The Problem With New Technology

We’ve all experienced it. The latest and greatest gets released and we think one of two things: “I HAVE to have this!” or “There’s no way they are going to get me to spend my money!”

I’m the latter kind of person. I hang onto phones, computers and cars as long as humanly possible. Does it mean I don’t long for the latest and greatest? Nope. I just am a practical, frugal teacher.

Last year, my beloved Camry that I expected to continue driving until well after I paid it off was struck from behind and totaled. I wanted to buy another Camry, but somehow the dealer convinced me to try a Kia Cadenza. “Does it fit a 10 foot board?”, I queried. “Seats don’t fold down, but there is a pass through.” I told him I’d bring it back if the boards wouldn’t fit. They fit. I was sold.

Now comes the latest dilemma: the new iPhones are out. My older iPhone 7 is acting up. Won’t install apps. Doesn’t raise to wake anymore. Refuses to do the simplest of tasks. My phone has plenty of memory. I’ve ditched a lot of apps that I just don’t use. I’ve tried everything I can think of. But still, it’s old technology. And Apple knows it.

Oh, Apple, how you know your market! The newest iPhone 11 comes in at the amazing price of $699.99. While still more money than this old Yankee really wants to spend, it’s still less than what I paid for the current phone I have. And the technology is SO much better!

Don’t even think to ask me if I’ve considered an Android. I won’t. I’m an Apple user tried and true. (Mostly!) My devices integrate seamlessly – except my work laptop which still plays well with them in the Cloud environment.

So what is my problem? My problem with new technology is that I just want my old technology to work. Just plain work. Not planned obsolescence. Not forcing me to upgrade. Not MAKING me do anything!

Alas, my job as a Digital Learning Coordinator requires me to have instant access to everything. Could I function without a phone? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be pretty! I rely on this little device that I use for just about everything. I even occasionally make phone calls. And while I’m not proud of my need for this, it truly has become part of my life. For better or for worse.

I have fought the urge. I have even talked myself out of a new phone several times. I acquiesced and went with my husband to sit at the store to look at new phones. But I didn’t make the move until today. Today the inability to download a necessary piece of financial software pushed me over the edge. I have officially caved.

My new iPhone 11 will be here shortly. Budget blown. But, problem solved. 😎

Aspirations and Inspirations

Tonight I spent two plus hours on an amazing webinar with Seth Mosley of Centricity Publishing who is “one of the most awarded and in-demand songwriters and producers in the Christian Music industry.” It struck me how important it is to teach others about our craft – no matter what that craft is – in order to fuel the world. Seth and his team were inspiring and encouraging about songwriting for people of all ages and abilities.

Why was I taking part in a webinar about songwriting? Because I’ve been a songwriter since I was a pre-teen. I have never done much with my songs, and I haven’t written much in recent years, but it is something that I have always done. A few of my songs have been performed and a couple have been recorded semi-professionally but that’s not what’s really important. What’s really important is that songwriting has always been a part of me. It is part of who I am.

I don’t think that I’ll ever become a famous songwriter. Mostly because I’m not willing to dedicate the time that it takes. At least not right now. Maybe I will feel compelled or driven or inspired to write more purposefully someday soon.

However, for some reason this week I needed a little more inspiration for my aspiration. I needed a confirmation that what I have done for joy and creativity isn’t just something to keep tucked away in multiple binders in my piano room. So I signed up for this webinar and I’m glad I did.

While I am not ready to revisit my previous songs right now, I want to think about my reasons for writing music. I want to understand why I write songs. I know I write best when there is something emotional going on. Thankfully, my life is not in emotional turmoil and hasn’t been for a number of years now. Maybe that’s why my songs are tucked away.

I love performing music. Thankfully, I have that opportunity every week by playing and singing on a Worship Team. I also love teaching private piano to my small number of students. It is somehow gratifying to know that while none of them will become a concert pianist (that’s not my style of teaching!) they will all enjoy playing for the sake of playing. Besides, they are really great kids!

