Teachers write Eulogies

The recent passing of Joe Bower has led many teachers and educators to remember him with words on the internet. I did not know of him until he died suddenly. The saddest part to me was that he never got to hear and read all the wonderful things that was said about him after he died and almost all of them from people whom he’s never met or knew personally.

There’s no time like the present to write eulogies of my own, so here are 3 people that I met on Twitter I thought of when I wanted to write this post. They are not yet dead.

Andrew

EduSpock™

Andrew Campbell is the Spock of edu-Twitter. He always tries to be objective & logical. I admire how he challenges the status quo, disagree with the populist, and never seems to get angry (except when I tease him about being old). Whenever I have questions about my practice, I try seek his input because he always puts the students first and that’s what I strive to do when I teach. Andrew’s advice is always so convincing to me (He’s from England and I was born in Hong Kong which was once a British colony, so draw your own conclusions). Andrew’s blogs are genuine and from his heart and his published articles addresses things that we often overlook in the education world. He is also Kevin Pillar’s biggest fan and/or illegitimate father.

Royan

The Connector™

Royan Lee is my definition of a connected educator. His ability to connect different people with similar interest is something I thought I was good at until I saw what he was doing. One must have a tremendous memory to be able to categorize their twitter followers’ interests, then to alert said followers when he finds something interesting for his tweeps. Royan also organized a very successful outing to a Blue Jays game that I was apart of, and now this group (also started by Royan, kind of) can often be found giggling at their phones through WhatsApp. Look through his blog and Twitter and Instagram to see that he is one busy and talented dude. To be able do all this while being a great dad with 3 kids makes me hate him a little.

Fred

The Nomadic One™

Fred Galang is the Filipino me. Or I am the Chinese Fred. Or Fred is me with the ability to drink alcohol and grow a beard. All I know is that I’m better than he is at riding a bicycle on the streets of Toronto but he can art and I can’t. However you define it, we always seem to like the same stuff and have similar interests, experiences, and sense of humour. I really appreciated the support he gave me when I went through the strike “work stoppage” last year. He is passionate about art and his students. I mostly enjoy talking with Fred because he gets as angry as I do about education and sports. He is also very good at giving nicknames that stick (and logos too). I imagine Fred to be the same guy on or off social media, which is something that I always strive to do on Twitter and this blog. The man also delivered this homemade t-shirt to my front door. #MicDrop

The people above have no affiliation with me “in real life” but yet I cannot imagine my life (which is quite real, in my opinion) without them. Our common passion (not in order of importance) for sports, teaching, social media, The Wire, Idris Elba, being a dad is what gravitated me towards these “strangers”. This post will hopefully springboard other “eulogies” for other people that I admire as a teacher.

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Teachers are learners

This was My First Tweet. It has been five years.

Sadly, it still is so true. Who wouldn’t want a perpetual weekend? I have spent 5 years on twitter (kind of, more on that later) and I have learned so much to the point that I’m a different person than the one that wrote that grammatically incorrect tweet 5 years ago. Just like any new learner, I was doing it wrong at first. My account was locked, and I was only following famous people and my not so famous friends. My only followers were my friends, and when I needed to talk to them, I texted them instead of using twitter. After awhile, I felt that twitter wasn’t all it was hyped up to be. I didn’t care what the celebrities were eating and I definitely didn’t care to see what my friends were eating, unless they were going to bring it to me (they didn’t).

I stopped using twitter for a couple of years after that. Looking back, I didn’t have anyone to teach me, and I couldn’t see the value in it. I locked my account and worried about being followed by students (I was denying any student requests to follow me). I don’t remember what prompted me to start using twitter for school. When I did, I went through the learning process, but I got to learn it with my students. I made mistakes, learned from it, and it has been transformational experience for me. I try to follow(back) students who choose to follow me on twitter, and I have been following my students for 2 years now. I was nervous about doing it at first, and I learned even more lessons along the way. I had to un-follow a few students that were posting things I did not wish to see on my timeline, but it gave me an opportunity to talk to them about it in school. There are many positives to following students, mostly it’s the enhanced connection I have with them. It’s tough to get to know the quiet students in class sometimes, and I was surprised by how different they were online. Students have approached me in the hall to tell me that it’s a good thing that I’m on twitter. They told me it “actually made me look more human”. Well then.

Someone once told me that it’s more important to teach the student first, curriculum second. Somewhere along the way, we forgot about the relationship aspect of teaching and learning. I have noticed a change in the relationship I now have with my students. I know a lot more students at my school, including students that I haven’t taught, and they know me better as well.

The best part of my learning in the past two years was that there are many educators on twitter! I have made new connections and have seen different perspectives about education from all around the world. These teachers also share! It’s great to see that there are so many dedicated and innovative teachers out there. Having these connections has made me a better teacher. There are so many great educators in the twitterverse. I can’t wait to meet more and learn more from them. (This will definitely be another post later)

Here are some anecdotes from my time on twitter:

Students are a great resource, and they tell me what they’re interested in learning about.

I got some positive reinforcement from a student when I had the privilege of introducing our valedictorian this past year.

We don’t give our students enough credit because they appreciate our work. Eventually.

Recently, I had a task that I needed help with. So I asked for help on twitter. The response was awesome. It turned into quite a funny story!

My personal favorite:

I once helped a student who was stuck in her bathroom via twitter.

Teachers have birth days

I’m a birthday Grinch.

When students come in and tell me it’s someone’s (or their own) birthday, my response is usually: “You only have one birthday. All the other ones are just the anniversaries, marking a trip around the Sun, which 7 Billion people are doing every day.”

Groans. Eyes roll. Students get so bummed out that they probably tune out my point about celebrating one person on your birth day: Your mom, who did most of the work that day. (I was in the delivery room when my wife gave birth to our son. I’m still speechless)

Our Tech-Arts department has a tradition of celebrating department members’ birthdays. There’s going to be a cake, a card, and maybe even a song! I always feel weird when others celebrate my birthday, especially the song. What are you supposed to do? Sing along? Stand still? Smile like an idiot? All of the above?

I think it is nice that people want to celebrate something in my life, even though it usually reminds me of the day when I contributed nothing. At some level, I probably wish that my hard work in class should be the thing that is celebrated. But as twitter has taught me, many other teachers around the world are doing amazing things, everyday!

Like traveling around the Sun.