Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sliding Down the Sierra Nevada to #FallCUE

It's that glorious time of the year once again: fall!  Perhaps you prefer to refer to the season as autumn.  Regardless, this is my favorite time of year.  Crisp mornings call for my favorite article of clothing, the hooded sweatshirt.  Especially crisp mornings call for a beanie, a toque, a winter cap or hat, whichever your preferred nomenclature (I personally am a beanie or toque kind of a guy). The leaves are changing colors and dropping to the ground.  College football season is in full swing (so are the pros, but I have my reasons for not caring about pro football), and hockey season, my favorite, is in its early few games.  Then there are the fall foods, especially soups, stews, roasted meats, and if you fancy it, just about anything pumpkin (I like pumpkin and I like pumpkin spice in moderation, a little bit of that spice goes a LONG way!).  But what fall also brings is one of my favorite events of the year, Fall CUE!  

Late-night Wing Stop with Jason,
Ben, & Martin at FallCUE 2018!
I didn't attend my first Fall CUE until 2016.  At the time, I was a learning strategist and technology coordinator and my principal gave me a budget to fly from Las Vegas to Oakland, rent a car, check into a hotel, and attend the conference in American Canyon, just outside of Napa, California.  It was there that I met a lot of the people that I had been interacting with on social media for over a year or more, people like Ryan O'Donnell, Ann Kozma, Laurie Wong Roberts, Tom Covington, Michael Jephcott, and many more.  It was there that Jon Corippo taught me how to present like a rockstar and Dave Burgess taught me how to teach like a pirate, and Edward Simoneau taught me how to be an effective instructional coach.  I wrote a post about it three years ago and shared what I had learned on that weekend titled Fall CUE 2016: Reflection & Review (unfortunately, the pictures that I embedded no longer show up, I have switched email accounts since I began this blog and the images must have been tied to that account that no longer exists).

More fun and games from Fall CUE 2018!
I missed Fall CUE in 2017 during my transition from administration back to the classroom.  On top of that, I was in the middle of planning my move to Reno, even though I didn't realize that it was going to be Reno at that point, as my wife hadn't been accepted to any schools yet.  But I made the return to Fall CUE last year and even presented.  And while the American Canyon location was amazing and a relatively short drive from Reno at about 3 hours, I am really happy that it is even closer to me this year in Rancho Cordova, just outside of Sacramento.    While I originally would have only needed a room for one night since I would have driven the hour and 45 minutes on Saturday morning, some special circumstances are limiting me to only one day.

A few months ago after I had registered for the conference, a concert for the ages (at least to me) was announced in Reno.  The ALTimate Tour featuring Bush and Live with special guests Our Lady Peace was announced for Saturday, October 19.  I saw Our Lady Peace about 10 years ago poolside at the Rio Las Vegas, and a free show to boot!  OLP is one of my favorite bands of all time and I have been itching to see them ever since, but they rarely tour America and when they do, they usually stick to cities near the Canadian border or only got to a few select large cities.  As for Bush and Live, I have never seen either one.  Live's Throwing Copper album was one of the first CDs I ever purchased and Bush's Sixteen Stone wasn't far behind.  Going to concerts was a rarity for me growing up in my small town of Alpena, Michigan; I didn't go to my first show that wasn't a country act at the county fair until the summer before my junior year (Third Eye Blind and Eve 6, and 3EB is going to be in Reno at the end of November, I may need to get to that one too!).  So whenever Bush and Live toured, I wasn't able to go.  I told myself when this tour was announced that there wasn't going to be anything that would stop me from going!

#CUEBald in all of its glory withTom, myself, and Matt
My plan shifted from heading down Saturday morning and staying Saturday night to drive down Saturday, head back to Reno for the show, then head back down on Sunday morning for the rest of the conference.  But as I began to write this post, I got a call from my parents that they would be coming to Reno for the weekend.  Since they only live about 3 hours away, normally I would say, "I'll see you in a couple of weeks" as we see each other at least a couple of times a month.  However, when they told me that they were coming over this weekend because they would be leaving for a couple of weeks for Hawai'i, I decided that I would stick around on Saturday to hang out with them.  So now I am only going to be going down for the Sunday.

I have a limited number of
 round yellow sticker...
I built a schedule for Saturday, but since I will not be going, my focus has certainly shifted to Sunday.  I will be leaving my house in Reno early to get there, but I cannot miss the Sticker Swap at 8:00 AM!  The first one last year was a lot of fun and there was a slight underestimation as to how successful and popular it was going to be.  The Spring CUE swap was more organized, so I expect this one to be awesome, and of course, I will have some of my sticker swag to share, from my standard Anderson EdTech stickers and buttons to some colorful ones, and some BeerEDU Podcast stickers, buttons, and more!