Finding your inspiration for whatever it is that you may be passionate about is so crucial. Where do you find inspiration? What part of your life fulfills you beyond your job? Where do you find joy and creativity in your life? It can be something as simple as a quiet afternoon reading a great book. It can be that toddler that is a whirlwind during the day and looks so angelic asleep. Maybe it’s found in a silent look from the one you love or an amazing trip to a foreign destination.

Whatever your inspiration is, be sure to nurture it. Dream about it. Your aspiration to be or do or experience is just what your heart needs.

I hope to keep growing towards opening my tucked away pages again soon. Maybe I’ll even begin something new tonight. But this aspiration reminds me that I need to be the inspiration for all of the educators that I come in contact with. I might not need to teach them much more than to have confidence in themselves. Just as Seth really did in his webinar tonight. Maybe it’s really that simple.

Thanks for the inspiration, Seth. You have made a difference.

#SongChasers Full Circle Music

What’s In A Title?

I look at the title of my blog and realize that I have written less about tech lately than about life in general. Tech seems somehow too impersonal to write about. I can share the latest gadget, or deal on some new device. But, I find myself wandering into what I really care about: Other people.

30+ years in education has made a profound impact on my life. The teacher and person I was when I began this journey has long faded away. Thank goodness! Those early years of teaching had so many failures. (No one was permanently injured that I’m aware of…)

Now that I work mostly with adults, I hope I convey the compassion that I have for fellow teachers. I understand feeling so tired that there is literally zero left at the end of the day. I understand isolated when you are a specialist and there is no one in your building that shares your struggles.

My title is Digital Learning Coordinator. My title is also teacher, facilitator, specialist, Mom, Wife, Daughter, friend and Grandma. Notice what titles come first?!? Why do I identify with what I DO instead of who I am?

Your title brings you a sense of importance, or power, or belonging. But it still can be an empty title if you forget your real purpose. Your real purpose is to care about others and to develop strong family ties. No matter what your family looks like. No matter if your family is your four legged pet or a significant other. Or your church friends or most importantly, yourself.

Work is important. Teaching is extremely important. But living your life caring for others and self is the most important role of all.

What title guides your life? Will your friends remember you for what you did at work, or what you did in life? Or best yet, both of those!

Should I retitle my blog? The title is Vinal Tech Blog. Maybe it should be Something Else? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

Developing Your Personal Best

What is your personal best? Is it cranking out social media posts at all times of the day and night? Is it picking up clothes that someone in your family has left (again) on the floor? Is it finding the perfect app to do the perfect thing?

Whatever your personal best is, let me suggest one thing: balance.

Balance is how you live a full life, work, love and play. It’s finding what’s right for YOU, not for what someone else thinks is right for you. It’s finding joy in working hard, or finding joy in relaxing well. It looks different for each person.

My personal best used to be working multiple jobs (that hasn’t changed!) and sleeping very little. I divided my time between students, a full-time teaching job, church musician jobs, DIY projects at home, and my family. Needless to say, something or someone always got short changed.

So how do you decide? How do you fit it all in?

Maybe I’m not the one to answer this. I’m more busy than most. I love my work. I love my family. I love my home. I don’t get enough sleep. I don’t always have enough left over to be fully present. I don’t have enough money – who does?!? But the reason I think that I have something to offer is that I’ve done it wrong a lot. I’ve failed at it a lot.

You might be thinking, “Okay. So how do I fix it?”

Really evaluate your life. Separate your “work” self from your “home” self. Find a spot in your living space that you can remove yourself to when you need to get something done for work. Try not to do work in your “home” space. Physical separation from what is perceived as work will help gain your balance.

If you can afford to have separate computers or devices for work and for personal use, that is even better. Set your personal one up so that your work email isn’t even accessible on it. Keep your cloud drives separate. Put a game or two on that home device.

Today’s societal pace is every increasing. The demands on your time feel as if you will never, ever get it all done. And maybe you won’t. But by balancing your world, you will slowly find a peace that allows you to do less than 200% so that you can maintain 100% of your life. Slow down. Smell the roses. Don’t feel guilty for spending time doing nothing. And remind me to take my own advice.

