First off, its been awhile, about a year in fact, since I published a blog post. As with just about everyone who has started a blog, there is always that nagging feeling once you fall off the wagon of writing about needing to get back. For me, what nudged me back into writing is actually the view you see here while I am writing this.
This is a photo I shot of my view from a small dressing room deep in the belly of the Rocklin Community theater. You see I am about just about an hour away from stepping out on stage on opening night as Coach Bolton in our community theater’s performance of “High School Musical”. I have been part of the preparation of this performance since the end of last school year, practicing and rehearsing on and off throughout the summer. And now as I nervously wait for the curtain the rise, I know I have family and friends who are out there tonight and my number one thought is “why the heck am I doing this”?!?!!?
People keep telling me, “oh, you’ll have so much fun” but as of right now its more about nerves!
But the real reason is that I get to do this with my theater crazed daughter Rachel as she is also in the show.
Opening night, tonight actually goes back to her audition in the spring and then subsequent phone call that went something like this:
“Hey Ryan, our audio technician at the theater was a student of yours years ago, and as we were brainstorming ideas on who to get to be the coach, he said ‘Rachel’s dad was my teacher and a coach at RHS and he may be interested’”.
Well, 3 months later I am here now. In this dressing room, with my Wildcats coaching gear and my copy of my script, nervously waiting and wondering which lines I am going to butcher.
Now my blog is not really a lot about personal reflections and my family life, but I wanted to share as these experiences have been so helpful to me as an educator.So here are my 5 takeaways.
1) Stretch yourself. Basically, get out of your bubble and try new things.
This is kind of the main idea of this show, not to be confined to those predefined roles of jock, braniac, drama nerd, etc that we all know so well. For me, that was who I was for a long time. I was the jock, I was the kid who wanted to beat our rivals (those bastards at Edison High) in every sport. Plus Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics were pretty much represented all that was wrong in the world. As I headed off to college, sports still defined me as I played football at the University of Nevada, Reno. But, slowly things started to change while I was there. Part of it was the movie Batman, which got me interested in starting to collect comic books. Then came the film and drama classes I took which helped me really begin to appreciate and then love musicals like Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. I was even mocked a bit by my teammates as I read my comic books on our road trips. I had professors who tried to nudge me over to this world and I really thought this may be something I could do, but at the same time what kept me from doing anything in this world was the ruts my path was on. That being both my athletic world and my major, which I was too far along in to change. Retrospectively I wonder what would be different now if I made some of those changes, but alas, I truly am in a happy place now personally and professionally.
2) Work WITH kids - don’t stand over them
Being in this show, it’s refreshing to simply be a participant… in essence an equal to all the children in the cast (there are only 3 adults and the rest are all under 16). Actually, I would put myself at the bottom rung as I most likely have the least experience here! Being able to do everything from work through the lines to joking around with the other actors has been a lot of fun. This idea of not being the architect of the learning or coach of the game is something I don’t regularly do. So what can I do in my own life to get more of this? First off, say NO and not overstretch myself as much as I have in the past. Secondly, I continue to push myself to not get stuck behind my desk during class time as much and listen to my students and be more of that “guide on the side”.
3) “We’re All In This Together”
Yes, it’s THE song from this Disney musical, but I really am thinking about the message the show pushes hard; about how we should not really be defined by our cliques and groups. As a high school teacher, it is something I see everyday; and more and more my fellow teachers and I see kids struggling with mounting social and emotional pressures. I know it is a bit polyana to think that we can stop this as its human nature to surround one another with others who you are like and connect, but to be open to other interests and ideas only helps all of us grow.
4) Get Your Head In The Game”
I tell you, this line is one which my overbearing character says over and over again and it’s really connecting with me. The start of this show is also the first day back for our teachers here in Rocklin Unified where I work. This is an action packed day to say the least. Here’s a quick rundown of my August 9th:
As I think about this line again “get your head in the game”, it has been helpful for me to compartmentalize my thoughts and actions. One of the things that I do is to take on probably too many projects for both myself and others and it's the juggling of this which makes follow through a struggle. Case in point; knowing my lines for today!
So now… as they say in the theater world I hope I break a leg!
