I’m not done, yet……

Today was a very momentous day for me. Today marks my 10 year wedding anniversary as well as the last day of summer vacation. Both of those occasions trigger a variety of emotions including joy, hope, sadness, love, nervousness, and gratitude. Why such a large variety of emotions for two vary different aspects of life? The past two days I’ve been able to reflect and realize how many parallels can be drawn from my marriage and my first full official year in an educational technology leadership position. Here are some things that have been strangly applicable to both my marriage and career in edtech:

  • Learn to pick your battles. Some things are not worth the headache/heartache.
  • Cherish and appreciate the small victories. 
  • Accept praise and compliments when you receive them. Have tough enough skin to accept criticism, but use it to get better. 
  • Enjoy the quiet moments and use those times to recharge, refocus and reflect. 
  • Collaboration is more fruitful than cooperation. Collaborating respects all voices. It can be messy and beautiful at the same time. 
  • Keep those that love and respect you close. Regularly, let those who you love and respect know you do.
  • Comfort and complacency are not your friends. Bad habits and actions evolve from status quo mentality. Be content but never satisfied, believing things can always improve. 
  • Clear communication is key. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be careful what your unspoken language (body language/facial expressions) communicates to others. 
  • Be grateful always and complain less. Someone else has it tougher than you.
  • Believe what people show or do. People’s actions reveal who they really are. 
  • Always underpromise and overdeliver. 
  • Grow where you are planted and stay in your lane. Doing too much before you are adequately prepared will set you up for more failures than successes.
  • Great and purposeful things are worth the work. Always make the extra effort when you can and avoid sloppy, cartoony, or lazy.

    I will not recount all of the highs and lows of my marriage or first year in educational technology leadership. I can look back at both and say, wow, I’m truly blessed. It’s not too often that you hear people in the early stages of their careers being provided or earning the opportunities or chances I’ve received. God has opened several doors for me to meet people and provided opportunities that have been invaluable. I am very thankful and always remember “to whom much is given, much is required, to whom much is entrusted, of him they will ask all the more.” 

    Because I’ve been blessed both personally and professionally, I still must do more. It would be easy to sit back with my feet up and bask in my accomplishments during my first year in edtech leadership, but that’s not my style. The glows from the past 12 months are only a few ladder rungs in my journey in the edtech arena. I am still as hungry and humble as I was this time last year. I still have a chip on my shoulder determined to prove that one person can dent and breakdown the status quo doors and mindsets rampant in education and educational technology. There are too many kids depending on me including my son and daughter so the work must continue. If you think you’ve seen a lot from me, I’m here to warn you I’m not done yet!

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    Purpose-driven or wandering aimlessly?

    Vacations with my family are probably one of my favorite things to do. Aside from the obvious downtime from the hustle and bustle of life, I’m able to see my family in a different environment to see how they adjust and react to things. Recently, our family was fortunately enough to go on two vacations this year. Our spring break vacation was good except for the awful incident that happened at the end, but this summer trip Miami/Fort Lauderdale area has been downright great! It is so cool to see a large diverse group of people in one area and seemingly everyone being pleasant wanting to enjoy their vacation as well. It is a great feeling that I wish I could bottle and take back to work in a few weeks to show it is possible for people from diverse backgrounds all be able to “live” albeit temporarily in peace and be successful (having fun at the beach is a success in my eyes).

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    So what does vacation have to do with purpose? Actions and Intent. People are purposeful on vacation: get some sun, relax, unplug, spend quality time with family, etc. Their intent and actions come together on resorts, in timeshare houses, and hotel rooms, seamlessly evolving into an enjoyable and joyful experience not only for themselves but for everyone.

    As an educator, I have a hard time with adults who wander through their lives aimlessly. For educators, it is frustrating to see teachers with no purpose in their classroom except to survive until summer break, teachers who hop from trend to trend without their own substance to rely on, people whose intent and actions combine but move towards trivial and flaky things, or people who are generally lacking substance and integrity. It is amazing to have people that are my mentors, eduheros, and friends really living out their purpose. It is not only powerful to see first hand, but also helps me continue to re-center and be more mindful of my own purpose. Some examples of these friends/eduheros truly living out their purpose:

    • One friend almost single-handedly through various ideas and bold actions is changing the edtech world for people of color and conquering the digital divide in schools.
    • One friend using her life story as a means to continue to foster more global awareness and increase empathetic mindsets about injustices against marginalized groups both in schools and worldwide.
    • One friend recently left her good district gig to follow her purpose working as a professor in higher ed to do great work in impacting the lives of future educators.
    • One friend who with his extremely eloquent, thought-provoking and intelligent words has been able to change mindsets and create a powerful movement driven to fix equity issues in education all over the US.

