Reality Check: My Desk Doesn’t Look Like That

I will be the first to admit that I spend far too much time on social media. I have Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. If I was honest with myself, I know I could gain at least an hour a day, probably more if I took those apps off my phone. I know for a fact that puppy feeds on my screen, the Facebook surveys predicting my future, and the never-ending Pinterest posts for meals I never have time to cook definitely eat into my work and social time. But that is just one of the problems we face in a time of social media,

A photo of my desk with two laptops and some papers around them.

What my writing life really looks like

The way we constantly barrage ourselves with images of perfection. The perfect diet, the perfect vacation, images transformed to make us think that others have it better than we do. For example, take my latest revision of the header

binders and books

What real research looks like

on this blog space. It is of a clean desk, coffee cup in place and the image of clarity. I chose the image because I liked how it looked in comparison to this one,


my real desk… from each side. And honestly, this was after I got myself reorganized from some chapter work I was doing.

I would like to say my desk space at work is better, but that would be a lie. I am in a new space now, sharing with two other teachers and a host of high school students. Both teachers are incredibly neat and organized. I am currently trying to

When I start a new position, I bring with me comfort supplies.

explain my need for colored pens and post it’s but they still are not quite there with me yet on this one. I have the desire to have my world be more clean cut, less cluttered, as if that reality would bring calm into a somewhat chaotic life. So I post the goal, as a vision of what I hope to achieve, and share the reality here with you because yeah, we all have dreams, and if I have been nothing else over the years in this space, I am honest and true to myself.


The point is, we all to some degree seek connection when posting on and reading through social media feeds. We want to share our world, and be part of a larger community. So think about what you contribute to the social media landscape. Are you creating spaces that provide light and insight, or darkness and negativity? Are you posting truth or fantasy? And when you travel from digital place to place, do you leave them feeling uplifted or insecure?  We can filter through the noise and find places and spaces that actually build us up rather than tear us down.We can create a digital trail of that builds community rather than divides it. The power of how we connect is ours. So dare to be kind, be thoughtful and be honest. Happy Sunday friends, and I am glad to be back.

Those That Did: A Time of Reflection On My Own Journey

This site has been silent because I was hacked. I thought I had lost it all. I spent the past few months trying to figure out what to do. My wonderful partner Ruth who was the original support for this site has retired, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get this space back. Today Ruth and I reconnected just in time. She knew what to do, and I am so grateful for her help. After a few hours on the phone with my partner, the host site, and a cyber protection site, we are back up and running. I am sorry for the silence, and I am looking over the next few months to update this site quite a bit. I have been immersed in my doctoral journey, and I am soon to be finishing this final semester. Hopefully. by this summer I will be Dr. Ilko, a feat that honestly I wasn’t sure until a few months ago would actually happen. It’s funny when I first got this site back today, I started looking at old posts and revisiting where this all began. When you think you have lost something, you tend to cherish it a little more when you are lucky enough to get it back.

Mrs. Ilko Those That Don’t from Janet Ilko on Vimeo.

I created this video almost 4 years ago as a model for my students when working on a piece by Sandra Cisneros “Those That Don’t” a chapter from one of my favorite books, House on Mango Street. It was my message to those who were judging our work as something that was less than when in reality I knew that it was where my students needed to go. What I didn’t realize at the time was this would become the focus of my work today.

I know now, and research shows promising practices that reading and writing for real purpose promotes some academic gains, a stronger connection to the school, and an increase in both student and teacher self-efficacy, in other words, we were on to something.

The students who created this work are seniors now, and I wonder if they remember our writing times together. I wonder if it helped them to enter high school a little more ready to face those changes because they got a chance to clarify their own middle school identities. Not sure I will ever know. But I know looking back at the teacher I was at that time, the passion has grown, and although I am not sure where it will lead, I am 100 percent sure that the road I have taken since creating that video is guided by what I knew to be true.

We all have a story to tell, and it is my job to create space, support, and opportunity for the young adults I work with now to share them. We all must live out loud.



Digital Learning Day February 16th, 2016 A Blast From the Past

A Blast From The Past

Cleaning up my site and discovered this great memory! Looking forward to participating in a small way this year. It is something I miss about leaving a big district, these type of events. It is great to see the work continues even though I have moved on.

CVUSD Creates Impact by Embracing the “Ish” In Us All

Digital Learning Day February 17th, 2016

This year Cajon Valley Middle School will be participating in Digital Learning Day 2016. Since 2012, we have been proud participants of this collaborative event. This year we will be using the book Ish by Peter Reynolds to inspire our work. We are hoping that classrooms across our district will be excited to try something new, take a risk, and share their experiences across our district through Google Classroom and post on Twitter. Over the next few weeks our district community will be posting their plans on a community board and getting ready to try something “techish” or “newish”.  For now, check out this introductory video we posted just today.

We are assisting our families on Digital Learning Day by providing a space and time to learn about how to use Chromebooks at home in our Chrome2Home initiative. Student leaders from room 207 will be sharing their knowledge with our families. There will be a hands on demonstration, translated into English, Arabic and Spanish. So proud of these wonderful kids!

Digital Learning Day 2015

Cajon Valley Middle School will be participating in Digital Learning Day 2015. This national event will spotlight innovative ways teachers and students use digital technology to enhance their lessons. A schedule of CVMS Activities and Cajon Valley Union School District videos and activities will be highlighted here. Here are the first installments as we plan!

This first video is our district invitation to join us on Digital Learning Day March 13th, 2015.

Here is our invitation to teachers and students to plan their activities. I am very proud of the student editors and speakers from Cajon Valley Middle School and our tech teacher Liz Loether who put all these videos together.

Our theme this year is What Do You Do With An Idea?. Here is our superintendent Dr. David Myashiro reading the text aloud to kick off this event. We will be posting lessons and links to the work here in the coming weeks! Stay tuned!