I realized I had been slacking somewhat in writing on my blog. I know most people started the year with their “One Word” that will carry them throughout the year. I’ve seen some great words chosen: growth, relentless, listen, caring, and perseverance to name a few. But because I like to do things differently, I would like to reflect on last year’s highs, lows, and learning experiences with seven words.
- Mentors: One of the many things that 2016 taught me was the value of having a mentor(s). Mentors help guide you through potential trouble spots, offer wisdom for day-to-day and larger decisions, and help celebrate your successes with you. It is truly a Godsend to have found individuals to mentor me in the beginning stages of my edtech leadership journey. If you are an educator and don’t already, please find a mentor. Never underestimate the value of having a quality mentor in your corner who will not allow you to settle for anything less your best.
- Educolor: I’m truly blessed, humbled, and grateful to be a member of this collective. Educolor is a group of truly diverse and brilliant individuals desiring and pushing for change in education. They provide me the expertise, encouragement, wisdom, love, support, and empowerment to continue to fight status quo mentalities and practices that plague some educators and schools. Some members I have gotten to know better, than others, but unity in purpose, no matter member location or current position, never wavers for Educolor. I’m grateful for all members of this group who have really put others on notice that change needs and will happen for marginalized groups in education.
- Individualism: There were quite a large number of significant celebrity deaths in 2016. Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Gene Wilder, Muhammed Ali, and George Michael to name a few. The significance of their deaths aside from their incredible talent and ability within their respective craft was their unwillingness to conform. For most of these people, individuality was more important and valuable than anything else to them. Currently, we have so many people that would rather be Minions than be a boss and own their lives. Quit piggybacking off the efforts, work, and voice of others and own your voice and what you stand for. Be you. Individualism is what makes humanity beautiful. Be authentic and live your truth. An important lesson many should realize that being like everyone else and following the crowd will have you going aimlessly in circles, likely lead to mediocrity, and also increase the likelihood of electing someone nowhere near capable of running a country. Be you.
- Trolls: I wish I was talking about the animated film that my two children thoroughly enjoyed and still love singing the Justin Timberlake song from the soundtrack, but unfortunately I’m not. I’m also not talking about the grumpy old troll under the bridge on Dora the Explorer® even though he was actually tamer and nicer than the ones I had the “pleasure” of hearing from. 2016 was the year that I dealt with a whirlwind of trolls on Twitter. I do not have a problem with people disagreeing with what I have to say, but the appalling, egregious, and toxic nature of the tweets I received last year surprised me. After a number of my tweets that mentioned the need for educators to discuss race, privilege, bias, and social justice in classrooms, I was told I should be jailed, that I was on meth, and that I should be fired and hurt just to name a few. I was astonished by the hate that spewed from eggs and eagles avatars on my timeline. The brilliant educator and activist, Jose Vilson recently wrote a blog post on how he handles trolls. His blog was very empowering and has helped provide clearer perspective and guidance for handling trolls that I know I will likely deal with again in 2017, so I now will be ready for them.
- Silence: 2016 was roller coast year of events including the senseless deaths of black males at the hands of police officers, US election shenanigans and nonsense, and clear lines in the sand being drawn in by people in our country. The other thing that stood out as well was the deafening silence from many educators in relation to the numerous -isms that ran wildly, loudly, and rampantly in the US last year. Complicit behavior has no color. Educators must remember it is our responsibility to speak out and many educators chose instead to be safe and say nothing. That is unfortunate and willfully negligent too. Part of our professional practice includes creating spaces in our classrooms and schools that are safe for all students. In order to create that safety, the air must be clear and schools/classrooms must be void of biases, hidden -isms, and full of humility. I was very disappointed to see a number of educators not use their platform and social media following to discuss such issues. However, I am encouraged and will remain supportive of those educators who started or continued actively to push the dialogue. Solidarity is not passive and requires action. I look forward to hopefully seeing true solidarity from more educators in 2017.
- Vision: Establishing a vision my first few years as technology coordinator has been crucial to the success I experienced professionally last year. More important to me than accolades, was the ability to impact the learning culture at my school in 2016. From new PD styles, to STEM camps, to a Collaboratory, there is now a buzz in our building that learning can use technology or not but still be meaningful, enjoyable, and beneficial for all kids. Without the purpose, drive, and an ultimate vision of what could and should be in my building the successes experienced in 2016 would not have been possible. I am blessed at my ability to make a meaningful impact last year.
- Family: My immediate family had a wonderful year with successes and growth spiritually, emotionally, and for my little ones physically too. The other amazing thing is that I was able to add to my family through my connections created online. There are a number of people who I know have my back, have encouraged me, and reciprocated unconditional love. I am blessed and grateful to have added these individuals to my family and look forward to continuing to water, nurture, and grow these relationships in 2017.
Okay, last word, well actually it’s two words: Hidden Figures. Wow, just wow. Not only is this film superb, it is a true story adapted from the brilliant novel by Margot Lee Shetterly that I’ve started reading recently as well. It is amazing what these women of color accomplished and the success that others were able to experience because of their brilliance. The ability to demonstrate greatness, despite being given very little appreciation and opportunity to shine is remarkable. I am grateful that I was able to see this movie twice with my daughter as well as the opportunity to read the novel with her. This movie and novel both have proven impactful and provided me additional resolve to fight the good fight for marginalized groups as it relates to opportunities in schools and in edtech. If you haven’t seen this movie, please go see it and also go read the novel. They are both a must!
Here’s to a great 2017. I wish all educators success, hope, true purpose, passion, and desire to work tirelessly to equalize the playing field for all students. We all will hopefully use 2017 to improve on our professional practices and intentions and ultimately make things education better for ALL students.