You're more than "just" a teacher…

If you know me at all, you would know that I don’t use profanity, ever since I was a little kid and got my mouth washed out with soap. I’m not a saint, I’ve said plenty of things in my head that shouldn’t be repeated, especially when the copier goes down, and I forgot my coffee, and I just finished my 3rd IEP meeting of the day. But I don’t use it in my everyday vocabulary.
However, I always tell my students to use the words that best fit the story you are trying to tell. There is no other way to say this.
I am a bad ass teacher.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going to the ISTE conference in San Antonio. While I was there I saw brilliant educators all around me.  On Sunday night of the conference I went to a reunion event of sorts for people who have been on the “20 to Watch: Educational Tech Leaders” list from the National School Board Association (I was on the list in 2016).  Part way through the reception we all went around the room and shared who we were, what year we were on the list, and what we are currently working on. As we went around the room there were CEOs, company founders, college faculty doing amazing work in research fields, superintendents, and a teacher…me.
For a split second I was embarrassed. I thought “Look at all of the amazing things that these people are doing, all the titles they have next to their name, and then look at me. I’m JUST a teacher.” And then I thought to myself that phrase…
I am a badass teacher.

I’m beginning my 10th year of teaching, and I’ve had several people ask me what my next step is, usually implying that I should start looking toward administration. I feel like there is this perception that being a teacher is just a stepping stone toward something else. If administration is your calling, and you feel like you could make great change at the administrator level, I think that’s fantastic. However, I hate this idea in education that the only way to move forward in your career is to leave the classroom. I have witnessed amazing leaders in all areas of education.
One of my colleagues, Ashford Collins, doesn’t just teach his students to stand up for social change, but lives it by organizing a peace walk in the local community. That’s a bad ass teacher.
Amy Hillman, along with the other science teachers in my building invites members from the community in for a giant science night with thousands of people in attendance. Those are bad ass teachers.  
My wife, Jenica Stock, organizes an after school technology club for her students because she knows the amazing benefits this opportunity gives her students. That’s a bad ass teacher.
For the past 5 years I have helped organize book drives to give over 3000 new and used books to families in need in our area. I also coach an after school LEGO robotics team, present at conferences around the country and write for websites like Edutopia. That’s bad ass.
Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like “just a teacher” or in my case I made myself feel like less than everyone else for my choice to be in the classroom.
As you kick off the new school year, embrace your inner bad ass, and share with others why you’re a #badassteacher.

The ISTE Make It Happen Award

A few days ago I had the honor of receiving ISTE’s Make It Happen award at the MACE conference. I was nominated for my effective use of technology both in the classroom (creating awesome Youtube videos, encouraging a wide range of tech tools, implementing engaging writing strategies using technology, etc.) and outside of the classroom (coaching the FLL robotics team, starting the Books for Backpacks initiative, advocating for my students by being part of a wide range of technology committees in the district, etc.). Most importantly I was recognized for my ability to make learning fun and keep the kids engaged in their learning.
It was a privilege to get recognized for the work I do in and out of the classroom. I can’t describe the experience of walking in front of an auditorium full of people and getting affirmation that I’m good at what I do.
I’m not good at sharing stuff like this. I do a terrible job “tooting my own horn” as they say. But I think it’s important to share accomplishments like this as often as possible. Not for our own self-gratification, but to change the narrative about public education.
Every week I see negative stories on Facebook and in the news about a teacher who did something they weren’t supposed to or a rant about some educational policy that the poster/news commentator disagrees with. That’s not the narrative I want surrounding my profession. I see too many skilled educators around me to believe that that is the most important story to be told right now.
Unless we go out and share the amazing things happening in our classrooms, someone else is going to tell the story of education. We either have to accept someone else’s story or tell our own.
On that note, I didn’t get my award because I’m the only great teacher out there. I received the award because I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who tolerate my crazy, support my ideas, and help keep me grounded when necessary. Nothing I do would be possible without a strong network of amazing educators.
That’s the narrative I want to tell. What’s yours?