It’s always difficult to return to work after a vacation. Especially a long vacation. Especially one where you unplugged, destressed, and slept until, well, let’s just say later than one should. The rude awakening to “back to work” was exacerbated with howling winds, heavy rain, and an overall gloomy start to the day. Ugh.
Today was especially difficult because I had trouble falling asleep last night. Something that is very rare for me. So when 3:30 AM arrived and sleep was still elusive, I had almost resigned myself to just staying up all night. But the sleep hit me over the head at 3:45 – so my Fitbit tells me – and the 6:30 AM alarm really was a rude awakening.
I can’t believe that I couldn’t sleep! But, truthfully, I was thinking about getting back to work. Getting back to doing what I love. Being on a schedule. Connecting with my colleagues. Figuring out new challenges and handling the old ones.
I crave structure. While I loved my two weeks off, I need purpose. I really didn’t think about work hardly at all for two weeks. I even stopped doing some of my routine things around the house. My sourdough starter didn’t get fed for half of the break. (Don’t worry, he’s fine!) I didn’t schedule any big projects to DIY. Due to concerns about staying healthy, I didn’t really go anywhere. No lunch dates with friends. No holiday parties. A low-key kinda time.
Just what my mind and body needed.
Although it looked and sounded like the end of the world was near this early Monday morning after a restful vacation, the routines and schedules have returned. Email notifications are back on. Cleaning up unfinished business from before break and starting new projects that have deadlines have me ready for what lies ahead.
I just flipped my daily inspirational calendar to today’s date and saw this:
“Life is full of challenges and problems for which solutions need to be found. Rather than looking at that as a negative, look at it positively – as an exciting daily opportunity!”
Richards, Jessie, and M.S. Fontaine. 101 Mottos for Success. Switzerland, Aurora Production AG, 2013.
Truth! So, even though it’s a rainy day AND a Monday AND the first day back after vacation, I’m grateful that I have a job I love and the structure I crave. I’m blessed to work with amazing, creative, knowledgeable people. And I’ll continue to look for solutions to the everyday issues of life. Guess I’ll have to create my own sunshine! ~B
The latest and greatest tech shows up. If you’re like I am, you are curious to see if it’s better than something you already use or different in the way it approaches a problem. Maybe it has lots of “bells and whistles”. Maybe the interface looks great. Whatever the reason, discovering new tech can be exciting and almost heady as we explore some great new apps or software.
What is the reason for using the new tech? Is it just because it’s shiny and new? Or does it really have a purpose that will greatly improve your life or the life of your students?
My job is the help teachers and staff learn to use technology in a way that supports their curriculum and enhances their teaching and learning. Sometimes the needs are obvious – “How do I?…” or “I can’t seem to get it to…”. These statements have simple answers (usually!) Yet how do you help someone who doesn’t even know the question to ask?
Like any sound educational practice, looking at the ‘Why?’ behind the use of technology is a great place to start. We set goals and objectives for our students. We determine a standard of what needs to be taught. Why don’t we do the same for teaching adults to integrate software into their teaching? Maybe you already do. I certainly try to do this!
My “Why” for teaching teachers has many facets. Each teacher is different, yet each teacher should exhibit the same end goal. Something that is best for students. The “customers” are our students. They deserve to have an engaging education and that must involve various forms of technology. They have grown up in a tech world. They are easily bored. Rather than just throwing the tech at them for the WOW factor, we need to be encouraging them to utilize the tech as a tool. A stepping stone to get to the skills they need to get employed. And it has to start in Kindergarten. If we wait until fourth or fifth grade, we have waited too long.
Technology can open the world of creativity for students. They can use it to collaborate with others globally, to be self-motivated, to set deadlines and personal goals. But only if we teach them how to do that. We can’t ever assume that students, or teachers, have already mastered self-discipline, time management, collaboration, or communication. In other words, teaching soft skills.
While I’m not a fan of the term soft skills, it is used with regularity in the business world. What are soft skills? Will Kenton describes soft skills in this way:
Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered to be a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills. Sociologists may use the term soft skills to describe a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) as opposed to intelligence quotient (IQ).
Soft skills have more to do with who people are, rather than what they know. As such, they encompass the character traits that decide how well one interacts with others and usually are a definite part of an individual’s personality. In a competitive labor market, employees who demonstrate they have a good combination of hard and soft skills often see a greater demand for their services.
Quarantine taught us a lot about the lack of self-discipline. Both the self-discipline of our students and the self-discipline of ourselves. I’m a scheduled person. I thrive when I have my calendar completely organized well in advance of dates. I organized calendars for my family and manage multiple calendars. I like this. Many people don’t. It makes me calm and helps me plan. I still manage to miss or arrive late to meetings, but then it’s my own fault for not allowing enough time. I do that a lot. Time fleets.
Soft skills became a necessary thing to acquire for students and teachers thrust into learning from home. Some learned it. Sadly, many did not. But don’t underestimate your students! They are quite resourceful if you let go of the control just a little bit. They become motivated when it’s something they want to learn.
So back to technology tools. Tool training is important, but not for the reason you might think. Tool training is important because it is the foundation to get to the end goal. It’s not about the tool. For example, you can’t build a house unless you know how to use a ruler, a saw, and a hammer at the very least. So learning how to use the tools matters. Over time you learn the nuances and tricks of the trade with those tools. Just like software.
Start with your “Why?”. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with someone to test things out. Build the capacity of your students and colleagues by sharing what you learn, what you create, and how you do things. No one has all of the answers, but getting some tool training can help you to be more productive, innovative and lead the way for your students to thrive. ~B
Working from home for the last 12 months has been an interesting study in resilience. My office space has become a place for huge productivity. I have learned to work with multiple devices on multiple platforms and keep a very tight schedule. Previously, I traveled locally between schools to handle my job. Now I can literally move from one school to another in 5 seconds. Efficiency has increased exponentially.
