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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why the Utah Education Network?

The first Edcamp Utah came with a lot of new ideas, connections, and opportunity. One opportunity that I was surprised to hear about was that there was an opening at UEN. Before I go on any further I need to explain that I have wanted to be an instructor at UEN for some time now. At the time I knew a lot of the instructors and saw this a nice opportunity to move up the career ladder, especially without having to go the administration route. In addition to that no other source has helped me improve as an educator as much as UEN.

That last point needs additional explaining.

I started out teaching the toughest kids in the nation. I know that people say they teach tough kids, but the ones I taught really were as tough or even tougher than others. I worked for a correctional facility for youth that had trouble with the law. I don't mean minor skirmishes, I'm talking these kids were court ordered to be in a lockdown facility for a period of anywhere from 9 months to 5 or so years. Taking this job threw me directly into the fire. A few days I got burned, but overall I learned how to work with people no matter how difficult they were.

After a few years I got a district job as an at risk specialist. You know those 2 or 3 kids in every class that if they weren't there the class would go smooth? Well that was every student in my class. Overall this would become the most impactful part of my teaching career because students came in hating school and did poorly and we were able to get many of them to turn things around and become decent students to exceptional students. It was a neat time in which I really saw my efforts rewarded as kids totally changed their lives.

My next position was that of finally using my major, social studies, to teach regular classes. I taught geography and loved it. The thing I like most about geography is that it is current. It's about what is happening right now. I was happy things were good and I was where I wanted to be in my teaching career. Or so I thought.

When I was finishing my degree at the U I had some teaching classes with Jared Covili. We found out we had a lot more in common than our namesake and became good friends. Jared joined UEN as a presenter a while back and I took a few courses here and there from him and others at UEN. Because of our association he invited me to UCET, which basically is the biggest tech conference for educators in Utah. It was here when things started to change for me.

I have never been satisfied with mediocrity and have always been one to try harder and be all that I can be, however, I think it is easy as an educator to get to a certain level of comfort. That doesn't mean that you aren't actively trying to improve, just that you are comfortable with where you are at. In many cases, my own included, this was partly because I just didn't know what else was out there. One of the most important things in my opinion in becoming all that you can be is having a greater understanding as to what that means, and the only way you can really find out is to participate in a conference like UCET so that you can see what all is available to you.

UCET opened my eyes. I feel like U found the answer to U2's song "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" Here was a world of like minded educators actively trying to improve, sharing ideas, networking, and collaborating. I found the experience invigorating and motivational.

I'm not the type of person that has to take time to implement new ideas. If something works, or is a better way of doing things, then I will make a change as quickly as I can. I took what I learned at UCET and put it into my teaching as soon as I could. I looked at how I was currently doing things and made massive changes. It was a bit unnerving at first, but at the same time there was an enthusiasm that came with it that had been lacking. Don't get me wrong I totally enjoyed what I was doing, but when you find a better way of doing things there a fresh feeling that comes with it, like putting on a new pair of socks.

If UCET opened my eyes, then ISTE changed my world. I had the opportunity to be a part of a presentation and go to ISTE in San Diego.

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