Adventures in bullet journaling

A stack of Post-it Notes and a Sketchbook walk into a coffee shop. Barista says, “Planners are meeting in the back room.”

They order a couple of hot drinks, one skinny vanilla latte and a chai tea, sit at at table and then think, “What else do we have to do this afternoon?” They head toward the back of the shop, where a soft glow spills from beneath a set of swinging double doors…

coffeetime

In the back room, it’s meet and greet time. Several journals are chatting at the far end of the room. A couple of them open their covers to show off their different style pages. Lines, dots and grids are all visible. A huge group of pens are having a scribbling contest on a blank page lying on the floor. They each demonstrate their colors, their smooth flow. Once in awhile, a couple of them flip the page to see how the paper has handled their ink. Rolls of Washi tape are being engaged by a few journals, and, it seems, snubbed by a few others.

Drinks in hand, the Post-it Notes and Sketchbook make their way to the center of the room as the keynote speaker takes her place at what must be the front.

A roomful of office supplies, individually awesome, but often having their qualities overlooked, learn about the possibilities in coming together to build unique organizational systems for people. They know by listening to the inspiring presentation that the life they could have as part of one of these new systems is far better than what they have had – being stuck to computer monitors or tossed in a drawer with colored pencils, only looked at when something else in the drawer is needed. Oh, to be a part of a bullet journal.

*   *   *

OK, it was corny. But I have been seriously corny lately. Doesn’t hurt that in my corniness, I’m accomplishing a few things and playing with my creativity.

A couple of months ago, I ran across a pin on Pinterest that caught my eye. It described bullet journaling, taking a blank journal and creating the pages you need for your own style of planner. The bullet journal combines the ideas of calendar, planner, bulleted lists and doodling canvas in one personalized journal. This person shared her bullet journal pages and I was struck by the neatness, for one. The lettering was soothing to my eyes. Where it needed to be, it was simple, but where it could be, it was fancy. The pages were designed artfully, with headers and banners and framed, hand-lettered quotes. Extreme organization created a hierarchy of information she needed: year at a glance, a monthly spread and daily look. Her habit tracker was something I really liked, and, though I may not track the same habits she does, I took many ideas from hers. I was mesmerized by this woman’s bullet journal. Her name is Kara Benz, and, as it turns out, she is followed by many. Plus one.

During Christmas break, I explored more through Pinterest. I watched YouTube Videos, and I found Facebook groups. I began listing and sketching out ideas on a plain old yellow legal pad for what I wanted in mine. 

I scribbled down every idea I liked from other people’s bullet journals and added a few tweaks of my own. Then I began to storyboard, or plan out the spreads, so I’d know what order I wanted items in the beginning of my journal.

Moleskin and pens

And I ordered an Orchid Moleskin, soft-cover, dot-grid journal, some Sharpie fine line pens and American Crafts Precision pens, .05.

If you would like to take a look at my original inspiration, Kara has a website and several YouTube videos about her bullet journal. But I also found videos by Ryder Carroll. His style of bullet journaling is more functional, not artsy, but it shows that anyone can develop the basic idea in a way that suits him or her. Once YouTube knows what you’re looking for, it will offer up numerous suggestions – because the Cybergods are watching everything you do and often know what you want to look at before you do.

Amid all that nearly obsessive searching, scrolling and clicking, I also discovered a Facebook group: Bullet Journal Junkies member posts now pop up regularly on my feed and, at least for now in this honeymoon period, I’m looking at nearly every post.

I took what I liked of the other systems I saw and did a mashup for what works for me. The beauty is, I can always change it next month if I want. Here are a few of my own pages.

I saw two sets of bullets used in most journals, and I took what I liked in each, realized I wouldn’t use ALL of the ones I thought were cute, so I dropped a few. Still kept more than I’ll probably use. I like adding new pages to my index because that tells me I’m working my plan – or at least building pages about plans.

In most bujos, a full calendar, called Year-at-a-glance, graces beginning pages. I figured it would be handy to have, so I made one, too. Here is where the differences between lined, graphed and dot-grid likely come into play. I chose dot-grid because I want the hint of what I could use for aligning, without the distraction of actual lines. In good light, my 50+something eyes can see the dots, which help me line things up. On the right is the future log. If year-at-a-glance simply tells us what days the dates fall on, future log gives us space to post those dates we know of waaay ahead of time, like birthdays and anniversaries, vacations or business trips planned in advance – or yearbook deadlines, if that’s part of your business.

