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The day have finally arrived.  The RIDE 2013 Educational Technology Conference is upon us and I am pleased to say I will be continuing my reviews of tech companies.  I originally teamed up with Ed Surge to narrow down a list of 37 national educational technology applicants for the conference to a final lineup of 20 vendors.  Here’s a list of the great companies that will be at the Providence Convention Center today along with log-in information for teachers to take free trials (taken from https://www.edsurge.com/rhode-island-tech-for-schools-summit)  

 

They call the list of judges “Teacher Rockstars.”  How can you argue with a title that cool?

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Remember our brothers fallen and goneImage
The ones who fought that our lives might go on

Compelled by duty; for service, not green
For God and for Country, hope in the unseen

Protect and defend constitutional ideals
From private first class to elite navy seals

Freedom has been built by generations lost
Sacrifice of life was the ultimate cost

May perpetual light shine upon their souls
Respect and Honor for whom the bell tolls

 

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Although the ride up to Boston Harbor was none too long, kids knew there were snacks on the bus so they demanded nourishment after about 20 minutes into the ride.  Knowing that the snacks were on lock down per order of the lead organizer of the evening, nourishment was denied.  In a bit of humor, one chaperone passed back a small bag of Cheez-Its that each kid would take a few out of to eat before passing it back to the next person.  Being in the very last seat, this bag never reached me, but it’s ok because the hilarity of the situation did.

Boarding the buses in the tune of organized chaos.

Boarding the buses to the tune of organized chaos.

Of course now with 180mg of sodium in everyone’s system, the demand for water reached an audible level.  How can one deny a group water…the sustaining liquid of life?  So, the Cheez-It chaperone opened an overhead storage compartment to break loose waters and start passing them back.  As the bus swayed with traffic, a loaded bottle of Poland Spring was launched through the butterfinger hands of this chaperone and into the face of an innocent student below.  Whoops.

Needing to occupy myself with something more interesting than simple observations, I decided to get a little more active with a photobomb competition.  I thought it would be delightful to make as many phantom appearances as possible in the background of students’ photo.  The plan was to go undetected, but I was caught on my very first try.  Not being one to let failure stop me, I got in three more pictures in the next five minutes before people really just stopped taking pictures in my area of the bus.  That’s probably for the better anyway because the things kids can do with photoshop and a picture of me spell an almost certain death to my future in politics.

We also played the name game, but it was horrible...so no elaboration.

We also played the name game, but it was horrible…so no elaboration.

Just as the incessant droning of demands for food had jackhammered our ears long enough, lead party planner passed word along via text message that it was time to pass out the real food.  Five educators took to the aisle of a moving bus to pass out napkins, plates, forks, huge trays of cookies, brownies, vegetables and dip, cheese and crackers, fruit, and compliments.  To understand the full weight of this scene, I like to imagine clowns trying to walk the same tight rope all at once and in different directions.  As the bus jerked around to the point where our feet felt like they were commanding a rogue surfboard, we bobbed and weaved with each other as we tried to make first and second rounds for nourishment.  I accidentally flung pepperoni onto a beautiful dress that fortunately being the same color as the grease, masked any possible stain and more importantly the full blown breakdown that would have accompanied it.  A student requesting more fruit had the audacity to call out and request service by bellowing “Oh stewardess” at me.  Hpmh…so that’s what 5 years of college gets me…

Sarisley encouraging a good old fashioned sugar rush.

King Eddie encouraging a good old fashioned sugar rush.

The excitement upon pulling into the city was palpable.  Even the most docile students were swiveling  at the neck, their heads like mere pinballs bouncing from window to window.  Surrounded by semi-tall buildings in a concrete jungle made everything more interesting.  Hooting and hollering ensued for the dumbest things like a normal looking man standing on the street corner or your everyday average 7-11 that had the fascination effect you would expect from a meteor shower…it was simply mind boggling.  I guess the energy was contagious because when I heard the song, Forever playing on a nearby cell phone, I started dancing down the aisle like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-94JhLEiN0 (adapted by The Office as well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hnAuO7Vthc  so naturally I was picturing the exact scenes displayed from this episode at each point in the song).

Being all hyped up with nowhere to go (literally because we arrived at least an hour before we were allowed to board the ship) our buses idled outside of the ship’s loading zone where students were now in awe of the Dunkin Donuts across the sidewalk….ooooo…ahhhhh.  Slated with the decision of sitting on the bus and wrinkling the only nice clothes we have ever worn, or braving the misty New England chill outside, the powers that be chose to face the weather.  So, there we are; three buses of kids filed out under a drippy awning for untold minutes with their teachers in the rear bonding over the worst of jokes waiting for the gangplank to be lowered and wave bon voyage to land.

PHS Clippers board an ocean vessel for prom...I love it.

PHS Clippers board an ocean vessel for prom…I love it.

To chronicle the entire prom would be a difficult task because activity was non-stop for the next four hours.  As a chaperone not fully invested in the process or outcome of this spectacular evening in the same sense as a student, I was more able to appreciate the subtle nuances of it all.  I recognized the sociological value of the singles that found a love connection; the couples that let jealously drive a wedge between them, and curious interactions a night like this facilitates.

Leaned up on my observation post I reveled in the moment when a Ludacris song came on and one of my favorites locked eyes with me and rapped an entire verse, knowing that was my favorite artist in high school.  I found pride in the times students I had devoted so much time to educating asked to take a picture with me.  I even found happiness in strong-arming others to take photographs with me knowing that I would forever have a memory of us suspended in pure beauty.

The glow in our eyes is indicative of happiness.

The glow in our eyes is indicative of happiness.

