Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Give Me a Head With Hair....or take it all away!

So, this is the part where I get to mention how awesome my 75 students are in my morning classes! That's right! I have some of the best students around. To all of you that are teachers, I am sorry that you had to miss out on having MY students! We have had an amazing year, so far, and the last 11 days have made it that much better!

It all started two weeks ago when one girl, in my period three class, put up her hand and said, "Mr. Young, you need a haircut." Now, some people might say, "yes, I do" and move on with the class. My brain doesn't seem to work that way. I turned to her and said, "Yes, I sure do! Who wants to cut my hair?" Well, of course, all of the students put their hands up. This lead me to ask, "who is going to pay the most to cut my hair?" Well, at that moment, the wallets and purses came out and they started putting up $5s and $10s. KA CHING!

Then, as most teachers brains think, how could we do this for the greater good? We had just had our fundraiser at school the Neo Natal centre at a provincial hospital. However, here were my students wanting to reach this goal. My suggestion was that we could do something to help our school out. Recently, there has been a committee created to fundraise for a new gym floor in our school (I am not part of this committee. However, I do use the gym all the time).

So, I stopped the class. I stopped teaching the content of my curriculum. I stopped the typical "learning" that my students are supposed to get. I stopped. I looked. I thought.

Now, if you know me, I sometimes like to jump into something without thinking. Sometimes things come out of my mouth before I think. "Who wants to shave my head?" I looked around the class and all of them got this weird glint in their eyes.

"Let's raise some money for the school" I said to my period 3 class. "What could we do?" Without missing a beat one student put up their hand and said, "GYM FLOOR!" All the other students were in favour of it. They all use the gym at some point in their educational careers so they thought it would be a great thing to help out with. It started off with everyone saying that we could get all 75 students in my morning classes (all grade 9s) to bring in a Toonie ($2 coin here in Canada). That would give them $150. All of them agreed, nope, that wasn't enough.

So, I did what any great teacher would do, I left the room. Before I left, however, I said to them, "YOU need to come up with something that works for you." I left for 8 minutes (stood outside the classroom door). What I overheard was kids talking and others going up to the door. When I walked in they came up with the plan:

$150 one hour in the gym for fun time
$400 Mr. Young shaves his chin goatee
$500 Mr. Young shaves his head
$1100 Mr. Young does everything above plus wears a dress to school for the day

Ok, they came up with a plan. I was happy about that. However, leave it to my teaching partner (friend that I have taught with for 6 years) to come into the class and say, "wear a dress or wax his legs?" WELL, as you can guess the students heads almost exploded and then it was the conversation of "Pain vs. Humiliation"? Well, PAIN won this round. HUH? What a minute! I did not sign up for waxing the legs. However, remember, I jump into things without thinking. So, of course, I said, "SURE!" I mean, really, how bad could it be?

So, the next day, I found that word had spread to my other two period classes and the game was officially on. However, nothing ever runs perfectly. One of my administrators had mentioned about how cool it would be to see if the students could raise $25 per student (which would get all of their names up on the honour wall of contributors, for the floor, that would go in the gymnasium). That would up the total to $1825. $1825? ARE YOU KIDDING? I am dealing with grade nines! So, I presented all of my classes the number. Yes, it was up significantly from $1100 but once the students found out that their names would be up on the wall, they got a hunger in their eyes that I had never seen in a class before. My thoughts were, "yeah, they like the idea right now. It is going to fizzle out! They are not going to make that amount!" Thankfully I have two wonderful Educational Assistants that are with me, in the mornings, that kept track of the money that was being brought in and they continued to give amazing encouragement to all of the students and keep them updated on the total amount being brought in!

Over the next few days I left them to their own devices. Students were brining in spare change, cash, cheques from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. Every class would be told the total throughout the morning. Everyone was encouraging each other. $2 coins were applauded the same if someone brought in $300 cheques. Everyone brought in what they could bring. Could it be the we had a group of teenagers were having fun raising money for something other than slurpees and video games?

Well the day came, 11 days after this all started. On that day they didn't just have $1875, they had $2200 on the nose. I cannot describe the amount of cheering that went up in all of the three classes when they found out they had made it.

It was then that all 75 of my students looked at me, smiled, and all started making jokes about waxing my legs, shaving my head, and getting rid of the scruff on my chin. There was NO way I could get out of this now. What had I agreed to? I could get on board with the chin, the head, but the waxing of the legs? Thankfully, I had lots of ladies that I work with come up and give me advice on how to reduce the pain of the waxing. Lots of them though just said, "make sure you have something to hold onto and grit your teeth!"

As you can see from the video below, I made good on my promise. We raised money for a good cause, and we had some fun with it! However, when I look back at this whole thing, I am starting to realize that my students learned something that wasn't in my curriculum guide. GASP! That is a big no no, isn't it? Everything I do should come from my curriculum guide! That is what I have always been told.

So what did my students learn from this?