 

Jan spread

Week spreadI’ve seen the monthly spread in a couple different versions. Some like the block calendar layout, but I thought I’d give the numbers down the side and columns for parts of the day version a try. I note main dates to remember and can put in any of three columns, depending on whether it’s for morning, afternoon or evening.

On the far right, I can note tasks and goals I’d like to accomplish during the month. Getting my bullet journal up and running was first – and it is crossed off the list as done.

This weekend I’ve worked on another project, one where I tackle each room of the house, one per month, to declutter and reorganize. So I also noted on January to tackle kitchen that aren’t part of the regular routine.

The daily or weekly spreads really help me be mindful of completing tasks each day. This is what I’ve always thought of as a to-do list, but it’s easy to toss Post-it notes – hide the evidence. In the bujo, I feel more compelled to get things done and account for them. Even if that means migrating a task to further on in the week. I use two spreads for a week, with four days on one and three on the other. I made a mini-list of items I’d like to add to my closet when I can find them. I see students watch the clock and call out “11:11! Time to make a wish!”, so I figured a clock with that time posted would make a good graphic for a wish list. Unfortunately, I stuck the hands in the wrong place on my first go. So I just made another one. Learning to let go of perfection is another advantage of this form of planning.

I like having my lists in my bujo. I don’t know how many separate notebooks I have all over the place, never mind Post-it notes and index cards, with to-do lists for the day or week, lists of blog post ideas, or tasks I need to do for a bigger project. They get scattered, lost and forgotten. With a bujo, it’s not only a list, I’ve got tasks noted on monthly layouts or on specific days. There’s a PLAN.

But be careful, it’s also addictive if the bug catches you. I should have been satisfied with my journal and that first assortment of pens I got, but a recent shopping trip landed me at Hobby lobby and I added some more pens to experiment with.

A store clerk explained to me the differences between the wetter ink of the marker-type pens and gel pens. I picked up a three-pack of Micron black pens in three sizes: 01, 03 and 05 to add to my colored pencils I already had at home. These were the pens I kept seeing on the Facebook page and in other artsy forums, and I wanted to try them, wet ink or not. They do not bleed through my Moleskin pages, but they do “ghost”. I can see shadows of what’s on the previous page. But I plan to write on this one anyway, so it usually becomes less noticeable. Those three should have satisfied me, but like any junkie, I wanted more. I wanted a template for pretty circles, and I wanted a sketch book for doodling in. So online I went, and there were all these pretty pens, and there were YouTube videos about using these pens. And I just knew that if I had the pens, I, too, could become that artist, make beautiful videos and live in my pajamas if I chose. Not really, but I did want more pens. So I ordered more pens. Now I have too many pens. I’ll stop now.

Hearing terms like “layout” and “spread” is familiar because that’s the language of yearbook. We also like to talk about fonts and pairing plain ones with fancy ones. I have found myself looking at videos about hand-lettering, too. These are my people.

Take a look at what others are doing, and if this is a system you can get behind, try it out for a while in any notebook, with a pen or pencil – doesn’t matter. Just see if you think the ideas will work for you. Share your ideas and questions here. If you already bujo (we can make it a verb, too), share some of what you do in yours. We’re mostly visual here, so show us what you’ve got!

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Getting back on track

It’s Sunday. A day of reflection and looking forward – sure, it’s that. But it’s also time to get my butt in gear because I spent yesterday doing home and family things.

Today is getting back to work.

So I’ve been reflecting. I feel bad that the last couple weeks haven’t been as productive in my classes as I would have liked, and it’s easy to blame never having enough time. I’ve had a medium case of “meh,” and it’s time to get over it.

Particularly in my mind is the fact that my digital communications class isn’t going the direction I wanted it to. Today’s Twitter #sunchat was about learning from mistakes. Teachers talked about modeling for their students how to learn from mistakes, admit when something wasn’t going as well as they’d like, even tossing a plan and starting over. I feel I need to back up and clarify a few things for my students to get the learning in that class heading the right way again.

I knew I was onto something when I re-read a couple chapters of “Crafting Digital Writing” by Troy Hicks, and experienced an “aha” moment.