#balance #relax #teacherguilt

The Power of Feedback

My new role has been challenging, exciting and full of professional learning. The more I learn the less I know. My mother always told me that I would soon find out that the older I got the more I’d need to learn something new. Wise woman.

I’ve learned to work with a colleague in a give and take situation. Our strengths are different and therefore we are very complimentary (both task wise and verbally!) to each other. We both know when to step up and when to step back. So far I have not managed to break any of her toes!

The challenge of providing professional learning to teachers in schools at multiple grade levels – Elementary, Middle and High – has begun to teach us the skill of differentiating on the fly. Educators are so very busy. When we arrive for training during their planning period or lunch, they don’t let us know that what we are offering isn’t suited to them. They haven’t learned to speak up when we’re there. But some of them definitely speak up in the follow-up survey.

I’ve previously posted about some negative feedback we received, but that was the catalyst for really analyzing what we do and how we do it. The option to get down deeper into what an educator or principal really needs can also be informative for the person leaving the comments. While some might lash out in displeasure, others leave some of the following:

” I understand that when in a training, you have people at all different learning levels but I felt that our training started in the middle and there was so much that could have been introduced, shown to us, etc, to then get us to the middle. I left feeling like I know nothing more that I did before. I did love the convenience of you coming to us instead of us having to take time off to go to a training elsewhere.” However, this same person said the most important takeaway from this session was “I still have a lot to learn”.

So how do we address this in the span of 35 minutes? It has opened our eyes to thinking outside of what typical professional learning looks like. This has started us thinking about choice and voice for our teachers. How do they choose? How do we make that work if they choose 10 different things on the same day? Where do we draw the line? How can we group our tools and offerings so that everyone gets something?

Working with professional educators at all levels makes every day different. We try not to take shortcuts, but give all of our energy every day to provide our best.

Am I still learning? You bet. Sometimes falling short of the mark? You bet. Feeling like I have the best job on the planet for me? You bet. Grateful for those I work with and for? You bet.

I’m so grateful for the feedback that helps me grow, learn and strive to make what I do better each time. I’m not there yet, but maybe I never will be. If I stop learning, then I stop growing.

Bring on the feedback!

The Depth of the Educator’s Heart

Teacher mug and penWe don’t do it for the money. We don’t do it for the long vacation time. We don’t do it for the short hours. We teach because we truly believe that every student has potential. Every teacher has potential. Every administrator has potential.

While we may never see the fruits of our labors, we never stop trying to impart knowledge. I view my role as a chance to give teachers an opportunity to grow and learn. I also view my role as my own chance to grow and learn. It’s truly all about the journey.

I’ve worked in many school districts in multiple states. Each job in varying roles provided the foundation for where I am now. No job is without its challenges – big and small.

How you handle and grow from those challenges is what defines you. It’s the unreasonable administrator (who ultimately drives you to earn an advanced degree). It’s the difficult colleague that sets you up to fail. It’s the challenging students that turn your hair gray. And each one of them is part of your story.

We can choose to be defeated by the negativity, or we can choose to find the positive side of the equation, even when we don’t really feel like it. Never let someone else’s bad day define your day. Sometimes much easier said than accomplished!

If your passion for what you do has diminished, maybe it’s time to renew your strength. Maybe it’s time to adjust your job. Maybe it’s time to adjust your attitude. teacher heart

How deep is your heart? How passionate are you about educating others? How do you find what you need to carry on in the face of time constraints, new curriculum and pressing demands? I look for the little things. The student in the hallway that needs a shoe tied. The educator who suddenly discovers how to use a technology tool. A colleague who reaches out to share their frustration. Every moment is an opportunity to reach deep into your heart and share with someone else.

I feel so honored to be where I am. My journey, much like yours, has been rocky and full of challenges. But I wouldn’t trade it for a different journey because I wouldn’t be where I am right now. And where I am is full of excitement, wonder, challenge, and joy. My heart will always be an educator’s heart. How about yours?