Monday, June 25, 2007

A letter I will never send

I was skimming through one of the featured communities this evening (dear_you) and found the concept rather interesting. To whom would I write such a letter? My ex-husband? My friend Billy who died at age 38 in 1995? My former students? A teacher from my past? Maybe. Maybe not.

I know.

My son.

Dear Cameron,

We wanted you so much. We had to pay a lot of money to make you happen. The first time I thought I was going to have a baby, I was wrong. That was so disappointing. But then, just a month later, it turned out to be positive news! All that time, I thought about you constantly. What did you look like? Would you like the same things I like? What would your voice sound like? When would you understand that I was your Mommy and that Daddy was your Daddy?

And then . . . we weren't even ready yet! You came so soon. I had only just finished up at work, had only just written a letter to my fifth graders on the board, telling them to be good for the sub. And I started to feel really uncomfortable. Early the next morning, after a long night of trying to get you to come out the regular way, they told me I would need an operation. Less than two hours later, I got a brief glimpse of you before they whisked you off to a special room to make sure you were okay. You were three and a half weeks early, after all. They made Daddy sit in a wheelchair and rolled him out of where we first met you. He followed you down to the special room. It was a long time before I got to see you again.

That night, the nurse brought a wheelchair for me. I was still wondering what you looked like. I was still trying to imagine how big you might be. Or how small. It hurt more than anything I have ever felt to get out of the bed and into that wheelchair. The nurse tried to talk me out of it, to get me to go back into the bed. I looked at her and yelled, with tears in my eyes, "It's been eight hours since I had him, and I haven't even held my son!" The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled down the hall to where you lay waiting. Were you waiting?

When I saw you, it took my breath away. You were small. And there were all these tubes and wires and machines. You were in a kind of dome thing. Four or five different machines were making noises telling the doctors about your breathing, your heart, your pulse. Every twitch another beep. Sometimes you forgot to breathe. I was so scared. I was even afraid to move you or touch you. They carefully moved enough things out of the way so that you could come out from under your dome. I didn't even know how to hold a baby. They handed you over to me. I sat in the rocker and looked at you. Machines beeped, and sometimes their alarms sounded. Sometimes it was not a big deal. Sometimes I had to rub you and tell you to breathe. It was only later that I would notice the other babies in there. Most of them were even smaller and earlier than you were. A nurse used Daddy's camera to take pictures of us with you. Daddy took some more of you in your little bed in the hospital. Now, when you see them in your little picture book, you tell me, "He's inna hop-sit-al. He gonna go home soon."

It wasn't soon enough. It was five days before they let me out. Eight days for you. Those were such long days. Every day, we had new hopes that you could come home. Every night we had to leave you there and come home without you. I woke up and cried at night. I called the hospital and asked about you. And I was always there in the morning to come hold you and feed you. Finally, you came home. You were still so tiny. Mr. Wes next door saw us driving home and he came by with flowers later. He was the first person to see you at home, other than Daddy and me. He said you were beautiful and amazing. He was right.

The rest is a blur. Daddy got up with you every night. He wanted me to rest, because I had to have another operation two weeks after the first one, and a week in between those I had to go to the hospital every day to see the doctor. It took me a long time to heal from the operation, but I have never regretted a thing. My scar reminds me of you. Every stitch and staple was worth it.

Now, when I look at you . . . when I talk to you, and you respond back . . . when I hold your hand as we walk around the neighborhood . . . I can't believe how amazing you are. I used to wonder what it would be like to have you hold my hand as we walked. Now, you won't let it go. And sometimes you climb up my leg and I have to pick you up when a doggy comes along. I used to wonder what your voice would sound like saying "Mommy." Now I wonder what it would sound like NOT saying "no!"

I still wonder about some things. I wonder if you will like school. I wonder if you will make friends with other kids. I wonder if I will someday have to deal with you NOT wanting hugs and kisses from your Mommy. In the meantime, I give you them every chance I get.

And when I get upset because you won't help clean up your toys . . . or when I lose my temper and get angry when you make a mess because you won't use your potty . . . I remember that helpless little baby with all the tubes and wires and machines hooked up to him. I remember praying to God that you would be all right. I remember crying as I hung up the phone after the nurses told me you were fine, but you still weren't home with me. I remember being so grateful that despite a few early setbacks, you were perfectly healthy, fine, normal, amazing, beautiful. And I remember when you were still inside my tummy, moving around a LOT when I would lie down in bed at night and wonder what you looked like. And now I can just go into your room and look at you as you sleep.

And thank God that you ARE all right.

Good night, baby.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Final Reflection for Google Certified Teacher requirements

Diane Main, Computer Technology Lead Teacher
Milpitas Christian School
3435 Birchwood Lane
San Jose, California 95132
dianemain at gmail dot com

I offered a series of three courses, spread out over three months. Each was held on a Wednesday after school, for two hours per session. Teachers who attended all six hours were able to earn a CEU for free. About eighteen educators signed up, including two from our school’s preschool and three or four from another private Christian school several cities away. (Kings Academy in Sunnyvale) As it turned out, the people from our preschool and all but one of the people from Kings had to cancel due to other commitments. There were 13, 11, and 10 people in attendance at the three sessions, respectively. The sessions were Google Earth (January 24), Google Tools and Information Literacy (February 28), and Google Docs & Spreadsheets (March 21).

