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From Midway Negativity to a Positive Ending

From Midway Negativity to a Positive Ending

Back in October, Pernille Ripp wrote an article about the Downside to being a connected educator. I actually have that article bookmarked because I connected to so much of it. The parts about losing time from certain things, being perceived a certain way and becoming a target seemed to be taken directly from moments in my life…well before “connectedness” was a thing. Being connected actually amplified those moments.

A few weeks ago, I sat at a table with educators who shared a certain commonality of being the “outliers” of their schools or districts. They felt that they were the only ones who were not only committed to self-directed growth but also in being passionate about sharing the journey from their classroom lens. I certainly empathized with their situations because I have definitely been there. To be honest, there are moments in the present when I am there. Let’s just say that we connected deeply on this topic and even as our conversation gave way to giving a platform for a group of clearly muted voices, we did not get to discuss solutions…how to stay true to yourself, maintaining your voice…while working through difficult days.

For me, that conversation sparked so many feelings that had been repressed. On the surface, I know how to put on my “brave face” and push through as I have done it my entire life but at some point you have to realize that once you give in and allow yourself to be reactive, professionally silent and academically muted…you give others permission to write your experience.

So, the question remains…

“How do you progress and remain positive with so many barriers in place?” 

Below are thoughts from my experiences that have truly helped me over the years.

1. Remain Goal Driven: Do Your Job First with a Vengeance

For me, it is important that I handle my business at work and take care of my campuses and teachers, which isn’t a simple task by any means. I have “work goals” and also “personal goals” but from 8am-4:30pm, the only goals that matter are my work goals and my priorities are to my school district first. The crazy part is that I have always been this way but with the onslaught of opportunities that have fallen my way due to my social sharing, there have been whispers regarding my ability to do my job and all of the “extra things” while maintaining the sanctity of my “district time”.

The reality is that people have no idea that I am so passionate about contributing to the present and future state of education that my commitment to growing in my job while being an active connected contributor often means that what I give up sometimes is sleep, time with my family, personal/vacation days and my own financial security in order to be present for the “extra things”.

Let me be clear in saying that I am not complaining about these sacrifices as these are the moments that I am truly passionate about.

What I am saying is that even when those bad days happen and you feel that your voice is hidden behind the perceptions of others, hold your head high and continue with your goals in mind. In other words, let others do the talking. Instead of going on the defensive…let your work speak for you. The rest? Distant…meaningless…whispers

2. Maintain Your Sanity: Find Your Circles of Trust

I have to say that I did not take this advice as much as I should have. I’m so used to “self-guiding” that typically when I have reached out, my heart and mind were already blocked. I have a few people who support me unconditionally but who will also be critical when I need it. Sometimes, some of my issues were that I needed to approach a situation differently or be more open minded. The people who are in my circle of trust have no problem with helping me to see that. We all need these trustworthy/honest people in our lives who will have our backs while also reminding us to check ourselves.

There have been days that I have felt nearly broken and needed sound advice and having my “circle of trust” means that I am connected to countless pillars of strength and quite frankly…one heck of a cheering section when I need it.

You need these people and if you have yet to identify who “your people” are, it’s time that you extended your PLN.

3. Let NO ONE Rain on Your Parade

When I was accepted to present at or invited to various conferences, I hesitated to tweet. I still haven’t really talked about going to the White House. I have speaking engagements planned that very few people know about. My book releases 1/13 and celebrating this huge feat may not happen beyond my trip to the TIE Conference. I became a Google Certified Teacher and much of my “Action Plan” was to be completed on the down low.

That was the plan anyway.

I have no idea why but we have created this environment where a person cannot have success without backlash. My mother used to say that if you did not have people talking, you weren’t doing something right.

To quote Eleanor Roosevelt…

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

When you are doing great things, let those accomplishments motivate you to stand a bit taller and let those personal accomplishments and lessons learned be the fuel that helps you to be even stronger in your day to day work. Don’t hide behind your accomplishments. Stand not only proud in them but firm in your expertise.

That does not mean that I am going to walk around announcing, “Hey…look at me! I did this thing!”. What I will do though, is continue to share loudly and proudly. I’ll continue to share the power of voice, innovative ideas and the exponential benefits of being connected…even if that means doing it from the lens of the “extra things” that I have done.

One last thing…

If you’re trying to be a prophet in your own land…understand that unless you have “real power” to stimulate change, you may be fighting a losing battle. You need to know that this is okay. That does not mean that you must stop fighting. What that means is that you have to go back to understanding your goals.

Mine are simple…

1. Be the best me that I can be at my job.

2. Continue to push for change in education…even if that means that it happens in every other place but the grounds in which my feet touch.

Embracing Your Possibilities, Dare to Dream

Embracing Your Possibilities, Dare to Dream

Years ago, one of my students asked me a question that sent me on the weekend reflection that would forever change my life. He asked,

“Hey Miss, other than teaching, what were your dreams? What is the one thing that you always wanted to do but didn’t?”

