The Most Epic Facebook Post Ever

Several years ago I posted a single phrase on Facebook. “Once upon a time…” who could have ever known that over the course of three days, with the help of six people, that we would end up with Gabe, The Adventurer. Special thanks to Richelle Robbins, now Richelle Lee, for her contributions and for several amazing years of getting to be reading buddies with her kindergarten class. I’d love to see similar “pass the pen” stories between writing groups in the classroom, maybe I’ll have to give it a try this year.

Gabe, the Adventurer

David Horan Once upon a time…

Richelle Robbins In a land far, far away there lived…

David Horan a quaint little man in a quaint little village…

Dennis R Sorensen Of the Hobbits…

David Horan In this same village…

Dennis R Sorensen The quaint little man had  a best friend named Ji

Richelle Robbins Now it just so happened that the quaint little man’s friend named Ji was actually a…

David Horan Genie, who had been avoiding paying up on wishes…

Richelle Robbins One of people who Ji owed three wishes was the quaint little man, whose name we will now reveal to be…

David Horan Gabe. Gabe lived alone in a little hut, his life had been rather uneventful until that fateful day that he went on a journey to…

Richelle Robbins Tinbuktu (not to be confused with Timbuktu). Now the remarkable thing about Tinbuktu was that everything in the land was made out of tin. In fact, one day while exploring this tinny place, Gabe found a tin lamp right in the middle of…

David Horan a giant lake that was rumored to harbor the terrifying Tarasque, he had decided to search for the Tarasque because…

Richelle Robbins in the quaint little village of the hobbits he had never encountered anything even remotely scary in his entire life. Just once, Gabe wanted to know what it was like to feel utterly terrified! (There might have been some additional motivation considering that the stinger at the end of the Tarasque’s tail was rumored to have magical powers which would…

David Horan make you live forever. Nobody knew why Gabe would want to live forever. Seeing as his life was rather mundane, at least, until his journey began. The first obstacle he met on his journey was…

Richelle Robbins the very insistent Farmer Brown, or FB for short. FB was desperate for anyone who would help him on his farm, and he was determined that he needed a stallion!

David Horan Gabe told Farmer Brown that once he made it to Tinbuktu he would have all the time in the world to help him find a stallion. Unfortunately, FB wasn’t called insistent for no reason. He demanded that something be done and done this instant! Gabe made a run for it! Farmer Brown, without a stallion, could not catch him. As he was running away he yelled back and said, I promise I will help you when I can. Gabe would later regret leaving so quickly because he met his second obstacle…

Richelle Robbins A large bridge loomed up in front of him. It was guarded by an evil troll! Cowering in front of the bridge were three billy goats–the Gruff brothers. They had been attempting (unsuccessfully) to cross the bridge for weeks. If only Gabe had a stallion with which he could out-run the ugly troll! Unfortunately, it was too late to go back and help FB so now Gabe’s only option was to…

David Horan tell the Gruff Brothers that he was on a journey to Tinbuktu, where everything was made out of tin. Gabe told the Gruff Brothers that they could travel with him if they made it across. Goats love tin, and with this new found motivation they came up with a plan to get past the evil troll. Their plan was simple, but ingenious. It was to…

Matthew Melville Fart.

David Horan With all the, commotion, the troll did not know what to do. He knew it was his one and only purpose in life to guard that bridge. Yet the terror of it all was just too much, even for the vilest troll. The terrified troll trotted toward the trees. Gabe and the Gruff Brothers continued down the path toward Tinbuktu, and ultimately to the lair of the Tarasque. Unbeknownst to them the last obstacle, their greatest yet, was just around the river-bend.

Richelle Robbins As those of you who are well-versed in the story of Pocahontas know, just around the river-bend happened to be a giant, talking willow tree–Grandmother Willow to be precise. After Pocahontas went back to England, Grandmother Willow was so lonesome that she became very bitter and took a vendetta out against all humans. The whomping willow in Harry Potter looked like an innocent, fluffy kitten when compared to Grandmother Willow’s fury!!!

