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Giving Up Some Of My Own Time Has Its Payoffs

Cameron 's drawing of the Solar SystemThis past weekend, I had to work.  Well, no, I chose to work.  In fact, I had three days in a row in which I gave away some of my time; and the payoff I got out of it was much more than anything I gave away.  I say this not for recognition.  I share these seventy-two hours with you because of what I came away with.
On Saturday, I presented at a local conference for a CUE affiliate, EBCUE.  I attended a session on “Teaching 2.0” given by a Twitter colleague, Karen McMillan, and then I presented my own session on PBworks and Google Earth in the afternoon.  A lot of what Karen shared about growing one’s own personal network and learning about various Web 2.0 tools was not new to me, but I was reinvigorated by the energy of the teachers for whom these WERE new discoveries.  In my own session, attendees had a range of reactions to what I was demonstrating and having them try, and some of them had questions about how I do things at my school.  As I talked about how little is actually blocked for us and how my students get their school e-mail addresses in third grade, it reminded me of how good I have it, especially with being able (encouraged, even) to try new things.  I am truly blessed to work in a school where teachers get to choose how to meet the standards and get their students to learn the content.

On Sunday, I covered a shift for a friend in our “open/close” rotation.  A local church uses our school for its services, and five of us take turns being the one to open and close for them, from ten to three, each Sunday.  Next Sunday is my turn, but my colleague needed someone to cover for her – and I can always use the extra funds.  I spent that time at work getting a lot of things done that, frankly, just don’t happen when I am at home (and distracted) or when I am at work with kids (who, as a part of my job description and theirs, have a lot to ask me).  I did several tasks for work, and I got some of my graduate school homework accomplished as well.  I felt good about how I used that five hours.
On Monday, I had a visit from a librarian/technology teacher who works some thirty-five miles northeast of me.  She had a release day to observe at a school of her choice.  I found out via Twitter, which is actually the only way the two of us ever knew each other in the first place.  It was the first time we’d ever met in person, despite exchanging many messages over the past year or so.  As she observed my classes, took notes, met with our librarian, and asked me questions, I again realized how good I’ve got it in my position.  She will struggle to get teachers to meet her halfway on her ideas for integrating technology.  She was just happy to have found someone who really WAS using Microsoft Office apps with first graders, so she could point to some of what we do as ideas they could try or modify to use in their classes.

Cameron 's drawing of the Statue of Liberty

Over these three days, which I could have spent doing my own thing or having fun with my husband and son, I got a chance to expand my own mind and pass along a little motivation to others as well.  I think this is one of those intangible reasons I have for being an educator.  This afternoon, as my son and I walked toward our car in the parking lot in school, and he sort-of complained about not getting to stay and play in Daycare longer (because I had to get home for my grad school classes), I found myself telling him that I go to classes because I want to learn for the rest of my life.  And when I finish my degree, I may not have to go to classes anymore, but I will still learn, from reading, and trying new things.  I consider it an investment not only in myself and in my career, but also in my son.  I want him to witness lifelong learning, not just as something he’s heard of but as something he has seen me model for him.


There will be more weekend days spent at conferences, at work, or doing homework.  There will be more times when I have to explain to my son why I am willing to put so much time in for my education and that of others.  But there will also be plenty of trips to the ocean to plod through tide pools and evenings spent gazing up at the night sky as the International Space Station passes overhead.  There will be maps, globes, Google Earth, and models of the solar system.  He already loves to learn, and I hope that all the reading he sees his father doing, and all the time he sees us both putting into teaching others, will help him continue that trend.

Both images were drawn by my son.  He ‘s six.

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