Day one? AMAZABALLS!!!


My school decided to try something different for the first two days this year.  With 2/3 of the students (and half the staff) new to the building, major construction, and a complete rearranging of the campus; the A-Team decided that this much change on a campus of 4,000 people needed something more like freshmen orientation in college.  So that’s what we did today.

Groups of 25-ish students were paired with a teacher and a COLABASH (still figuring out that acronym, but I know BAHS is the school) student and traveled through 8 different “stations” throughout the day getting various info and activities.  Yes, it was a bit of a zoo, but it was a good zoo-ish thing.

For my team, our day went like this:

   – Meet in my room for some icebreaker activities and create a home base

  – Go to the main gym for info from the A-Team on dress code, handbook stuff, parking…you know, the general boring stuff that HAS to be done, but is mind numbing

  – Head to a classroom near the front of campus for a series of trust exercises (kids had to figure out a maze by trial and error and get their team to mimic the perfected pattern without communicating…then we played with REAL mouse traps – 3,700 teenagers playing with mouse traps…AND IT WORKED BEAUTIFULLY!

  – Lunch

  – Aux gym/drama for learning cheers, the Alma Mater and the words to the marching band’s number

  – Back near my room for a session on the Tiger Way (aka building connectedness)

 – Tour of the campus

– closing activities back at home base & discuss plan for Day 2

Now, I know others may not have had the experience that my group did & that some kids got “lost” at a few points; but you get what you put into it and my group and I clicked by mid day.  Part of that was reputation – with only about 50 kids of the 3,700 actually knowing me…I was pleasantly surprised to hear “PRESLEY!!!” coming from across the quad a few times. That certainly helped! Yet, the reality is that a willingness on your part to dive in a make it a worthwhile experience for all – even you is what makes it work…Then you PIRATE it up! You want me to clap for the kids’ attention? Fine, but we’re going to turn it into a cheer.  So when you call Presley’s crew, you get *clap*, *clap, clap*, *clap, clap, clap*  + GO BA!  It caused a few double-glances, but definitely helped solidify that sense of togetherness for my crew. And yes, we brought a few to the dark side by the end of the day 😉

Today I felt like I was in a campus that would back my sense of “crazy” non-traditional style in a way that I have never felt previously.  Now, that isn’t to say that my previous experiences weren’t good or supportive.  More that I have a confidence here and now that I won’t have to justify my wacky approaches with copious amounts of boring data that spans years of research that will be ignored.   I’m sure I’ll hear my share of Negative Nelly dissing and complaining tomorrow, but I know – that for my crew – it was great.  So good, in fact, that there was a chorus of, “I wish we could stay together with this group all year”.  That made my day more than anything else could possibly have.  A single day with these kiddos and they’re already MINE.

…Request that future Tiger Groups be Academic Advisory groups & that those groups loop with the staff member for all three of their BAHS years has already been made.

Here’s to another rockin’ day tomorrow that ends in a sweet lip dub!



Social media scares & a homegirl’s take on STL


A little background before I get to the actual posting/conversation: my husband & I recently moved our family to Oklahoma from St Louis, Missouri. We both grew up there, have parents, siblings & various extended family throughout the metro area – everything from the “East Side”, to downtown, to “JeffCo”, St Charles & West County. STL is still “home” – in fact, I think it always will be. We’re rooted there. My family’s been there since prior to the Louisiana Purchase & his dad was a county cop for twenty years. For all its crime statistics & bad news…it’s “home” and we care about the neighborhoods of our hometown.

Over the weekend I began to get texts from friends & see links to news about the shooting death of an 18-year-old African American male by a white cop in the north St Louis suburb of Florissant. Not much more proven info available other than the unarmed kid was killed due to multiple gunshot wounds from the officer’s gun.

I thought, “okay, there’s more to this story that just that” and pretty much put it in the mental “hold” file for future exploration once more info became available. I figured that more info would come available over the next week and I’d read into it more then.

Last night, violence erupted. Stories of beatings, rioting along West Florissant Ave, store keepers fending off those rioters with handguns, riot police with shields & batons and riot dogs
began to surface – everywhere. My phone was exploding with texts, links to CNN, local news coverage, and the invariable social media circus.

And I was reminded of the damage that social media does in this scenario. When I woke this morning, I saw pictures of tanks (on flatcars on railroad tracks) with comments like “see! They’ve brought in tanks! It’s gonna be a war zone in STL.”
The teacher, the local gal, & the responsible social media participant in me grimaced & thought “here we go again”.
At a time where people are frustrated, unsure about the safety of their families and businesses, and are generally just in fear…you post a pic of tanks on a rail car, in a town that is still a railroad thoroughfare between military manufacturers & call it proof of a national guard presence/martial law?!?

I saw another pic of an armored SWAT van titled “tank”. Then I got aggravated at social media misinformation during a time of fear & social trouble. Do you really want to stir the pot of tension with misinformation? So, yeah, I butted into a few conversations with clarification…but it’s a raindrop in a river.
The teacher in me is almost disappointed at not having several dozen teenagers in a room for the chance to use this experience to address digital citizenship & simple “butt-head syndrome” (my term for people who treat real life events like a Hollywood movie). I still plan to, but catching those teachable moments after the event feels like trying to grab sand with just my hands when, a moment ago, I had a snow shovel.

So where do we go from here? I expect pockets of more violence will erupt tonight…and more sensationalist news coverage will be made by the professionals & armchair imflamists (is that a word?). But how do we use this to teach our kids – and maybe a few adults as well – to be responsible at a time when misinformation can cause real human damage?

What are your thoughts?
*update 1/2017 – I wrote this blog in the immediate aftermath of what would quickly become a national focus. There has certainly been some shifting in my perspective as more info became available & certain questions came to the surface. I have chosen to leave the blog I. Its original state as a piece of discussion for my students as we talk about “in the moment”news coverage and how social media plays in. 

Did I consider deleting/changing/altering my original post? Certainly! In fact, many facets of my perspective have taken quite the change! However, I think there’s room for a broader discussion by leaving it as it began & then using it as a discussion piece. – A

Why now & why “marauding”? Isn’t that a bit…negative?


Why start blogging (again) now? I supposed the clearest answer is a vague “why not now?” I’ve gotten comfortably immersed into the Edu-portion of twitter, gotten myself into the mix for local education – in the classroom and in local EdCamp world.  I suppose, it just feels like blogging ought to be the next piece.  That and I no longer feel as awkward and “what could I possibly have to share” now because I’m learning that you don’t need to be the one with the sexy sales pitch…you just need to be YOU.

Why “marauding”? I know, it brings to mind a group of smelly big guys, ransacked villages & weeping children standing in the ashes of a life now destroyed… but what about maraud in association with pillaging what’s not working and sharing the plunder of what is? What about systematically going after the parts of education that are NOT about kids and the excitement of learning, and then sharing what IS about putting kids first with a growing PLN?  In that view, I want to be that marauder, that pillager; and I want to be able to say I do a little bit each day to chip away at something that’s not about kids, or that I shared something that is about kids with my PLN.

So, this is a challenge for myself.  One or the other – each day. Starting now.