This week I hit the ground running. It began with a 6 hour drive home from an amazing experience at FallCUE on Monday that led directly into the second half of a work day and the pace didn’t stop as the week progressed. Waking up this morning, I felt like I had run into a brick wall. All I could think of was, “Thank Goodness It’s Friday! With a latte’ in hand, I walked into my first meeting of the day with a smile, but secretly desiring to crawl back in bed and start my weekend early. I’m so glad I didn’t follow through with my tired inclinations, because today was one to remember. A perfect reminder of all that I’m so grateful for and the things that I value so much as an educator. As I was reflecting on this marvelous day, a friend said, “you need to write a blog post about this day so you can remember it on the ones that are more difficult.” I knew immediately that this was exactly what I needed to do, and how serendipitous that this magical day falls so beautifully into my MAGICAL acronym…
Authenticity and Agency
Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity
My culinary adventures in my district began at South Medford High School. After 13 years as a culinary teacher, this year I transitioned to a new role as a Tech Integration Specialist. After being part of a school culture for that long, it’s hard to leave. You develop relationships with colleagues and students that help shape who you are as an educator and they become a part of a school family. So many memories have accumulated over the years and returning to SMHS will always feel like coming back home. My day started with a meeting in my former high school library chatting about edtech with people I love. This warm, collaborative space is so welcoming and inviting. Teacher librarian, Jennifer McKenzie, and media tech, Gigi Michaels, intentionally create a special space where everyone can gather and feel safe and accepted. They always have beautiful displays and even brought in a piano this year for students and staff to express themselves musically throughout the day. It feels like your walking into Nordstroms. My heart filled with gratitude for this school and the people I hold dear to my heart. It is wonderful to know that I can still collaborate with this amazing group of educators and now be able to support them and their work in my new role. As I was leaving I ran into many former students that I miss so much. It was so wonderful to see them and hear how their new year was going.
Authenticity, Agency, and Authentic Audience
The next stop of the morning was at one of our district’s elementary schools. A 5th grade class had invited me in to talk about my journey to becoming a Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc author. How cool is that?! I really had no idea what to expect, so as I walked into the room I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome I received. These kids made me feel like a celebrity the moment I walked in the door. Within seconds of sharing about my love for writing and my journey to becoming an author, hands shot up in the air. These kids were full of curiosity about writing and what it meant to share your story. There were so many questions in fact, I had a hard time figuring out who to call on next. Their questions were so insightful!
“What inspired you to write your story?”
“Do you ever have a difficult time organizing your ideas and thoughts? How do you sort them all out?”
“What were your favorite books to read as a kid?”
Their curiosity blew my mind! I was absolutely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of these young writers. It was such a pleasure to share from my heart about my writing adventures and empower them to write their stories as well. Seeing their little eyes twinkle with excitement and possibility was a reminder as to how important our stories are to share. As the teacher told the class our time was coming to a close, a half dozen hands went into the air hoping to sneak in a few last questions. “Has our teacher read your book?” When I told them I had brought one today for her the class loudly cheered. How precious is that?! Then, the last question took me by complete surprise and filled my eyes with tears! “Can I get your autograph?” When I answered, “Of course!” the room filled with chatter as additional kids echoed, “Could I get an autograph too?” As I said my goodbyes, students started gathering around for hugs and autographs on little slips of notebook paper. One kid even asked me to sign his shirt. I’m pretty sure at this point some tears slipped out as I was overcome by emotion. We never know the impact our story may have on another’s journey, we need to share it!
Gamification and Innovation
As I was leaving this amazing experience, I peaked in the door of another teacher that is one of the Spark Starters on our district's Innovation Team. I was overjoyed to see that her kids were all on Flipgrid creating video reflections of a book that they had just read in class. This teacher had just recently been introduced to Flipgrid and I was so impressed that she was already using this new digital tool in her classroom. I loved the energy in the room and how immersed these kids were in learning!
As I was walking around something on the wall made me do a double take! She had a display that showed all of her game mechanics for the Amazing Race. I had just shared last week how I had gamified my culinary class with an Amazing Race theme and she had already designed a game framework and launched it in her classroom! I was so impressed by the courage of this teacher. She didn’t hesitate to take a few risks and face an uncertain outcome in hopes of creating unforgettable experiences for her students. It’s so easy to gravitate towards the comfortable and predictable rather than challenge ourselves to try something that could potentially be new and better. She shared with me that the launch hadn’t been perfect, but by jumping in she was quickly able to iterate as needed as her students experienced it. This is innovation in action!
Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity
My next stop of the day was at the elementary school my own two kids attended. I absolutely love this school and how they nurtured my children through their younger years. In fact, as I was walking onto campus a flood of nostalgia came over me as I remembered all the wonderful and special memories that took place on this campus.
From the moment I walked into the classroom of the Spark Starter that I was visiting, I knew it held a special magic. She had completely transformed her classroom into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and was dressed up in costume herself to match the theme! It was amazing! As we chatted she explained all of the immersive learning activities and challenges she had created that all tied into the theme and standards! Creativity, collaboration, and curiosity all working in beautiful harmony to create unforgettable experiences for students. Her passion, enthusiasm, and joy radiated from her and I knew without a doubt her students felt it too because it’s contagious! When we are on fire for teaching, our students become on fire for learning! Becky Vanduker is a must follow! She is continually transforming her space into a magical place of unforgettable learning!
As I was soaking up all the magic of this incredible classroom, a former student of mine that was visiting popped his head in the door! I am pretty sure I squealed or screamed with excitement! This kid that I remembered so well, now an adult, is in his second year as an elementary teacher in Northern Oregon! As he shared about his classroom and teaching experience, my heart filled with pride. It was not that many years ago he was my student and now he had a classroom of his own making a difference in the lives of kids.
As he left the classroom, a former teacher of my children entered the room. His own child had been in my culinary classes throughout high school and held a special place in my heart. He was a kid that didn’t particularly like school. He was a very talented, creative and “out of the box” thinker who didn’t fit into the traditional school mold. I remember telling him, “You are going to do amazing things one day, I just know it.” As this teacher began sharing about his son, my eyes began to fill with tears. Not only is this former student of mine doing well, he is thriving! He is now a very successful entrepreneur who is living his dream. His next words made my heart melt into puddles. They went something like this….“Thank you for believing in my son and his potential. Your belief empowered him and helped him believe in himself. You made an impact on his life.” I was speechless. We all leave footprints on our students lives. When we take the time to really get to know our students, love them, and believe in them it makes an impact whether we ever see the outcome or not. These interactions were a special reminder today that what we do matters A LOT. We daily are impacting lives in a profound way. We are leaving a legacy and empowering others to leave a legacy as well. That is magical!
Watch with Glittering Eyes
Days like this help me remember how grateful I am for the opportunity to live out my passion everyday and impact the lives around me in a positive way. There is magic all around us if we remember to watch with glittering eyes. I would have missed out on today's secrets if I would have stayed in bed and started my weekend early. I'm so glad I experienced the magic of today.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.