Friday, December 30, 2011

2011...



One of my favorite Holiday activities is to simply sit and look over the ornaments on the tree...

... and let my mind wander...

Working in education these many years, you start defining 'years' by the academic calendar. When I think back to January of last year...

I attended the Educon Conference at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia. The students, adults, and especially it's leader I think, are gems in education. The facility is nothing special, but it's home to a vibrant, dynamic group carving out some great paths in learning. I found the atmosphere and the dynamic of the folks at SLA, the will to shift things, to try new things very refreshing. It's my hope to return this coming year to Educon with some of the same crew and hopefully a few more folks. Btw, Good Dog Bar and Restaurant... highly recommended.

The Spring semester, January through June, brought on year four in the four-year evaluation cycle where I teach, Formal Review. Many folks observed me and my practices in the classroom. I'm happy to say the challenges were met again with great reviews and that some at the school are looking deeper into, using a few buzzwords, differentiated instruction, project-based education, and social media opportunities from our work here. It also got me working more closely with some folks, sharing ideas more often... something I'd like to see a schedule change to encourage more deeply ala SLA... listed later on here or like the one at Urban Academy in NYC.

The rLab (where I teach) continued to light some folks up and for others who struggled with it's project work and philosophical challenges, it continued to open up some new, fresh thinking for folks on how they learn. I'm proud of the scope... and ready for it to evolve. Something I'll be lending considerable thought to over the remainder of this year and Summer.

Two students in the Lab breathed new life into a discussion a few years earlier on establishing a new Social Networking course at school. The work continued through the semester and was ultimately accepted to begin in the Fall of 2011.

Another high school baseball season cranked up and before we knew it we were on to Graduation, another class of students flew by. As the school year wound down, the Summer schedule was filling up.

After graduation the baseball team appeared in it's second straight State Finals, a 7-1 loss to Mississquoi High School. I've had more than a few losses in my coaching career. This one, due to the circumstances we played under, an extremely tight strike zone that defined will of the game itself stripping away competitive balance, and the aftermath of some folks reactions... in retrospect, it was one of my least favorite games I've ever participated in as a player or a coach. The dynamics of the game and the aftermath put a damper on the season for a few weeks for me and only after a few weeks was I able to separate myself and view the accomplishment and the growth in the right light. I recapped some decisions I'd made with friends, something I tend to do more after adversity and losses, and regained confidence in many decisions I'd made. The baseball program continues to grow, become more and more respected in character and athletically becoming more consistently competitive. Just what we were looking for. A fellow for a local paper here wrote a great summary of our season.

Shortly after graduation, our family took a trip with the Colchester Cannons to South Dakota. I was asked by my friend Jeff Mongeon to reprise my old role with the team as bench coach. Janice would co-orchestrate meals on the road and 'Team Mom' duties with another great parent on the trip, no easy task for 18 players, 4 coaches, and our spirited bus driver, our friend Bob Wheel (great name for a bus driver, I know) as we motored cross country. Eb would reprise his role of bat boy and Grace would venture into videography on the trip. An offer we couldn't refuse. The trip was loaded with good people, good competitive baseball, and loads of fun. Just the ticket.

A few days after returning we ran another baseball camp for about 30 kids, the fifth consecutive camp I believe.

As the Summer started to wind down, I was asked to continue my role as bench coach with the Cannons as they entered the State Finals. The team went on to win the VT State Legion Championship in a thrilling and exhausting two-game final vs Bennington. I was unable to head off to Regionals with the Cannons though, I was off to teach a grad school class in Mexico.

A few days later I flew off to Monterrey, Mexico to teach a graduate course to a great group at Colegio Americano for Southern New Hampshire University (I know, an interesting combination, but I love teaching for them and their great Director, Dr. Vanessa Zerillo). Great company, food, and some great challenges laid out about pedagogy, and the future of education.

About 24 hours after returning from Monterrey I headed out to the Constructing Modern Knowledge conference in Manchester, NH. Sitting in the opening social event for the conference, the Minor League AA All-Star Game was surreal some 20 hours removed from the trip to Mexico. The conference itself is the brain child of Gary Stager. I've followed Gary Stager's work for many years and it was great to eat dinner with him and his crew and mingle ideas. There are too many great names to mention here of the participants, but the conference in a nutshell was not simply about listening to folks, rather it's to work with them. I loved it. We toured the MIT Media Lab, a desire of mine for many years, and created with some truly great folks.

My sons 9-10 year old team won the State title, advancing to the Regional Tournament in Massachusetts... a busy flurry of activity all mixed into the docket. I was fortunate enough to mix in helping at some practices, helping some kids adjust to the high caliber pitching they'd face in Regionals. Eb played very well, overcoming a few minor injuries and his first hitting slump of his young career. He emerged from it with three hits in the last two games though much to his delight. I'm very proud of the way Eb played personally, demonstrating great character and poise through the whole season, representing his community, team, and himself very well.

