Celebrating Innovation

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Today I drove out to Bassett High School to attend San Gabriel Valley CUE’s annual conference called Innovation Celebration. In the past it’s been a “TechFest”, but I love how this year it included sessions on pedagogy that weren’t focused exclusively on edtech. As the numbers of teachers comfortable with edtech grow, so have the offerings for varied levels of tech experience. Pictured are my pals and mentors Alice Chen and Nancy Minicozzi, whom I met at my first CUE Rock Star Teacher Camp and who continue to inspire me with their expertise and curiosity.

While I have learned a ton online through edchats on Twitter and expanding my PLN (professional learning network), I love interacting face-to-face with my “tribe”, those willing and able to spend their weekends gathering ideas to enhance their students’ learning. Here’s a new friend who made me laugh with this tweet:

 

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Isn’t that adorable? And isn’t SHE? She’s wearing an Amelia and Joy by LuLaRoe! I always ask to take a picture with the name badge so I can recall the awesome folks I meet at conferences.

I had planned to debrief my new learning tonight, but I’m really tired. Guess I’ll allow myself a little more grace and get to bed early….

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Time Flies

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Every year seems to go by more quickly than the last. Well, yes. That is LITERALLY true to humans because a year becomes a progressively smaller unit of our lives. A year is now 1/60th of my life, but only 1/10th of my nephew’s life. I chose the image above — a jet plane — rather than the more common bird wings or insect wings because I’m feeling like MY time is passing on turbo boost. “Too much to do; too little time!”

Yet, as my classes discussed last week about the stages of life, time is a human construct. It is relative (cf Albert Einstein), but also, as stated by Erwin Sylvanus, “Indifferent to the affairs of men, time runs out, precise, heedless, exact, and immutable in rhythm.” Therefore, the passage of time is inherently in the mind of the observer. That being so, we should spend more of our time enjoying the present, fully savoring what we do each moment, without regret over the past or anxiety about the future.

So please excuse me while I go pet my cat, kiss my husband, and enjoy a taste of chocolate while listening to what “shuffle” serves up on my Music app. 🙂

 

Geeks of All Ages

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Yes, that’s *me* with the Moment and the War Doctor aka Sir John Hurt in February 2016 at Gallifrey One in LA.

Straightening up my classroom last Friday afternoon, I shared this photo in a lovely “moment” with a student and his friend that began with the statement, “Ms. Ozoa, I hear you’re a big geek. What’s your fandom?” I instantly shed my end-of-the-week weariness and happily geeked out over Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, the MCU and, of course, Doctor Who.  What a delightful way to connect with teenagers, to share non-academic interests and passions! The two boys then waxed poetic about Blizzard’s game Overwatch, which I do not play, but which I’ve learned about via the “secondhand smoke” of my gamer friends. The boys were also inordinately impressed by my knowing personally Scott Johnson, co-host of The Instance, the longest-running podcast about Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Thanks for that, Scott, et al.!

The point of my anecdote is to remind educators / coaches / parents / anyone who interacts with teens to stay open to those “moments” when we can step outside our official roles and simply connect authentically. It’s worth it.

Mirrors, Westworld and Hypocrisy

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We seem rarely to see ourselves as we really are when we look in the mirror. This can be a good thing (as when we aspire to be better) or a very, very bad thing (as when we fail to see a fixable flaw that is obvious to everyone else). This election season I’ve found myself shouting at my TV screen at certain advocates — “Really?! OMG, look in the mirror!” These people spew hateful, bigoted comments while declaring themselves proponents of family values, defenders of the poor, and good Christians.

Why the disconnect?

I think that, when such folks look themselves in the mirror, they see what they want to see, as in the Mirror of Erised at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels. Why is it so easy to overlook what is objectively before our eyes? Part of the answer for me comes from the new Netflix series Westworld in which guests visit a fantasy western world populated by extremely lifelike robots. I’ll focus on just one aspect of the series: the creators debrief the “hosts” periodically, but calling them into a minimalist lab and asking them questions. The hosts (and hence the actors) sit naked on a chair and, if they go into cold storage, stand naked in lines. I can only imagine how vulnerable a person (or actor) must feel being so exposed. As a TV viewer, I find myself feeling uncomfortable on their behalf. Therefore, it seems to me that people easily tune out what they don’t want to see, either physically or metaphorically, when looking in the mirror.

We all need to be better, to acknowledge the reality of our judgmental natures. Only then can we begin to address them.

 

 

UHS Homecoming 2016

16uhshcspiritMy high school site is unique in its tradition of decorating entire hallways for Spirit Week. Each day all students dress up according to a theme, culminating in Spirit Night on Thursday where class councils bring in the decorations they’ve been working on all quarter. On Friday morning students tour around and a committee of staff have the difficult task of awarding points. This year the Seniors won, followed by Juniors, Sophomores and Freshmen. My few pictures here fail to do their amazing work justice. EVERY locker mural was outstanding, and many of the smaller elements such as Cinderella’s coach and  the working WALL-E robot were impressive. But below, from 12-9th grade are a few tastes of Homecoming 2016.

Seniors: Disney Princesses — Rapunzel’s tower, Beauty and the Beast mural

Juniors: Imagination– Peter Pan mural, Jolly Roger pirate ship

Sophomores: Lion King / Finding Nemo / Ratatouille / A Bug’s Life —  Pride Rock, Finding Nemo painting

Freshmen: Video Games — Sugar Rush mural, Wreck It Ralph model

 

“The Last Lecture” — Help People


As part of our unit on The Value of Life, my elective class called Contemporary Studies watched Randy Pausch’s lecture called “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Knowing he was dying of liver cancer, Pausch delivered a funny, moving, and inspirational talk on how to live a good life in which he described some highlights of his journey as a family man, a student and a professor. The best-selling book he published called The Last Lecture expands on the stories and lessons of his 75-minute speech. 

Pausch’s lecture contains so many meaningful lessons, but the one message that most resonated with me on this viewing was HELP PEOPLE. That’s a given in an educator’s job description, but it also describes an attitude for anyone in any profession or any role, including student. We can learn so much from connecting with others without expectation of personal gain. The beautiful irony is that, with that mindset, we often get back more than we give. Pausch calls that a “head fake” or indirect learning, where in the doing of a fun task we learn something difficult. My own beloved father Angelo Ozoa preached that lesson and lived it, as a doctor and community leader whose legacy includes an annual medical mission to needy areas in the Philippines. So go do what Randy and Angelo said — help people!

The Only Thing We Can Control

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Lately I’ve encountered problems where the ancient advice of stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius served me well. It’s easy for teachers to fall into the trap of taking events personally or feeling responsible for fixing difficult situations or reacting defensively. But sometimes our professional best can only take us so far. When we hit a wall in frustration, all we can control is our own reactions, not anyone else’s behaviors.

Sorry for the vague post. I never feel comfortable even hinting at details about problems involving students. Suffice it to say that putting myself in their complicated, emotional shoes helps me to react with compassion, not anger, with empathy, not enmity, with solutions, not punishments.

In other news, one of my favorite 20% Time Projects in the past two years was an AP Language student who read four biographies, including one of Marcus Aurelius, and ran the stock investment club at our high school. He wrote a 7,000 word guide to stoicism and value investing called The Stoic Investor, and self-published it on the Amazon Kindle store.