Here’s the deal: Digital Communications is a COMMUNICATIONS class. And it’s lost its way. I teach a lesson and give an assignment to be completed during that week. Students, by and large, tend to simply address the minimum requirements of the assignment. It’s a laid-back class, and I am not holding them accountable for developing their communications skills. They post their responses to assignments on their blogs, but I am not seeing the kind of development I would like to see. Whose fault is this?

As I reflect, I realize that originally I required that they draft in Google Docs and share with me so that I could provide narrative feedback to help them improve. They did this at first, but began somewhere along the way to simply post their responses directly to the blog. I will not critique their assignments where they will be shared by a world-wide audience. I reminded them a few times that they were supposed to draft in Google and share first, but they still mostly did not. I gave up. I settled for providing occasional short narrative feedback via verbal comment or sticky note. This is not adequate. I have to address this, either by going back and making them understand why we need to draft in Google, or by coming up with another platform for providing the narrative feedback about what they have posted to the blog.

I have also decided that this week’s lesson needs to be re-enforcing the differences between basic written work like they do in other classes and the digitally enhanced written work they should be trying to accomplish in my class.

If an English or history teacher is asking for an essay on a topic within the scope of a particular lesson and expects planning, some research, organization, good writing with well developed ideas, good sentence structure and word choice, proper usage and punctuation, then I certainly expect the same. However, I want them to explore possibilities granted by the digital world: links to more information (definitions, articles, biography pages, books), images, video, info-graphics and other things I’ve shown them or that they’ve gone out and discovered for themselves.

What I’m often getting is straight-forward answers to questions I’ve posed, with no “writing”, little research, very few links, unless I’ve specifically asked for them.

If they do not understand what it is that I’m wanting from them, it’s on me, and it’s time to make that clear. If my instructions are not clear, I need for them to let me know that. Although, each week, I provide written instructions, often with images and links and videos (I’m modeling what I want them to do), on the class blog, and I provide verbal instructions as well.

Ironically, this message was relayed to me by one of those students when she shared the following video on Facebook this afternoon (Thanks, Kenz.)

My goal this week is to make things more clear for them and to allow them an opportunity to let me know what they need from me. I will put this in the form of a written, digitally enhanced, assignment.

Wish us all luck and wisdom.

Who to Follow on Friday, #FF

twitter-312464_640

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, I often do what I assign to my students. If I don’t like the assignment, why would they?

I introduced Twitter to my digital communications students yesterday. You may be asking (while belly-laughing) why I, as a stodgy old teacher, would think I could INTRODUCE students to a social media platform that is supposed to be their own territory to begin with. Well, I’ll tell you.

  1. They don’t all use it. The most cited reason for not using Twitter is that they’ve seen how it’s used by their peers, and they don’t like it.
  2. I want to show them effective ways to use Twitter, ways that could help them collect and curate information or begin a personal learning network that could result in acquiring knowledge they didn’t know was there.

Their assignment, thus my assignment, was to start an account, if they didn’t already have one, and find five accounts to follow. These five accounts should NOT be peers. They should be entities that could provide them with information that would be helpful. I suggested colleges, specialist magazines, news media. They are to tweet a #FF (Follow Friday) post and write a blog post to tell the world about the five accounts they found, what they are about and why they followed them.

Here are mine:

@geniushour – I’ve been doing Passion Projects, also known as Genius Hour or 20% Time projects in my DigiComm classes the past several semesters (coming up soon, kiddies!). This seems a valuable account to follow and a valuable chat to participate in to make our projects even more meaningful. I’m pretty excited, too, because they followed me right back.

@theskimm – Suggested by my daughter-in-law, The Skimm is a news service. Well, it is to me. For those of us with little time to read all the news every day, but who still want to be on top of things, well, The Skimm is there to fill us in at whatever level we want and in a conversational tone. It’s like I’m having a morning cup of coffee with someone like me – only better informed. It’s just plain embarrassing to be a journalism teacher and have people bring up big news stories that I know nothing about.

@Time – I thought I was following all the news magazines, but I guess I somehow missed Time. No idea how that happened. Again, I’m embarrassed. Breaking news and current events.

@WSJ – The Wall Street Journal is another news outlet I should have been following all along, and I’m surprised I’m not already. I used to think WSJ was too sophistocated for me; however, I think I’m up for it. Breaking news and features. I love me some good feature material.

@oklahomacontemprary – I was excited to find this one. It popped up in my sidebar, and I’d just been talking to a student about arts, and, well, this one hits the spot. Oklahoma Contemporary “encourages artistic expression in all its forms through education and exhibitions.” Can’t wait to see what they have to offer.