The cycles of education are really an interesting phenomenon. They allow for re-do’s, they give us wonderful time for reflection and often give us chances to change. For me, the newest cycle of the 2018-19 school year has been a new one. I find myself out of the TOSA world, out of social studies and history and now fully immersed in the world of teaching video and film. My role in the past has always been as a history teacher and this led me to wanting to help other teachers with tips, resources and other ideas. Over time I became passionate about helping others in education, as a I realized that it was the CONNECTIONS between us which makes us all better. So, I started to share more with my friends, my department, school, district and beyond.
In this great sharing / connected world, I realized that it was a two way street. The best connected educators share but also learn. They are NOT the ones shouting from the hills with the “look at my awesome ideas”, they are the “did you see this” people who try to help others; sometimes with an inspiration and sometimes with a nudge. And its these folks who also listen.
I have had some incredible opportunities to share and learn with others, often through working with organizations such as TCM and CUE which have allowed me to travel to 19 states and meet teachers from all grades, subjects and walks of life. And in almost all of those experiences what I value most is times when I sit with teachers, often at lunch, and hear from them.
I have tried many different tools and platforms in the “quest to share”. I’ve blogged, vlogged, podcasted, listerved, facebooked, presented, key noted and more and throughout it all I have always felt like I have been there. Been connected.
Which makes where I am now a bit odd. You see, I am pulling back a bit. This was not really a conscious effort to protect my sanity as I am starting this new teaching world of video production… it kind of just happened.
I started by swiping away some notifications but then it got just easier to turn them off completely. This led to me just stop opening up some of the tools like Twitter and Voxer. Instead, I find myself thinking just about my class and my students and constantly tweeking the next days lesson
So, I guess this is my public “I’m sorry” if I failed to comment on a tweet, answer a Vox, or reply to an email.
I am still wanting to be connected and know that I will return at some point.
Oh, and yes, I do understand the irony behind my writing a blog post and posting this on Twitter!
As this summer wraps up and the cycle of a new year in education begins anew, I take to my blog to do a little reflection. Like many people who blog, it a challenge to stay on stop of your reflections and writing and the internet is littered with discarded blogs. Although I try to share out in other ways like my podcast “Check This Out”, plus my templates and now listicles, I want to keep at this blog as I find it the most effective tool for being reflective.
So now as I look back at the past two months of mine, I feel content and inspired to start the school year.
And that inspiration for me was simply “TO MAKE”
This was my summer of MAKE, my summer of disconnecting and stretching myself creatively and artistically. I found inspiration in many different places. Like so many of us out there, the things we create aren’t necessarily always a “new idea” but ones we found from others and that is definitely the case for me this summer. I found ideas in a multitude of places. For sure Pinterest was a big help but also just snapping my own photos as I bounced around from place to place in my travels. So, in this post I will share some photos of my finished projects. All of them were a stretch for me, as I am normally more creative with a computer than a saw but I am proud of myself for learning some new skills and making something out of nothing.
Here are five of my summer MAKES:
And its this Making Mentality which will be my focus for my class.
I have decided to turn my Monday’s into MAKING MONDAYS, where I will give my students 15 or so minutes at the start of the day to just “make something”. I will have different mediums, so for example one Monday we may make with cardboard while the next could be Legos. I may at times give them a subtle direction such as “make something for our classroom” or “make a game someone else can play”. But the my biggest focus will be to just step back and allow unstructured, unplugged play and creativity. All in the hopes of getting them engaged in the class and priming the pump in their brains for creativity.
I’ll let you know how it goes
This upcoming school year I will be at Rocklin high school teaching Video Production but splitting my time between my classroom and a computer lab. This lab is being re-purposed; the computers and tables are being being taken out plus new furniture and a chromebook cart is coming in. I am hoping to do a little more by changing the feel and purpose of the room by re-branding it as the "Creativity Lab" I've been reading books like Space, listening to podcasts, watching webinars from Demco, and following the incredible shareouts on the #CUEBOLD hashtag. All of these have got my wheels spinning on what to do with this space. As you can see below... its a bit of an blank palette to work with. So my first thought was.... "it needs a name... and that name needs a sign!"
Step One: Design your title and trace it on Styrofoam.
Step Two: Cut out the letters
Step Three: Cover
Finally, here is how my letters turned out. I was beyond happy with how they turned out and very appreciative of all the help my family and friends gave in this project.
Lastly, you mount these on your wall and since they are foam its so easy to just put in some screws or hooks and then push the letters onto them.
If this got you inspired to create your own please share back your creations!