1. They learned about working together to reach a goal
2. They learned that everyone contributes what they can and that any amount should be applauded and looked at as a small step towards their big goal
3. They learned how to cheer each other on.
4. They learned that adults don't have to do everything for them. They can make things happen for themselves as long as everyone is on board

Not from a curriculum guide, I know, but guess what? I DON'T CARE! To me, if they learned those four things from this experience, THEY have done their job!

Yes, I lost my goatee. I lost the hair on my head. I lost the hair on my legs and put up with the pain. So what? As long as my students can walk around with their heads held high knowing that THEY did something to make our school a better place, it was the least I could do.

Here is the video that was created by one of my Media Studies 20 students of the whole festivities that took place on the day I had my "$2200 haircut". The only thing you can't put on film is the pride and joy that is in their hearts. Yep, MY STUDENTS ROCK!!! I am a proud proud proud teacher!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Tweet @mrbrettyoung

"Are you kidding? Why on earth would I join a site where all it is is updating my status over and over. I have Facebook, thanks, that's enough for me. This Twitter thing sounds dumb. It will be here and gone like MySpace. I don't even know anybody that is on it and how can I keep my privacy protected by people I don't want know anything about! Plus, you only get 140 characters to type something. BLAH!"

The statement above became my "rehearsed line" for about the course of a year when anyone in my inner circle would ask, "have you signed up for Twitter yet?" Not that they had signed up or anything, but they know that I always seem to jump on the new "tech train/web 2.0" tools and then abandon them as soon as I become disinterested with it. I actually was "The Anti-Twitter" and would tell everyone that Twitter was just like updating the Facebook status line, why would I want another outlet to do that?

Then, that day happened. That day when I went to www.twitter.com and hit that "sign up now" button. I still remember that little blue bird, sitting there, waiting for me, calling out to me to contribute countless Twitter messages that later I would call "Tweets" to absolutely no one that would even see it. It actually started when I was out for lunch with my sister (@wdwgirl1) and she said that she had signed up for Twitter to start posting things about what her students were up to in their grade one class. Of course, my rolling of the eyes and my rehearsed statement came out and I was off on my anti-Twitter rant again. Then, and in only the way a sister can, she said, "Have you tried it? Then don't knock it." It was a very direct statement that left me with the challenge of actually seeing what this site was all about before I said another word about Twitter in her presence. So, on Sunday, May 17th, 2009, at 2:10 pm (thanks, Ubertwitter, for keeping that record)with 0 tweets, 0 followers, and 0 people following me, my social networking world shifted into something that I had never thought possible before.

Of course, as with all new things, I was hesitant and I remember, my first tweet stating, "jumping into this without a parachute" and I hit that update button. Then I started figuring that I should actually start "following" some people in hopes of figuring out what would happen. Of course I started with the "Twitter Top 4" which included "Ellen, Oprah, CNN, and Ashton". Then, as I was looking I saw this link for something called www.wefollow.com . So I went there and they asked to to type in types of things I was interested in. Naturally, I went with "Disney, WDW, EdTech, Running". It was immediately after inputting those words, and searching for them on this site that the doors swung wide open for me and a flock of those little blue Twitter birds and the fail whale sang the Hallelujah Chorus.

Who were all these people that were interested in the things that I was interested in? @loumongello? @allearsdeb? @disneydean? @zannaland? @Ndm_1? @marcmantoo? @markymarc70? @aaronspod? @disneyfoodblog? @courosa? (form Education prof that I had) @shareski? (our school division's EdTech consultant, so I knew who he was) @tiffiniholland? @coryholland? @dawnis? (one of our city councillors) @disneyrunner? @mpmark? @bonnieg88? @jillianmichaels? @mytrainerbob? Ok, fine, follow, follow, follow! hmmmmmm? I wonder who they follow? They seem cool. Ok, follow, follow, follow.

After that, I decided to head out to the farm, as I usually do on a Sunday afternoon. Should I tweet that I am going to the farm? Maybe. Sure. I don't know! What I do remember though is that, when I got out there, I decided to use my blackberry to find out if there was anything that I could use to actually tweet from my phone. I knew it could be done because I had heard that you could, but how? So after one google search I found this thing call "Ubertwitter". Ok, why not! I like the sound of the name when I say it, so I will download it and see. Then, all of the sudden I could see everyone's tweets on my Blackberry. Cool! I could watch all of these tweets come through on my phone. Oh, plus you can add a picture if you want to your tweets. Hey, the girls are flying a kite. Sure, why not! Click! Upload to Ubertwitter and, Voila, it was out there! Then someone tweeted back that the kite flying looked like fun(don't remember who). I tweeted back and said, "yes, lots of fun out here in the wind today."

From that moment on it has been a complete blur and now all of the sudden I am sitting in my chair, tonight, typing out this blog, Tweetdeck is running in the background with @tiffiniholland and @coryholland (married couple that I am following from Nashville. THEY ROCK!) going back and forth at each other of things that Cory promises he won't do when he is older (wear socks with flip flops or call his wife an old maid), @disneyrunner (Gordon, www.runtodisney.com, from Alabama completed a race this morning and is off to bed now), and many people are discussing their day at Walt Disney World as the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival has started and there was a D23 event today. Today is Saturday, March 6th, 2010, at 10:41 pm and I have posted 9152 tweets, with 647 followers, and I am following 554 people.

So, after all this, I guess the question is, and the one I am answering now when people ask, "Brett, what has changed your opinion about Twitter since you joined? You used to despise it."

My answer, "a broader perspective into the amazing connections, resources, conversation, and power of a social network that all come from me creating it by hitting that FOLLOW button."

Twitter has opened my eyes that there are people out there that have similar interests that I do and that even though I may never be in the same room as these people we can chat, share resources, and in 140 characters get our point out there for people to see. I have created "My Network". No one else in the world has the same network as me. I choose who I want to follow and who I don't want to follow. I choose what I want to tweet about. I get to use those 140 characters in any way that I wish. I have heard it said over and over, "Twitter is like a party where we all have little conversations with each other." There is never a "hello" and "goodbye" as we are all connected 24/7.

My network is made up of people who share my interests. I have had motivation and tips from runners and other fitness professionals. I have had resources posted from educators all over the world, some of which I have made use of in my classroom. Those educators have even gotten me to rethink my philosophy on education based on the thoughts that they shared. Finally, my most strongest network on Twitter, my Disney Tweeps that are absolutely the most incredible folks I have ever followed (and I am hoping this year, will definitely have the chance of meeting in person). Through this network I have met authors of Disney books that I have read, cast members that work for the parks and the Disney company, and fans of Walt Disney World that share (and have gone on as many trips as I have) the love for that piece of land in Florida. Plus, with my entire network, we have shared in happy times, tragedies, accomplishments, births, marriages, and many other countless experiences that we have all had in our lives. Could it be that I have actually gotten to that point where I might have actually thought about giving up my beloved Facebook for my Twitter network? Trust me, I have thought about it but when I mentioned it to some friends and family they freaked because they are still in the Facebook camp.

To show what goes around comes around, I still remember in June of last year, my teaching partner, @B_Bmom (Tana, whom I have taught with for six years) took my phone one afternoon and kept it hidden until the end of the day because she thought I was on Twitter too much. She eventually gave the phone back and then started to wonder what this Twitter thing was really all about. A few days later she signed up for Twitter. Now, she owns a blackberry and is constantly retweeting and posting on Twitter and building her network. Hmmmmm, wonder if I should steal her phone for the day? Give her a taste of her own medicine!

Plus, to show the power of Twitter, a few days ago, it was my birthday. Tana and I were working out at the gym (on my birthday) and we were talking about what my biggest birthday wish would be. Well, as a huge fan of The Biggest Loser on NBC, I said that I would love for Jillian Michaels (sigh) to wish me a happy birthday. Of course, I laughed as I said it because to me it would never happen. Then Tana said, "well, she is on Twitter (and she is verified with that blue checkmark which means it is her) so let's put it out to our networks to see what would happen." Tana posted a request for Jillian to wish me a happy birthday and I retweeted it to my network. Over the course of the day I watched this tweet blow up until I am sure Jillian Michaels thought she had a stalker on her hands. My network and Tana's network were retweeting and adding comments to Jillian. I was in shock. Still, no tweet from Jillian came. I was not too worried as it was a long shot. However, the next day, I was told to check my phone from my cousin Bonnie. My first reaction was, "No, it couldn't have happened, could it?" This is what I saw:

That's right, Jillian Michael's had posted a happy birthday message to me! To me, that is pretty cool and just goes to show that things can happen when you put it out there to your network. For me, searching Google is the second thing that I do nowadays. If I ever have a question about something, I will pose it to my network first because, I am more likely to get a beneficial answer back from someone that knows. "Anyone know a good running training program? Anyone used this website in their classrooms? Who is staying for EMH at the MK and going to ride the TTA or HM or POTC?" (if you can answer that last question, you are part of my Disney network!)

Some tips that I have figured out about using Twitter while using it over the last number of months:

1. This is your network. You get to build it. You get to decide who you follow. You get to decide if you want to unfollow someone. That's the way it is.

2. Building your network takes time. It does not happen over night. You need to spend some time looking for people to follow.

3. You need to be willing to put yourself out there. Respond to people's tweets. Share resources and links to things you find useful. You will be surprised how many people will share back.

4. Twitter is NOT something you have to commit to all the time. You get to decide when you post tweets and when you sit back and watch.

5. Follow people from all areas of interest that you have. From here, you get to watch your network grow and grow.

6. Enjoy the experience of getting to know people that you normally would not find yourself in a room with. Twitter is not about the number of people following you, it is about you following people that will be beneficial to your network and your experience on Twitter.

So, Beckie, sister of mine who always gives me the look and the tone, "don't knock it till you try it", I have tried Twitter. You were right, I.....was......wrong. I don't admit that too often. The anti-Twitter Brett is dead. I have been newly conformed and am grateful for this tool and my amazing network! YOU ALL ROCK!

Now, as Tweetdeck has been running in the background as I typed this up, I see a few mentions I need to go and reply to as some people are wondering what I am writing on my blog. Plus, @coryholland is still posting things he will never do when he gets old. I am going to have to meet him someday.

Have a good one!