So there are my five. I’m sure I’m going to benefit from each one.

Who do you follow for the value they bring?

The Plan: NFIG?

My first try at Google Draw

My first try at Google Draw

I’m not a risk-taker. I plan. I envision. Before I set anything in motion, I learn all I can, and I imagine, play out all the possible scenarios in my head. I want it right before I begin. That’s not to say I don’t handle failure well. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, actually. Failure can be part of the planning process if you look at it in a bigger picture kind of way. It didn’t work that way; let’s try it another way.

In that way, last school year was planning and trying out small changes in order to transition to “The Plan.” I want to use narrative feedback instead of grades. But I’m afraid to ask.

The directive at my high school for the past several years has been “two grades per week.” I did express to my principal two years ago that I did not like that rule and explained that it didn’t work with my classes. And I’ve learned so much more since then.

Last year I implemented a few things I knew I could:

  • No zeros. A 50 is an F, and that only happened when no work was turned in.
  • No reduction in points for late work.
  • I quit making students feel guilty for needing to go to the bathroom. If you gotta go, you gotta go. Just let me know. Guess what? It was not abused.
  • I had my publications students (newspaper & yearbook) grade their own production weekly. This involved setting goals, keeping a log, reflecting and assessing. Frankly, they didn’t like it much.
  • I provided written, narrative feedback (and taught students to peer edit), so that they had multiple chances to improve work before they turned it in. I had kids thank me for this service.
  • In some cases, I mini-conferenced with students to arrive at a grade on part of an assignment. I need to build my confidence on conferencing.

These changes did make some improvement, but where I really wanted to see improvement – more student participation and assignment completion – well, these changes weren’t enough to effect the kind of improvement I’d hoped for. They weren’t enough because the biggest change I needed to make was still a glaring problem. There were still grades. Kids were still labeled “D”, “F” (I can’t win. I don’t know what to do.), even “A” (I don’t need to work very hard; I’m already there).

Now I need to go full throttle: No grades. Well, I’m calling it “Narrative Feedback Instead of Grades.” NFIG? Not as pretty as TOG, but I think Throwing Out Grades gives the wrong impression, and I have to worry about that as I pursue The Plan.

I spent a huge chunk of yesterday writing up, in narrative form with lovely bullets and bolded parts, my proposal as I plan to present it to my principal – soon as I gather the courage and he has a chunk of time in his schedule. School starts in three weeks. What I produced yesterday was five pages, but I included links to reading material with summaries and a page or so of FAQs so I’m prepared for what he/they might ask me.

For you, dear readers, I will try to be brief (but it’s hard. You see how I wordy I am?)

