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Thursday, December 29, 2016

6.5 Hours

The boy and I at one of our favorite places, "The Joe" - Detroit, MI
My son has always been a road trip kinda kid and has been on the go since the day he was born. My wife and I made the decision to never not do something because taking him along might be a hassle. Well, except that brief period around age two that it was simply impossible to eat at a restaurant.

Now 18 and a college freshman, he's an experienced traveler, having visited over 30 US states and several countries. And even-though he makes an occasional 'rookie' mistake, like buying batteries  from a 'a guy' on the street, we're pretty comfortable knowing that he can handle himself in most situations that he would encounter while traveling.

The purpose of our most recent road trip to Detroit, a six and a half hour round-trip, was to attend our last home hockey game before the club moves into a new stadium next season and say "Farewell to the Joe" the home of Red Wings since 1979. He's good company.

We share some of the same tastes in music, and we had both packed headphones to privately listen to the differences between us. They never saw the light of day.

We spent the entire time talking. About everything. Sports, college, politics, religion, growing up and other topics of significance and casualness. Never forced or awkward, our back and forth words felt natural and flowed almost as fast as our cruising speed of 75 mph. As I was putting the car into our garage upon returning at 2am, I recognized once again, how precious time is. I thought how fortunate I was to be able to spend 6.5 distraction free hours with my child. It was nice that we were able to make the most of that driving time and that we chose to share and listen. I can always listen to Led Zeppelin and he can always listen to Frank Ocean, but we don't often have that kind of of quantity time together. I'm glad we took advantage of it. As a teacher I spent that kind of time with other people's kids everyday. A lot of parents don't get that luxury.

I was recently reminded of that fact by a reread of Will Gourley's post "Teach Like a Dad" that our role as a parents and jobs as teachers are closely related. That "We are blessed to spend more time with our students than their parents to in many cases." 

What do we do with that time?

Class-time is precious, but not sacrosanct. 

Early in my career, I believed that as a teacher 'you can't afford to waste a minute' of available instructional time. I bought into the narrative that every minute of every school day had to be focused on learning.

To an individual student or a classroom's culture, the time spent on maintaining trust and building relationships can be as valuable as practicing where to put the comma correctly. Spend some time asking good questions and listening to what your students have to say and are thinking.

It's their space and time, let your students have time to breathe and reflect. Those times can be powerful, special, and memorable.

Not unlike a road trip with a treasured partner.

Thanks for reading.

I'm on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Don't Ask Me for My Kids' Test Scores...

Don't ask me for my kids standardized test scores.

Because I don't know.

I don't care.

My kids are more than a test score. Yes, I use data from formative assessments and other data points that help me understand what I need to adjust for each kid, the best I can. But I don't really care about a test that treats every kid the same and expects them to master the same content at the same time and demonstrate it in the same way.

That has got to sound crazy to someone other than me.

Ask me for my kids' names.

Ask me who's a poet.

Ask me who's a writer.

Ask me who's a programmer. A mathematician. A musician. An artist.

Ask me how my kids are going to change the world.

Ask me who works well with others. Ask me who's scared to go home. Ask me who's hungry. Ask me who takes care of their siblings. Ask me who's dealing with things that a 12-yr-old shouldn't have to deal with.

Don't ask me for their test score. I don't know. I don't care.

I care about my kids. Not their numbers.

Thanks for reading

I'm on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Refrigerator Privileges and Twitter

It might be an overstatement to say that everything that has come my way professionally can be traced back to Twitter, but it's close. I like to joke that without this 140 character limit platform, I wouldn't have any friends or any original ideas. Of course this isn't entirely true, but my Twitter timeline is a place where I've been inspired countless times over the last several years.

I have come to trust Twitter's space and those that I've interacted with. I've said for as long as I can remember that I'm on Twitter for the relationships, not the numbers. On Twitter, I get to surround myself with friends.

The people that I follow, help me imagine, challenge my thinking, and reinforce my purpose. They are people who think big. Dreamers. They are people who think and act differently. Rebels and revolutionaries. The people who I follow are willing to share their successes and failures. People who make me a better educator.

I owe the same to people who have chosen to follow me.

My previous post talked about putting the power of Twitter in student's hands.  It's not just just the virtual interactions, 140 character can lead to real friendships. Twitter is the 'real' world and can lead to real friendships.

For the past couple of Februarys I've made my way to Centennial CO to attend 5-Sigma Educon held at the remarkable Anastasis Academy. The first year I was the recipient of their 'noob' effort in which Kelly and Michelle crowdfunded my registration and flight costs. I'm still terribly grateful. They're good people. The second year of 5-Sigma, I convinced my district to send me as part of my TOY PD. Both years I stayed at Chez Baldwin, Michelle and her husband Jon's home.

I had 'talked' to Michelle for years on Twitter before our first face-to-face interaction at ISTE in Atlanta, but when we first met it was like reuniting with a long time friend.

When Michelle picked me up at the Denver airport, yeah she's nice, we spent the trip just talking about cats, kids, and my amazing ability to hold an open cup of coffee without spilling a drop. When we arrived I met Paco and Diego (their Chihuahuas) and was made to feel instantly at home. When I made it to my room, Michelle had laid out an internet access and password password card, water, and the candy that my late Mom always gave me at Christmas. Something a friend would do. Not a 'virtual' or 'Twitter' friend, a friend.

The next few days were filled with learning and great conversations. (If you haven't ever been able to attend a 5-Sigma Educon, I highly recommend checking into it.) On the third morning I woke up a little early and made my way downstairs to the kitchen and made myself some coffee, toasted a bagel, and opened the refrigerator to try and find some creme cheese.

It didn't occur to me until after I was eating my smeared bagel that I realized that a relationship that started with 140 characters had resulted in 'fridge privileges'.

Twitter is not about the numbers, not about the followers or who's following you. It's about the relationships, the inspiration those relationships can provide, and the comfort level you'll have in trying to find the knife drawer.

Thanks for reading.

I'm on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher