Loving monster arms.

My teacher-self and my creative-self had to take a break from one another for a bit. What I loved so much about teaching was its inherent creativity and craft, and for some reason, perhaps many reasons, this disconnected for me. I couldn’t seem to fit my mental sabbatical in a time-frame clock-shaped box that is a ‘summer vacation.’ This regeneration of loving my crafted profession, my calling if you will, required some slash-and-burn style chaos to opportunity regrowth. In other words, I was burnt out. Happens to the best of us.

But now–it feels like time for growth again.

Maybe this is the cycle for many teachers to go through. “They” say that most teachers leave the profession (via quitting, not retiring, obviously) around the fifth to seventh years. Perhaps it is because any endeavor we undertake: children, marriage, careers, we do spin our wheels, backtrack, cycle around, and hopefully–move forward.

I had many posts drafted in my mind as I recommit myself to this blog. This blog has changed over the years, too. First its focus was student-teacher discourse, a place for students to use as an resource, extending beyond the classroom day. As my district moved forward with technology, this has been a cause of great “ah-ha’s” and “oh, no…” for me. There is more “technology” but less actual interaction. Multitudes of websites are blocked, Vimeo was shut down for student access, the Minecraft club I am trying to get going has met with many obstacles, including my own Luddite-approach to pixelized building blocks, all the while trying to understand the “new old school” jargon that changes literally year to year. We, as a district, implemented “walkthroughs” last year, my school in particular being heavily placed under a microscopic view because of its continuing low test scores. “We” don’t call it AYP anymore, (annual yearly progress) but something else now. I forget what. It’ll come to me. Hang on. Oh yeah…School Progress.

So the blog mutated, evolved, regressed, progressed, whatever–to a safe place for me to capture my thoughts on teaching. I would come across cool things, and keep them here, my happy “isn’t the Internet a really cool place?” place.

And I still believe that. In fact, more than ever.

One ‘hobby’ I took up a few years ago, at the behest of my younger son and husband, was playing World of Warcraft. My brother-in-law works for Blizzard, and both he and my husband worked in games for years. My husband started at Sierra On Line, and helped get my brother-in-law there, and though Sierra and my husband parted ways, and my brother-in-law went on to work for Blizzard, and ultimately being a lead developer for Diablo III (a super fun, but yes, gruesome game of monsters, demons, lurking things, zombies, and lost-and-found souls). So, this is a ‘family’ activity for us. I ended up branching off more to the fan-fiction side of things, using my love of writing, and the lore (albeit highly derivative) sparked my cob-webby imagination. But–it is still a ‘game,’ but this is where the lines get blurry.

What have I learned during my time in the University of Azeroth? I learned that we as educators of this generation, and I mean kindergartners to thirty-somethings, need to be very aware of the lives that are led in social media contexts and in flesh-and-blood reality. I learned that not only do we have the honored responsibility to promote citizenship and critical thinking skills in one plane/dimension, but multiple realities. I am not so naive as to think this is an original thought with me – far from it. Much as been written about digital citizenship, and it is the ‘hot topic’ now. What I am proposing is that — wait, what am I proposing? That all teachers log into WoW to see the smack-talk, racism, sexism, trolling, and mean spiritedness of anonymous players? To go to Facebook and see what kids are saying to one another? Heck–kids?! How about the awful so-called adults?! Should you hang out in Minecraft for a few hours only to hear “CHEEEZEWHIZZLE KILLED ME!” as a griefer destroys long hours’ of pixelized civilization building?

I am not sure.

The image above was taken at our teachers’ meetings during the first two days prior to school. Our focus from our new principal (my fifth one in seven years–please stay…please…..stay!) is about PLCs. Our staff has been more than ready for PLCs: last year, before this principal arrived, someone, somehow, took away our “teams,” and the fall-out was near devastating to our students. But this year, we have teams back, I have many of my students from last year, and a wonderful schedule, and best of all: focus. Clear, sharp, beautiful focus. My colleague Chris and his table group came up with this interpretation from one of the passages, and he titled it “Loving Monster Arms.” That is the best analogy I can deliver: teaching, the technology, the world, and its dual citizenship status, are indeed like “loving monster arms.” They are not so scary once you understand them. Everyone wants to grow, be nourished, and be loved. We’re going to hold on tight to what is good, change what needs to be adjusted, and do it all with care.

So–this blog. Yes, it’s mine: I pay for it, I write it at home, on my dime, and it belongs to me. I share it for those who want to read it. Sometimes I may write about tough questions, hard feelings, and wonder if the emperor isn’t dressed properly. The opinions expressed are mine, and observations subject to flaws of perception. But isn’t that what we’re trying to get our students to do? Think for themselves, and have the ability to express it?

Hope so.