2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My First National Education Association Representative Assembly: Part 4

In case you missed Parts 1 (which you can read here) 2 (which you can read here),  and 3 (which you can read here) Medina City Teachers Association sent three delegates to the National Education Association Representatives Assembly in Boston, Massachusetts, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. This post continues our adventure as delegates.

Day 2 of the RA was voting for candidates day. We voted for candidates for President, Vice-President, and Treasurer. Because there are so many delegates, each state has an assigned voting time. Ohio's time was 11:15. It's kind of exciting to get up as a group and walk together to the voting booths.

This is what democracy looks like!
It was also the day Ohio was scheduled to take a group picture, so we had to wear our OEA shirts. We were not happy with these shirts, and that's all I'm gonna say about that.

We're going to vote! 
Shenanigans on the floor waiting for the Ohio group picture
This day was a super treat because not only did we get to get up and walk around to vote and get our pictures taken, we also got to see LeVar Burton get the Friend to Education award.  YEEEESSSSS!!! LeVar Burton! Reading Rainbow!

But don't take my word for it. . . 
I'm not gonna lie: I was crying when Lily gave him the award, I was crying during his extremely-supportive speech, I was crying while the whole crowd sang the theme song to Reading Rainbow. I once had the opportunity to see LeVar Burton at the ISTE conference in Atlanta, but I got shut out of the session because EVERYONE wanted to see him, so I was so happy he was there. This was an amazing gift to 7,500 educators, and it was the highlight of my day.

For this post, I'd like to share one neat trick of Parliamentary Procedure that every rookie learns at the RA:

Let's say that we have voted on a gazillion New Business Items (we did), and we debated a whole bunch of them (we did). Let's say there were many times that people claimed Division and even challenged the Chair for a roll call vote (it happened). Next, a delegate goes to the microphone and asks to suspend the rules in order to revisit ALL PREVIOUS NEW BUSINESS ITEMS.  WHAAAAAATTTT?  This means that we potentially can go back to any of the decisions we have already made and start over again?  ARE YOU PEOPLE EVEN HUMAN????

This is a completely natural reaction; I know this because it was my reaction when it happened. Surprisingly, all the experienced delegates around me were very calm about it, and Lily didn't seem a bit perturbed. She put the question to the Body: Will you suspend the rules in order to revisit all previous items of debate? All in favor, say "Aye." All opposed, say "No." Of course the No's resounded through the hall like a roll of thunder. That's when I figured it out; we voted no, so now nobody can challenge a previous decision and ask to revisit it. We've sealed the deal, so to speak. 

Pretty nifty, eh?

This is enough information for one post; it was a pretty exciting day. Bradley and Katie had scored tickets to the LGBTQ Awards Ceremony (I wasn't cool enough to make the cut, I guess), so I had dinner in the North End with my new NEOEA friends Tammy, Ellen, and Sharron. 

Dinner was great; the company was better!





Up next: Auctions and July 4th.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

My First National Education Association Representative Assembly: Part 3

In case you missed Parts 1 (which you can read here) and 2 (which you can read here), Medina City Teachers Association sent three delegates to the National Education Association Representatives Assembly in Boston, Massachusetts, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. This post continues our adventure as delegates.

The official Assembly was incredible: There were over 7,500 teachers, over 11,000 people in the Convention hall. Each state had a designated area in which to sit, and because Ohio had over 350 delegates, our section was further divided into regions. Seating is a big deal at the RA. As a new delegate, I had no idea how much energy we would devote to discussing who sits where. What you are supposed to do is bring a seat marker (which most districts provide to the delegates) to mark your place during the week.  Luckily for us, Sue from Parma offered to find us three seats together in the NEOEA district. Our location wasn't bad at all, even though we were in the last rows of the Ohio delegation, and Ohio was seated toward the back. We had microphones to either side of us, and there were big screens right in front of us, so I feel like I was still in the middle of the action.


Ohio starts to fill up the seats.


Each day of the RA has a different theme. This first day of the Assembly was District-themed, so everyone wore clothing affiliated with their region.  Most of us purchased NEOEA hoodies, and let me tell you, I am SO GLAD I did because it was cooooooollllldddd in that convention center.