I cannot miss the keynote on Sunday morning, a man that has become a good friend over the years, Ed Campos, the de facto leader of the Orange Sauce Mafia and the #CUETangClan.  And in his words, the beneficiary of several hundred Twitter followers as a result of his handle, @edcampOSjr, closely resembling the account for the EdCamp Foundation, @EdcampUSA.  Eddie is an eloquent, engaging, and entertaining dude, so I have no doubt that his keynote is going to be absolutely epic. 

After the keynote, I have narrowed down my choices for sessions to ones geared toward special education, universal design for learning (UDL), social-emotional learning (SEL), and self-care.  I am always looking for more ways to reach my students, especially those on my caseload and in my classes with special needs and there are several sessions on Sunday that are exactly what I am looking for.  I am looking forward to learning about techniques to bridge the achievement gap, make education more accessible for my students, all while learning to better address students' emotional needs, as well as take care of myself in the process. 

So as I make the trek from Reno to Truckee and Donner Pass, then slide down the 80 to the northern reaches of the Central Valley, I'll be looking forward to the day of learning with my CUE family and taking what I learn back to my school on Monday.  If you are going to be at Fall CUE, I would love to say hello, pick your brain for a bit, exchange some stickers, maybe take a picture, and make the connections that Fall CUE and other events have given me for the last several years.  Expect another post after the conference with my reflections and connections. 

Until next time... 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

#ToTheEdgeEDU: The Fruition of an Idea

Writing has always been something that I have enjoyed.  I can remember being a little kid and "writing books", creating them out of paper and cardboard.  My artistic skills were limited at best, but I could always get a story down on paper.  As I grew older, book reports, research papers, and essays were something that I never really dreaded.  And while I have always been a good test taker as well, I would much rather write an extensive paper for an assessment rather than a 100 question multiple-choice test.  At some point, I don't remember exactly when, I told myself that someday, I would write a book.

A couple of years ago, an idea came into my mind about what I could write about. The idea was born out of this blog that I have been plugging away at for nearly four years.  My initial thought was, "Why don't I compile my blog posts, maybe clean them up a little bit, and publish an anthology of my blog posts?" I quickly dismissed the idea because if somebody can just go to www.andersonedtech.net, why would they bother to buy a copy of a book when they could get everything for free?  I decided that any idea that I would have needed to be an original idea.   So the idea of writing anything for publication was put on the back burner for the time being.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017.  I helped put together the Silver State Technology Conference with my CUE-Nevada colleagues (an incredible group of educators and leaders, I am a lucky man to be able to get to work with them on a regular basis).  At this conference, a gentleman by the name of Dr. Randall Sampson was there.  Over the course of the two days of the conference, we learned a lot about each other, including how we had both played college football for the same head coach, Doug Sams, just at different times and at different universities (Randall played at Fairmont State in West Virginia while I played at Northern Michigan University).  I also had the opportunity to pick his brain about the writing and publication process of his book, Welcome to the Grind! How Educators Achieve Exponential Results.  During our conversations, I mentioned to him how I wanted to write a book, but how I had moved on from my original idea and was working on another idea that was more of a memoir of my experiences in education.  Randall told me to keep in touch and to share my ideas with him and that he would do whatever he could to assist me in the process in the future.

I had set one of my goals for 2017 as writing a book.  It didn't happen.  I set that goal again for 2018, and again, it didn't happen.  It wasn't that I didn't want to, obviously, but finding the time to do it was tough, not to mention some career and personal issues that I was experiencing throughout that time and a move from Las Vegas to Reno.  This year when I thought about my goals, I decided that 2019 was probably not going to be the time to write a book either, so I didn't even address it.  I figured that once I met some other goals and settled into a better routine, I would be able to set aside time to write.

At CUE19 in Palm Springs, I saw Randall yet again, and like always, it was a blast hanging out with him and talking about anything and everything.  The subject of my book came up, to which I responded that I had refined my idea and now I just needed to find time to write it.  I also saw Sarah Thomas, the founder of Edumatch and their publishing wing, Edumatch Publishing.  I mentioned to her that I had been tossing about an idea but still hadn't written anything, but she told me to keep in touch because she liked the idea that I had and that she would love to look into it further once I had refined it and began the writing process.

However, the person that probably had the biggest influence on me at CUE19 regarding writing a book was Brent Coley.  Brent had recently published his book, Stories of EDUInfluence.  At various points throughout the weekend, I asked him a few questions about his process and the publishing process and got some really great info, but I need to know more.  So I contacted Brent via Voxer and asked if we could do a video chat for a few minutes so I could pick his brain about everything.  Because Brent is one of the most giving and gracious people on the planet, not only did he agree, but he took over an hour out of a Saturday to answer every question that I had about everything.  It was at this point in late March that I decided to get going with my outline and start writing my book.