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    I realized a long time ago, I can’t fix adults. It’s not in my DNA, heck I have a hard time fixing my own mean ways sometimes. But I did realize awhile ago I was blessed with the ability and desire to help children. I know my purpose is to work daily to provide opportunities for all students, through technology, a listening ear, or better equipping my teachers so they can provide outstanding learning experiences for their kids. My purpose is also to give students guidance and support towards owning and finding their purpose. Mind you sometimes this purpose usually is not realized until many years after they’ve left my gym or classroom. I know other factors fall into place for each of them as well, but I do respect and humbly understand my impact in their purpose finding journey. Some took longer routes than others, some experienced more potholes in the road, but most of my older former students have reached a point where they now know what they are driving towards. Now their intent and actions are perfectly in sync creating purpose, peace, and joy in their souls. It is that peace, which comes from having a purpose, we as educators need to continue to cultivate in our young people by encouraging and aiding them daily. 

    First of all, educators know and own your professional purpose. Make sure your eyes are set on a steadfast purpose and that you are not aimless and void of substance. Understand your professional journey will have twist and turns, but your purpose should always be the guiding force for your decisions. Remember you can’t help someone else do or find something you are not aware of in yourself. Once you understand your purpose, do you best daily to support your students in finding theirs. The repeated acts of an encouraging word, a listening ear, helping hand, or even a smile can lead to more purpose-driven students leaving our buildings each year….imagine how much better off our world would be if we have more purposeful individuals in it….

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    Blinders, blinders everywhere……

    Earlier today a good friend of mine told me to check out a hashtag. Excited to see what was in store, I checked out #FBNoExcuses and was so, so amazed and alive.

    After the minor incident earlier week and the recent news about Facebook and diversity, today I saw tweet after tweet, after tweet of other people of color or marginalized groups sharing stories with two common themes on the #FBNOExcuses hashtag: are you not tired of the white-walled offices, conferences, or board rooms and why do you blatantly not give us a chance?

    I had a conversation with someone earlier this week and mentioned to him the lack of the diversity I saw in his workplace. He immediately became a little defensive and started the counting game “oh there is a black guy in the cubicle next to me” and a “black girl who is great at the end of the hall” almost like a game of I spy. Two black people does not a diverse work environment make. The same thing happens when I see the speaker line-ups on conference websites or twitter feeds. The same people who don’t even remotely look like me are always there front and center.  If you or anyone has to play I spy in a workplace or even at a conference, don’t you think that is a problem?

    So how do we fix this? To be honest, I don’t know. Working with some members of my PLN who are smarter than me, we have been hashing out this huge issue and tackling the biases shown within education and edtech spaces head on. There are times the frustrated side of me gets very upset and disappointed tackling these issues. I do realize bias, privilege and racism have many layers like an onion. The minute you think you’ve peeled back enough layers there are tons more waiting for you to work on. The system is broken on so many levels that navigating these broken spaces at times becomes emotionally so taxing and draining.

    Every time, I see a person of color keynoting, conducting a session, or being a member of a panel, I get an excited twinkle in my eye and it warms my heart. The thing that I don’t get is why these warm and fuzzy feelings are oftentimes so few and far between. Often in educational leadership and educational technology there separate entrances and water fountains that still secretly blatantly exist. I still have to go through the back door to eat and if I’m lucky maybe invited to sit down at the table?

    People in decision-making roles this is the part of your leadership that is very difficult and can in some cases be very dangerous. Leadership was never meant to be easy that’s why it’s not for everyone. I was shocked to know that some educational administrators and edtech leaders cannot speak out against injustices at all, even just a little bit, or even via social media platforms. Directly addressing the bias ace of spades card that has existed in education and educational technology since the beginning usually is causation for one to become chastised by district colleagues or even worse being canned.Adobe Spark (1)

    This has caused me to re-examine my desire to move up to a district position or leadership role in the future. Aside from not being around students as often the other trade off is monitored puppet status. I am definitely not a puppet. Will I be forced to watch my words? Will the puppet master pull my strings back when I step out of line by stepping out against social injustice? If I do speak out will I be shunned or canned? While I would never want anyone to lose their job, the time has come for these individuals to raise the volume of their voices a little louder in those small exclusive spaces. Will it be challenging? Absolutely. Will it be uncomfortable? Yes, definitely uncomfortable, but if you have a seat at the table, why not make room for more? People who have power need to make a sincere effort to not be “purposefully to blind” and continue to blatantly exclude those outside your small circle.