This is EXACTLY how I look when I wonder where our seats are.
The two days of Ohio Caucus really helped me to figure out what was going on during the assembly, as the procedure was exactly the same, only with more debate. LOTS more debate. Again, the most popular motions were the ones to end debate. As in any group setting, there are always people who want to talk or be on the jumbo screen, even when they have nothing new or useful to add, but I was impressed with the way Lily Eskelsen Garcia handled people who tried to manipulate parliamentary procedure. She was always kind but firm when she shut down delegates who jumped the line in debate by claiming a point of information when all they wanted to do was debate for or against the motion. I especially loved when someone challenged her decision on a Division vote. Here is a popular meme that went around Twitter about the decisiveness of Lily, Becky, and Princess:
Meme Credit: Bruce Twitchell on Twitter


Speaking of Lily (you knew I was going to speak of Lily, right?), her keynote speech rocked the house.  Here is an analysis of it in The Washington Post.

As we voted on New Business Items and Resolutions Amendments, I tried to keep up with a database, but the wifi was spotty at best on the first day, so I ended up writing down much of the information in the daily booklet of New Business Items. I still haven't gone through it, but it's lurking in my bag in my closet, and I know I'll have to go back to it soon.

We took a lunch break and visited the best park ever just outside the convention center. It had swings for adults, a band, and a food stand. The swings had solar panels on the top, and they glowed in the dark at night. Plus, the swinging generated energy. So cool!


I could have sat in this swing all day.

Katie agrees.




















After a break, we came back to more debates and voting. Lily seemed to be frustrated with the technology problems and the acoustics of the hall, so we adjourned at around 5:00, which was the earliest we would leave that week.  

That evening we went to dinner with some NEOEA colleagues, and we had a really nice time.


Bradley is making friends with everyone.
One thing I appreciate about Boston is that it is so walkable. We walked just about everywhere we wanted to go. This means that even though I sat on my butt for hours every day, I still walked at least four miles in the afternoon and evening. Plus, I was running at least four miles each morning. With all the delicious food here, I had to do something to burn off the calories!

We knew that the 5:00 dismissal was a fluke, and we had about 4,297 gajillion New Business Items to discuss in the coming days, so after dinner, it was bedtime.  7:00 Caucus tomorrow!

Next Post: Voting and Learning the Tricks

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

My First National Education Association Representatives Assembly Part 2

In case you missed Part 1 (which you can read here), Medina City Teachers Association sent three delegates to the National Education Association Representatives Assembly in Boston, Massachusetts, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. This post continues our adventure as delegates.

July 1 started with our 7:00 AM Ohio Caucus. We went through a bazillion New Business Items and Resolutions Amendments with plenty of debate.  I was able to tweet out the number of items we covered each day in Caucus, but it got really difficult to keep track of how many items we covered in the RA.

One thing I learned from the Ohio Caucus (and the state and district RAs I attended in Ohio) is Parliamentary Procedure as it applies to voting:

First, there is a movement, where a delegate says what Lily Eskelsen Garcia calls "the magic words: I MOVE. . ." Then the Chair calls for a Second to the Motion.  Each and every time you speak at the microphone as a delegate, you must identify yourself by name and district (and of course by state if you are at the RA). After somebody seconds the motion, the Maker has two minutes to speak to his/her Motion. If there are questions, this is the moment to come to the microphone and ask them; this is called a Point of Information. If you do not support the Motion, you may explain why (in one minute or less). The Chair will alternate between both sides of the debate until somebody moves to end debate. I learned at the RA that the person who moves to end debate is going to be the most popular person on the floor because the debates can go on forever if somebody doesn't end them. A motion to end debate always merits applause. Then we vote to end debate or not, but at this RA we never voted to extend a debate. After we end debate, we vote for or against the Motion by yelling "Aye" or "No" when the Chair asks us to do so.

This is EXACTLY how we look when we vote at the OEA Caucus. . .only we aren't a bunch of British dudes in tights.


Sometimes the Chair will be uncertain to whether the Motion passes, so she will call for votes again. If she is still uncertain, she will call Division. This means that all who are in favor of the motion will stand up when called to do so, and all those against will do the same when it is their turn. This is usually somewhat exciting for two reasons: 1. When you are sitting on your butt for a long time, you REALLY want to stand up and stretch, and 2. When you do stand up, you raise your hands above your head and wave them back and forth while trying to make as much noise as possible.  How can you not love that?

If the Chair is still in doubt, or if a delegate challenges the decision of the Chair, there could be a roll call vote, where someone actually individually counts (instead of estimating) each person standing. That happened once in the Ohio Caucus, and wouldn't you know it. . .that was when I went to the bathroom, so I missed it because the ushers lock the doors when we are in Division. Lesson learned: Don't go to the bathroom. Sigh.