The Plan

  • I will use narrative feedback instead of grades. On assignments, this will look like Mark Barnes’s SE2R formula (Summarize, Explain, Redirect and Resubmit). This feedback will be on their Google Doc in most cases. In cases where there is a hard copy, I’ll (egad!) handwrite it, being careful to remember that students now have little training in cursive (omg). In the online gradebook (we use Infinite Campus), I will check the “Incomplete” box and write a brief (I swear I can) version of the SE2R in the comments section. When the student turns in his/her final version, I will check the “Turned In” box and make a new note (leaving the first in place, each with dates), that the goals were met or exceeded. I think this can work. An administrator or parent should be able to see this through the online portal, and wouldn’t this bit of information be more informative than a 72?
  • I will “unpack standards” with the students, an idea borrowed from Starr Sackstein. I do have to decide WHICH standards. Oklahoma repealed Common Core and is in the process of finalizing new standards, so we are one more year with what we used before, PASS. I “invented” journalism standards to use last year by doing a mashup of what I saw from other states. So my options are: CCSS ELA + ISTE or the new Oklahoma standards in draft form + ISTE. My journalism standards were too tedious, I decided, and they don’t apply to digital communications. Either way, the “unpacking process”, as I will apply it, means the students and I will learn them, simplify them, tossing what we don’t need, combining some, and putting what’s left in their language. Through all this, they should have an understanding and ownership of them. How to do that with five classes of four preps (2X intro to journalism; newspaper; yearbook; digital communications) still puzzles me. Input? What we come up with will be the categories I use in the online gradebook where my peers use “daily work”, “quizzes”, “homework”, and “tests” or something along those lines. As I create an assignment in InfCamp, I will note which standard it applies to. When it hits two or more, it’s entered that many times so that we focus on each standard; i.e. a writing one and a tech one. Whew, I gotta work on brevity.
  • I will teach reflective writing. I learned last year (and, really, before that) that it isn’t common sense. Few “get it.” Reflective writing, especially as it has to do with self-assessment, standards and evidence, has to be explained, modeled and feedback given, just like other work. Hopefully by grade reporting time, they’ll be used to it and will be able to manage reflective self-assessment with evidence for the grading period. I plan to use Starr’s book on reflection as my Bible for this. It will be published in October. She has also written about reflection quite a bit on her blog.
  • Students will create digital portfolios to curate their work, track their progress and do their reflection writing. Intro to J and DigiComm have always had blogs on WordPress, and I’ve encouraged newspaper to have blogs also, but the whole thing needs fine-tuning. Here’s what I’ve come up with: Choice. I love that idea. All my students use Google Drive. It’s the one thing they all have in common. So – eportfolios can be as simple as a folder in their Drive marked “eportfolio” with obvious organization within. Or, students may choose to create a Google site. I’ve only dabbled in this myself, but I don’t mind learning alongside my students. Absolutely love it when one of them teaches me something and you can visibly see their pride swell as they get up to show the others. Students could also opt for using their WordPress blog, though to me, that may be too public to be reflecting on their progress and grade, but it’s up to them. And if they come in telling me they have experience with Weebly, that’s cool too. Gimme the link. If one starts with a Google folder but after a few weeks gets brave and decides to create a site, well, we probably have a tech standard he can tie to for some reflection on progress. The goal is to curate work and track progress so that they can be ready for self-assessment at grade-reporting time. And that reflective self-assessment? I’ll probably go the “choice” route again: written in a Google doc; screencast; video; Voxer; whatever; but a conference will happen too.
  • In each class, I’ll have One Big Ongoing Assignment, handy for when some finish a project early and others are still working or reworking. Also great for sub days or THOSE days when I just don’t have my stuff together. For newspaper and yearbook, it’s obvi: their publications and anything extra they want to put into them. For DigiComm, I’ve had them do Passion Projects (just bought Don Wettrick’s Pure Genius and can’t wait to dig in), but I had a tough time figuring out how to do this for Intro. In Mark Barnes’s ROLE Reversal, he talks about having his 7th grade ELA students do a Read All Year (RAY) project with lots of novels and big team goals. There’s no grade attached, but there are different activities kids can do when they complete a book. So I borrowed and tweaked this idea with a little help from Mark. I want my kids to read long-form narrative journalism. That could be feature articles in magazines (think TIME or The Week) or book-length journalism (think All the President’s Men, All the Right Stuff, Into the Wild). Collections of essays and journalist biographies could work, too. Time to go to some used book stores. I’ll contract with each student, just outside his/her comfort zone, but quantifying will be tough. At Mark’s suggestion, we’ll count pages instead of books. So for the first grade-reporting period (9-weeks or semester, I haven’t decided), a student might contract for 150 pages (small book or multiple longish articles) up to 300. I’ll set up some sort of celebration board where kids can post accomplishments, but I also want to encourage them to do something for each piece they read, though I won’t be keeping tabs (they will, in their portfolio). They could write a review, a reflective blog post, a mini review on Instagram or Twitter with a shoutout to the author, discuss the item with classmates in a small group “book talk”, create a book trailer or just Vox about it. I’ll pose it as collecting info for our library of potential reads. Classmates and students who come after will appreciate having another student’s take on a piece to help them make a decision about reading it. One thing I envision is a tab on the class website that functions as our “library” with the book and article lists. Some articles could be linked to their sources online, but in all cases, student responses could be linked beneath each title as a reference to future readers.

So there you go, too many pages, but that’s my plan. Now I just need confidence to ask for permission and to get it all in motion. How can you help me? Can you poke any holes in this? Offer any suggestions for improvement? Suggestions for proposing? Did I help you with anything?

The ugly side of Facebook and why I’m taking a break

Keep Calm FB

Why do we stay in abusive relationships? Like the one(s) I have with Facebook?