    Quit with the blinders. Quit being a puppet. Quit regurgitating the same trainwreck statements regarding the diversity situations in your spaces. Take those blinders off and open your board rooms, offices, and conferences to diverse people. It’s about darn time to spruce up the walls of those exclusive spaces with some color. #Edtechblackout

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    Carbon copy co-opting….

    ​They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But that statement has never sat well with me because I’m a big fan of autonomy and individualism. I think when groups of individuals come together bringing all their talents and ideas to the table great things can happen. Being a carbon copy is so tired in my opinion and I’m a big fan of being and owning who you truly are.

    Earlier this week, a blog post of mine was completely used without permission by a educational organization as a part of “their” (which I use loosely) piece discussing privilege. Although some may see this as awesome as they look through the lens of edu-fame, I was hurt and offended. Why wouldn’t have they just asked “do you mind we quote you or link to your blog?” I even received an email from the individual who produced the article one day prior to it being blasted out, and she made no mention she was using my stuff as well as great items from others. Is this the type of imitation that is flattering? Or is this carbon copy a  disrespectful slap in the face? For me it is more of the latter and I will tell you why. 

    One of my biggest pet peeves in life is deceitful behavior. People talk a good game but have no substance. People who want to be down but really aren’t about that life. People who sell their soul for two minutes of fame instead of relentlessly doing the work because it’s the right thing to do. People who hop aimlessly from this fad to that trend instead of maintaining a steadfast purpose. 
    The work that I and others in education do often times is thankless, but we continue to work. It has never been about creating clickable content or catchy tweets for me, it’s always about sharing my passion, wanting all students to succeed, and the unwavering desire to always walk the talk. People that are deceitful or want to ride the backs of my hard work or the work of others need to have a seat. Please start doing the work yourself. Take a long hard look in the mirror, quit trying to appear to be something you are not. Live your truth and if you don’t like that truth, fix it. Just know when you do put in the real work and not lip service, you will produce beautiful fruit that is respected and apparent to all. It’s just that simple.

    I will end with this. My friend Rafranz said I have to remember the passion in which I write and my presence on social media does resonate with people. That statement was jaw dropping but something I have to work on owning. I just see myself like anyone else navigating these choppy waters in education and educational technology, doing my best to bring opportunities to students, learn from others and always get better. But apparently for some, I’m more than that, more than a pepper flake in the salt shaker, more than a little voice from Georgia. Apparently, my passion, expression, and voice illicits a response for some causing them to publicly and sometimes privately agree and co-op my work and efforts. That is very, very humbling. Just remember next time you want to co-opt something of mine or anyone else for that matter, just respect the person enough to ask permission and also do some work yourself. If not your deceitful carbon copy co-opting will be called out and eventually expose you as the phony you are…..

    Ok Google…..

    Being home with my kids for most of the summer has been awesome, but very tiring as well. I forget with their ages the constant need for stimulus and the mommy time they want. The other big thing  with children the ages of mine (7 and 4) is their nonstop inquisitive nature and desire to always ask questions and know why.

    I forget the exact data, but I know kids ask close to a hundred questions each day. It is definitely part of their charm and I love to see their eyebrows shift or eyes light-up when something that once was puzzling them is finally answered. To save me from some of the questions or to help answer questions I do not know the answers to, I’ve taught my kids to use our devices to ask Google for answers. I regularly will see and hear my kids get responses to their questions and cure their curiosity by just pressing a microphone button on a device. You want to know where chameleons live and what they like eat, ask Google. You want to know how an elevator works and how to build one, ask Google.

    After an awesome day with my family yesterday, it was bed time and I was putting both kids to bed. As I was cutting off my phone, my daughter noticed a video from Twitter with people holding up signs, chanting and walking. She asked what are they doing, mommy? I said they are protesting. What is a protest? I responded, let’s use Google to get the answer and give you a clear definition. So we say together, “Ok, Google” and I read aloud from my phone to Google’s definition of a protest. After hearing the definition, she asked the question that I dreaded…well why are they protesting mommy? My husband and I have done a very good job shielding our kids from all the negative events going on world-wide. I knew once she asked why, I was past the point of no return and would have to answer more questions that I did not want to answer. After explaining to her why the people in the Twitter video were protesting, I proceeded to get really difficult questions from my daughter that not only Google could not answer, but ones that I had a very difficult time answering myself.