There is another nifty trick of Parliamentary Procedure that every rookie delegate learns, but I will explain that in a different post.

To break up the voting and debate, we had candidates come speak to us, and we were lucky enough to see Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Becky Pringle, and Princess Moss, active President, Vice President, and Treasurer of the NEA. I was thrilled to see all three of them up close. They are excellent speakers with an amazing presence.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Becky Pringle





















I was even luckier to meet Lily (as she asked us to call her!) face to face at the New Delegate Meeting, which took place in the afternoon.

Hi, Lily! No, I'm not a stalker. . . as far as you know.

Can I tell everyone we are besties?
As if the day wasn't exciting enough, that evening Katie and I attended the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner. It was a black tie affair, and it was so inspiring. One of the awards went to Jim Obergefell from Ohio, who won the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage.

Jim Obergefell
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Jim Obergefell receiving his award

















I felt so humbled by the accomplishments of each of the award recipients; these people fought hard for rights that many of us take for granted, and I can barely get my bathroom clean on any given day.

Katie, Scott DiMauro (VP of OEA), Me

Lisa and I went to high school together. It was a mini-reunion!




















I returned back to the hotel, inspired by everyone and physically and emotionally drained. I had to remind myself that pacing is key; I can't learn everything in one or two days. . .but I sure was going to try my best.

Next post: First official day of the NEARA

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Friday, July 7, 2017

My First National Education Association Representative Assembly Part 1

Each year, the National Education Association, a union with 3.2 million members, holds the largest democratic assembly in the U.S. This year's Representative Assembly took place in Boston, Massachusetts, during the week of July 4, 2017. My district elected me and two other delegates to add our voices and our votes to the assembly.

Katie, Me, Bradley. We are waiting for the plane to take us there. We sat for an hour on the tarmac when we got there. Let's just get this over with: Bradley is, like, 12 years old, but he attended previous RAs as a student delegate, so he has way more experience than we have with this.


We arrived late to Boston, so we had just enough time to get our rooms, unpack, and eat a snack before we went to bed. We had a 7:30 caucus to attend the next morning, and I wanted to run in Boston Commons, so we needed our beauty rest.

Katie and I ran to the Boston Marathon finish line, just down the street from our hotel,  at 5 am. The last time I took my picture on the finish line, I committed a faux pas by stepping on it. My runner friends were horrified, and they told me that a runner does NOT step on the finish line until he/she crosses it during the race. I reversed the bad mojo by taking the correct picture this time:


Katie did the right thing; she has no bad mojo.


































We started the Ohio Caucus at 7:30 AM, which was later than our regular 7:00 AM call for  the rest of the week. I was very excited and nervous because I really didn't know what we would be doing. I had attended an Ohio Caucus in Columbus in June in preparation for this RA, but there was so much information, and it was really overwhelming. Luckily, Bradley had attended several RAs in college as a student delegate, so he was able to provide us with some guidance and lots of introductions.

Our first Ohio Caucus in Boston!
I spent this first day listening and watching and trying to follow along with what was happening around me. Here is what we do in Caucus:

1. Our President, Becky Higgins, welcomes us and gives us some general information about what the meeting and the day will be like.

2. Each day we have a booklet that lists the New Business Items delegates have submitted for consideration. It also lists any Resolutions Amendments and NEA Constitutional Amendments that are under consideration. We methodically go through as many of these items as possible, debating whether Ohio supports each item or not when we vote on them in the Assembly. Sometimes we don't agree easily, and that is where explanations from various committees and debating among delegates come in. It's fascinating, and it takes a lot of listening and concentration.

3. In between reports and debates, candidates for NEA President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Board visited us to campaign, so there were a lot of speeches. Ohio is a big group, over 350 delegates, so we had a lot of campaigners. More on this in the next post.

4. There was a silent auction and a live auction going on during Caucus to raise money for the Fund for Children and Public Education. The first day our Auction Chair had people bid on hard-boiled eggs, as apparently these were hot ticket items in previous years. I was a little confused by this part, but I eventually figured it out, so I'll explain more on it in a later post.

After the Caucus, we had some time to explore and eat breakfast. Then we attended a tour of Fenway Park. The tour was arranged by North Eastern Ohio Education Association, my branch of the Ohio Education Association. I had visited Boston with my family two years ago, but Fenway was something we never got to see, so I was really excited about this tour. I learned about the history of the ballpark, the Green Monster, the players, and the ownership.

