I'm Done Holding My Tongue In Class

It only seems fair to start this post with an admission. I am a gun owner. In the past, I was even a member of the NRA. I was born in Georgia, have family that still lives on hunt-able land there, have gone hunting myself. I've made the arguments myself that people having guns makes us safer. I've quoted the 2nd Amendment, I've said that taking guns away doesn't help.

Today, I've decided enough is enough and I'm done keeping these thoughts to myself. I just had a lengthy argument with one of my students who argued against taking guns away to prevent further deaths, and point by point I dismantled his opinion. And, in the interest of sharing this discussion with you, here is a summary of that discussion.

Student: My dad is a gun owner, he goes shooting with police officers regularly, takes care of his guns. Taking his guns away won't fix anything.

He's not wrong here. Here's the real issue. Taking my guns away won't save anyone's lives, won't prevent a school shooting. That isn't the same as saying that taking guns away won't prevent school shootings.

There is a simple economics principal to consider, so I'm going to try to put it simply. Think about supply and demand. Currently, if a crazy person wants to shoot up a school, they have a demand for a gun. Currently, there is a massive supply of guns. Therefore, the cost (both monetarily and in difficulty) is easy low. Even if you require more stringent background checks, you won't fix it because private sales are still a thing, and guns can be stolen, lost, transferred, taken, etc.

Reduce the supply, you increase demand. Costs of illegal guns will go up, and just the act of owning it becomes illegal, making the chances of preventing the shootings go up. It isn't a fix that will happen overnight, but over time.

Student: Second Amendment! We have a right to bear arms!

First of all, the Second Amendment says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Given that roughly none of the current citizens owning firearms are also members of a Militia, it feels less valid. We don't ever hear that part though, do we? "Right to bear arms!" "right to bear arms!" they scream. They don't really want to actually drill with their neighbors, march across the roads and practice maneuvers though, do they?

Beyond that though, lets look at the spirit of the amendment. It was intended to make sure that the people would be able to stand up against a tyrannical government, to reinforce the idea that the government is for the people. Should the government get out of control, the people can stand up, armed, and defend themselves.

Except, even ignoring the fact that assault weapons are banned in many states, the citizens do not own weaponry that would give them any chance against our military. We don't have missiles, drones, fully-automatic weapons, or any other of the myriad of machines of death our military does. Hell, even in the Revolutionary War, we probably couldn't have won against Great Britain if they didn't have to transport their army to us. A militia doesn't overthrow a government in power on the home front.

Student: Shooting is fun, I like target shooting.

I agree, it is fun. It isn't 16-people-not-going-home-to-their-families fun. If the cost of me going to shoot at some targets at a range is the deaths of children in schools, it isn't worth it. That equation doesn't balance in my head.

Student: You want to take all guns away based on the hope that something is going to get better. This is all opinions and guesses. 

You want to do nothing based on the hope that things will get better. I don't need your thoughts and prayers, I need change.

Still, if we take this further, lets look at some of the facts.

Look at that chart again. Please. Because it is that important.

"But people will kill each other regardless!"

Teachers, this is what I ask of you. Stop holding your tongue. Even on twitter, I saw teachers drying up, stop talking. I heard teachers say "thoughts and prayers", but few of them said "Oh hell no, this has to stop." We cannot stay quiet, cannot do nothing, while the NRA and other groups pour money into the pockets of politicians who don't care to represent us, who continue to allow these atrocities to occur. It has to stop.

Stop staying quiet. Stop believing we have to play the middle ground. Stop thinking that it's our job to make kids think on their own. There are 16 people from a city not 3 hours away from me, who will never think again, on their own or otherwise.

Enough is enough.

I Am A Valuable Brand

Ok, so admittedly, that title makes me a little uncomfortable. It's a strange statement, and gives me the impression of someone with an inflated ego and unhealthy dose of arrogance. But, how am I wrong?

Dr. Will's words on Episode 30 of my show about teachers needing to make their money have been bouncing around in my head for the last month, and I am trying to own them. Over the last few days, they've really been hitting me hard, and I'm going to tell you all how.