As the Summer wound down I decided, at long last, to enroll in Grad School. Marlboro Graduate Center offered the best program for teaching full-time, one that offered me the change to do face-to-face work and online combined. As I ramped into a few quick days of prep for the school year and from a very busy travel schedule over the Summer... and to start Grad School...

Hurricane Irene landed.

In a crazy flurry of activity, mucking the finished basement out, parsing through things, throwing out much, and rebuilding... I decided to stick with the commitment to attend grad school. Many fine folks and relief efforts helped us out and we're very, very grateful for all the work and contributions. Asa a family we ventured out and helped many others around the neighborhood. There were many casualties here, all material... pictures, comic books, books, furniture, electronics, and sadly... my guitar. Parsing through water damaged things, photos, demolition and reconstruction all proved very time consuming and exhausting. My friend Dan summarized it all eloquently when he said "it's been a long time since I've been this kind of tired." We'd been moving slowly to weed some stuff out and make some cosmetic changes but Hurricane Irene pushed the whole thing into a very high gear. Not the way we'd preferred to do it... but so it goes. Julie and Lee Oliva, Doug and Lynn Rawson, Pete and Sue Cotrell, Merideth Deibold, The Boucher's, Todd Ameden, The Klecowski's, many students and the Teachers Association and coordinated relief efforts from BBA, Rita Morgan, Paula Mattison, Peter Mull, Jim and Claudia Raposa, Nancy Strain and Rob Hunter, and last but not least my friend Chris Kunz for his lengthy work (and patience) to help us rebuild... it would have been far more difficult without all of you helping. We're more streamlined, and rebuilt better than before... and we're lucky to be in such good shape. My thoughts often venture to folks who lost everything in the wake of the Hurricane and it's my hope people will continue to help folks in need.

As we moved into the Fall, Janice landed an Aide job at the local Elementary school. She's already talking about moving forward into education and pursuing getting certified to teach. Mixing in the new job with the flood recovery was a challenge for her as well.

Grace had a great field hockey season this Fall. She'll be 14 soon... for those of you reading this who've been around these 14 years, yah, it sounds weird to me too ; )

The new Social Networking course is off to a good start. Guest speakers connecting their experiences and skills to real life, student designed and explorative mojo. The course, as expected, is challenging the concept of the traditional school schedule with many students yearning for more in-depth internship time. We'll see where it all leads, where it can spur innovation and what it can grow into.

A new school year started and grad school ticked with the first trimester closing just before the holidays.

The work in grad school has continued much of the feelings I had last years and over the Summer... I'm craving innovative projects and movement.

Time... does seem to be the enemy of growth in education. Layering on initiatives rather than restructuring often leads people to feel too busy, too rushed to innovate and try new things. Years pass by. Innovative ideas get shelved for more of the same... and it all gets busier.

After all the trips... I'm yearning for more. I'm looking forward to the challenges grad school offers and the connections. I yearn to travel again, and seek out some of the people and institutions that are shifting education. It's my hope to see where I can lead those findings locally or across the State through conferences, grad school or professional development courses, and through Vita-Learn ( I signed in to move from the Board to be Vice-President, moving on to President some time in the Fall of 2012). As I travel and study more I'm finding that many of the ideas I've actively worked on, lobbied for, or proposed for many years to be in practice elsewhere. It's refreshing in a away and actually a bit discouraging too.

Bringing light to a 1-1 computing initiative at BBA here remains one large and looming challenge. With many schools around us embracing the growth and learning opportunities that stem from equity of access to creative and collaborative tools, well, I think it's well past time to get such a program underway. An equitable computing initiative will spur on creative opportunities, the chance to look at what a school schedule could be, internships, online learning opportunities, and hopefully... well, we'll see ; )

Since Irene landed along with the school year, and grad school I've traveled less this Fall than in any year of my life. Social media though helped me keep in touch.

The Holidays bring another tradition I've enjoyed for many years... I'm always humbled by former students who stop in on Holiday breaks or send on notes to catch up. It's great to hear their stories of adventure and exploration. I catch up with many over dinner, lunch, or some snacks at cafes here. Many friendships that will last far, far into the future I'm sure. Good camaraderie and stories... the spice of life.

My friend Peter Wright ended his baseball coaching career after more than 25 years (for the time being)... something I'm both happy and sad about for him. True to his spirit, Pete will be helping out the program at St. J rather than refitting his role as head coach and he's also volunteered to continue to help out in the Coaches Association... we already voted him in unanimously whether he wanted to or not ; )

The year also brought new munchkins for my friends Jason and Christina Therrien, and Brian Chandler and his wife I have yet to meet. It's great to hear them talk about the new kiddos and all their adventures, and I couldn't be happier for them.

There are many folks I didn't mention... friends, high school and college grads, new jobs, new adventures, travels about the world... all exceptional to hear and a privilege to be a part of.

So... it's been a year full of motion, challenges, adventures, good camaraderie, good tinkering and thinking. I rekindled my mind to many projects, opened many new doors of opportunity, and we'll see where it all leads this year.

Happy Holidays! Engage, AP

2 comments:

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