The relationship I have with Facebook itself is unhealthy. The tab sits there at the top of my screen, taunting me as I try to do work, begging me to click over to see what’s happened in the last 27 minutes since I was there. Whether I’m writing lesson plans, assessing student work, paying bills, trying to build up desire to work on one of my creative writing projects (I was supposed to be a self-supporting novelist by this time in my life), Pinteresting, participating in an educator Tweetchat, or, erm, writing a blog post, my self-diagnosed ADD kicks in and I GOTTA CLICK ON THAT FACEBOOK TAB. Something might be happening in the world of my closer friends. I MIGHT MISS SOMETHING. I’m like your basic 3-year-old.

That’s a problem in itself. However, a bigger problem has grown out of my obsession. I don’t know what it is about the past few months, but people have become nastier. And it makes me sad to say that because, while I’ve met people far and wide on Twitter, and I appreciate that I can connect with them on a friendly and professional level, my friends on Facebook are mostly people I actually know, people I see in town, people I’m related to, people I’ve taught or taught with. I know that we live in a democracy – heck, I teach the First Amendment, and I know that whether friends or relatives, we often believe differently. But in these past few months something has changed. People are mean. People I like are being hateful and rude and intolerant and judging other people without knowing their stories.

We all think we’re right when we’re on one side of a controversy, but I can respect someone whose belief is different from mine if they back it up with sound argument, with some facts. What I find hard to handle is the loud folks who bluster in ignorance.

In cases where, for instance, an article is shared on Facebook – say, did you hear the one about President Obama coming to Oklahoma? And how he was greeted by Confederate Flag waving idiots? I was lured into the comments section on more than one article. I don’t know why I go there. I know it’s going to upset me, but I go anyway. The ignorance that abounds – the hate that drips. Why do Oklahomans hate our President so much? These commenters are mostly folks I don’t know (except one comrade I often find already hit those comment streams with a dose of fact – shout out, Melvin!), so I sometimes reply to some ignorance there. If the article was presented from folks on my side of the political divide and the comments are positive, I can add to it, like I did on the article about the President visiting a federal prison while he was here and comments he made about needed reform. A comment I made there scooped up about 30 likes. I must have touched on something people were thinking but no one had brought it up yet.

But when my peers post hate messages directed at my President or people with whom I am in agreement on issues, I usually feel I must remain quiet (even though they did not) so as to keep the peace. I don’t want my co-workers disliking me. If they follow my posts, they are bound to know where I stand on issues, so I have to remind myself that it really does no good to go off the handle on their posts on their timelines. They have the same First Amendment rights that I do – even if much of what they mention seems extremely uninformed to me.

I spend way too much time on Facebook, anyway, but lately, much of that time has been in fuming and trying to decide how to respond to something that has angered me (No one is actually trying to take your guns), and whether to respond at all. That time is wasted. That energy is wasted. That emotional stress could really be put to better use somewhere else.

So tonight I decided something that was a big something for me. I signed off. I know. I can just pull up a tab and it will open right up, but I’m going to try not to for a week or two. And I took it a bit further. I uninstalled the app on my phone. That’s a biggie. No more notifications. I’ve heard from others that it’s freeing. We’ll see.

What would it take for you to go, at least partially, off the grid?

For the record, since I didn’t post it over there:

  • I like President Obama, and I think he has bravely made some changes for the better in our nation, particularly lately. That meme about Bush loving America more than Obama is STUPID.
  • I would like to see tighter gun control, and although I know it is and should be defined by states, I wish every state would see the need and create laws that more closely reflect those of other states and freaking enforce them. Watch out for potential loopholes. No, I don’t think anyone should try to take everyone’s guns. Good grief.
  • I believe in separation of church and state. That means government owned properties are not spaces for displaying religious pieces of art. Moving the Ten Commandments statue from the Capitol lawn does not remove religion from anyone’s heart. Our money and time should be spent on more important matters. Politicians should stop pandering to the ignorant voters and educate people instead.
  • I think the right decision was made on marriage equality, and those who do not like gay marriage shouldn’t have one. As far as court clerks who are supposed to issue marriage licenses believing it’s a conflict with their religion and they just can’t issue a license to a same sex couple, go get another job. I doubt it bothered you one iota to issue a license to someone who was on their second or subsequent marriage or even young first-timers who’d been living together for a couple years.
  • My congressmen need to stop wasting time and tax dollars on nonsense and work on issues that will keep my state from embarrassing me time and time again.
  • This country was not founded on Christian values or “In God we Trust.” It was founded on religious freedom. I’m so tired of seeing that one. If you want Christian values for your country, then start doing as Christ would. Spread love, peace and positivity. Love your neighbor.