Until that moment, I never considered any other dreams aside from being in the classroom. I take that back. I did consider other dreams but once I became a teacher, it was as if I stopped dreaming. I “settled” into the life that chose me and decided to work to become the best teacher that I could be and that was not a bad thing since the best teacher that I could be was one who taught kids first. Beyond teaching math, I enjoyed moments where provoking the innermost thoughts of students led to great discovery.

The question above was born out of a discussion with students about whether or not they could achieve multiple goals or dreams. Once they realized that they could, the attention turned to me. They wanted to know what else I wanted to do other than teaching and why I had not pursued those goals. More questions…

“Why settle on one dream? If I say that I want to run a successful business, do I stop working once I reach success or should my goals change? You are a great teacher. You can say that you wish to be better everyday and that is great but what else drives you? There has to be more.”

For me, being an educator is the ultimate dream and within this dream are many possibilities. At the token, my reality did not include leaving the classroom as the opportunities to do so did not exist. I thought that I would remain in my hometown and teach our kids until retirement. With that said, I knew that I could impact more kids by working directly with their teachers and the conversation above jumpstarted this dream from being a nightly occurrence to real life action because as my students challenged me to face my own visions, they also reminded me that “dreaming was okay”…even for adults…NO, especially for adults.

As one of my students so eloquently stated, “How can you tell me about the importance of fighting for your dreams if you aren’t fighting for all of yours?”

That was my wakeup call and now consider this…YOURS.

Years ago, on that day, I confessed to my students that I dreamed of impacting education through working with teachers. I told them about the journal that I kept in hopes that I could rely on my classroom experiences to change education and one day possibly even authoring a book. I shared a TED talk with them because I knew that one day I wanted to share our story in the same way. I confessed my dream to travel outside of our city limits. Finally…I told them that I had every intention of starting my own school with their hopes and dreams in mind.

In the last few years, so many of those dreams have come to fruition even more vividly than I dreamt them. Some are still a work in progress but are coming along in such a way that I have no doubt that they will certainly happen…including starting my own school.

What I have learned along the way is that dreams are nothing more than visions of what is possible. Making those dreams a reality is all about persistence to achieve through hard work and in most cases, countless do-overs.

If you model nothing else for your students, model this act of dreaming, acting, reflecting, re-envisioning and evolving.

What better way to share the power of embracing what is possible than through active pursuit of possibilities…dreams

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Opportunities, Coding Advocacy and Credibility

Opportunities, Coding Advocacy and Credibility

In a perfect world, all teachers would not only have the desire to be instructionally creative but also the freedom to do so. Academic excellence would not be based on test scores but on the backs of students excitedly learning and basking in the glow of the learning process. In a perfect world, there would be no “genius hour” nor would there be an “hour of code” because students would explore their interest at will and computer science would be embedded as early as kids were learning sight words. Also…these opportunities would be accessible to every child…EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.

If the world were perfect…

But it’s not…

Technically, my job is to help teachers integrate technology. I’m supposed to be an expert of the tech. The perception of most is that all I know is tech…until we sit down to talk and then like clockwork, I watch the eyes of the other party bug out because clearly…I’m about much more than tech.

I want to see kids learn in interesting ways and I don’t believe that technology is always a part of that. I don’t view tech as a “product” that kids must do in order to “show learning”. At the same token, I think that it should be accessible because for some…the tech is how they learn and I’m good with that.

Yesterday, I posted a series of tweets about “Hour of code” and as a result, my timeline pretty much imploded with digs about corporate initiatives taking over educational curriculum and how this was a bad one for kids because, “people have been coding with kids long before hour of code”. Apparently saying that “before ‘hour of code’, schools were not universally talking about it”, is a bad thing…even if it is true…from my lens, anyway.

I am a mother and aunt who is watching her kids being “tested to comatose state”, with zero access to technology. For years, I have watched and worked with teachers who have had creative freedom but refuse to take advantage of it. I’ve also worked in schools where teachers have no choice but to follow the framework in front of them. I fight these things with all of my might everyday and anyone that thinks otherwise should spend a weekend on my blog before questioning my dedication to those marginalized voices.

With that said…as much as I too despise “universal initiatives”, I also believe wholeheartedly in exposure to the existence of opportunities and for me, coding is one of those…just like “genius”. Maybe seeing how kids bury themselves into the excitement of learning will open the eyes of a reluctant teacher, principal, superintendent or school board member.

Maybe…just maybe, a kid will rush home completely inspired to not just play the games on his/her game system but create them. Maybe that one hour sparks much more than most kids or adults knew was possible.

The fact is that for many teachers, this “universal initiative to code”, is their first stab at any ideas related to coding. Whether we choose to admit it or not, this need was born because we’ve created a system where we wait until HS to teach these skills because that is when “we” decided that kids were ready. Maybe this “universal initiative” can spark conversations to change that.

Of course, what do I know?