In the Google Earth session, I talked about what Google Earth is, and I demonstrated the program on the large screen via projector hooked to my laptop. Several attendees had brought their laptops and installed the program while we held the discussion. We brainstormed how teachers thought they could use Google Earth for their classes and with their students. I had downloaded several files from the Keyhole BBS in advance of the class, and the teachers enjoyed seeing how others had already created Google Earth activities. Some were created by teachers and some by students. I shared Google LitTrips and Postcards from the Past, both created by fellow Google Certified Teachers I had met at the Google Teacher Academy only a few months earlier. One fourth grade teacher, who had a student moving back to China two days later, spent some time the day after this session “flying over” the Earth from San Jose to this child’s village in China, showing the kids in her class where their classmate would be traveling the following day. The teacher showed an enthusiasm I had never seen in her before, and I was impressed with her willingness to dive right in with Google Earth.

In the Google Tools and Information Literacy session, we logged in to the PCs in my lab and I had each participant select a tool from “Even More” just to experiment with. As teachers began looking over one another’s shoulders, some found tools they planned to start using, either personally or professionally. But the excitement really started when we began to discuss the concept of information literacy. My co-teacher and I shared our experiences so far that year with having our students use Citation Machine to cite their sources of information. I also showed a short movie I had made for teaching my students how to cite sources of both information and images. Some of the teachers were relieved to know that we were helping kids understand why we cite sources and how to do it correctly. One of the teachers brought up Wikipedia and asked for my opinion about this well-known and much-maligned online resource. The conversation caused some participants to consider things they had never even thought about before, and I think it turned out to be a very good session, even though it veered strongly from my original plan. I think one thing that surprised a lot of people is when I told them we had found several errors in our Encarta CD-ROM Encyclopedia, and that other sources along with Wikipedia were correct and helped us to verify our information.

In the Google Docs & Spreadsheets session, it took no time at all to get the attendees hooked on collaborating. I had made sure each participant had been invited to gmail in advance of this final session, and that each one had set up their account so I could invite them all to collaborate on a document right before their eyes. Again, they logged in on lab computers, though some worked from their laptops instead, and we created a very silly document together. One teacher got the idea to have some of her sharper students begin collaborating on writing articles for the school’s newsletter, which gets sent home with all the students in our entire school. We had a great discussion about how teachers could use D&S with their students and we tentatively formulated a plan for getting kids set up with Google accounts next year. (I have since discovered that there is now a way to tie in Google Apps For Your Domain with accounts, which our school has in grades three through eight, so I am pursuing that this summer.) In demonstrating the Spreadsheets section (before they added charting capability), I exported a spreadsheet from Google D&S into Excel and then used Chart Wizard to graph the data. This got the fourth grade teachers especially excited, as they had science projects coming up. This gave me a chance to show off the project their students were working on at that time, which involved graphing data about an assigned state (population change through history, ten most populated cities, and percentages of ethnic groups). The unexpected benefit here was that I suddenly got extreme buy-in for integration projects with these teachers, who had been reluctant before because they thought it would be more work and too hard to make happen, I think. By the end of the school year, we had a lot more participation by those teachers in signing up to bring their students to the open lab, AND we changed our curriculum to enable their students to complete several tasks related to the science project . . . including graphing their data in many cases . . . in our class when they came to us. This was done in Excel, but I would like to see it done with Google D&S in the future.

Most of the educators in attendance were very excited about the possibilities these tools presented. After each session, several teachers experimented with the tools and some began using them with their students, as I have already mentioned. We are also looking forward to expanding our use of these tools in our lab classes to support teacher use of the tools and to encourage more collaborative work by students.

Two challenges I faced in presenting these sessions were as follows. One or two attendees were seriously behind the rest in basic computing skills, and it meant that the entire session could sometimes get held up over a minor technical glitch that had to be overcome here or there. The person visiting us from another school was an art teacher, and while she felt she got a lot out of the sessions, I felt I could not tailor my presentation to meet her needs enough. When discussions were specific to what we do at our school, she kept herself very busy exploring Google Images, which she had not used much before that time, so at least she got something out of it.

I think my own personal growth was impacted in several ways. First, I had been struggling all year up to this point to really connect with certain teachers and to encourage better communication regarding technology integration between their classrooms and the computer lab classes I teach. Once we took the time to hypothetically discuss the uses for some of these tools, a lot of things became clearer as to how we could collaborate better on projects the kids could do to meet both our technology standards and the state’s curriculum content standards. In addition, I got more practice presenting to groups, and since a lot of things came up that I had not anticipated, I got the chance to both improve my “thinking on my feet” skills and to share my passion for technology in education. I think my enthusiasm alone during these workshops helped bridge some gaps that had been gaping a bit too widely before this point.

As for the future, my plan is to investigate the tie-in with Google Apps For Your Domain and and make full use of these in my classes next year. I already anticipate a better success rate with technology integration projects, as the administration at my school has promised to be stronger in encouraging classroom teachers to fully take advantage of what we’re trying to accomplish in our lab. I hope to reach more educators in the coming year by having some of the teachers from my school co-present with me, perhaps having their students present their own work as well, in an effort to not only share what we do but to also encourage other teachers to want to learn more about the applications I shared this past winter.