Drills of Purpose

Photo Jan 16, 10 25 45 AM

Working in a public school system, safety drills are simply part of the job.  As a child, I clearly remember the shrieking blast of the fire alarm blaring through the halls, bright lights flashing, as we quickly grabbed our coats and headed out the door, single file, to stand half a football field away from the side entrance of the school.  Even to this day my body jumps at the sound of a siren or sudden blast of an emergency broadcasting system.

Today, we have more than just fire drills. It seems with the increase of severe weather and tragic events, we are always trying to be one step ahead in keeping our young charges safe while they are in our care.  Tornado drills. Earthquake drills. Intruder drills. Lock-down drills. Codes of every color, each with their own set of specifications for action.

Today was a drill day.

As the drill was announced, I helped a classroom teacher gather her students to the inside corner of our room, where we huddled on the floor, criss-cross applesauce, waiting for the all clear signal to be announced.  As the first minute passed, each child settled into their position while we continued to wait. And wait. And wait.

It’s funny what sounds you hear when you sit silently, even in the midst of twenty children. The hum of the fluorescent lights suddenly becomes an annoying mosquito, buzzing in your ear. The creaks of the building make your eyes dart much like playing the arcade game “Whack-a-Mole”… where would the next sound appear?

That’s when I heard the footsteps. Louder. Harder. Faster. Approaching. Silent. I felt my hands clench tighter in fists that formed without my knowledge as I waited for the next sound. My heart pounded, even as my brain tried to reassure my body that this was only a drill. Suddenly, without warning, the door handle jostled and I understood with complete clarity the purpose of this drill.

In that exact moment, with no uncertainty, I knew I would sacrifice my life for your child.

A few minutes later the drill ended, the students returned to their tables, checking off just another task on their daily agenda.  For me, however, my mind remained huddled in the back of the room, arms outstretched, reaching, covering, protecting. So many emotions raced through my body, but one held constant: purpose.

When your children are in my care, whether it be in school or out, I have a defined purpose. I am to keep them safe while teaching, learning, playing, or even surfing on the Internet. Safety first, as the mantra says. But today I was reminded if I had to choose in an instant, I would absolutely, without hesitation, give my life for a child.

Your child.

I know I am not alone in this mindset. Teachers around this world take on this responsibility daily. While we may have our differences and sometimes get caught up in the trivial topics of the day, please know that the role of “teacher” far surpasses one who simply teaches. Drills like these are important, not only to practice procedures, but to redefine purpose. I look back at the shining eyes of your children and realize I have one of the most important jobs in the world, second only to you being their parent.

I keep your child safe every day.

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Post-it Note Purpose

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Today is January 3, which means only one thing: I’m three days into a new year and still motivated to reach the goals I set for 2015. Yay me!

Like many people, I’ve been caught in the trap of making too many goals or hanging hope on abstract wishes that never quite see the light of attainment. Have you found yourself in this place as well? Pull up a chair. Let’s compare stories as we crumple the paper of unfulfilled resolutions and start anew.

By the way, you only get one Post-it note for 2015.

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That’s right. One Post-it note. For all your goals. No, you may not cheat with the extra large notepad. If you can’t fit all your goals on a 3×3″ piece of paper, you have too many goals and will get to the end of 2015 feeling like a failure. I say this with complete honesty because I am the queen of list-making. Trust me, less is more.

When you decide which goals make the cut, it’s important to know exactly how you plan to achieve your goals. To simply state “lose weight” means nothing without a concrete action plan to follow through. Will you eat out less? Make healthier choices at restaurants? Cut out junky snacks between meals? Really think through your plan, write it out, then stick your Post-it note somewhere as a visible reminder each day (perhaps your refrigerator or mirror.)

Remember, your goal has to fit on that one Post-it note. A goal and action plan for weight loss is enough to fill up that page! Don’t be a goal-setting overachiever. Be a goal-mastery maker.

Below are my goals for 2015:

1. Write more. I started blogging two and a half years ago with my random acts of kindness blog. Last year I created this blog so I could have a digital space to share other types of writing. In order to complete this goal, my action plan is to write at least two blog posts a month. While I would love to have a grandiose goal of 2 posts a week, I know that’s a bit unrealistic for me to keep everything else in my life balanced.

2. Organize the Chaos. Each month I will complete one organizing task to declutter my life. January’s goal is to declutter my iPhone. That means backing up/deleting holiday and vacation photos. Organizing quote pics in a folder. Clearing out voicemails and call lists. Deleting unused apps and saved sites that are mocking me with every swipe of my finger. Should be a tedious task, but if I do a little each week, then by the end of the month I will be ready to tackle the next organizing project.

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3. “Sprinkle kindness like glitter.” This goal is in memory of Renee, a teacher at my school who unexpectedly passed away at the young age of 30. My goal is to complete at least 30 glittery-fun RAKs for her and to blog about them on my Celebrate Kindness blog.

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I’m already off to reaching my first goal, just with this blog post! Ahhhh… I already feel good about my goals. So now it’s your turn! Grab a pen and a Post-it note and put those goals into writing. Tweet out a pic and hashtag #2015goals so we can inspire each other!

