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Las Vegas Thoughts - Change We Can Make

58 people are dead in another of a myriad of senseless attacks on innocent people. And like every other time this has happened, we are all in an uproar.

Gun control
2nd Amendment
Freedoms
Democrats
Republicans
Prayer
Action

It just goes on, and on. In circles.

Sure, we want change. Most people (I would argue) want to see legislative change on gun control laws. Maybe we want background checks, maybe we want mental health reform. "Tragedies shouldn't be politicized." "Without politicizing the issue, nothing will change." There's plenty of rhetoric to go around, and this blog isn't the place to focus on it.

Instead, I have two goals that I have set for myself and I would love to see make their way into the world.

Stop Ranking Massacres

We get it. More people died in Orlando than any other shooting before it. More people died in Vegas than any shooting in modern U.S. history.

But do we continually have to build a leaderboard of deranged people for others to aspire to? It feels to me that we are setting a challenge to the next person to try and beat. Deaths of innocent civilians shouldn't be a high score.

Nameless Killers

To go with the high score, we let the killer fill our airwaves with his name, his picture, and his story. We know the news cycle.

It is less than 8 hours before the killer's family is interviewed, always shocked that something like this could occur.

Within a day, we will see pictures of their home, their childhood school, and the gym they worked out at.

By a week, we will be reading facebook posts they wrote, text messages and emails they sent, and even childhood videos.

And every step of the way, I can't help but feel like we are giving them exactly what they wanted, and worse, exactly what the next person wants too. Anyone sitting at home right now, thinking they might want to do something like this, are seeing the attention they are getting, the stories being told, the spotlight cast on the previously-ignored.

So, please, stop naming the killer. Name the victims. Share their stories. Tell us their lives. Show the true damage wrought by these acts.

 

So please, individuals and news outlets alike, stop doing the things that make these kinds of acts seem like a good idea. Stop sharing stories that use the killer's name and picture. Don't click links that glorify death counts with words like "most", "greatest", or "largest."


Being a Parent at Open House

Last week, I attended my son's Kindergarten Open House. For the first time in my career, I sat in the room while a teacher talked about her class.

It was a surreal experience for me. For one thing, there wasn't a lot I didn't know. Systems that teachers use to monitor grades, test the students, determine Lexile levels, etc., I already know. And I'm not good at managing my face in situations like that.

What was most striking to me though, occurred between the teacher and a couple other parents. This is the conversation as it happened:

Parent 1, looking at a primary journal: These here, can we buy these for them?

Teacher: Yeah, they were on the supply list.

Parent 1: No, I mean, I didn't get this for him.

Teacher: Well, I have plenty of them. I picked up a bunch at the store the other day.

Parent 2: Wait...you bought these for the kids?

Teacher, hesitantly: We...needed more so...

Parent 2, shocked and appalled: But, you bought these? With your own money?

Teacher: Yeah...yeah, I did.

Parent 2: Is that normal?

Teacher: Yeah, I would say it is.

The parent then proceeded to ask if they could contribute money to the teacher, which was followed by a lot of discomfort by the teacher, but with persistence, the parent got the teacher to say that gift cards would be an option.

What amazed me about this whole experience wasn't that the teacher spent their own money. It wasn't that there was a parent in the room who hadn't bought supplies. It was that there was a parent that was in dismay that the teacher had spent their own money on supplies for the students.

Was this woman living under a rock? I thought to myself. Surely she knows the stats. She must have seen the countless articles and videos that circulate social media about teachers spending their hard-earned dollars to support kids in need!

But no, she had not. And it wasn't because she lived under a rock, or because she didn't care. It was because her social media, her social awareness, didn't look like mine. Naturally, as a teacher, my feed is full of teachers. They share "viral" videos about the time and money teachers put in, and they are viewed by millions...of teachers. Much like political affiliation creating a distortion bubble of people who agree with you, our plight is widely known to people like us.

Here's where we can all do better. We need to tell our story. We need non-educators to know the effort and cost of being a teacher. When we are at parties, when we are having dinner with friends, when we meet people in coffee shops, when we are talking to our grocery cashier, we need to tell our story. When someone asks you "How's work?", don't simply reply, "Meh."

"How's work?", you might reply, "Fulfilling, life changing, and amazing. I love my job and I love my kids, so much in fact that I put part of my paycheck every two weeks into buying them paper and pencils, markers and crayons. Not because their parents are lazy, not because they can or can't afford it, not because it is fair or equal, but because I love what I do, and who I do it for. I would love to live in a world where that isn't necessary, and maybe one day we will, but for now, that is the reality of my life. I am not just a teacher. I. Am. A. Teacher. And I couldn't be more proud."


Automated Google Appointment Calendar Follow-Up Emails

Do you use Google Appointment Slots and wish you could have an automated thank you message with a survey link included each day? Well, you can!

A couple years ago at #ISTE, one of the EdTech Coaches mentioned using the Google Appointment Calendar feature in Google Apps for Ed. It's really easy to setup and gives you some decent customization options. You create the time-periods and then the appointment length. If you want more details on this, checkout the Google Product Forum for it. This system has worked great for me as a coach. My teachers can click a link, book me when they want me to be there, and I come to them for whatever they need.

I wanted to get a good way to track the effectiveness of these meetings, so I created a Google Form that asked my teachers to rate their satisfaction with the support they received. I sat down each day at the end of the day and sent the emails one at a time. Tedious and frustrating.

