The Last Eight Years – Part 2

(See Part 1)

Year 13 (AP World, CP World, WASC)

Again I had another epic group of AP World students. This was the year of the revolution. My period 2 AP World History class staged a revolution in the weeks following our French Revolution unit. They had a series of demands. While I may have granted a few of them, it was only because I was secretly crushing their spirits. To this day, I reference it as just a mere failed rebellion. They closed out the year by putting post-its all over my car on the day of the final. I was neck deep in couple PBS projects all year and this when I took on the role of WASC Coordinator.

Year 14 (AP World, Photo, WASC)

After a part time Photography position opened up, I convinced my principal to let me take it on while keeping my two AP World History classes. As it turns out, this decision once again changed everything. I would find and embrace this new challenge by teaching a purely project-based class while getting my academic fix with a couple AP history classes. When I walked into the photo class, there were five digital cameras and six computers. We spent most of our time doing black and white film. Which is fun and all, but not as relevant in today’s world. When I left in October 2014, I had 60+ digital cameras and a computer for every kid. It also let me rediscover, refine, and redefine my style as a photographer and artist. Photography was always a personal journey for me, teaching brought together my worlds. I also stopped wearing ties.

This year’s AP students were the best I would have in my 6 year run. A huge group of them were pure academics, who embraced the class. Unlike most groups, they were also a community before and after my class – one that I would continue to be a part of for the next two years as many signed up for my photo classes. It was my finest and most rewarding year as a history teacher. Everything clicked. I just about fully flipped the classroom second semester and redefined my perception of being a teacher. It was my move to a totally student-centered class. This was also the year of the field trip-gone-wrong – one of those students made a pretty bad decision on a field trip that resulted in her arrest and the five other students getting suspended. The day after the trip was my lowest moment as a teacher.

Year 15 (AP World and Photo)

Can’t say I remember a lot about AP World History. Matt and I continued the transformation of the class to move it away from regular lectures. In photography, I was able to grow the digital resources. I connected with an inspiration photo teacher from another school and figured out how to teach the course in a way that made sense. We held the first annual READ contest (that continues in my absence today). I had a mixed Beginning and Advanced Photo class that pushed all the limits (artistic and others) and made me laugh every day (full of former AP World students from the last two years). Reuben and I began presenting workshops together as we took over the BTSA technology requirement.

Year 16 (AP World and Photo)

This year was another turning point. It was a year of travel. I started the summer with a trip to Philadelphia for ISTE, a trip to London and Paris with my wife, a week in Beijing doing technology staff development for my friend Scott’s international school, a trip for CUE to do PD in Cleveland, and finally 15 days in Europe with 25 students. I still have vivid memories of walking through the rubble of a Beijing hutong and along the Great Wall on a foggy afternoon. That summer trip allowed me to finally bring one group of students to Europe, fulfilling a teaching bucket list item from my own high school days.

While technology professional development was a constant throughout my career, Reuben and I stepped up our game significantly at the district, SDCUE, and around the county. It was also my AP World swan song. I had so many projects and plans that something had to give. We closed out the year with what I would consider the soul of the course – the movie Lagaan. In photography we, officially started our CTE Pathway with a great group of students demonstrated streaks of artistic genius and who would become family.

The Last Eight Years – Part 1

Perhaps I have always thought this way, but about eight years ago I really started to live and breathe my life as a teacher. I certainly worked hard enough in the beginning, but as I transition to AP World History and then Photography, teaching became who I was in a much more definitive manner.

Six months ago, I officially left the classroom for the job I always wanted – an admin educational technology job. I started this blog post about that time, but I started to avoid it when I got about halfway done. It is still a little surreal and I’m a sentimentalist who craves change. An odd mix, but here I am.

It has been eight years since I celebrated my 10 year anniversary of the classroom. At that time I felt it necessary to reflect on what had happened in those first ten years (Part 1 and Part 2). While I don’t update the blog much these days, I had planned to reflect on the next ten when I hit year 20. Since I didn’t make it 20, I wanted to get it down before the dark side of being an administrator clouded my thought process.

Year 10 (AP World and CP World)

While I covered this year in the first edition, it was a pivotal point in my teaching career that would take me a couple years to fully feel its significance. This was when I started teaching AP World History.  That six year journey would shake everything I knew about teaching and really changed everything. I got to teach to a level that satisfied my intellectual yearnings. The course itself changed my worldview, forcing me to look well beyond the context of the Eurocentric world history class I had been teaching up to this point. My systems theory worldview just clicked about halfway through the year. My connection to this group of students was especially strong, we all journeyed through 10,000 years of history for the first time together. That year was also when I finally completed my MA in Educational Technology from SDSU.

Year 11 (AP World and CP World)

While the year before was amazing, the workload was suffocating. Four sections of AP World was just not healthy. My good friend Matt joined me for the AP World journey.  My three CP classes were exceptional this year as well. I made a series of game changing steps in my ed tech trajectory when I became a Google Certified Teacher, joined the PBS Advisory Board, and started writing curriculum for PBS. It was also when I moved classrooms and started sharing an office with Reuben Hoffman. On a personal note, my daughter was born that December.

Year 12 (AP World, CP World, and Web Design)

By year three, I finally felt comfortable with the AP curriculum. This was when I started using Google Docs with my students and our collaborative review project included another school from the Northern California. I worked on the World Without Oil curriculum and then implemented it in the CP classes. It was one of those moments where kids connected to the world in an authentic manner. I added Web Design to my class load. This was a tremendous challenge because I do not have a knack for code, but I was able to have a handful of my year 10 AP World students in my class again. Really solidified my connection to this group. This was also when I took over the school website. Towards the end of the school year, I was nominated for the school and then district Teacher of the Year award. I wouldn’t win at the county level, but it was an honor to make it as far as I did. It also kept me at West Hills when I was seriously considering a move to a different school.

(Part 2 and Part 3)