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Photographic Summary

This morning, as I was scanning my Twitter feed following breakfast, a blog post by Katherine Sokolowski caught my eye.

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Intrigued, I clicked on the link and saw another Twitter post, which sparked her story:

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Wow! Talk about a great catalyst for reflection! Like Katherine, I immediately started scanning the photos on my phone. What photos represent me as an educator?

My first thought was this photo:

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This was taken when I gave my first Ignite presentation at the ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, GA. That conference COMPLETELY changed my journey as an educator and technologist. I learned how to use Twitter for my own professional development and connected with hundreds of amazing educators including superintendents, principals, district leaders, and teachers. I ventured into new experiences, like screen casting instructional videos for websites, and honed my writing skills by publishing articles for ISTE’s EdTekHub and providing peer reviews for Corwin Press. This photo represents my growth mindset, my willingness to learn new things, and my joy in learning and leading with others.

Another photo that caught my eye was this one:

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These three ribbons on my VSTE conference nametag also represent key characteristics in my role as a technology integrator:
1. YOLO: You only live once, so take chances. Try something new. You might be surprised what you learn in the process.
2. Play Well With Others: Be kind to everyone. Always. Recognize that we all have experiences and insights to share no matter how tech saavy we profess to be.
3. Hacking is NOT a Crime: Allow yourself to be open to new ways of thinking. Don’t get stuck in a rut of old assumptions. Who knew “hacking” could be so much fun?

A third photo tugged at my heart so I had to include it as well:

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This is my life mission, only discovered after I turned 40. I believe there is good in this world, a modern day Pollyanna some might say. Doing random acts of kindness is a small way to put more good back into this world while inspiring others to do the same.

Which leads me to my final photo, which is actually more meaningful than all the other photos combined:

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This photo was taken 13 years ago, when I was a third grade teacher with about 5 years of experience under my belt. We had just finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows and I surprised my students with a camping day as a reward. They were asked to bring a sleeping bag, a pillow, and a flashlight. Nothing more. I stayed late the afternoon before and transformed my classroom to a campsite, complete with a tissue paper campfire. The look on my students’ faces the next morning was priceless.

Yes, even 13 years ago we were accountable for statewide testing. No, my students didn’t come from an affluent neighborhood. I made a choice as an educator that day: to make learning fun. Engaging. Memorable.

See, at the end of the day, that’s what drew me to teaching in the first place. I had amazing teachers who made learning exciting and enjoyable; becoming an educator myself was a way of paying it forward to inspire others with the love of learning.

So tell me… What photo (or collection of photos) summarize YOU as an educator? Tag me in your Twitter or FB post so we can start this new year off with a bang!

~Tamara
@HCPSTinyTech

New Year, New Blog

Ahhhh… the sweet surrender of winter break.  The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has ended as quickly as it began and there is a lethargic sway to my daily tasks.  It’s time for renewal, rejuvenation, and for me, a new blog.

Many of you know me best as “that random act of kindness girl” and I want to reassure you that I will continue my RAK blog, posting stories of kindness shared with others.

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This blog, however, will focus more on my musings on other interests of mine: education, technology, maybe even a parenting story or two.

I created this digital writing space in June 2014 when I participated in a virtual summer writing  camp on Twitter led by Kate Messner, author of the Marty McGuire series.  I felt the need to hone my writing skills to support my teachers and students as they began their own personal blogs. The experience of connecting with other writers and authors using the hashtag #teacherswrite was simply AMAZING! For the first time in my adult life, I actually revisited my childhood dream of becoming a published author. The feedback I received on my blog posts stretched me in unexpected ways, from designing a story based solely on dialogue to crafting a plot with unexpected death and destruction.

Not quite what you would expect from a Pollyanna writer.

As I sit here now, wrapped in my cozy fleece blanket with a steaming mug of hot chai latte near my side, I am committing to you this promise: I will blog at least twice a month on this blog, with hopes of increasing that amount as a bonus.

There. I said it. My goal for 2015 is to write more. More places. More often. More topics. More reflection.

More.

People say you are more likely to achieve a goal if you put it in writing and share it with others. Well, I have committed my goal to 2,427 people, just by sharing this post on Twitter and FB (and that’s not even including others who will read this from my post being shared or retweeted!) Wow… I suddenly feel as if I’m standing on a tightrope with all of you underneath. Not watching and waiting for me to plummet stories below; rather, I already feel encouraged by your interest and support.

YOU are my cheerleader. When I feel tired or want to cop out of writing with the overused, “I don’t have enough time” excuse, I will picture your face smiling back at me with a smirk saying, “You make time for things that matter.”

YOU matter. I am writing for a real audience, just like the teachers and students I blog beside daily at school. Because of you, I write. And through this process of blogging you will help me become a better writer, because I now have accountability for my stories. My thoughts. My random musings on life. Go ahead and add this blog to your digital reader and follow me on Twitter @HCPSTinyTech. Grab a cup of joe and let’s get this party started.

What are your goals for 2015? How can I play a part in your support system? Comment below and we can encourage each other as we learn and grow.