    “Why do police hurt people when they are supposed to always help?”

    “Have police hurt brown girls before? Why?”

    “Will police hurt my daddy since he’s a brown man?”

    “How do I make sure the police don’t hurt me?”

    “Why do people shoot people?”

    “How do we fix this?”

    After answering her barrage of really really hard questions, she said well I guess we both need to go to sleep. Before she fell asleep she said, “I’m scared mommy, but I’m going to have a good dream, about protesting and changing the world.”

    And I’m going to make that dream of hers my reality. To be honest, I’m so tired, so numb from events the last few months, but  I’m even more exhausted emotionally and mentally from people revealing their true colors. People I perceived one way are now showing their true beliefs and thoughts via social media which has been disheartening, alarming and upsetting. Because of these things, I recently even shared with my close friends that apathy had settled in for me. Even though I’ve experienced and witnessed injustice and negative events in the world directly or indirectly before, for the first time I was deflated. I was not looking forward to graduating, starting the school year next month, even had lost my desire to workout and lift weights. I really was defeated believing that the boulder of status quo could not be moved despite my efforts and the countless efforts of others. Lucky for me this conversation with my daughter is turning that apathy around. She wants this fixed and as an adult right now I can help fix this even in my own pocket of influence.

    I implore all educators continue to fight the good fight. Do not take the easy route. Fix this for our students. Open your classrooms to all your students this fall, giving them a safe space to ask questions and vent. Be transparent and share your own biases, emotions and privileges. Become more culturally responsive. Go learn and understand it is not another person’s job to educate you on injustices they or other people face. Drop your ego and show empathy and love to all. Have hard conversations and realize you will not know all the answers and that’s okay, the willingness to talk and listen is huge. All of these actions are how we will fix this and change the world. You willing to join me?

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    No offense…..

    Recently I was reading a timeline about a major NBA basketball decision and discussion continued on with ranking the greatest NBA players of all time….I took the bait and hopped in the conversation but was met rather quickly into the conversation with this tweet…

    “This is why I can’t discuss sports with a girl, no offense…”

    No offense is a phrase that people throw out to justify their insulting, degrading and/or inflammatory speech. “No offense” carries the same weight for me as “oops my bad” does in the land of apologies. Why do many people throw caution to the wind with their offensive speech and half-hearted apologies…..privilege.

     

     

    Privilege has existed since the beginning of mankind. There have always been the have and the have-nots, us and them, elite and non-elite mentalities permeating everyday life. Privilege oozes out of our pores carrying an unbearable stench. For some, the stench surrounds them like a large dust cloud whereas as with others the stench is subtle and often times can be remedied with a quick spray of reality/truth Febreeze©

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    Privilege shows up in a variety of forms: racial, socio-economic, religious, and gender just to name a few. Privilege also can manifest itself in a variety of behaviors/actions:

    • Classifying/Labeling a group of people based on the behavior/action of one
    • Organizers/Leaders only including the same handful of people to speak at events, not interested in finding new voices
    • Blindly justifying the actions or words of those individuals who share your same privilege
    • Maintaining a professional network so small almost everyone in it is a carbon copy of you

    You have privilege, whether you want to recognize or not. What each of us decides to do with our privilege is the real issue in my mind. Many people use their privilege to:

    Hide. Excuse actions. Blame others. Dismiss. Devalue others. Exalt only themselves.

    As usual, I like to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I recognize the privilege I have and instead have decided to use my privilege to:

    Be more selfless. Show more empathy. Actively love people unlike me. Listen. Illuminate people the spotlight shuns.

     

    Big difference between acting on your privilege and actively fighting the comfort privilege provides is clear. Less me more we. Less self-interest more selflessness. Less talking more listening. Less hate more love.

    Below is a very powerful line from one of my favorite movies (The American President) that really sums up privilege, its power, and stench (I subbed the character’s name for the word privilege).

    “Whatever your particular problem is, I promise you ‘privilege’ is not the least bit interested in solving it. ‘Privilege’ is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.”

    -Andrew Shepherd (The American President)

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    Hey, what’s that smell? Do you smell that stench?