In a better digital world …

There is so much more to teaching responsible social media behavior than just being a good role model – though that’s my go-to.

And yet –

I even invented a class for the purpose of teaching students to communicate effectively online – in blogs, with Google Drive, on Twitter and other social media platforms.

We talk about privacy.

We talk about bullying.

We talk about copyright.

We talk about who sees your posts and how quickly they can go viral.

And yet –

I have a “Mom” talk with my publications staffs and explain how what they do in their relations with others in real life or on social media reflects on the publication they are a part of. It’s in the contract they sign, that they will be appropriate in their dealings with others online and off.

And yet –

And yet I see students use bad language, talk badly about peers – sometimes naming them and sometimes not – sharing things that shouldn’t be shared publicly, arguing with and threatening others.

The least of the problems is that people who may not even know the offenders form an opinion based on this behavior. This includes teachers the students don’t have – yet. My friends can see anything I comment on, and this is something many youngsters don’t seem to understand. When these young people start looking into going to college and getting scholarships, these behaviors are going to bite them, as more and more college admissions advisers and scholarship grantors are checking online profiles before making acceptance decisions. Even those students who think this doesn’t matter because they aren’t going to college should know that potential employers look too. Folks are passed over on jobs and the job seeker may never know why they didn’t get that job.

I believe that the power of the Internet and the relationships and networking made possible by social media are extremely valuable.

And yet –

And yet I truly wish younger people would seek more powerful and appropriate uses for these amazing tools instead of wasting such usefulness on pettiness, bullying and hurting one another and themselves.

It would be a better digital world if people –

Wouldn’t post hurtful messages.

Wouldn’t share private information.

Wouldn’t air personal disagreements.

Wouldn’t share other people’s hurtful messages, private information and personal disagreements.

It would be a better digital world if people –

Would share useful, informative information.

Would give shout-outs for good works.

Would seek out others with similar interests in order to share information and experiences.

Would share their creative works for others to enjoy.

How can you help make the digital world a safer, friendlier, more educational, more inspiration place today?

NaNoWriMo Swag

I empower students by giving them permission and tools to be creative, to make mistakes, learn from them and keep on trying.

I’ve assigned Passion Projects to my Digital Communications class, explaining that they get to choose a subject to explore and develop a project of their own choosing.

I’ve guided new editorial staff of the yearbook as they’ve chosen their theme for the year and looked for ways to bring it to life.

I’ve offered up ideas and shown new tools to my news staff as they’ve begun to try to work out how to run both a print and an online paper with similar content but different purposes and different deadlines.

I’ll soon be showing my Introduction to Journalism students how to blog, allowing them to select themes and widgets and post their own content along with assignments that also involve choice.

With all this handing over of choice and creativity and the option to do well or not do well and learn from it, I realize I’ve left myself out of those offerings. November gives me the opportunity to right those wrongs.

I am participating in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I’ve known about NaNo the last couple years, but good old doubt has held me back. Not this time.

This has been a rough year. The bad thing is, I remember saying the same thing to myself last year. I love teaching. I love the students I get to teach, but a number of traumatic events in our community and the weight of problems in education have worn on my soul. I’ve begun to lose myself in fiction in any spare time, sometimes time I should be using more responsibly. My excuse is that I’m studying writing.

Even when I was a little girl, I wanted to make up stories. I remember writing my first story when I was in the fourth grade. When neighborhood friends and I played outside, I made up the best stories to act out. I always wanted to be a writer. I won an honorable mention for a short story in some competition in high school. I had no idea what I was doing, but wrote an interesting character in an uncomfortable situation.

I didn’t go to college after high school. Even as an adult, though, I wanted to be a writer. I read other people’s novels, and I dreamed of writing my own. I had no idea what mine would be about – I had no grand story idea, no characters that spoke to me, no situations I dreamed of plotting out. I just wanted to write and to be a writer.

Years later, I got to go to college, and I became a journalism teacher. I love empowering students, but this career affords no time to write a novel. I gained a journalism student last year who told me she’d done NaNo twice. I decided it was a sign. Thanks BT.

I tell students all the time who say they can’t think of anything to write that the act of writing generates thought and the ideas will come if they’ll just trust the process, just start writing.

After all this advice giving, it’s about time I took my own.