Four days of inspiration, fellowship and guidance give me the hope I’ve been seeking throughout my career as an educator. The past two years I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Apple/ConnectEd grant and this weekend we celebrated accomplishments and began building plans for the future. Thank you Obama! The ConnectEd grant was designed to bring digital learning opportunities to under-served districts and schools. It’s goal was to bridge the digital equity gap and from my experience these past two years the grant is well on it’s way to success. In fact my dream is that the grant continues to grow so that more schools and districts can experience the transformation in culture that those who are currently in the grant are realizing.
Two years ago I started a new job and my first day on the job was the day the school submitted an intent to apply. Several months later it was announced that the school was going to receive the grant. Eventually all the paperwork was completed, the laptops, iPads, Apple TVs, and everything needed to support those devices were ordered. A group of three attended the kick-off event, created a strategic plan, and began implementing it. Today the school is a technology rich learning environment and ready to transform what learning looks, sounds and feels like.
Throughout my teaching career I’ve heard how schools are failing our students. How schools don’t and won’t change. What I have experienced through the Apple/ConnectED grant is that there is a way to bring about the necessary change and keep the momentum going. It starts with a leadership team who has a shared vision. That team gets together and develops a plan. Throughout the school year that plan is monitored and adjustments made as the learning environment improves. If roadblocks are encountered the plan is revisited and adjusted as needed. It’s crucial that the leadership team meet on a regular basis in order to stay focused on the plan. At the end of the year the team gets together and reflects on accomplishments as well as failures. The team then builds capacity to overcome those roadblocks and sets new goals for the next year.
These past four days have been inspiring, fulfilling and left me with hope for the future. I know that those participating in the Apple/ConnectEd grant have awesome plans for their student’s education. The architecture for transforming what learning looks like, feels like and sounds like is here. Thank you Apple. Thank you ConnectEd. Thank you Obama!
It was Sunday evening, May 1st, and the weekend was awesome! I just spent 53 hours in 2.5 days at the Lean Lab in Kansas City working with inspirational educators on a passion project – dreaming, organizing and planning a celebration of education.
SWEDU stands for Startup Weekend Edu and is an event hosted by the Lean Lab. I decided to go Friday night just to see what it’s all about. Amazing. That’s all, just amazing! The Lean Lab is a community of educators, entrepreneurs, and innovators who are growing, testing, and launching ideas to build the future of Kansas City education. Ideas were pitched and voted on. My favorite idea was a festival celebrating educators. The top vote getters were assigned an area and participants could team up with their favorite idea.
Four educators and Lisa, our idea catalyst, teamed up and put words to a pain point. The problem: there is a lot of negative talk out there about education in Kansas City and we know it isn’t true. The solution: get our story out that education in Kansas City is revolutionary! The ideas shot out of our mouths and from our imaginations like a rocket launching into space. We want a celebration, not a conference, to show the wonderful things our students are doing in their clubs, activities and classrooms. We want to give voice to teachers, parents and community members who love what educators are doing for their children. We want to share how education organizations contribute to the education industry. We want to discuss what an education revolution is and how to make it happen. We planned, received feedback from multiple perspectives, shared resources, adjusted our idea and finally came up with a presentation to show all our hard work.
Sunday afternoon we were ready to pitch our idea. We’d worked out a business plan, got feedback from educators, students and parents, established potential investors, found an organization to partner with and started our social media campaign. Presentation time was here. We sat down nervous and excited, watched as others presented their ideas to the judges and listened to their feedback. Our presentation went well. There were a few technology glitches, but we made it through. The judges asked only two questions of us and then were off to deliberate. We waited, talking, wondering, waiting for the decision. Finally they came out and announced the third place winner, the second place winner and the first place winner was us! We won 1st place!!! Middle of the Map: Learn has launched!
I’ll be journaling our progress here. Please check back often and see how a great idea, a few passionate women volunteers and an innovation mindset can change the story of education!
Listening to The First Lady, Michelle Obama, inspired me to share my experiences with the power of diversity. The other day, I was asked about my view on inclusion (including special ed students in the regular classroom). Today’s post is a reflection of those two learning experiences and how powerful embracing diversity can be.
One of the comments made by the first lady was in reference to clubs. Clubs in any organization are designed to be empowering and as a way to organize like-minded people. She mentioned the Black Student Union and the fact that students today don’t see the color of a person’s skin as something that makes a difference. The organization includes students of all colors. Today’s students take the racial diversity surrounding them for granted-and that’s a good thing. Districts with racial diversity are richer for their variety and geography plays a big part in opportunities for racial diversity experiences. I envy those who grew up in environments full of racial diversity.
Racial diversity wasn’t a part of my teaching experience, but pilot programs were. Inclusion was one of them. I wanted the special ed students in my classroom. I got a para and an aide to help with the day-to-day learning activities and met with the special ed teacher each week. The para and aide were the kind of women who liked to have a purpose and I was the kind of teacher who liked to see my students on task making for a win-win situation. I gave up the concept of all students doing the same thing at the same time. That never worked anyway. All students were given assignments and tasks that were designed for their learning needs. Sometimes there were several students who needed the same lesson so we grouped them together, sometimes students needed practicing a skill that no one else needed to practice. They didn’t know their education was being individualized, it was just a part of everyday learning. They were emerged in a diversity of learning experiences. Public schools have been and continue to do a great job of creating environments that encourage sharing likenesses and empowering all to accept those who are different making sure no one is left out or left behind.