Growth in Numbers: Reflecting on #GTAATX Day 1

IMG_0239What happens when you put 50 “forward-thinking” educators into a room and ask them to devise a plan to change their educational landscape or even the world?

They not only attack their “self-selected” problem. They also unearth dynamics that they did not even realize existed.

This is life right now at Google Teacher Academy and I can honestly say that I have never been challenged to think to the depth that I was today…and it’s only day 1.

Since the arrival of our official invites, we have connected through voxer, twitter and our google plus community. We’ve shared our lives, communities, families, ideas, professional problems and collaboratively ideated solutions. As much as we were all seemingly prepared for this day to come…I can honestly say that none of us were really expecting to feel what we felt today…

Like “inspired” game changers who were truly challenged to think…

That does not happen that often…not in this way.

There is a reason that many of us did not get into previous cohorts. I needed to spend 3 days with Beth Still in Austin learning by day and reflecting at night. I needed to sit down with Minnesota’s own, Geri Feiock, and hear about how her district is using SMART in transformative ways along with chromebooks to provide blended learning opportunities for students. I needed to learn alongside the brilliantly talented John Stevens, creator of Would You Rather Math, which I include in all of my “math trainings”. I needed to connect with Rebecca Vieyra, currently serving as a teaching fellow for Nasa Aeronautics.

I needed to hear Shaelynn Farnsworth’s passion fueled talk about how technology can be a voice conduit for the voiceless.

In my book, The Missing Voices in Edtech, I encourage women and people of color to seek career related honors such as this. I need to add that yes, we should do this….but do it because it will certainly make you a better person. You will think. You will be inspired. You will leave with a charge to identify a problem and follow through with addressing it.

You will not leave as the person that you were when you arrived.

You will be better…along with your entire cohort.

In case you missed it, this was only day 1…

Facing Insecurities: You Are More Than Enough

Facing Insecurities: You Are More Than Enough

As a high school student, I remember being so insecure. In my mind, I wasn’t smart, pretty, athletic or thin enough. It didn’t help at all that I was often teased by my peers or at times second guessed by certain teachers. I was the poster child for insecurity and for a certain period, I not only questioned my worth but also my continued place in the world. I am lucky to be amongst the numbers of kids who managed to refrain from being “a completion”. If you are a counselor, you know exactly what I mean.

This morning, I reflected on how far I have come and I thought back to that insecure girl from long ago. She was the reason that I wanted to teach as I vowed that any child that I met would not feel what I felt. I knew that I wanted to provide not only a welcoming learning environment but plenty of love, understanding and empowerment…the things that were missing for me.

What is amazing about my experience into teaching is that as I aimed to empower others, I found it easier to empower one person that needed it most…me.

Of all of the things that I have accomplished, I am most excited that somewhere in the midst of continuing this journey of helping students and teachers “See” themselves, I also managed to finally rid myself of the shadow of insecurities that have lingered for years.

What I found along the way was that I was not the only person that carried such self-doubt. Many of us do and we attribute it to “perfectionism” but in reality, it’s not that at all. It is our internal need to be “validated” and our negligence to see that our self-validation matters much more than what others think.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

The other day I was trying to craft my bio and as a means of inspiration, I compared mine to others (big mistake). I allowed myself to believe that my accomplishments were nothing more than “bells and whistles”. I consulted with a friend who, in only the way that he could, reminded me to check myself because I was talking pure nonsense.

In a space where being “tech focused” can be seen as negative, I forgot for a second that my tech accomplishments are worth mentioning because this is a part of who I am, the change that I have influenced and a small yet significant piece of what I have to offer. I needed that reminder and I won’t make that self-doubting mistake again.

I’m not perfect by any means but I am the best ME that I can possibly be and with each passing day, I am getting stronger and stronger…because Growth Is Powerful.

Dear Rafranz,

You are not that insecure girl anymore. You are brilliant, beautiful and fantastic. For the record, that insecure girl was just as amazing as the woman that she is today. Own this and maybe…just maybe someone else may own it in themselves too.

You are more than enough and the world is brighter because of your presence in it.

In case you missed it, that insecure kid grew up and did this.

Exposure, Experience and Wonder

Exposure, Experience and Wonder

Years ago, my son was enamored with science. He loved learning about how the world worked and “tinkering” with objects just to see their reactions. I imagine that he did this because internally, he developed his own theories and “testing them out” was just his thing. Then he entered 5th grade and with that came…Continue Reading

United We Grow Divided We Fail

United We Grow Divided We Fail

The other night, I sat with my family and watched the announcement from Ferguson in shock and disbelief…not because I expected the announcement to be different but because they were actually making this announcement in the dead of night in a community that was already deeply wounded. The fact that not one person thought against that…Continue Reading

Goal Setting Like a Baby

I have an 11 month old nephew who is just starting to take much longer walks around the house. Since he was about 9.5 months old, he’s been attempting this passage of life with very limited prodding from adults. I’ve sat for long periods of time watching him literally watch the people around him and it…Continue Reading