On Sunday, a company reached out to me on twitter through DM, and this conversation occurred.

When I saw the first message, I admittedly got excited (and reached out to Will for advice). I wasn't about to do a full episode with an advertiser, that isn't my show, but the idea that someone wanted to use my platform was flattering and energizing. I felt unworthy a little, that imposter syndrome everpresent, my "little show" as I sometimes think about it. But I asked for my money on Will's advice.

Then I saw their response, and I quickly got heated. I get it, you're trying to start a business, and funds are tight. You have to make smart financial choices to stay afloat. But to be upset about the people who only want to "pay to play" is ridiculous!

Running a podcast, recording, editing, posting, managing a website, running a social media presence, and blogging all take time. Lots of time. So. Much. Time. Not unlike, I would imagine developing a set of "evidence-based child behavior tools and games." Which is why they aren't giving their product away for free.

And out of the other side of their mouth, complaining that I'm not giving my brand away for free. They are asking me to endorse them, feature them, and share them out to my audience, my friends, my PLN. And they want me to do that for free. No.

It lit a fire in me though. Not just the bright flash of rage, but a lasting heat of coals. My podcast isn't just a "little show." I create quality content. I put time into editing it so it sounds good. I put effort into finding great guests and working on my interviews. I interact with my audience on many platforms at all hours day or night. I get on live shows, blog, create promo graphics, and support other podcasters. I talk to mentors who do their own shows and take ideas and advice from them. And people listen to an hour a week of my show as a result.

My time has value. My show has value. My brand has value. And yes, it has intrinsic and personal value to me, but it also has monetary value. My audience trusts me, or they wouldn't listen. My PLN gets me or they wouldn't interact with me. I will never support a product I don't believe in, and I definitely won't do it for free. I, like will, am going to get my money.

And you know what? You should too.

I Know Just Enough To Fake It

I am an expert in nothing.

Popular advice about building an online presence, a blog, a podcast, or even a twitter account, is to make sure you don't present yourself as an expert in everything. I have that part down. The problem is, I don't hit the second part of that advice, which is to make sure you're knowledgeable and contribute information to something.

As I went through the month of November, I set myself a challenge to write a blog post every day (I didn't post them every day, just wrote them). I learned a lot about myself through this process. First, my life is busy, and even writing a short post every day wasn't achievable for me.

Second, and more importantly, I don't actually have a focus for my content or identity. I am interested in edtech, but that isn't it. I like blended learning, individualized learning, EdCamps, ISTE, 1:1, Google, Microsoft, Flipped PD, alternative professional development models, podcasting, educational conversations, administration, staff morale, technology tweaks, digital citizenship, standards-based grading, eliminating grading. Change.

Basically, I'm interested in everything.

The plus side is I'm always excited about things. Everyone has cool things to say given that there is always something, and in many cases many things, that they know more about than I do (that was a convoluted sentence, and this parenthetical aside isn't helping).

The problem is, I can't explain what I have to offer. Sure, I occasionally say interesting things, but they are small nuggets in a wider ocean. My blog is a smattering of half-formed thoughts ultimately amounting to very little. My podcast is just me getting awesome people to talk to me. I add very little.

I basically know just enough to have a conversation about most topics in education. That's what my show amounts to, and I'm ok with it. Maybe that works for other people, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it goes against all conventional wisdom, maybe conventional wisdom is useless. I don't know.

What I do know, is that I want to reach out to my audience, my PLN, my followers. I want to make an effort to build true and powerful connections. So, this month, I will be making an effort to tweet at followers I don't normally connect with. I want to know more about what they're about, what drives them.

My goal is to reach out to five to ten followers a day and try to start conversations with them. I will look through their twitter feed, see what they're talking about, and try to make the tweets I send personal. I think this will encourage them to reply, instead of generic "Hey, what are you up to?"

Stephen Hurley put this idea in my head a couple months ago, and it has just been sitting there, waiting for me to do something with it. So, I will

In the process, maybe I'll find something more about me. If I can make it work without being weird, I will ask them why they follow me, or what they get out of my content. Maybe I'll find out what I'm most passionate about or what I have to offer. Probably not, but at least I'll have some good conversations.