My first step was to outline the premise of my book and how I wanted to set it up.  I turned to my tried and true friend, Google Keep, to get the process going.  I created a note that had ideas for my title, a basic outline, themes and potential titles for chapters, and other ideas.  Then, I dove in. I opened up a new Google Doc, created a header and footer that simply said, "DRAFT" in big, bold letters, and started typing.  I didn't set aside specific times to write, I wrote when I had time and when I had the itch to write.  I didn't have a specific thing I wanted to write each time.  Sometimes I would write for five minutes, sometimes I would write for an hour.  Either way, over the course of about two months, I got about three or four chapters written, or in the case of my document, about 60 pages in a standard 12 point font, double spaced.

Very early on, I realized that my book was going to be a first-person story.  However, since I am most likely not that interesting of a person, I knew that it was going to need to be more than an autobiography.  There had to be a theme that tied people back to their careers in education, even if I could tell a compelling story.  I decided that the theme of my book was going to be a story of times in which I have been a risktaker in my life and the results of those experiences.  This wasn't going to be simply a story of my successes, I needed to tell the tough stories as well and deep dive into times where my risks made me fall on my face and look and feel rather foolish.  And without giving too much away, there were going to be some stories and risks that were going to be very hard to write about and were going to conjure up some demons and feelings that were hard to cope with at the time and revisiting in order to get them down into words.  But I knew that if I was going to write a compelling story that was going to inspire people to become risk-takers themselves, I knew I was going to need to dig deep into the depths of my soul.

In late May, I submitted my idea and what I had for a draft to EduMatch Publishing.  I explained my vision for the book, my intended audience of educators, the book's format, etc., and received a response back that the publishing team would review my proposal and get back with me soon.  A few days later, I got my response: they were interested in my idea, but there were a few things that I needed to address in my draft before they would make a decision.  A few edits and additions, I resubmitted my draft and "forgot about it", finishing off my school year, getting into the groove of the first few weeks of summer vacation, and pecking away at the draft a little bit more when I made time to write.  I figured the best thing to do was not to worry about any decision on my draft but to try to avoid thinking about it and hope for the best.

Just after the 4th of July, I received a message from the publisher's panel that was reviewing my proposal.  After careful consideration, the team decided that they liked my idea enough to offer me a publishing contract!  To say that I was stunned and ecstatic is an understatement.  But what it also did was give me some motivation to finish my draft.  I likened the contract offer to the finish line of a race.  If you go out for a run with no set goal or distance in mind, you may not have the motivation to try very hard to achieve a personal distance or speed record.  However, with a set distance in mind, such as a half marathon (a distance that I have personally run on a few occasions), it gives you something to shoot for and the motivation to strive for personal bests.  The book contract was my finish line.  Now I had reason to set aside time to write on a regular basis, not just "when I felt like it" or "when an idea came into my head."

Over the course of the next week and a half, I made time every day to write.  Sometimes it was early in the morning.  Sometimes, it was afternoon.  Sometimes, it was into the night hours.  Or in one case, it was ALL NIGHT! One Saturday evening, I was struggling to fall asleep, so I got out of bed around 10:30 and got behind my keyboard with the intention of writing for a bit, hopefully, to tire myself out and get back to bed.  The next thing I knew, it was about 4:30 AM! Knowing I had somewhere to be at 8:30, four hours later, I put on some coffee and went for a quick walk, determined to write for the next few hours since sleep at that juncture was going to be almost pointless.  It was during this writing session that I wrote the most difficult chapter of the book.  It makes me wonder how that chapter would have turned out had I written it at another time or had broken up the writing into several sessions instead of the marathon all-night session in which it was written.

As of this writing, I do not have a release date for the book.  It has made it through its first round of edits and it is currently in the focus group state where a handful of people have read through the draft and will provide feedback on what they like, what they believe can be improved, and what really stood out to them in the draft.  From here, I'll make a few more edits before it moves on to the official editor.  In the meantime, other details are getting attention, such as cover design, my bio for the back cover, design of the script, and other items that one typically doesn't give too much thought to when looking at a book.

What I will reveal is that my working title for the book is To The Edge: Successes & Failures Through Risk-Taking.  My goal is that those that read my book will analyze my life story and glean inspiration to take risks that perhaps they wouldn't have taken before.  If I can inspire one person to try something crazy, then my words have done their job.  So in the coming weeks and months, watch for my story to be released through Edumatch Publishing.  Following my social media feeds (@AndersonEdTech on Twitter, @andersonedtech on Instagram, and my book Instagram, @totheedgeedu, plus #ToTheEdgeEDU) will be the best way to stay up to date on the book's progress.  I cannot wait to share this story with you!

Until next time...