As a chaperone, I did the duty that was required of me.  On five separate occasions, I pointed out kids that were being looked for within a matter of seconds because I had my eyes on the dance floor.  I removed sailor hats of students who had written racial slurs on them, I helped a student get a band-aid, and I showered everyone in love.  But, honestly who can stand next to a dance floor all night long with music bumping and not want to hop out there?

I tried to resist the magnetic pull of the bass, but when I Don’t Care, I Love It came on, I lost all hope.  With arms flailing, and legs jiving, my body was taken over by the beat.  I never looked back from that moment as I danced the night away like I was a high schooler myself.  Dancing amongst my students brought an unreal sense of fulfillment.  I could actually feel their joy, and my emotions mirrored theirs.

The winners of the table photo competition.

The winners of the table photo competition.

I’m sure there was some shock at first in students finding out that their teacher knew every single word to every single song played because he was singing them all, or shock in openly challenging others to a dance off.  My spirit was free and elation was obvious as I took to making a fool of myself while the disapproving eyes of some others beat down on me all night long.   Teachers who were bold enough to join in the festivities got the same cold glare, but as we threw our arms in the air in unison and I almost accidentally kissed the English teacher on the lips due to a certain dance move to We Fell in Love in a Hopeless Place, I knew we were all embracing the same mantra: I don’t care, I love it.

So the night lived on and we learned that whether teachers or student, we are all just human beings after the same things in life.  We all want to feel connected and find the ecstasy that makes our hearts feel invincible.  I found that moment on the edge of the dance floor, twirling around another teacher and laughing so hard I thought my spleen would burst while a student and I belted out an epic song to each other and then transitioned into rocking out to another track with a student who has Down Syndrome and seeing DJ Mitch do a Superman-esq bounce while catching a glimpse of my arch nemesis smiling…and I will never let that go.

See, prom is a funny thing as a chaperone.  I’m not worried about matching a date, or looking cool on the dance floor; it’s a whole different experience.  I’m not nourished by a buffet of overpriced food, I feed off the pure unadulterated delight of everyone else.  I didn’t care that night who had done their homework and who had failed a test of mine, I cared about the human experience.  Everyone was radiant, filled with the best of intentions and I loved them all for who they were.

At one point I went ventured outside to the top deck in a light mist.  I found myself all alone in a cool breeze surrounded by picturesque views of the city’s skyline.  I felt so calm and content…It was a beautiful moment.  I thank the senior class and their advisor for all their hard work to create such a wonderful event.  More than the event, I thank you for the emotions it let me feel.

I have an iPhone 3...clearly I couldn't have taken a photo this good.  Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/glennspiro/4116668370/

I have an iPhone 3…clearly I couldn’t have taken a photo this good. From http://www.flickr.com/photos/glennspiro/4116668370/

On my drive home at 12:55, still thinking back to the unintentional sexual innuendos I overheard on the late night bus ride home and laughing, I got a text that said 98.3.  I quickly tuned the radio to that station and cranked the volume nob as I Don’t Care, I Love It quickly pumped through the speakers and into my veins again.  I pulled into my driveway and sat there for twenty minutes with this party mix on 98.3 blaring, knowing that the second I went inside and fell asleep, the perfection of this night would be lost.

Seared into my mind always and forever will be the last song.  As the epic rock ballad, Don’t Stop Believin radiated throughout Boston from its point of origin on our ship, I stood perched on stairs above as everyone flooded the dance floor.  More than getting in on one last song, I wanted to see the faces of everyone as they sucked this last bit of marrow from the night. I scanned the floor finding little factions of splendor that combined to emanate a vibrant force of interconnectedness.  A smile snuck onto my face that was so big it threatened both of my ears with its edges.  I felt the unconditional love for my students bursting through the depths of my soul as I thanked fate for placing me in that exact moment.

As I woke up the next morning and satisfied my appetite for French toast at a local restaurant, I joined in singing Happy Birthday to a 93 year old and knew the beauty of the night had not escaped me because I had interrupted it with sleep.  I felt alive and effervescent and that is something that is staying with me.  I can’t put it any better than what a very perceptive student said to me:

“I really knew last night what high school was all about.  All the stress and work, all the crazy late night crap to get obsolete things done…was all worth it seeing everyone last night.  All happy, having a blast, not worrying about anything but being a teenager and having fun.  Out of everything, that was the most I could have hoped for.”

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Two Year Anniversary

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Today I celebrated my two year anniversary of teaching! By “celebrated”, I mean I observed the day with joy and smiled when I looked at my calendar this morning.  In fact, I spent this day just like I have spent every other day in recent memory; I stayed at school to plan for tomorrow until I got kicked out so the custodians could lock up at 10:20.  After the regular school day, I had meetings until 3:45, then snuck in an hour and a half work out, corrected for an hour, worked crowd control at a basketball game, and made some quizzes for tomorrow…wouldn’t want to disappoint my classes by not having an announced quiz ready.  The only real difference in today was that I set aside these ten minutes to write, which I strive to do more often, but am frequently bombarded with what seems to be more pressing matters.  Last year a few good amigas/co-workers bought me a cake with some endearing expletives on it, which was nice.  I can’t say I have a sweet tooth, but it made for a good story and it felt nice to have an accomplishment recognized.

I’m pretty good at letting people know I would rather celebrate an accomplishment like attaining and maintaining a job than something like my birthday.  Getting hired to teach was the culmination of years of hard work, studying, testing, studying, planning, studying, money, studying, and trying really hard.  I had no say or conscious awareness in my birth (although I thank my parents for making that happen), so I continue to celebrate the success I make in life, not ones that I simply happened upon.  Here’s hoping I make it to year three.

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