Archive for December, 2012

Pressing Pause

Just taking a few minutes out of the hectic holiday season to wish everyone a happy, peaceful, restful week-and-change off from work.  The work we do with other people’s kids is of paramount importance, no doubt, but I’m taking this time to completely focus on my own kids (and wife) and enjoy some uninterrupted time together.  Hope you are able to as well.

Happy holidays!

EdcampNJ Two Weeks Later

EdcampNJ on December 1 kicked off one of the the busiest periods of the school year so far for me, so I haven’t had much time to sit and collect my thoughts on it until now.  Much of what I’ve said before about Edcamps still applies; it was great to flatten the hierarchy of teachers – building admins – district admins, if just for a day, in order to talk about improving our practice.  As I said on Facebook the following morning:

Yesterday I met principals, teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, reading specialists, and librarians, among others. They were all there on their OWN time, on a Saturday, UNPAID, to improve their craft. It’s easy to get beaten down when you work in public ed, especially in NJ, but beyond being good for our professional practice, yesterday was good for the soul. Can’t wait for the next one.

And I think that second-to-last sentence is where I’m spending a lot of time these days, thinking about the role of personal relationships in our professional practice.  When any group of people comes together to plan an Edcamp, they do so under very natural, organic circumstances.  They choose to involve themselves in the process, and although the ultimate goal is professional growth and improvement, the vibe around the process – especially in the week or so leading up to it – is akin to getting ready to leave for summer camp and seeing all your camp friends you haven’t seen since last summer.

I’m sure there’s a more eloquent way to put that, but the blurring of those professional-personal relationships seems to be where a lot of the positive energy surrounding these events comes from.  When I got to Linwood Middle School for EdcampNJ, it was handshakes and hugs all around, just the same as when we put on Edcamp Leadership back in July.  These were not only people I respected on a professional level, but also people I liked hanging out with, and we somehow managed to pull off a thoroughly professional event while learning a lot and having a blast doing it.

As a future school leader, interpersonal relationships are something I think a lot about in terms of the development of school culture.  It would be great if everyone at work just got along well, but that’s not realistic.  This component of the Edcamp experience is (probably?) not scalable to a whole building or district, but it’s very similar to starting a garage band with your buddies or when the neighborhood kids decide, “Hey!  Let’s put on a show right here in the backyard!”  Everyone’s all in from the word “go”, and what happens after that is, at least in part, a direct result of that micro-culture that’s been created by the volunteers.

Yes, we had good conversations about pedagogy, technology, and learning, but like I said above, it was good for the soul just to be in a social learning space with fellow educators.  I’m definitely not one for woo-woo, but metaphorically speaking, the energy surrounding the event felt rejuvenating, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  Makes me wonder if and how we can do this more frequently or more pervasively, for students as well as educators.

My Go Bag

Although I am a building-based school psychologist (which means I rarely leave my one building for work-related purposes), my recent forays into Edcamp organization, consulting, presenting, and grad school have me learning and working on the road more than ever before.  While I’m on the move at school, I can do a lot with just my mobile phone, a pad, and pen, but traveling further afield requires more firepower than I can fit in my pockets.  After many trials and more than a few errors, I think I’ve put together a “go bag” that ought to cover me in most circumstances.

The Bag

After some hunting around, I settled on the Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag.  It’s billed as “TSA-friendly” due to the zip release that allows the bag (actually a very tight clamshell design – hard to describe; hit up the link for pics) to split open and lay completely flat for airport X-ray machines.  This is apparently a big deal for people who travel with more than one device (e.g., tablet and laptop).  I didn’t get it for this feature, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.

Of greater concern to me was the bag’s build quality.  I’ve had too many broken straps, holey compartments, and torn zippers on past bags, so all the reviews I read espousing the quality of Timbuk2 products definitely influenced me to shell out a little more for a bag that seems like it will last (the lifetime guarantee helped my decision-making process as well).

From a capacity standpoint, this bag looks and feels compact, but functions very much like a real-life bag of holding.  Seriously, I have a hard time filling this thing, and it’s not for lack of trying.  The laptop actually goes in a slim foam padded compartment on the rear of the bag, and the laptop charger brick fits into a compartment on the bottom of the bag, leaving the main compartment free to hold other items.  There are pockets and zippers galore on this thing, but one feature I especially appreciate is the main flap closure – the flap is anchored by two aluminum hooks instead of velcro.  That’s a very welcome feature for the guy who rolls into grad class 15 minutes late every week and would like to avoid the very conspicuous rrrrrrrrrip of velcro that further disturbs the class.


I purchased a Grid-It organizer to keep my cables corralled in my bag.  Micro/mini USB, Ethernet, etc. – these are all cables I’ve found myself needing (and not having) at some point in the past few years, so I thought it would be good to warehouse some spares.  The Grid-It keeps everything in one place and frees up the pockets and compartments for pens, notepads, Swiss Army knife, and other assorted handy items.

I tend to keep all my work accessible via services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, but I keep a handful of USB drives in my bag mainly for emergency data transfer, but also to give away as needed.  I get so many for free at various functions that I thought this would be a better use for them than sitting in a desk drawer collecting dust.

Table of Contents

Here’s a complete list of everything I’ve managed to stuff into this bag.  Amazingly enough, the Command accommodates it all very well and doesn’t feel bulky or awkward at all.  In addition to the basics (laptop, charger, phone, & iPod), this is what comes with me on my journeys:

  • Grid-It Organizer
    • Micro USB cables
    • Mini USB cables
    • iPod cable
    • 4-port USB charger
    • Ethernet cable
  • Targus power strip
  • Earphones
  • USB thumb drives
  • Notepad
  • Pens
  • Sharpie
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Caffeine pills (I hate coffee)
  • Migraine pills (I hate headaches, too)
  • Spare wallet with consultant ID, emergency credit card, & dollar bills for vending machines

Do you keep a “go bag”, or do you have any must-have gadgets, cables, or thingamabobs I should add to my list of essentials?  Let me know in the comments.