Thursday, February 28, 2013

Learning from Twitter...and a funny video

I'm a big fan of twitter.  It is more than learning the latest Kardashian drama, getting accidental spoilers on your favorite tv shows, and learning about T'eo's relationship with his fake girlfriend.

Through twitter, you can learn about instructional strategies, tech tools, and the various current "initiatives" in public education.  You can take part in professional chats with other educators around the world.  (And the state, try searching for "INeLearn" on a Thursday night.). Basically, you get to choose your own professional development and the possibilities are endless.

I've found that if an educator does not like twitter, they probably don't know how to use it to discover their personal and professional interests.  If anyone would like to learn how to get started and use it professionally, let me know.

You can use twitter with your students, too.  Last week, my fourth period class joined other high school students in talking to physicists, astrophysicists, and college professors about the asteroid and meteor events.  @timwilhelmus recently tweeted this website Lots of ideas on how to use twitter there.  If you already are on twitter, could you comment below with your username? We can make sure that we're all connected :)

Anyway, I've had a very hard couple of weeks.  @kevinhoneycutt (who spoke at a past elearning revolution event) retweeted this video.  It made me laugh because I definitely related to it this past week.  The script is the result of a girl trying to teach a younger girl how to subtract.  Not a great example of how amazing twitter can be as choose-your-own PD, but hey, it made me laugh.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Metaphor

I spend a lot of time hanging out on 14,000 foot mountains.  I bagged my first 14er, Mt. Elbert, when I was a sophomore.  I climbed in jeans and Nike tennis shoes and compared the experience to child birth, even though I had no idea at that time what that experience was likeJ  After I married Chad, it wasn't very long until he fell in love with the mountains, so we started climbing as a team.  On our first time climbing together, we tried Mount Princeton—in the Collegiate Peaks.  Right above tree line, we came face to face with a boulder field, covered in snow.  Even though I feel like I’m a pretty adventurous person, the minute my safety comes into question I’m out!  It didn't take long on the boulder field to realize that Mt. Princeton had thwarted me, and I had to turn tail and hike back down (we were at the 8 hour mark when we turned around).              
Over the last 11 years, my husband and I have tried to summit Mt. Princeton 4 times.  The second attempt, we made it 500 feet below the summit.  Chad was hiking with my 5 iron—he wanted to hit a golf ball from the summit (in retrospect we realize how crazy dangerous that idea was).  He attached the club to the outside meshing of a day pack, so the face of the club was sticking straight up.  One thing that I've learned from the mountains is that they mean business when the weather shifts.  There are plaques all over Colorado honoring people who died due to lightening.  This time we made it past the boulder field and could almost taste victory, when the clouds rolled in with a vengeance.  One crack of thunder, and immediately the sky lit up.  We frantically turned around and started scrabbling back across the now slippery boulder field.  Chad was in front of me, and I realized that with my 5 iron, he had become a human lightening rod.  I yelled at him over the din of hail bouncing off of the rocks—he yanked the club out of the backpack and hurled it down the mountain—never to be found again (and my set is still missing the 5 iron)! 
The third attempt at Mt. Princeton was just by Chad and a group of hiking buddies.  On the way up, they saw a mountain lion on the trail below them, so they decided not to take the same path down.  They missed the window of time to summit before the storms rolled in, and began bush-whacking their own path, only to “cliff out” and get stuck at a precarious angle.  Luckily they had a tracking device with them, called The Spot, so they pressed the button, which alerted search and rescue to their GPS location, and settled in for a really uncomfortable night.  In the morning, Chad climbed down 1500 vertical feet to meet search and rescue, and then turned around to take the rescuers back up to where the guys were so they could assist them in repelling down.  They survived the night with one Nalgene of water between them, a few rationed granola bars, and one emergency blanket (and the fear of a mountain lion looming in the dark). 
Last summer, Chad and I invited a couple to Colorado with us.  We decided one last time to attempt Mt. Princeton.  Because I’m not the biggest, I don’t always get the say, so when the guys determined that we would try to avoid the boulder field by walking the ridgeline, my fit throwing fell on deaf ears.  Even the best laid plans….so, at hour 6 as I found myself clinging to vegetation at a 45 degree angle, knowing that my window of opportunity was quickly closing, I had to make a decision—either kill my husband, or just give in to the journey and give up the destination. 
I still haven’t bagged Mt. Princeton.  I plan on making another attempt this summer in late July—the Aspens are the greenest then, and the marmots’ barking remind travelers that we are not alone on the mountain.  If I don’t make it to the summit, I’ll still be reminded of the air in my lungs and the beauty of the hard-fought journey.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reflections On Being a High School Counselor, by Karen Halle

