Monday, October 21, 2019

If I Don't Make It... To #FallCUE

Live performing perhaps my
favorite from their catalog,
"White, Discussion"
The alarm clock was set for 5:35 AM.  As I looked at the clock one last time, it was 12:53.  The blare of the clock would start yelling at me in just under five hours.  I dropped the needle on the record, turned down the volume to just above audible and put my head on the pillow.  As I drifted off, a faint ringing in my ears of the show a couple of hours prior competed with the guitar riffs and falsetto vocals of Raine Maida and escorted me to dreamland.  As the alarm roused me from slumber a few hours later, I groggily jumped into the shower, threw on a hat, grabbed a bottle of Coke Zero, and headed out into the crisp 30-degree darkness of Sunday morning to get into the car for the drive over the Sierra Nevada.  

Much to the delight of
especially the ladies in
attendance, Bush frontman
Gavin Rossdale walks the
crowd while performing
"Little Things".
The Fall CUE conference kicked off in Rancho Cordova on Saturday morning, but I wasn't there for the festivities.  While the drive from Reno to the conference was only about 2 hours and I easily could have gone, my priorities were different.  Months prior, a concert that I could say that I had waited 25 years for was announced for Saturday night.  In celebration of the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Sixteen Stone, Bush announced the ALTimate tour, a tour that would bring Live, a band celebrating the 25th anniversary of their most successful album, Throwing Copper, and Our Lady Peace, celebrating 25 years of their debut, Naveed, to Reno as one of the stops.  With my teen years in the mid and late 1990s, this was a show that I would be devastated to miss, especially because I never had the opportunity to see Bush or Live (I saw Our Lady Peace in 2009, and they were hard to see as their tour schedule rarely brought them to the US).  

Closing out the night
with "Comedown"
The show was everything that I expected and more.  Our Lady Peace opened, playing favorites like Clumsy, Superman's Dead, Innocent, Somewhere Out There, and closing with one of my personal favorites, Starseed.  Live was great as well, churning out I Alone, White, Discussion, Pain Lies on the Riverside, a stellar version of The Rollings Stones' Paint It Black, and closing out with Lightning Crashes.  Then Bush closed the night out, opening with Machinehead, a few songs from their upcoming album, then classics like Little Things, Glycerine, The Chemicals Between Us, Everything Zen, and closing out with Comedown.  My voice was a little hoarse after the 3 and a half hours of nearly nonstop rock that defined my high school and college years, but that wasn't even the highlight of the night!

Jason Pierce, Steve Mazur,
Duncan Coutts, Mary,
 Raine Maida, and I 
Of the three bands, Our Lady Peace is by far my favorite.  They are the least well known of the three and many people do not know the group when I talk about them.  That's not the reason why I love them so much, but I do enjoy a lot of bands that aren't as well known.  OLP, as they are also known, is big in their native Canada but only in a few pockets of the United States.  To say I was most excited to see them is an understatement and most people in attendance at the show appreciated their set, but were not nearly as vocal or singing along like my wife, Mary, and I.  In the day or so leading up to the show, my wife participated in a contest in an Our Lady Peace Facebook group.  When it was all said and done, she won a signed copy of their album, Clumsy, that she would be able to pick up at a meet and greet after their set!  

Had to listen to it,
 but this is going into a frame!

As soon as their set was complete, Mary and I left our seats and nearly sprinted to the meet and greet area, happy to see that we were the first ones there!  We not-so-patiently waited for about 15 minutes for the band and chatted with a few others that jumped in line with albums, posters, and shirts to have signed.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Raine, Duncan, Steve, and Jason made their way through the crowd and settled in at the table.  We walked up to the table and introduced ourselves, took a couple of quick pictures and asked about the album.  The band themselves had been running the promotion and were excited that Mary had participated.  They told us that it would be a few minutes but if we would wait nearby, they would get the album.  We waited for about 20 minutes, Mary got her copy of the album and we chatted with them for a few more minutes (Steve, the guitarist, is originally from Michigan and is a big Tigers fan like me, so we chatted about our mutual love for the team and mutual agony over their patch of rough seasons as of late).  In the words of Mary, it was a dream come true to meet one of our favorites bands, one that has had such an impact on both of us over the past 25 years.  

Which brings me back to the early wakeup on Sunday morning.  My ears were no longer ringing, but I was EXHAUSTED!  However, the drive was relatively short and I was excited to get my learn on, see a great keynote, and catch up with a few friends.  So with the GPS set and albums from each other the previous night's bands lined up, I got onto the 80 and set out for Rancho Cordova.  

Maggie Elliot made me take a picture before I was
fully awake... even though this was 3 hours into the day!
Minus a stretch near Truckee and Donner Summit where it was really foggy, I made great time in light traffic.  I pulled into Cordova High School in time for the sticker swap.  I had stickers to swap, but outside of dropping a few of mine on a table and getting a couple of new ones, I didn't have much of an opportunity to swap stickers.  Several people asked me where I had been on Saturday and I spent time explaining that I had been at the concert the night before.  Minutes later, I worked my way to the theater to see Eddie Campos deliver a great keynote about his experiences as a math educator and how CUE and the CUE family has made him a better educator and how he can now make math fun, not the anxiety builder that it is for so many people.  

