And right at 5 PM PST, Twitter went down, at least for the West Coast. East Coast people (including my co-moderator, Andrew) were able to tweet a bit, but nothing was showing up with the hashtag.
And again, my professional development seems so close to my professional practice. In class this year, you hear this a lot:
"My [computer/internet/Google Drive] isn't working."
"Well, did you restart?"
"Did you turn the wifi off and back on?"
"Did you try a different browser?"
"Well, restart one more time."
"I've already restarted three times."
"Oh. Go to tech support, I guess."
That happens daily. Then the final week before break, students stopped being able to use the omnibar in Chrome to search. They couldn't get to google.com in any browser.
After hours of trying to figure it out, we finally got an email saying that it was a district-wide problem and that the only work-arounds were to try bing, yahoo, or ed1stop.
That would have been fine, but we were in the middle of the last major research project of 2014: the Museum Project. They were given a culture we hadn't yet studied and asked to create a museum exhibit with a video, a visual element, an interactive element, a written element, and a reference page. And we had to do all of that without the ability to search on google.
Despite that, the projects turned out pretty well. Most of my students came in at 7:45 (for the morning class) or for all of lunch (for the afternoon class) to set up their table and make it look good. Kids came in costume, built cities and settlements and sewer systems in Minecraft, made music videos and documentaries and their own Crash Course episodes.
The 7th grade class next door came in to be the museum patrons, and even our administrative team came in to see the kids hard at work. My principal told me today that it was great to see the kids do so much...all on their own.
He didn't know that I had given almost zero guidelines or help with this project. I had them randomly draw the name a culture from a basket, and then commissioned them to make the best possible museum exhibit that would prove why that culture is significant and worthy of study.
Then they had a week on their own to research, build, create and execute.
Were they perfect? No.
Were they creative? Yes.
Did they learn about that culture? Hellz yes.
And they did all of that with very limited ability to use google to search. They did all of that with collaboration, creativity, and a lot of hard work. And they learned about something I think is incredibly important: being flexible, and finding solutions to problems that arise.
Tomorrow, we start back after two weeks off, and a teacher in-service day. We will begin to study Egypt, something they have been looking forward to all year. We will do so without access to google search.
Flexibility is, without a doubt, essential in the classroom; I think my students are starting to value it as well, out of necessity.
So now, I turn my attention to something more important than flexibility, and the thing that I want to spend the rest of the year helping my students (and myself) understand: mindfulness.
I spent a lot of years unable to put what I was experiencing, feeling or sensing into words. My students, just like me for most of my life, tend to bottle up frustrations and then explode when the pressure gets to be too much. Or they lack the ability to control their impulses, and pull back from distractions.
I lack that ability too. I watched five seasons of The Good Wife over break because I had the flu and I just wanted to switch off. I think about that time as being no different than the time my students spend playing flash games on their laptops. It's mindless. It's empty.
I've always believed that the job of a teacher is not just in helping students learn facts and develop skills, but to help them become more human. More humane. More empathetic. More mindful.
I don't know where that will take us this year, and I don't quite know what it looks like, even. I'm trying to make every interaction I have with a student guided by the understanding that their experience is the same as mine. Their feelings are the same as mine. Their need for love, attention, affirmation, and kindness are the same as mine.
So we will keep being flexible, and dealing with the technology when it lets us down. I still can't see any #flipclass tweets on Twitter, nearly 50 minutes into the regularly scheduled chat time.
But I intend to use those moments when technology fails me to be more mindful, more kind, and more empathetic.
Happy New Year, everyone.