David Horan Gabe would never be able to reach the Tarasque unless he could get past Grandmother Willow. The Gruff Brothers decided no amount of tin was worth fighting such a losing battle, so they left. Gabe began to cry, he had come so far! Then he heard someone else crying. As he looked around he saw a tin man. After applying a little oil he discovered that this man did not have a heart. Perfect. Gabe asked him if he would take his axe and kill Grandmother Willow. The Tin Man gladly agreed and chopped her to pieces. After, Gabe asked him if he knew anything about the Tarasque. The Tin Man told him that this river emptied into a lake where there had been many reports of its sighting. He gave him one word of advice before he continued…

Brian Lee The one word of advice the Tin Man gave was “Unless”…

David Horan Unless, unless what, asked Gabe. But the tin man had begun to rust again. Gabe checked the oil can and it had a few drops left. He hoped it would be enough to get just a little bit more information…

Richelle Robbins ‎”Unless you save a few drops of oil, you’ll never be able to unchain the boat you need to ferry down the river and to the middle of the lake because it too has rusted over with time!” Drat! The oil can was empty! Fortunately for Gabe…

David Horan his one and only hobby, his entire life, had been devoted to the art of lock-picking. It didn’t matter if it was old, new, rusted, slippery, you name it he could pick it. Gabe forged on, he found the rusty rowboat and continued down the river until he could finally see the legendary lake. The lake wasn’t all he saw…

Richelle Robbins In the middle of the lake was an island. In the middle of the island was a tree, and hanging from the middle of the tree was a giant…PINATA shaped like a…

Beverly Hellewell Heart. If he broke it what would he find? He found a stick and began to swing it. Out of the pinata fell a …

Richelle Robbins lamp made out of tin! Now, what could he possibly do with a tin lamp?

David Horan As he was pondering the possibilities, he decided to wipe some of the dirt off of the lamp. As he rubbed the lamp a genie appeared. Speaking to Gabe he said, “Hi my name is Ji, I will grant you three wishes, although I don’t promise you will get them as quickly as you would like.” Wow, 3 wishes, thought Gabe. As a man who had never ventured far from home, or been very adventurous, he had never thought about what he would wish for. It took him a while to really think, after a minute he said that his first wish was…

Richelle Robbins naturally for the ability to defeat the Tarasque (after all, that was the initial purpose for his quest in the very beginning). Ji gave him a ball and said “this is all you will need to complete your task.” Gabe was rather confused. Only getting a ball when he could have wished for anything seemed rather dumb. “But what good will this do?” he questioned. “Sometimes the answers to our wishes come in unexpected ways!” Ji replied. Feeling more unsettled than reassured, Gabe set out after the Tarasque…armed with only a ball!

David Horan Gabe got back in the boat and rowed to shore. As he rowed he sung this song: “When I was just a little lad, I saw the knights in armor clad, dreaming of adventures I sat alone, in the small village I called my home, now the adventurer is me, what should I do with these wishes 3?” As he was concluding the first verse the Tarasque came flying down, mesmerized by the tune. It seemed as though he would not need the ball at all. But, with the Tarasque so tranquil, how would he get it to sting him granting him the power to live forever?…

Richelle Robbins ‎”Well,” he said to himself, “Ji must have given me this ball for a reason.” He held it up for the Tarasque to see who suddenly started wagging his tail with the stinger at the end. “Curious,” he thought. Gabe was reminded of his own childhood dog. “This may seem crazy, but why not?” With that, he threw the ball with all his might, hurtling it across the sky!

David Horan The Tarasque flew after it and quickly retrieved it, this game of fetch continued on for several minutes. As fun as this was, it wasn’t getting him any closer to his goal. Finally, Gabe decided he wasn’t going to throw the ball back. This made the Tarasque extremely angry and within seconds Gabe had been stung. The feeling did not feel much like a renewal of life and energy. It felt more like…

Richelle Robbins his lungs were stuck in an iron (or tin) vice. He found himself gasping for air. Looking up, the sun seemed to be dimming. Suddenly he realized that the force of the Tarasque’s sting had knocked him into the lake!

David Horan As he sunk lower and lower he struggled for breath, and somehow, he received it. He felt as if there were hundreds of worms crawling under his skin. For a brief moment, there was an intense pain coming from his legs. He had been turned into a mermaid, or more accurately, a merman. Several mermaids began to swim toward him. A particularly beautiful one told him that the stories of the Tarasque granting eternal life were indeed true, but that it came at a price. He would remain a merman for the rest of eternity. Gabe was devastated, until he remembered…

Richelle Robbins he still had two wishes left! Rubbing the lamp, Ji appeared again with an air tank strapped to his back. Gabe told him his second wish was to be human again, but Ji reminded Gabe that he wasn’t very prompt when it came to granting wishes. “Well, is there anything we can do to speed up the process?” Gabe asked in desperation. “Well, I might grant your wish sooner if….