After searching for what seemed like an obvious option (automated follow-up emails), I found nothing that accomplished this goal, so I set about creating my own.

Using a combination of Google Sheets and VBS Scripts, I made a solution that works, and now, I am sharing it with you.

Following the steps below will create an automated email sent each day to anyone who booked an appointment with you. It will also check the submitted responses of the feedback form, and if they don't complete the survey within 3 days, sends them a reminder.

  1. Make a copy of this Google Sheet (will prompt to make a copy automatically): BradShreffler.com - Calendar Emailer
  2. Create a Google Form that asks the questions you want to ask. If you want an example of what I'm using, checkout this one. Also, make sure this form is set to collect email responses.
  3. Create the responses Google Sheet by clicking the green square in the top right corner from Google Forms Responses tab.
  4. In the BradShreffler.com - Calendar Emailer Sheet, paste the link for the Google Form (the send link you would give for someone to take the form) in cells B9 and B15.
  5. Paste the URL for the Responses sheet for the form in cell B17
  6. Adjust the other fields of this first page so that the email includes your name, the message you want sent, etc. DO NOT merge cells, add cells, delete cells, or move any cells around!!
  7. Go to the "Form Responses" sheet and click on cell A1, then click "Authorize"
  8. Click on Tools -> Script Editor
  9. Click the "Triggers" icon 
  10. Create a trigger for "import_calendar" as Daily and roughly at the end of your workday.
  11. Create a trigger for "sendEmails" as Daily and an hour after the previous trigger.
  12. Should look like this when it is setup:
  13. Authorize the app for the requested permissions.

If you have any issues at all with this, please let me know!! Also, if these steps are too cut and dry for you, feel free to use this video walkthrough I made.


Flipped PD Update

It has been a week, and it is time for a Flipped PD update. When I last wrote about this, only 4 people had finished the online learning component. After a follow-up email the next day from myself and another from my principal, and given the extra two days to account for procrastination, at the start of the face-to-face session, 70 of my teachers had completed the online!

Wednesday's session arrived, and the teachers made their way to the Media Center. Many questioned if I could fit everyone in the Media Center. "Yup. I got this," I told them.

In my not-so-humble opinion, it was a huge success. I started the time off by checking people in and pointing them to one of the four stations:

  • Discipline in the respectful classroom
  • ELL strategies for daily use
  • How do we motivate the unmotivated?
  • Fostering a growth mindset
  • Canvas: Tips and Tricks I've Learned So Far

For teachers that didn't complete the online course, I sent them to my office, with its wide-open windows looking out on the EdCamp, to have their remedial session. The group was not enthused about sitting and listening to me for a half hour, but truthfully, that was the point, so it's ok!

Meanwhile, the EdCamp was in full swing. I designated a facilitator for each group from the instructional support team. I told them again that they weren't expected to be experts or drive the discussion, just keep it moving in an orderly fashion. As I walked around after the remedial session, I saw learning happening everywhere. Much of the formal structure had broken up in places, but instead of leaving, the teachers made their own smaller groups and continued the discussions started in the EdCamp sessions. Everywhere I looked, people were talking!

One of the best comments I got came from our Math Coach. Seeing me about a half-hour into the event, he stopped me and said:

I came in a little late because I was at bus duty, and things were already going. And I have to tell you, the atmosphere in this room is different, and better, than anything we've ever done. It just feels good in here.

As I said before, I have a constant feedback form available. The day after the EdCamp, I emailed the staff saying thank you for attending, and remember that you can fill out the form. It consists of four simple questions:

  1. What session are you submitting feedback about?
  2. Do you like the Flipped PD model so far?
  3. What percentage of what you've learned will you attempt to use in your classroom?
  4. Any additional feedback?

The results were overwhelmingly positive. This I think gives a good snapshot:

You'll notice the large decrease in the number of people who thought little of it was useful and the large increase in those that though the vast majority of it was useful.

Overall, I'm saying this was a success. However, as was the plan, this blog isn't just meant to show the positive. So, I have created a shared Google Doc that contains all of the feedback and comments I've received regarding this process so far. In addition, I will comment on this post with some of the more poignant teacher comments.


High School Football Fan - A Troll or a Patriot?

It's the Friday Night Lights time of year, and among many of the "other duties as assigned" for me is being at the games to monitor students. I have the distinct honor of standing on the track and spending 3+ hours staring up at the student section of our stadium to make sure they're not being too stupid.

Our student section can get excited, and they like props. Flags with school colors, body paint, baby powder clouds, tossing water and Gatorade bottles up and down the crowd...all fairly normal. Last night, though, something else made its way into the display of spirit, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

We all know that students can be trolls from time-to-time. In fact, they're experts at it. So, when I saw a student in the front of the section waving around a Trump "Make America Great Again" flag, I started to make my way closer to confiscate it.

I had taken two steps in that direction before I really stopped to think. Surely, I believed, this student was waving the flag in hopes of getting a reaction from his peers, and I was certain he would get his intended effect.

But, how could I, a representative of my school, take away a flag supporting the president of the United States of America? Why was such a thought even the first thing in my head?

I talked to a couple other staff members at the game, and they too agreed that the flag probably should be taken away, but we equally all agreed that we shouldn't take the flag away.

I don't have a nice little wrap-up for this piece, or some profound thought to leave you with. You, like myself, will hopefully walk away from this feeling uneasy about the state of our country. Knowing that we live in a place where an action by a teenager could be either an attempt at causing chaos or a statement of patriotism. Or worse, that those two things are quickly becoming the same thing.


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