As I sit in the airport and reflect on my experience from the California Google Teacher Institute (more on that later) I am feeling extremely nostalgic. Last month I attended the Google Innovator Academy in Boulder, Colorado and this month I flew to San Fransico to train at Google in Silicon Valley. How is this my life?!
My first year teaching I had the pleasure of working in the Teaching American History grant with the most innovative, passionate educators in the state of Kentucky. I’m sorry. Did you hear that?! I said MY FIRST YEAR teaching. I was 22 years old and as green as the peppers on a bowl of Texas chili. I’ll never forget walking down the hallway with a big bunch of 8th graders on my first day of school, many of whom looked at least 2 years older than myself, thinking “what in the world have I done?”
Not to discredit my undergraduate institution but to paraphrase in the words of my favorite wilding, “I knew nothing, John Snow.” Next door to my classroom was my school “mom.” If you don’t believe me, just ask Siri. When I bought my first big girl car with my one of my first big girl paychecks, I would say “call mom” and Siri responded by saying “dialing Rhonda Newton.” I kid you not. I remember her coming in my room one time during a practice round of testing, correcting my kids (paper thin walls, you know) and then in between classes giving me a good chewing. I would be sitting in the floor of room 210 rocking back and forth STILL if it weren’t for her. She taught me more in 6 months than my 4 years of college.
Right down the hall, on the other team, was my first edu soul sister. My first work bestie. Just a few years older than me, she was and is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Her college education must have been far superior to my own because she killed it every single day. The planets must have been aligned or maybe she just realized how incredibly terrible I was but she got me a spot on the TAH grant. I came into the grant a year late with absoutely no clue what GRREC even stood for much less how to write a lesson plan that someone else would actually want to use. (What?!)
During my time with the grant, we traveled to major locations in American history (Washington DC, Gettysburg, Antietam, Boston) and studied with field experts. Not to mention it was my first experience with being a “connected educator” even though, at the time, connected meant driving 2 hours to a tiny restaurant with no wifi on the Ohio River. The teachers in this grant were seasoned, passionate and absolutely brilliant. Jana, Amanda, Josh, DeeDee, Chris, David, Amy and too many others to list were my first “tribe.” Together we were trained by some of the best minds in history. Enter: Teach TCI.
During a time in my career when I thought “popcorn reading” was the best idea I ever had, TCI revolutionized my educational philosophy and way of teaching. History Alive awakened a spirit of innovation deep in my soul. Brian Thomas, our TCI rep, frequently showed up on the travel circuit with us and provided numerous trainings for our cohort. I remember him coming to GRREC once and giving a training on some of the Teach TCI supplemental resources and he was absolutely exuberant. It was the start of something for me. The passion and enthusiasm that Brian brought into his craft was the missing piece for me. The content TCI provided opened the floodgates of imagination, powerful pedagogy and a passion for helping my students find the excitement in the story of our past.
Last fall I had the privilege to reconnect with Brian at the annual Kentucky Council for the Social Studies conference in northern Kentucky. That same fire and excitement that I saw in him when I was a baby teacher, fresh out of college is still going strong 10 years later. That, my friends, is what the kids these days call #lifegoals. When I spammed the Facebook land this week with San Fran and Google pictures and posts, Brian reached out and mentioned Mountian View was also Teach TCI HQ. Talk about full circle. On our way to the airport this morning we detoured to the place where my spark was ignited. It was a special moment for me!
Thank you TCI for being “the thing” that helped me realize that I could teach with excitement and passion… For helping me discover that I didn’t have to follow someone else’s ideas and lesson plans. Thank you for helping me find my own teaching “self” and realize that being a little bit crazy and a lot bit excited was and is and continues to be perfectly okay.