David Horan No, you wouldn’t want to do that.” sighed Ji. “No I would do anything!” replied Gabe, “I have everything I need, this adventure was my life long dream, and boy has it been an adventure. I don’t need anything else. I’ll tell you what, if you make me human right now and don’t make me stay a merman for the rest of eternity, I will let you have my final wish for yourself.” Ji was in shock, nobody had ever thought about him before. Ji responded, “You are a great man, I have met many travelers, knights, kings, and many of the greatest adventurers. But you are the greatest. I wish I had met you sooner.” Sparks began to fly around them, “Wait!” screamed the genie, that wasn’t my wish! Suddenly they were both in the hobbit village. There they remained friends for many years, where they seemed to have been friends for a very long time, but there was still one thing left undone…

Richelle Robbins One day Ji and Gabe were talking. “You realize,” Ji said, “that you actually still have one more wish. You gave me your third wish, and I wished that I had known you sooner. That took us back to the beginning before you ever went after the Tarasque. It also took us back before you had a chance to use your second wish. You’ve been a good friend for many years. What would you like for your one last wish?”

David Horan I just wish that people would realize that it isn’t a crazy adventure that makes a person happy, but the friendships that you make along the way. Without each other, this adventure would never have been possible. Because I was brave enough to venture outside of myself and this town, even just for a moment, Farmer Brown got that stallion we found later that year. I couldn’t have passed the bridge without the Gruff brothers. The tin man made it possible to get past Grandmother Willow and I helped keep him oiled. Without you, I wouldn’t have made it past the Tarasque and you wouldn’t have been freed. I didn’t need wishes or eternal life, I just needed a friend. So that is my only wish, that anyone who reads this adventure will appreciate what truly matters in life and gives it meaning, friendship. We all need each other on this crazy adventure we call life.

Richelle Robbins And they all lived happily ever after!

THE END!!!

Why I Stay

This month I found myself with a group of teachers I hadn’t met before. An easy icebreaker when meeting other teachers is to discuss the reasons why we became teachers. There were many, often centering around wanting to make a positive impact through children on the world.

In the middle of our discussion, someone asked a profound question. A question that somehow I’d never been asked. Why are you still a teacher? I really had to take a step back for a second to think.

We all know that there is currently a teacher shortage. There isn’t a teacher I’ve talked to that hasn’t at least had the thought of leaving a couple of times each year. Days or weeks where you just don’t feel like you are making the impact you dreamed of when entering the profession.

It’s a thought many have but never act on, it’s a thought too many do act on and for many reasons. For the first time last year, I came close to being in the second group. I even went as far as applying for a district position to be a technology integration coach.

When some caught wind that I was seriously thinking about a change, I had several suggestions for additional jobs to apply for. There were great positions that I was very qualified for from other districts, the state level, and even some interest from educational technology companies.

So when I was asked the question of why I stay, it was a very real and personal question to me. A question that I had spent a lot of time recently thinking about. Oddly enough, it may have been Lady Gaga who provided me some clarity as I was driving home from a particularly hard day.

I had a million reasons to leave, to walk away, I just needed one good one to stay. I had thirty-four reasons, my students, even though in that moment I didn’t know if I was getting through to them.

I begin every school year reading the book, You Are Special. I end with it too. I attempt to make sure each and every one of them feels that way each and every day. It’s a big task, especially with how large class sizes are in Utah. I know that I’m not always successful in doing so every day, but it is truly my ultimate goal.

I tell my students during our last lesson that even though our school year is ending, I’ll always be there for them. I’ll always be their teacher. I mean it. So in reality, I don’t just have thirty-four reasons, after nine years of teaching I have almost three hundred reasons to stay.

I know that some of my students have believed me when I tell them that I’ll always be there. I get many visits from students the year or two after they leave me, but even after they leave the building I still have many come back. One student from my very first year still comes back a few times a year to chat.