Before the conference, I had done some research on the sessions and built a schedule.  However, I did not do a great job of reading for whom the sessions were built.  My first session was a great session on tools for special education teachers... if you are elementary.  I sat there for about 15 minutes reviewing some great tools before I realized that the tools were not going to shift to high school.  Luckily, I had a backup plan: a session on universal design for learning (UDL).  

UDL is something that I had heard of but honestly did not know much about.  Even after walking into the session nearly 20 minutes late, I was able to gain a better understanding of UDL and how I can implement UDL into my classroom.  I really like how UDL breaks down lesson design into three things: engagement (the why), representation (the what), and action and expression (the how).  To dive deeper into the basics of UDL, we were given some time to explore a variety of resources, then we were paired up with another attendee in two circles where we each had 30 seconds to share something that stood out to us.  After we each had a chance to share, we shifted to another person and shared again, and shared a third time with another person (I'll be doing this with students in my classes very soon!).  And the presenters, Kristina Allison and Trisha Sanchez, built a Padlet where attendees could add resources for helping others implement UDL.  Check out their website for more information on UDL and the shared resources! 

To the left, a news story without
Mercury Reader.  This is the same story
with Mercury Reader!
This is a great story about
rural Nevada counties getting
a grant to put wi-fi on busses.
Check it out here!
The next session that I attended was another geared toward closing the accessibility gaps for students with special needs.  Shannon Tabaldo (of the My Tech Toolbelt podcast) and Amanda Johnston presented a variety of tools for accessibility.  Many of the tools were ones in which I was already aware of or that I am using with my students, however, my goal is to always learn at least one new thing from a session and this session did not disappoint.  While voice typing, the Explore button in Google, screencasting, closed captioning, Google Keep and Grammarly are already part of my repertoire, I was really excited to learn about Mercury Reader.  This Chrome extension takes webpages and eliminates all of the extras like ads, spam, and other items not related to the text.  A great example is an article on a news website.  Not only does it open the text in a "quieter" window, but it also allows users to change the font style and size and share it out to a Kindle! There are a lot of distractions on the Internet and Mercury Reader allows students to read without those distractions.  I loved it so much that I installed it for my personal Google profile in addition to my school profile!

After lunch, I headed to a session on social-emotional learning (SEL) hosted by Dr. Todd Schmidt.  His session highlighted a lot of the research behind the importance of incorporating SEL into schools, such as decreased incidents of behavioral issues, bullying, and other issues and different ways he has incorporated SEL into his school as the principal.  Perhaps my favorite thing that he did was two-fold: when it was time notify students and their families which teacher they would have for the school year, each teacher in the school wrote a handwritten postcard for each student and mailed them home, but included on the postcard was a link to a Flipgrid video where the teacher introduced themself (if they chose to do so) and gave a tour of their classroom for students, easing the anxiety of wondering who their teacher was going to be and what their classroom was going to look like.  Dr. Schmidt stated that since incorporating this "hack", he did not get any phone calls from concerned parents regarding their child's teacher.  I also enjoyed his story about hosting a national play day event at his school but inviting parents to come to school and bring games, participate in events with students, and make it more of a community event instead of simply a school event.  I so enjoyed his session that afterward, I introduced myself (while we have interacted on Twitter previously, we had never met in person) and asked if he would like to share his story on The BeerEDU Podcast.  He readily agreed, especially since he has interacted with my partner, Ben Dickson, through various leadership chats on Twitter.  Look for an episode of The BeerEDU Podcast in the near future featuring Todd!

To close out my day, I walked into a session, but I wasn't feeling it, so about five minutes in, I left and headed over to the common area of the school's campus.  I was meeting up with a couple of friends after sessions were done so I figured I would relax for about an hour.  I had a great conversation with a couple of people and Kristina Mattis and Bill Selek had me come on to CUE Live to talk about my (limited) Fall CUE experience and to share a little bit about my upcoming book.  After a couple of quick conversations with Rebekah Remkiewicz, Ryan O'Donnell, and Tom Covington (plus I had a gift of some local Reno beer that I had promised Tom), I got in the car, had a quick pit stop for food, then headed home.  Between the long day on Saturday with the show and the great day of learning, I was in bed and asleep by about 8:30.  And even though I got a solid 9 hours of sleep, it was still tough getting up for school on Monday!  

Whenever I write a blog post, strangely, I name it first.  This time, I wanted to tie the concert and the conference together in the title.  One of Our Lady Peace's early songs is one titled 4 AM and one of the lines of the chorus is, "If I don't make it, know that I've loved you all along."  I felt that it was very fitting to the weekend because I love my CUE family and getting to spend days learning and interacting with so many dedicated educators.  Had I not made it to Fall CUE at all, I still would have learned a ton just from following the hashtag during and after the event.  So if you were at Fall CUE, whether we spoke or not, whether we have known each other for years or if we have never met, just like OLP says, I've loved you all along! 

As for the song, it's more about an estranged father and son, but that line really stuck with me while writing this post, check out this video for the song!

Until next time... 






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...