2020 Kevie Awards Part 1

Most award shows run early in the year but since I'm a teacher my year really ends at the end of May. With that in mind, here are the end of the year Kevie Awards! These are awards that relate (mostly) to things that happened in my classroom. I hope you enjoy going with me on this reflective journey through one of the strangest years of teaching (or living) of my 40 years!

Today's categories are Best Non-History School Thing, Song of the Year, Biggest Frustration and Conference of the Year!

Best Non-History School Thing

Lesson Posters - At the end of last school year I had an idea to line the wall outside my classroom with teaser posters for some of my lessons. I wanted to mimic the attraction posters than line the tunnels of the entrance to Disneyland. I made a digital mock up and presented it to my principal. He liked the idea but wanted to move the posters to a more central location on campus. I argued that the posters were for my specific lessons and my Disney theme. He accepted. It took nearly 6 months but the frames were mounted. I put my posters up and it looks amazing. They came out far better than I had imagined. I had students weren't even mine commenting on them and asking if they would get to do the lesson with their teachers. I started with 6 posters and quickly made 7 more when I saw them up. I'll be making even more this summer. Here's a post on how I did it. They rule!

Josie - In the midst of April's lockdown I received an email from a former student from nearly 15 years ago. She wasn't sure I'd remember her. She was from my very first college-prep Elective class - how could I forget?! She had wanted to surprise me at school but the lockdown prevented that. This was the kind of email teachers dream about. We're talking Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers "you changed my life" kind of stuff. She had just been accepted to UCLA at the age of 27. She told me how she'd go so far off track in high school that she only graduated thanks to Continuation school. In her early 20s she rewatched a video I'd made for my kids when they finished 8th grade. It reminded her of how I saw her as a leader even then. She decided then she wanted to make me proud. She wanted to be able to show me her college acceptance. Well, she did. I invited her to come talk to my current elective kids and she did. They loved hearing from her. It was the exact boost they, and I, needed to keep pushing through distance learning. There's just something different about hearing the same words from someone who was once just like you. Little did I know that seeds I planted almost 15 years ago would pay off but boy did they.

Welcome Spiel - While designing the posters over the Summer I decided to go all in on the Disney thing. I made a welcome poster with safety warnings an accompanying audio track modeled after the one on Soarin' Over California. I even hired a voice over guy to mimic Patrick Duffy's voice. I also had a Spanish version recorded. As with the posters, it came out even better than I expected. On the first day I set up an outdoor speaker that blasted the music and message down the hall as my kids lined up in front of the poster wall. I wanted them to know they were walking something different. I think I nailed it. I'll admit that the bustle and excitement of the first day made listening to the spiel rather difficult. I think next time I'd play it in class as well to ensure they heard it. Still, it was a great first negative one minute to the school year!

And the winner is... Posters! This was hands down the hardest category to pick. Josie certainly meant the most to me but in terms of impact on my whole school (and others!) I have to go with the posters. I don't think it will be long before we start seeing them pop up in school halls all over!

Song of the Year

Into the Unknown - This song from Frozen 2 was big in my classroom pre-COVID and huge in my house after. I felt like every day I was being called to something unknown and this song made me a bit more willing to dive in. I'm an especially big fan of the Panic at the Disco version (I hope Disney continues to add Pop versions to their soundtracks!) and my students were HUGE fans of me doing a terrible job of me hitting the high note on UNKNOOOOOOOOOWN.

Gundam Build Fighters Theme - Our first two-time nominee! We were back to watching GBF in Anime Club this year and students loved this song as much this time around. After just a few weeks they were singing along with Japanese words they didn't understand. They were quiet upset when I warned them that the theme changed half way through the season. Well, this was one bad thing that COVID actually prevented. We never got to the second half and didn't have to lose our song.

Space Mountain Theme - This was less for the classroom and more for me. This is easily one of my top 5 Disney tracks. One of the highlights of my year was when Space Mountain FINALLY dropped it's Star Wars theme and went back to this song. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I heard it on the ride again. It's the best "build some energy!" instrumental out there. Love it to hype things up in class. Love it more on the ride!

And the winner is... Into the Unknown! Any nominee that had an impact both pre and post COVID is going to be hard to beat. This song certainly did and will be big again come August I imagine.

