Last week, I received an email from one of my website hosts reminding me that it was almost time to renew the domain name for my former classroom website (mrcoley.com). As I was going through the online checkout process, I noticed the date that I had first purchased the right to use mrcoley.com -- January 24, 2003. While I first published my classroom site back in 1999 as the culminating project for my master's degree, it didn't go by the name mrcoley.com until 2003 -- 10 years ago today.
I'll admit, I got a little emotional when I looked at that date. What began as a simple site containing only basic subject matter pages, student artwork, and an "About the Teacher" page became, over the course of the decade, so much more. It was my passion. As a youth, I wanted to be a computer programmer. In college, upon realizing I couldn't do calculus, I changed my major and studied to become a teacher. With my classroom website, I was able to combine two of my loves -- teaching and technology. I loved working on my website. People would often ask me, "Doesn't that take you a ton of time? Isn't it a lot of work?" The answer was yes. I did invest a lot of time and energy in my website. But to me it wasn't work. It was fun. In their free time, some people knit. Some garden. Some watch TV. I built my website. And I loved it.
If you are one who visited my website over the past 10 years, this post is my way of saying "Thank You." Thank you for taking the time to view the things my students and I were learning and wanted to share with the world. You don't know how much it meant to my students to know that their artwork, blog posts, and podcasts were being seen (and heard) by people around the world. Talk about authentic learning and a global audience! There was nothing better than showing my students a "website visitors" map showing them their work was being seen by people all over the world. My pupils always wanted to put forth their best effort on their artwork, writing, and ColeyCasts, because they knew I wasn't the only one who was going to see and hear their creations. And if you're one who took the time to email me regarding the site, I cannot adequately express the gratitude I have for your messages. Your words of encouragement and feedback were so appreciated, especially on those discouraging days when I asked myself if it was all worth the effort.
10 years. It's been a fun ride. And if you're wondering, even though I'm no longer updating it, I plan to continue keeping the site online. Thanks for following me on my journey!
Think back to your first year of teaching. For some, it was just a few years ago. For others, it may seem a distant memory (and some of you may still be in your first year). Regardless of how long you've been teaching, think back to the beginning. Did you have an experienced teacher mentor you through your first year or two? Whether it was informal or in a program such as BTSA, did you have someone come alongside you and share lessons, help you with your classroom management, show you the ins and outs of your new school? I did. Mrs. Kawase was her name, and I was incredibly blessed to work with her as she took me under her wing and showed me what it takes to be a great teacher. She listened when I had questions, freely shared her resources, and more than anything, was a friendly face during a very overwhelming year.
I've asked the same question to teachers recently at presentations I've given -- "Did you have a mentor?" Unfortunately, very few teachers have said they had someone to mentor them at the beginning of their careers. After thinking about it, I asked myself, "Why not?" Is it because there weren't any teachers qualified to give a first-year teacher guidance? I find that hard to believe. Whatever the reason, it isn't right.
What about now? How many of you currently have someone you would call an educational mentor? I do. His name is Tony Vincent (www.learninginhand.com). Some of you may be familiar with his work. A former 5th grade teacher, he is now an independent consultant who works with teachers and students all over the world to help them tap into the power of educational technology. Spend some time on my website and you'll find his name on many of the pages, as he has been instrumental in helping me infuse emerging technologies like blogs, podcasts and iPod flash cards into my teaching. Tony has been an incredible resource to me, and although it's not an official title, I consider him to be my educational technology mentor.
Here's the point I want to make -- I've never met Tony. I have never been in the same room with him. As far as I know, we've never been in the same state at the same time. He lives in Arizona, while I live in California. With the exception of one Skype call, I've never even spoken with him. All of our communication has been in the form of text (email, Twitter, etc.). Yet because of his influence, because he has freely and graciously shared his ideas, expertise, and resources through his website, I am a better teacher than I was a few years ago. All because he was willing to share.
Are you sharing? Are you a mentor? Are you paying it forward? We all have something to share, whether we're in our second or third year of teaching or our second or third decade. It may be big or it may be small, but with millions of teachers in the world, someone may be online right now looking for what you have. So share, through a blog, a wiki, a website, Twitter, or simply a conversation in the staff room. Do not underestimate your influence.
A few years ago, I received an email from a teacher in another state. After seeing some social studies flowchart notes I had posted on my website (http://www.mrcoley.com/flowcharts_examples.htm), she sent me a short message. Below is an excerpt from the email, shared with her permission.
"I thought you should know that today you managed to indirectly touch the lives of 18 students here in Alabama...Last night I stumbled across your website and noticed your social studies flowchart notes for your lesson on Columbus. Coincidentally this just happens to be the lesson we are on in social studies. So, I thought I'd give it a shot with my kids. TODAY WAS THE FIRST DAY that my students ENJOYED social studies. Today was the first day my students comprehended ANYTHING having to do with social studies...I just thought you would want to know that you made a difference in the lives of 18 children today, even though we are almost a continent away."
Do not underestimate your influence.
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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