Sunday, December 31, 2017

I Stepped Back

Around this time of year, EduTwitter is flooded with end of year reflections, goal setting for the next year, and #OneWord blog posts. I even did one in 2015. I contemplated writing one for this year and went back and forth on it for a few weeks. As I sit here on New Year's Eve day, I suppose this serves as an end of year reflection post.

Students working together to create a new flip video
To be quite honest, I have not done anything "new" in my classroom this year. Many of my mainstays have remained constant, but analyzed to a higher degree and implemented better. Most notably, my ability to do flexible grouping in small group instruction has improved. I regularly switch up my math groups as we enter into new units, based on informal pretests. Right before we let out for winter break, I assessed all students' reading progress through Fountas and Pinnell and will make some changes to groups as we begin 2018. I've been fine tuning my flipped classroom videos instead of just recycling old ones, in addition to having students create videos for their classmates, which was something I never got around to last year.

Technology integration continues to be a focal point of my classroom, but with one major change: I am no longer 1:1 Chromebooks. I have to share a Windows laptop cart with another teacher. At first, I hated it, but now I am learning to embrace it, though I do still hate how slow the laptops are. It forces me to be more intentional in how I am using the technology, which is always a good thing.

I've used Breakout Edu boxes and digital games, a handful of HyperDocs, and other things I love using while teaching. I continue to connect with my students on a regular basis and truly love my class and all their unique qualities. The families are very supportive this year and engage through Remind frequently. Within the walls of my classroom, things are par the course, which is totally ok with me.

A major change has occurred outside the school building in my life. If you're a regular reader of Mr. B's Blog, you may have been disappointed to see that there was only one post published this school year. Technically speaking, that wasn't even a new post; it was a holdover that I just published late. Besides not blogging about education, I've also stopped tweeting about education. In November 2017, I opened a new Twitter account for educational tweets, but really don't use that one anymore.

However, I haven't stopped writing entirely - I just write about a different subject matter now, namely men's health and testicular cancer awareness. As you probably know, I was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, underwent chemotherapy for three months, and was cleared in remission in March 2017. I've been sharing my journey at my testicular cancer awareness blog, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor. My original Twitter account was retooled to focus on testicular cancer awareness. As always, I highly encourage you to check out both the website and the Twitter.

Is this to say I am not passionate about education anymore? No. I certainly still have very strong feelings about education and what needs to improve about it, but I'm focusing my energy on what I can do in my own classroom with my own students in my school. Those kids deserve my 100% effort while I'm there and I will give them my best. Furthermore, I needed better balance in my life. Education was my day job and my night hobby. EduTwitter was turning into an echo chamber, with platitudes and more of the same, and losing its luster with me. I needed to make a change.

There are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of teachers who are tweeting and blogging about education. I don't feel like the community needs another voice, least of all mine. This isn't a vie for headpats or attention. I know I have some cool ideas, but writing about it and endlessly promoting it isn't necessarily how I wanted to spend my time anymore.

While there are countless educational blogs, there is a huge lack of testicular cancer awareness sites. In writing about my experiences and raising awareness, I've found a passion that does not relate to my profession (although I do have a project in the works that blends the two, so stay tuned) and I feel it has improved me as a person to have separate interests. It makes me a more well-rounded person and a real individual.

If education is your job and also your hobby, I'm not disparaging you. If it works for you, that's awesome. This is what works for me. I'm also not saying that I won't be writing or tweeting about education ever again. I still have over half a school year to go, and some ideas are swirling around that I want to try out, and may write about when the mood strikes.

So this is probably a different kind of end of year post than the norm that is being shared on Twitter today, and I am well aware of the irony that I'm writing a post about not wanting to blog about education and then tweeting it out. For now (and the foreseeable future), I've made the decision to spend my non-working hours working on my own passion project and dedicating my time and energy into doing a different form of good.

When it comes to educational blogging and social media,

I stepped back.

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