Biggest Frustration

My Local Union - I had two major issues with my local union this year. The first truly disgusts me even now 6 months later. Back in December I had a student who had worked tirelessly to get out of her math support class so she could join elective. Myself, the family, my principal, my district and my school board were all on board. The union stopped it from happening. Adding her would have put me 1 over the contract limit. I said I'd happily sign a waiver, as I've done in the past, to allow her the opportunity. The union said I couldn't. They said they would file a grievance on my behalf even if I explicitly told them not to. Apparently, they know better for my students and I than I do. What a joke. Then, we went we out abruptly in March the very first contact we got from our Union president was a statement (which was wrong) that we didn't need to attend more than two staff meetings a month. We were dropped into a brand new world and their concern was that we were meeting too much. Unbelievable.

Inclusion - I realize public education is by nature political but when decisions are made for kids for political reasons it rarely ends well. Over the last few years the dismantling of Special Education across California has been a nightmare. Kids are jammed into mainstream classes that are simply not ready for it. So many of my SPED kids this year struggled constantly. It didn't matter how much extra time I gave them or tutoring sessions I offered. They simply could not get the support they needed when jammed in a class with 34 other kids. Next year it will be worse as our percentage of included students has to be at least 70%. That is a state mandated number. They haven't met our kids. That's political, nothing more. I hate it.

Distance learning - Doubt I need to say much here. From technology challenges to low attendance to even lower turn-in rates, I felt like distance learning was quite a mess - and I knew what I was doing! For people who were less tech savvy going in I can't imagine the frustration. I actually came to enjoy the tech part of it. I just hated not being with my students. I need the energy of a live audience to be at my best. My one-hour Google Meet sessions daily were awesome (for the 50 kids who came) but everything else was a frustration. I didn't want to grade anything (I mean... I never do...) and I hated dealing with emails. If we're not back Face to Face in August expect one of next year's nominees to be "people who let fear prevent me from doing my job properly."

And the winner is... My local union. They said they would file a grievance on my behalf, against my wishes, for something I recommended! This is somehow real life.

Conference of the Year

Courageous Creativity - Another two-time nominee but one that surely won't be nominated next year as this year's event was cancelled. This conference last June at Disneyland once again blew me away. From meeting Imagineering historian Vanessa Hunt to talk about attraction posters to taking a backstage tour of the Hyperion Theater that led to one of the greatest moments of my life as a teacher, this conference was absolutely magical. Disney, once again, treated us teachers like royalty. I never feel more appreciated than during this three day conference. I am heart broken that it had to be cancelled this year. Though it is designed for arts teacher I highly recommend trying to attend.

California Council for the Social Studies - Due to a last minute sub cancellation I sadly had to miss the first day of the conference. Due to an event that will come up later in the Kevies I chose to miss the final day. That would have to mean that the one day I did attend was stellar to make it on the list. It was. The morning started with an awesome Breakout EDU sessions hosted by one of my favorite Twitter friends, @Stacyyung. Unexpectedly in attendance were even more of my Twitter friends. Getting to (finally) participate in another teacher's Breakout alongside people I've only known virtually was an incredible start to my day. Then I hosted my session, Teach with Magic Live to a literal overflow crowd. We spilled out into the hallway and many people couldn't get in. The session was awesome. I had wonderful questions made some connections that I know will be fruitful for years to come. Then my day continued to be awesome as I ran into Stacy again at lunch and got to spend another half hour picking her brain (while enjoying a delicious Shamrock shake.) There was a great panel on teaching the 2020 election to close out the day. Great day!

IECSS Tech Treasures - We planned a small tech-focused session for social studies teachers to happen at my school in late April. It was sort of a test run to see what kind of response we'd get. It was only a couple hours and had just two speakers, me being one of them. Then COVID happened. We talked about just cancelling the event. We only had 10ish people signed up at the time so no big loss, right? Then our president had the idea of doing it online. I built a whole new session of Teach with Magic Live focused on tools for distance learning (after all, I had 4 full weeks of experience at that point so obviously I was a pro.) By the time of the event we had 80+ people signed up from all over the U.S. and even a few international visitors. My own parents got to log in and watch me perform. I got awesome feedback from many participants and I suspect this was only a hint of things to come with virtual PD!

And the winner is... California Council for the Social Studies! In a surprising upset I did not pick the Disney event. I knew that would be awesome. I didn't expect CCSS to be as great as it was. And, just a tease, but if things pan out you can expect another magical CCSS when it returns to SoCal in 2022. Stay tuned!

Be sure to check out the next set of awards in part 2!

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