VoicEd Gratitude Exchange and Holiday Special

Our VoicEd Family is celebrating the holidays by doing a gift exchange, and we are giving the gift of thanks! No money, no gadgets or gizmos, just a chance to tell another VoicEd creator how great they are. 14 VoicEd Creators signed up for a name exchange, and today, names were assigned. From December 18th through 22nd, we will be saying thanks to our Secret Santa different ways each day.

Use #VoicEdGratitude

Day 1: December 18th - Share out your Secret Thankee - Maybe tweet out their show or their blog, tell the world what makes them awesome.
Day 2: December 19th - Send a personal thank you - Be specific! Did you take one of their ideas and put it in practice? Do they put a smile on your face with their brilliance? Let them know. Public or private, up to you.
Day 3: December 20th - Make a constructive recommendation - What do you think would make their work even betterer than it is now? New equipment, change their workflow, add a question. Let's not just thank them, let's make them better!
Day 4: December 21st - Make them laugh (GIF IT UP) - I think you get this one. Put a smile on their face.
Day 5: December 22nd - Make them a picture - The best gifts are ones that are made, so take some time and make them a little something. Maybe do a fan art drawing of their show logo. They don't have a logo? Make them one! Draw it and scan it, do the graphic design, or just combine some stuff on MS Paint. Your call.

Finally, on the 22nd, we will be doing a 2 hour live VoicEd Holiday Special. All participants of the exchange are invited to pop-in for a few minutes or the full 2 hours to share their sent and received gratitude and favorite holiday memories or traditions.

If you are not a VoicEd Content Creator, or you are and didn't get a chance to sign up, you can still participate! The link below is to a Google Form where you can fill out your information and I will be pairing people up to share their gratitude with others like we are. Or, just follow this schedule for someone (or someones) of your choice! Don't forget to tag your posts with #VoicEdGratitude

Sign-Up For The Exchange

Why The Teacher Moral Standard May Be Necessary

A few weeks ago, I learned that a teacher my little brother Travis had as a kid was arrested and charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend. It was a pretty intense case, as the news reported it, including thousands of calls and even putting a GPS tracker on her new boyfriend's car.

The news piece was shared to my brothers and I from our dad, who was a teacher at the school with this teacher when we were all kids, and at one point he was even a family friend. The former connection made it interesting to me, but I wouldn't have gone so far as to say that I really cared. Sure, his job is a teacher, but being a stalker doesn't exactly impact the students in that class.

Maybe that's a slightly callous opinion, but as I've talked about before, few other professions have the moral standard that teachers are held to, and few other professions have it for seemingly no reason. Fine, he's a stalker (allegedly), that doesn't mean he isn't a good teacher or that those actions endanger the children. I'd say the same thing about drunk driving or public drunkenness. Sure, none of those things are good, and they show questionable decision making at the very least, but they don't mean that the kids are getting a lesser education (unless of course the teacher is teaching students that those aren't bad things, or they're showing up to work drunk).

What really struck me from this scenario though was Travis' reaction. He was truly annoyed by it. I explained what I said above, that ultimately I didn't feel like he deserved to be fired over it, but Travis felt differently.

The way he tells it, knowing that this is what his teacher is up to outside of work tarnishes the memory of class.

In my argument, I am considering the rights of the teacher, and somewhat cavalierly ignoring the long-term impact on students. Before this moment, Travis looked back on fifth grade and remembered a teacher that was really great, active, caring, personal. Now though, he looks back and wonders "What was he doing after that last bell?"

I'm not completely sold on the idea that this means teachers should be held to such a high moral standard. We are still people, we are imperfect creatures, we make mistakes. Those mistakes shouldn't cause us to lose our jobs in most cases. Maybe they should though.

But where do we draw that line? Should I be fired if I get excessive speeding tickets? Do we only include felony charges? Or only if it makes the news? Do we only get fired if we don't self report?

I don't have answers on this one. I'm calling for input. Use the comments or reach out on twitter and let me know.

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