2009: Reflections on a Transformative Year

I'm not usually one to follow the crowd, but as I saw people tweeting out their 'end-of-year' blog posts, I figured that it might be a good idea, even if just for selfish reasons. 2009 has been a transformative year for me.  It has marked a complete shift in my professional life and as a result, my career has become more fulfilling and exciting.

I did not accomplish all of this on my own.  It was a slow progression, starting with the ISTE conference in June, when my world was expanded beyond my classroom, school and even district walls.

My year in review:

December 23, 2008: I started this blog with my very first post: The Purpose
June 22, 2009: I joined Twitter with the handle: mbteach
June 27: My first day at NECC 09, a life-changing experience.
July 11: I start to realized that my new Twitter and online world is taking over my life. Vicki Davis leaves a comment on my blog!
July 16: I decide to make a plan to go "OTG" when I need to in order to find balance in my life.
July 20: I attend my first Edublogs Elluminate session about Online Identity with Di Benard
August 4: I reflect on my summer job that includes very little technology and I use Glogster for the first time.
August 14: I reflect on my first #edchat experience.  Little did I know that #edchat would take over the Twitterverse for educators!
September 9: I realize and reflect on how important my PLN is to keeping me sane and to providing a strong community with which to learn and explore.
September 12: I speak with Aparna Vashisht from Parentella about #edchat and connecting teachers with parents and vice versa.  She later invites me to participate in the #140 character conference in LA, but I'm moving into my new house that weekend!
September 25: Received my Masters degree diploma in the mail from Saint Joseph's University. Completed an Instructional Technology Specialist program.
October 2: Shelly Terrell asks me to do a guest blog post on her blog, Teacher Reboot Camp. I write about Education in America.
October 5: I close on my new house!
October 9: A colleague and I take a group of students to a gallery to learn about David Kennedy, a Philadelphia artist from the 19th century.  I realize afterwards how important it is to get students out into the real world and expose them to new experiences.
October 20: I get my Google Wave account and begin playing around with Doug Peterson and Andrew Forgrave. 
October 21: I start a blog for our history project and make the first post. The response from my PLN astounds and excites my students. I start to realize how motivating writing in such a forum can be for students.
November 2: I attend a meeting at the district's main offices and receive an iPod touch without being told why or how I'm to use it in the classroom.  I also learn that I am infamous for my constant requests to have certain sites unblocked so I can use them.  A lesson in poor technology planning and in being a squeaky wheel.  Filtering issues start to look hopeful. Kind of.
November 14: I attend my first BarCamp, which proves to be a perfect storm of social media. I connect with fellow educators Kevin Jarrett, Dan Callahan, Rob Rowe, Kristen Swanson and Ann Leaness through Twitter and GoogleWave.  We use Google Docs to plan a session in a few hours and present it right before another Twitter colleague, Mike Ritzius and his fellow educators.  We are now in the process of planning a education-focused BarCamp (EduCamp).
November 23: One of my 6th grade classes video conferences with Gerardo Lazaro's 6th graders in Lima, Peru.  Gerardo and I used Skype, Wikispaces and Google Chat to pull it off. Hurray Social Media!  I see the power of communication across continents for my students.
November 26: I sit next to the chief financial officer for the School District of Philadelphia and learn a few things about 'Us vs. Them' attitudes. I realized it's stupid to play the blame game when students' futures are at stake.
December 9: I learn that my blog has been nominated for an Edublog Award. I am thrilled, honored and humbled by the recognition.  I also receive a challenge from my friend, Shelly Terrell to write about teachers who inspired me growing up.  I immediately jump at the opportunity and send the challenge out to more friends and PLN members.
December 10: I run a district-wide webinar on Social Bookmarking. A lot of teachers I 'know' through the district's tech listserv attend, and it has very positive feedback. I think: WOW, I have a PLN here in the district as well, how cool!  I also think: WOW, I can't wait for the next one. I'm gonna sneak some Twitter people in, for sure!
December 17: I hold a meeting with 15 other teachers in my building to put together for a plan to improve our school's climate.  It is a wonderful meeting and I feel the power of teachers taking initiative rather than leaving decisions  and actions up to administration.  I create a Google Group to keep track of asynchronous discussions.
December 19: Mother Nature dumps 2 feet of snow on Philadelphia. I get a lesson in cooperation and teamwork.

My Year in Reflection:
Not everything this year has been celebratory or transformative.  There have been some bumps and will continue to be along the way in 2010. My school has been relocated this year to 59th Street and Baltimore Avenue for this current school year so that a new school can be built at our former location at 58th and Media Streets.  I have not driven past the construction, though my students tell me that there is a foundation built.  At least (for now) Google Maps has the old school and yard still there:

View Larger Map

A new school isn't really a reason to feel sad, we needed it sorely. What is sad is the way the school culture has not improved, and may have even gotten worse in the temporary location.  We have been practically taken over by the district and the region, teaching scripted programs for an hour and a half each day. Our teacher are disheartened, the recess yard and lunchroom are chaotic and, at times, hazardous, and students are often left unattended during the day due to support staff mismanagement.

In addition, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (my union) announced, right before Winter Recess, that they are once again extending the contract. We have been working under an extended contract for over 2 years now.  Then, Jerry Jordan, our union president makes a statement about the new Race to the Top program and how that will affect schools in Philadelphia.  My school is already in corrective action---will we become a "Renaissance School," with 50% or more of the staff to be replaced along with the principal? Luckily my position as a lab teacher is an important one (everyone needs a lab teacher, right?) and the way I have made myself known this year throughout the district should make it easier for me to keep my job.

In my personal life, I have had some transformative events as well.  I bought a house and have spent this week making it more inhabitable. Today I am nursing bruised palms from scraping up tile from the basement floor.  My friends all joke that owning a house is my 'grown-up card,' that now I'm officially a grown up.  Sometimes, as I'm sitting in the house the thought: "Wow, this is MINE" passes through my mind.  Do I feel like a grown up? Sometimes.  
Wait, is THIS what adulthood looks like?

Or is it this?

Looking back over 2009, I have grown up more than I could imagine. I have learned more this year than seems humanly possible. It is all thanks to the wonderful people I have met through Twitter and in my district who are innovative risk-takers, who take the bull by the horns and don't put up with bull.  I am thankful for them coming into my life and I look forward to another great year in 2010.  While I'm sure the learning curve will not be as steep as it was this past year, I am certain I will never stop learning and trying new things.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to those of you who subscribe to this blog, whether you have participated in comments or not.  When I started this blog almost exactly a year ago, I had no idea where it was going and I am elated that others are interested in my ramblings.

Best wishes to everyone in 2010!


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