This past year I’ve been involved in so many new experiences and met absolutely wonderful people. People who are community and state leaders, people who are black, hispanic, handicapped… They’ve inspired me to open my mind to possibilities, ideas and engage in conversations with those who aren’t like-minded. I’ve grown. I’ve found that, although surrounding myself with like-minded people is comforting, taking differences into account and embracing them makes for a much richer life.
From What Works With Women at Work by Williams & Dempsey:
Gender bias differs by race. While it’s tempting to focus only on the things we share, this often translates into removing women of color from the conversation altogether. There’s room in women’s initiatives to take difference into account and to make sure no one is left out and left behind.
We all do things that we are proud of. Sometimes we do amazing things simply because they need to be done, and sometimes those things get recognized by others, sometime they don’t. The trick is keeping track of those accomplishments, especially those you are proud of, without alienating others. Tooting your own horn can look like you are bragging. And being a woman who brags is just not professionally acceptable.
In the many years as educators we’ve had the privilege of meeting so many absolutely, wonderfully, accomplished women. Teacher’s doing an amazing job educating students who have a wide variety of learning and emotional needs. Principals going above and beyond their required job duties because they know that the student or teacher needs them. Superintendents making way for innovative, creative and out-of-the-textbook educators in spite of pressure from outsiders to keep classrooms uniform. We’ve also been in conversations where those amazing educators were viewed as ineffectual simply because someone was threatened by their accomplishments. Many accomplished educators just don’t tell their story because of the myths about self promotion.
Our own humility is doing education a disservice and the need to tell about public education’s accomplishments is greater now than it has ever been. We all know educators who made their students think, who brought out talents no one know they had, and who inspired their students to change the world. So, how do we tell about our accomplishments without appearing arrogant?
Facts, just the facts! In conversations, in blog posts, inTwitter feeds and on Facebook statuses state your accomplishments as well as those in your network. LinkedIn has a “Projects” feature designed for sharing accomplishments. Use that feature to show what you are doing. State them in a matter-of-fact way. Include those who helped make the accomplishment a reality, even if it’s someone’s influence from years back. Be concise, be complimentary, be authentic, be humble and be confident. We have the power and the tools to tell our stories. We have the experience and the knowledge necessary to show that we do make a difference. We have the obligation and responsibility to make our voices heard so that our story gets out there and the world knows what wonderful accomplishments we’ve made in education!
Since this is another post in my series from the book “What Works With Women at Work” by Williams & Dempsey I’ve focused on women although the advice here can apply to anyone.
Excitement, wonder and anticipation! That’s what I felt the first time I got a laptop as a classroom teacher. I was involved in a grant that offered teachers the opportunity to learn new skills in using technology in the classroom. I embraced the experience with an open mind a desire to make learning fun. I think that’s what made my experience successful. I learned to love teaching all over again. I learned to look for my student’s interests and help develop them. I also learned how to network and what an awesome skill that has been!
My early experience with networking was limited to the teachers I worked with in the building I taught. We were all very busy and sharing resources was limited. When I had time to discuss what I wanted to do and hear what others had done those who I looked up to didn’t have time. How frustrating! Then technology came into my life and the world opened up. I literally had the world at my fingertips. Very empowering! I could find resources online, I became a consumer of the world wide web. Then I discovered social networking. I was cautious at first, then I began to add friends of friends and soon developed a network of awesome women leaders throughout the world.
That’s where the Sisterhood of the Traveling Macs came into my life. We attended a conference called Podstock and instantly bonded. We have experienced many life changing events in the years since we met. We have celebrated successes, mourned losses, held each other up in tough times, laughed at ourselves and discussed deeply how we can change the world. We see each other once a year, maybe, if things work out. The distance, busy schedules and all the other things that can get in the way of bonding just don’t get in our way. Our friendship is maintained by our social network and we are richer for that.
Those experiences brought me to where I am today. I like to pay it forward. I was fortunate to have those wonderful women leaders as guides and mentors and I still look to them for inspiration, guidance, laughter and sometimes just to vent. I am always looking for ways to inspire the women in my life to be what they dream to be. The beauty of technology and social networking is that those I lead and those who lead me are always available.
The next series of blog posts are inspired from:
“What Works with Women at Work” by Williams & Dempsey
Lesson 3. Building and maintaining a network is an integral part of being a successful professional-particularly if you’re a woman. Remember two important rules; One: no random acts of lunch, if you take the time to reach out to somebody, take the time to follow up. Two; networking involves the reciprocal exchange of favors-although the favors (particularly for young women) can be as simple as giving someone else a sense of accomplishment in your success.
Being passionate about learning, I’m always looking for ways to make myself better. Don’t get me wrong, I like who I am, it’s just I have always been a learner. I want to know how it’s done. I want to know what to do if it doesn’t work. I want to know how to fix it. That’s why I got into technology. There’s always something broken, not working right or the updates that were automatically sent out left the application in a state where it just won’t work. Those issues with technology can and often do leave the technology troubleshooter looking like he/she is incompetent, and to technophobes that exactly what they think. I know, I’ve experienced it first hand.
I’ve been reading the book What Works With Women at Work by Williams & Dempsey. One of the subtitles is named “Men Are Judged on Their Potential; Women Are Judged on Their Achievements” and I’ve found it to be painfully true. Like I said earlier, I love to learn. Technology is the ideal field for someone like me because it’s constantly changing, there’s always something new to figure out. Education Technology is a great blend of both my passions. That being said, I don’t know everything about technology and the systems that run the hardware. Those who don’t understand technology and are in a position of leadership need to understand that. Troubleshooting takes time. Learning new systems takes time.
There are many women out there who are just as capable as men. Women have just as much potential as men. As a leader are you looking for the potential in your staff? Or, do you treat some with the mind-set that they just got lucky and they need to prove it again and again?