I am able to structure my workday easily now. I have alarms set to make sure I handle all of my deadlines. I rarely get off task – except when I need to in order to mentally survive the challenges I face in front of the screen.
Do I like teleworking? Yes! Mostly because I’m far more productive than before. I am spending less time driving. The relaxation of driving is something I do miss, but I am a better employee and using school district money better when my commute is 10 steps away behind a sound dampening curtain.
Virtual conferences are challenging in this environment. I’ve attended and/or presented at 4 virtual conferences this year. But, I didn’t take time off from work to do that. I continued to work and assist teachers because they are my first priority. Always. The challenge that presented was the inability to really learn well while trying to facilitate learning for others. Very stressful.
I’ve also learned that one can bake bread around a very busy work schedule. Instead of taking a lunch break, I take a baking break. (Sourdough anyone?) Doing something for others has helped me keep my sanity during this time, too.
I have worked with many more teachers and administrators this year than ever. They are willing to schedule an appointment and just jump into a Google Meet to help solve problems, answer questions and strategize the best ways to assist their staff. We have definitely learned to work smarter as well as harder.
I do love to be around real people. But, would I keep teleworking if given the option? You bet. It has been a stressful year, yet I now know that we are all able to function in an online environment if needed. Soon I’ll be back in schools – next week – so we can expect my productivity to take a huge nosedive. No extra screens. Building in time for travel that amounts to a minimum of about an hour of my workday.
I call these musings because, well, I don’t know what else to term them. I find myself wondering what to write about since I don’t necessarily feel I have anything worth saying. Although if it’s not interesting I guess you can stop here!
One of the things I have found myself doing is more hands-on work at home. I often find myself puttering in my garden, baking bread, and just spending time outdoors.
I don’t really know why I’m so driven to encourage myself to use my hands to create, but I assume it’s because I need to have myself in touch with real things. Not virtual education, but real, tangible things.
Going back to work almost a month earlier than I did last year, has put a different spin on what my work life looks like. I find myself so engaged with my work that the whole day will go by, and I don’t even know that it’s passed! I’m not sure if this is because there’s so much work to do, or if this is because I am enjoying my work so much. I am very blessed to be able to have a job that I love!
Being in the workforce for nearly 50 years has really taken different turns in my life. I often wonder if my life would be the same if I hadn’t been in education nearly the entire time. Well, I may not have always been doing the exact same teaching job that I’m doing now, but I’ve certainly been teaching something all of my life.
Where do you find your passion? Does your job make you feel excited to get up every day? Not that mine has always made me feel excited to get up, but it certainly makes me excited to work every day. Not a lot of people can say that. What a blessing!
I hope that you have found your passion in life. I hope that your work is fulfilling, exciting, and worth getting up for every day. While the drudgery of jobs can turn into something we dread, I feel as if finding the excitement and passion is something you must do. When we can find the excitement and the passion it’s not work at all. It becomes something that we are, something that we become, and something that fulfills us.
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. 😎
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.
Yesterday I sat in a restaurant in downtown Asheville waiting for a friend to join me for lunch. The entire vibe of this place was relaxed, yet inspiring. I listened to animated conversation between two men – one younger, one older. The young man was discussing his revelations and how it was affecting his writing. The older man nodded and concurred with the smile of a sage mentor. It was an exchange that inspired me to reflect on my own writing and who I am inspired by.
Having spent my life both doing the same thing as well as many different things, I have multiple people that influenced me previously and many that influence me currently. From my parents to my riding coaches to business mentors to educational professionals to friends. Even strangers in a coffee shop. The homeless veteran on the sidewalk that spoke of hope, faith in God and how many blessings he has. The friend that left the public school path for private music studio work and feels fulfilled and looks younger than I’ve ever seen her.
Each person inspires me. Each story adds to my story. Every interaction makes up this life, doesn’t it? While it can be easy to find myself crying or shaking my head in disbelief over events that happen or the behavior of people around me, I remind myself that each piece of this life puzzle is there for a reason. While I am not always aware of that reason, each piece is important. Each piece is part of the greater whole.
Who makes up your story? What interaction with another has molded your life today? Who will you inspire without even knowing it?
I think I’ll go get another cup of coffee and see who inspires me today.
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.
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.
Every day of summer vacation includes some professional time. I’m not one to take the summer off. Even if I could truly take the summer off, I’m sure I’d fill my time with professional development or a project of some kind. I’m not good at vacating!
While summer gives me time to regroup and change up my routine, it also allows me time to reflect on what’s truly important in my career as well as my home life. What parts of your work life spill over into your home life? If you’re an educator, then probably a lot.
Educational professionals lead a different kind of life. There is a constant need to reinvent oneself as technology changes, curriculum changes, schools change and demands change. It can cross into your personal life in such a way that you never truly feel like you are away from your job.
So how do you balance it? Every person does it differently, but I find that I have to still teach all summer. Maybe you teach at a summer camp. Maybe you give professional development sessions to other teachers. Maybe you teach your own kids. Or maybe you teach yourself new things. I try to combine as much of that as I can but on a less demanding schedule than the traditional school year.
I teach teachers online for the New England Institute for Teacher Education. Two of my established technology classes are running concurrently right now. The summer is the only time to run two at the same time while working full-time! This adventure is full of new things every time I do it. These teachers find new angles that I hadn’t even thought of! I get a “2-fer” – I get to teach and I get to learn at the same time. Now that’s a great summer!
The nature of my summer might look a lot different than yours. Yes, sometimes I long to go take a really long walk on a beach somewhere, but my family has other demands that just don’t allow for much of that. It’s all good, though. I’m able to help them out and still get to do something I love: educate and learn.