3 Happy Things, No, 4, No, 5!

I started this post three times, intending to celebrate three wonderful work events, but good stuff just kept happening. So here is my last post of 2014, documenting some random awesomeness.

1) My DonorsChoose.org project for Chromebooks in my classroom was fully funded! A huge donation from Chevron put me over the top. Ironically, I learned this only hours after dismissing my students for Winter Break. I can’t wait to tell them on January 5.

2) I was selected as an “On Deck” presenter at CUE Rockstar Camp – Ontario in July! It’s  3-day, hands-on educational tech professional development workshop with a 10:1 participant to presenter ratio. I attended one in Manhattan Beach last summer and it changed my professional life. My favorite new classroom practices flowed directlt an indirectly from those 6 worshop sessions and the resulting networking. But it gets better – the main presenters for Ontario include my MENTORS and others from Manhattan Beach. WIN!

3) I was selected to lead an hour-long session on Google Forms at OCCUE TechFest at the end of January! I’ve enjoyed presenting it before, but this is in my own county. Plus I’ll get to attend the rest of the conference for free.

On top of all this, on the last day for transfers, I scored a rare ticket to Gallifrey One, a long-running Doctor Who Convention in LA in February! I’m looking forward to meeting Alex Kingston, who plays River Song, and other luminaries, as well as reuniting with my Whovian friends with whom I camped in line at San Diego Comic-Con for the 50th Anniversary panel. I’m now feeling optimistic for a ticket to SDCC itself in July.

Finally, I’ve got my knitting mojo back! My darling daughter requested a black beanie, which inspired me to dive back into my stash and reclaim the joy of my favorite craft. I also began re-listening to a wonderful knitting podcast from 2007 called Cast On.  Amazingly, it continues to inspire.

But that’s not all I’ve got up my sleeve — see you in 2015!


White Space

white space vase

Once again I take a post’s inspiration from #CAedchat, a weekly online chat among educators on Twitter that happens on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. PST. I didn’t write about December 7’s chat on “white space” immediately because, ironically, I needed white space to process it. I shared the concept with my students on Monday and with colleagues throughout the week.  All these interactions shaped this post.

White space, literally, is a place on a page free of any text or graphics. It serves many purposes, including (1) to help define the parameters of the stuff on the page, (2) to provide a place for the eye to relax, (3) to provide an opportunity for reflection or taking notes.

Metaphorically, white space was forced on me beginning with Thanksgiving. Short version: my husband was hospitalized on Thanksgiving day with a mysterious infection and even now, 2-1/2 weeks later, is on IV antibiotics and nutrition to give his digestive system a rest. He is well on the mend, but his healing process and our family coping process requires time and patience … and white space.

All of us need affirmatively to CREATE white space, including teachers in their classrooms and students in their school lives. In the chat one teacher revealed that her middle school has only two-minute passing periods. The physical challenges for students are obvious, but when I shared this with my students, they focused on the mental challenges of switching gears from, for example, Shakespeare to a math test in so short a time. One year I had three different preps three periods in a row before snack. It felt like that ancient comedy, If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium, and I didn’t even have to change classrooms. My students do this every day, I also shared the idea of white space with colleagues during the week and everyone, without exception, nodded and recognized the need in their own lives.

So, among my many epiphanies from Sunday’s “White Space” #caedchat, I resolve to build more white space into my teaching (my lessons, my daily plans, even my handouts) AND encourage my students to TAKE white space for themselves when the system doesn’t provide it.

What will this look like? Essentially, I will SIMPLIFY.

(See what I just did there? A one-sentence paragraph.)

  • I will literally and figuratively highlight the parameters and the importance of my “stuff on the page” with negative space around it.
  • I will create places on the page, in the day, in the class period, for the eye and mind to relax.
  • I will build in opportunities in time and space to reflect and to take notes.
  • I will revisit the chat archives for ideas and inspiration (thank you, David Theriault!) and this post, blog and my journal to recharge.

 Make Good Stuff (that includes white space) and Share!

Two Steps Forward – A 20% Time Reflection

Educator and 20% Time authority Kevin Brookhouser very kindly published my post in his 20time.org blog on December 1, 2014, at



20% Time is fabulous, engaging, inspirational, provocative!  All this is true. It is also frustrating, challenging, discouraging, dispiriting. But so is life. And life is learning.

Three of my classes are deep into working on their 20% Time projects, so I found the topic for this past Sunday’s #caedchat, a weekly Twitter chat for California educators, to be a timely lifeline. Much to my relief, many participants echoed my feelings about the many virtues and obstacles, both predictable and unpredictable that grace/plague 20% Time, or Genius Hour. But through all the great suggestions for how to engage that small percentage of reluctant learners or how to hit the balance of challenge vs failure that inspires without demoralizing, educators’ passion for 20% Time shone bright and hot.

At the very least, 20% Time helps students to view their world a little differently, as a place of possibility, of problems that can be solved, of processes that can be improved. At its best, 20% Time provides students with the skills and confidence to become masters of their own learning. In the process, with the support of the classroom teacher and, often, outside mentors, students laugh, cry, discover, try, fail, interview, recalibrate, collaborate, ask, answer, and mostly succeed.

I commend the curious to peruse this site for inspiration and to consult Joy Kirr’s Livebinders for specifics. I also encourage everyone to start NOW, with babysteps, to find ways to provide students with more choice. Then, maybe next quarter or next semester, devote 20% Time for even just a month or two. I can virtually guarantee that educators will be hooked and students, perhaps confused at first, will become enthusiastic.

Start today to Make Good Stuff and Share.

Teresa Ozoa
English Teacher
University High School, Irvine, CA

G+: Teresa Ozoa
Twitter: @TOzoa