Several others still use me as a resource, even emailing me in the summer about the site we used that gave great writing prompts because she wanted to write more during the break.

I literally have hundreds of stories and notes that help me through those tough days. Things that help remind me why I’m here, why this job is such an important one. Things that help me feel like maybe I am making that difference. Maybe not on as much as the world as I’d hoped, but doing things that make a world of difference to one.

One of the most compelling reasons to stay came from a student I had early on in my career. She had moved on from my fourth-grade class and was now in fifth grade. During fourth-grade she had struggled a bit, although she was very bright. She didn’t always get everything done, mostly because she was busy at night helping her little brother with the homework he needed to do.

The weight that was on her shoulders and how she dealt with it was inspiring, although I may have been the only one that knew it. She never complained, she was self-motivated, and even though it often should have been her looking for help, she was always focused on helping those around her.

Her current teacher asked them to do a practice spelling test before Friday and wanted a parent signature to show that they had done it. She wanted to do what she was supposed to, but there were many weeks where doing so wasn’t a reality. During these weeks she’d come into my class early before school and ask if I’d give her the practice test and sign it for her.

It was a simple thing for me to do, but it meant the world to me that she knew I was someone she could rely on. I’m sure it meant a lot to her too, that there was someone in her life she could count on to always be there on those occasions that nobody else was.

As teachers, we may honestly be the only person that is there for some of these kids in our classes or even other classes. I actually had a student from another class come in during recess several times last year asking if I’d teach her how to divide.

When listing reasons to stay I couldn’t leave out my team! I’m blessed at my school to have a fourth-grade team that believes that not just the students in our own classes are our students, but they are all our students. We all have different talents and we make sure everyone in our grade gets to benefit from all of them.

We often have other teachers on our team tell one of our students the same thing we’ve told them ten times, but finally, it makes sense. I’m sure some parents can relate to this. We don’t care who it is, the important thing is that it clicks and our students feel successful.

I’m so lucky to be a teacher. I’m privileged to be in a profession that I love and believe in. There are so many amazing things happening in classrooms across the country every day. We are doing great things. We are making a difference, even if it’s just one small success at a time.

I’m not a perfect teacher. I’m not a perfect fit for every kid, but I do care and try my hardest to constantly learn and improve. This world needs good teachers and I’m going to always try my hardest to be that teacher. I stay because someone is going to need me this year. It might be one of my new students, it might be one from ten years ago, it might be one from another class.

So why do I stay? How could I honestly ever leave!

 

Passionately Preferred Paths

As I planned my recent trip to ISTE, I had several paths from Salt Lake City to Denver to consider. I could fly, or there were two logical ways to drive there.The quickest option would be an hour and twenty-minute flight. Although it was the quickest, it was also the most expensive.

The quickest option would be an hour and twenty-minute flight. Although it was the quickest, this was also the most expensive choice.

The cheaper option was to drive. This option would also give me more freedom to get around while in Denver and provided me an entire car full of space for packing. If deciding to drive, I now had to make a new choice. I could take the northern or southern routes around the Rocky Mountains. Going north was seventeen minutes quicker, but the southern route was much more scenic.

Fullscreen capture 712016 122357 PM.bmp

So which path should I take? We could argue extensively which of these paths is the best, but it depends on several factors. I would also suggest that doing so would be a waste of time that is better spent moving forward towards our destination.

Just like my journey to Denver, there are also multiple paths to reach our goals in education. At ISTE I noticed many vendors, teachers, and Educelebs promoting their preferred educational paths. They had data, swag, examples, and thousands of followers that made it easy to believe their path would get students to where they needed to go.

There were game changing devices, 1 to 1 initiatives, programming, coding, makerspace, creating less stressful environments, how to keep up with other countries, no homework, flipped homework, easier ways to keep track of homework, turning ownership over to our students, project based learning, BYOD, and dozens of other things that would change education for the better.

A lot of time was spent this past week discussing which of these paths would best get us to our destination. As a teacher, I love innovation and doing things differently. Conferences like this get me super excited, and then I come home and try to face the reality of making that change actually happen.

I know that I am prone to being the teacher that hears the latest and greatest idea and jumps right in. After attending ISTE I have dozens of paths I want to take. Passionate people inspired me and I want to follow! But if we stick to the travel metaphor, it’s not possible to take every path. I could end up driving around in circles for hours switching back and forth and never arrive at my destination.

