours, work on a topic that I find to be extremely satisfying and exciting (and fulfilling most importantly). This is where I think I will be able to have a lasting impact. This is where I will have my legacy (at least in terms of career, because my boy is going to carry on my legacy <3).

 

Advertisements

Random Teaching Ideas #1: Interdisciplinary Gym Class

I guess this will be a very random series. As you may already know, I am a teacher at an inner-city school district somewhere in NJ (not that hard to figure out if you’re a decent internet stalker). My students are very behind in their fundamentals, emotional growth (at least in terms of respect because some of them have been through more life events than I have), and are the victims of a questionable upbringing and very flawed system stacked against them. Many of my students have already grown to be detached from school at an early age. I won’t get too much into it, but if a teacher has one reckless and rowdy student, that’s manageable… but to handle a class that is 50% of those kids, a lot get through the cracks as the teacher tries his/her best to establish control.

cimg8561

Engagement is extremely difficult with my students.

At least the purpose of this series (which I will populate randomly throughout my time here on WordPress) with ideas that can hit some higher levels, ideas that I should probably expand on later (and tie it with the common core standards), and keep in mind as I plan throughout the year.

So here we go.

Interdisciplinary Gym

Interdisciplinary stuff is always great. The best. It adds a nice spice and an extra level of depth when it comes to teaching. It teaches the core skill or brings about understanding in multiple disciplines, and is thus killing two birds wit one stone.

Rationale

The students of my school love sports (at least most of them do). They are greatly athletic, competitive, and enjoy some good ol’ physical exertion over mental strain. However, we don’t want our students to just physically test themselves. We want them to push their brains to the limit, we want them to reach new heights of the metaphorical knowledge… mountain? I don’t know. So the purpose of this assignment/project is to get students to do what they always do in gym: learn about their health, fitness, and sports; but also to incorporate elements of other disciplines to complicate things and to make the kids think about what they’re doing instead of just doing it.

Sorry Nike, you won’t simply do.

The following are just some ideas–obviously you can come up with a plethora of scenarios and equations that can have students compute before trying it out.

Assignment 1: How to Throw a Ball

Throwing balls is a pretty fundamental idea in sports and athletics. Baseball, football, cricket, whatever… it’s there. Point made.

We can have kids throw balls all the time in random sports and it’s all fine and dandy, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to teach the students the logic and mathematics behind a good throw? This one hits home a bit to me because I cannot throw. I do not know the proper technique nor do I know the logic behind a perfect throw. I don’t know the right grip, the right motion, nor the perfect point of release.

Students can watch some instructional videos on how to throw a ball while simultaneously going over a lesson from the school’s physics teacher about inertia or the transfer of power or something. I don’t know because I’m not a science teacher and science was probably my worst class growing up. The students can practice their hypothesis on the best way to throw a ball in certain situations, then present it to their gym and science teacher at the end of the project (demonstrating how to throw a baseball precisely and quickly, a basketball’s perfect arch, a throw-in for soccer, etc…)

The fun thing is that, if done correctly, this will make students learn something that is extremely relevant to their interests. They’ll become better players because of it, and because they will see that this improves their game, they’ll value the importance of science and math.

Assignment 2: Student Stats

A simple running test and study. Students can study each other or themselves with this, by following a simple guide where they can analyze their speeds in different settings: sprinting, jogging, and all in between. This is already present in gym class whenever they do the fitness test, but that’s moreso measured by the teacher themselves. To make this more fun and engaging, students can create their own sort of video game bar to gauge where they stand physically.

fifa character bar

Imagine if students can create their own sort of physical stats sheet?

Now… I get it. Kids are insecure beings, and so to have their physical capabilities drawn out like this can lead to some crazy embarrassment, but I believe this can be outweighed by incorporating stat bars that are completely subjective (because it’s not like this assignment is an official document supported by any organization) like cleanliness, personality, etc…

Well, it’s just an idea. Man, I really wish I were a gym teacher right now.

Assignment 3: Physical Words and Body Language

This one I actually like and I think I’ll use it in my classroom in the future. It will require more research than just top-of-my-head thinking. Vocabulary is being pushed around heavily in my school, and I feel as though I’m very lacking in this aspect of teaching. In this assignment, students will be given some very specific vocabulary words. With those words (and they are given the definition), they will have to physically act those words out. Simple, but you can always add extra layers of depth by having kids use Snapchat or Instagram to spread the learning around.

Some Examples of Vocabulary Words

Another idea along these same lines is what I’d like to call “Body Language” which is, to provide students with all the emotions that a human can produce, and tie it in with some everyday physical activities. For example, students will learn how to walk happily, or angrily, etc…

1jvvsrp

(happily walking) This would be a great way to teach adverbs.

I always feel like gym class is so underwhelming in my school. Of course, I could be greatly wrong because I do not teach those classes and I am not in the gymnasium dealing with the hundreds-at-a-time students running around and screaming. However, these are just a few ideas that I imagine would add another educational layer to our students’ education. But… what do I know? Maybe all the kids really need in gym is to just go out there and get a mind-freeing relaxation period where they get to run around, go buckwild, and let out some steam without having to work their brains any more after classes.