“So, like, I didn’t know if you were the kind of counselor I can talk to, or one who only does your schedule.”  This is the comment a student made to me this week, after coming in upset and talking with me about serious stressors in her life.  This statement exemplifies the many hats school counselors wear and the resulting confusion from sometimes conflicting roles.

Yes, I am that kind of counselor, as we all are.  I have a master’s degree in counseling, which is awarded based on knowledge of counseling theories and practice.  But, yes, I am the kind of counselor who does schedule planning and adjustments, and more adjustments, and more adjustments.  A great deal of our time is spent with these adjustments, based on need and desire.  Today, in the 5th week of the semester, a student requested changing one elective to another.  And I got to be the kind of counselor who says, “No!”  So sometimes I’m the good guy, sometimes the bad.  Sometimes this is with the same student, very confusing.  Ultimately I am an advocate for my 370+ students.  Which many times equals being like their mommy at school.  And sometimes mommies have to say “No.”  We have to keep the bigger picture in mind, which is not always easy for teenagers, and many adults, to comprehend.  We have to be fair.  We try to protect the integrity of the classroom, so that teachers can teach, the main reason we are all here. 

Being a school counselor is a rewarding career.  We share in the extreme highs and lows that our students experience during their teen years.  I appreciate being a part of several innovative movements at North that have directly affected my role.  Our counselor alignment with students has been adjusted twice since I began 19 years ago.  First I was responsible for half of the juniors and half of the seniors, divided by alphabet.  After a few years, we decided to expand that division and each have one fourth of all grades, allowing us to stay with the same students for four years.  Recently North has moved into our Smaller Learning Community structure.  The counselors have been realigned to match with the students in an SLC.  So I have all students in the Arts and Humanities SLC.  I wanted this assignment very much, since I am passionate about music.  However, I was, as we all were, sad about relinquishing responsibility for my current students who did not move to my SLC.  But I know they are in excellent hands with the other counselors.  And best of all, I have met some really great students that I would not have had the privilege to know!


Karen Halle

Friday, February 1, 2013

Something to Smile About :-)

"No matter how tired or frustrated I may be, spending a couple of hours with my favorite teenagers, aka North TeenPower, always makes me smile." This is what I posted on Facebook last night after a TeenPower performance at the Dream Center. And I seriously meant it! Regardless of what stress this job may conjure up, I am always rewarded in the most astonishing ways--thanks to my involvement with TeenPower.

TeenPower is a club that encourages positive decision-making skills. As a group of students committed to abstaining from drugs and alcohol, we also work to develop leadership skill among our members. Last night we had the privilege of performing a series of skits that demonstrate the the power of positive choices to a group of underprivileged middle schoolers at the Dream Center. This was our fourth such performance this year, and it was entirely student-led.

In addition to the these performances, last week TeenPower hosted the 4th Annual Taste of North. For those of you who may not know, the purpose of the event is threefold: to raise money for the counselors’ Compassion Fund, to provide fundraising opportunities for student groups and clubs, and to increase school spirit. The first year was a huge success in meeting all three goals, and the event has continued to grow each year. Each of the participating groups rents a booth for $20. This fee is donated to the Compassion Fund. Beyond that, any money the groups make is their profit to keep. This year we were able to donate $440 to the counselor’s Compassion Fund, our largest donation yet! In addition, approximately $2000 was raised collectively by the participating student groups. The Taste of North has quickly become one of North’s most anticipated traditions.

I apologize if I sound like I'm bragging. It's just that I am so proud of these students for all that they have accomplished and all that they stand for. It was a beautiful moment last night witnessing our kids standing strong in their convictions and making a difference in the lives of others. Seeing these students give up their precious time and energy for the benefit of others is a constant reminder that our future is bright. And that, my friends, is definitely something to smile about! :-)