So which path do I take? Who is right? Thousands of voices this week told me which path was best, some sounded too good to be true, some conflicted, some fit my skills, and others would really stretch my comfort zone. So which way should I go?

A wise teacher told me early in my career to focus on one thing each year that I wanted to improve. If each year I improve one aspect of my teaching, I will achieve that goal. Once I’ve reached that goal I can reach the next checkpoint and it won’t be long until I have gone a long way.

There is no reason to have to continually reinvent myself. No need to be tossed to and fro carried about by every wind of educational doctrine. If I tried everything I heard this weekend, I would be overwhelmed and burnt out in no time, like many of our nation’s teachers.

Change is hard. Our first iteration rarely works out as perfectly as we intend. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try new things, but any new idea takes time and practice. Our expectations and reality don’t always come true right away or on our first try.

hilarious-pinterest-fails-24

As great as the continuous cycle of new paths in education are, and we should always be looking to improve, there is also great value in time-tested ideas. Paths that have been traveled on for years have been for a reason. So my original question still hasn’t been answered. Which path should I take? Which path should you take?

That depends. Just like my path to Denver, there are several viable options. If I wasn’t paying my own way, I would have chosen to fly. With driving, I could have gone the quickest path that my phone recommended, or I could enjoy the journey a little more with just a little bit more time.

There were several outdated paths that I should obviously avoid. As great of an object lesson traveling on foot, handcart, or wagon would have been when teaching my students Utah History, traveling by foot would have taken me 159 hours. For some reason, Google doesn’t provide information on how long it would take to get to Denver by horse. So again, which path?

Several people have asked me what my biggest takeaway from ISTE was, so here you go. Find your passion! I was blown away by so many amazing teachers who were passionate about their craft. They inspired me, they left me wanting to be better, and I could tell that they cared.

After having had the pleasure of attending this conference and coming away inspired, I feel it’s my duty to share what I’ve learned. To tell you which path will lead you to the promised land. The magical answer that made the hundreds of dollars I spent this week all worth it.

The answer is passion. Passion in your path and your journey. Passion in bettering yourself so that ultimately you can instill that same passion in your students, districts, states, and maybe even the world.

There is value in having multiple paths. So sorry to those who worked so hard convincing me all week, but many of your paths are just as good as the others. My advice, my takeaway, is just this; find your path and get moving!

I know some who could add an art or music component to every lesson that would be truly beneficial. Others may be able to add culinary components to their lessons that I would never dream of. Maybe you can teach the entire curriculum through reader’s theaters, good for you! Do you want to gamify your class? Go for it! Can buying a drone help you teach a concept? If you can honestly tell me that it’s truly not a stretch, then great, make your dreams come true and get that drone! (Then send it to me, because I really want one)

Once you have found your passion make sure your students can find theirs. I have a passion and talent for using technology. But ‘gasp’ I don’t believe all teachers have to use technology every day or for every lesson. Nevertheless, I do think all students should have access and experiences with technology as often as possible.

I am not as artistically trained as I would like to be, but students should have access and experiences with art and music, so make sure you provide them with them. Try something new this year, but more importantly, make sure your students have many opportunities to do the same. Just remember that you don’t have to do it all, all the time.

If you are still pulling a handcart in some areas, it’s time to abandon those practices. Until someone invents teleportation, many of the paths really are comparable. Instead of debating, criticizing, or walking around in circles, find your path and let’s get moving. There may be some detours along the way and that’s ok!

I believe we have a lot of the key pieces to make education great already in place, regardless of our preferred paths. There isn’t an easy answer or a one size fits all model that will fix education. Every class, every teacher, is a little different. Don’t try and be somebody else. Find your passion, and most importantly, make sure every one of your students has an opportunity to find theirs.

This is my takeaway, the path I have chosen, to use my talents the best I know how. To find experts and ideas that can help strengthen me where I am weak. To follow the things I am passionate about because passion is contagious. To give my students options and choices, because they deserve to find their path, their passion. I am going to make sure I’m not busy pulling a handcart when I could be flying, and I’m going to keep my eyes open for that next idea that may teleport me and my students to a place where we can reach our potential. I hope you will join me on that path, whichever it may be.