Outside the park before the tour

Reminder sign in the park. I feel like this is for me. Let me live!



Did you know that Fenway park has a large garden that supplies much of the vegetables used in the food at the park? It also helps climate control in the offices!


This is the view from the press box, second tier.
 After the tour, NEOEA invited us to a lunch at The Bleacher Bar, which is a bar/restaurant right off the field on the same level. You can look right out the window and see the game directly in front of you!
Katie and I at lunch. Bradley was sitting with the "cool" people.
The three of us had a little time to explore Boston before our evening responsibilities, so we walked to the Harbor and we watched the seals swimming outside the aquarium. We also saw Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market and the site of the Boston Massacre.

That evening we had Ohio Night, a dinner/dance for the delegates. The three of us cleaned up and mingled with other Ohians. I enjoyed meeting other people, and the food was really good!

Ohio Night: We clean up!

This is Mary Alice Conkey: Executive Director of NEOEA

This day was an important time for me to establish some contacts for the Assembly. There were a lot of things, little and big, that I had to process, and I needed to make sure I had some guidance so I didn't do anything stupid. I made sure to touch base with Mary Alice, whom I know from my work on the Leadership Development Committee. She was very reassuring and helpful.

The first day was a whirlwind. After Ohio Night, I headed off to bed, my body exhausted and my mind racing.

Next Post: Day 2 of Ohio Caucus and Day 1 of the NEA Representative Assembly

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

PBS Honors Maya Angelou

“Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.”

 – “On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou On May 28, 2014,


Maya Angelou, Chwefror 2009



Renaissance woman and civil rights activist Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86. She read one of her most famous poems, "On the Pulse of the Morning" at the inauguration of President Clinton in 1993.

Speaking at Bill Clinton's inauguration, 1993


Angelou’s talent was not defined by just one medium. Throughout her life, she was a poet, novelist, dancer, playwright, actor and educator. She has written autobiographies, poems, children’s books, essays, plays and screenplays. Angelou has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

Maya Angelou speaking at a rally for Barack Obama, 2008

 In this lesson from PBS NewsHour Extra, students learn more about her extraordinary life. LESSON: http://to.pbs.org/1QqieWV


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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

PBS Shows Us Harriet Beecher Stowe

Author Harriet Beecher Stowe had a tremendous impact on northern attitudes toward ending slavery. Her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, became a sensation in part because it humanized slaves and focused on her readers’ emotions. I remember reading it when I was ten, and Stowe's description of abuses plantation owners inflicted on slaves has stayed with me even today.  It directed my reading and questioning of Southern literature, eventually leading me to Ralph Ellison's classic depiction of The Harlem Renaissance, Invisible Man.





 Uncle Tom's Cabin went on to sell 300,000 copies in the first year in the U.S. The novel was even more successful in Great Britain, where 1.5 million copies were sold in a year; a figure its publisher claimed was “10 times the sales of any book other than the Bible and prayer book.” 


In this video adapted from American Experience: “The Abolitionists” featuring historical reenactments, students learn about the far-reaching impact of Stowe’s writings on the abolitionist movement. They will learn how Stowe’s commitment to the abolitionist cause was strengthened after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, and how her best-seller was credited with “putting a human face on slavery” and helping launch the Civil War. WATCH: http://to.pbs.org/1IOJJYA

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Monday, November 23, 2015

PBS Teaches Us Symmetry

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
                        --William Blake

Symmetry can be found all around us. You need only look in the mirror to find evidence that the human body is symmetrical. If you draw a line down the middle of your body, you will see that one side is the mirror image of the other side; this is called bilateral symmetry (a.k.a. reflection symmetry or mirror symmetry). 
This is EXACTLY what "fearful symmetry" looks like!


Another common type of symmetry is rotational symmetry. If a figure can be rotated a certain number of degrees about its center and look exactly the same, the figure is said to have rotational symmetry. 


You call this rotational symmetry.  I call it weird.

Plants and animals that exhibit symmetrical features are thought to be healthier than asymmetrical members of their species. In this video segment from Cyberchase, students will learn how symmetry reveals itself in nature. When Bianca wants to learn why her plants keep dying, she turns to a plant expert at the New York Botanical Garden for insight. The expert shows her some patterns in plants, including bilateral and rotational symmetry, before discovering the pattern that may be killing her plants. WATCH: http://to.pbs.org/1O7BVjg