Creekland Collaboratory: over 2100 students will be served…….

Well, we have just completed four weeks of school already…wow four weeks. Time flies when you are working hard. The start of a new school year creates the great chance to try new things, do things differently than in previous years, and really make the year one to remember. I am very excited about the potential of this school year not only for me to continue to improve professionally as a technology coordinator, but also because of the awesome possibilities and potential for our school to get better and grow as a whole.

Flashback to the middle of last school year, I had the rather big and crazy idea of bringing a makerspace to my school. My original plan was for the makerspace to be in our media center and it to become an area that students could not only tinker and explore but also learn content in new and engaging ways. As an outside the box thinker and risk taker, I believed a new learning space was something our students deserved and I planned to be relentless in finding a way to make it happen. I boldly proposed my idea to my principal and admin team during a meeting in March, although I truly felt the idea would be shot down for two reasons. The first reason is our school rarely does anything outside of the box and the second reason was my media specialist who at the time was not too thrilled about the idea of a makerspace in the media center and didn’t want any part of it. However, to my surprise, my principal thanked me for boldly deciding to change the way we’ve always done things at Creekland and he wanted me to bring a makerspace to our students. He loved my passion and enthusiasm about this new learning space for our students and even coined our new space to be named the Creekland Collaboratory. I was shocked that my semi-random, pie in the sky idea received backing from my principal. Following that meeting,  a few other events happened including getting a new, supportive media specialist as well as my principal giving me classroom space to use for the makerspace instead. With those two items in place, I now had the official green light to make this vision of a new learning space for all students a reality.

I honestly had no clue on what to do next, where to start, and was a bit terrified. How should the room look? What items should I include? Will my principal like it? Will the kids like it? Will teachers want to use it? Tons of questions and doubtful thoughts tumbled through my mind all summer. Those questions and thoughts continued even as I returned to school with the teachers in August. I put the collaboratory on the back burner as other pressing beginning of the school year items needed to be handled including teacher technology PD, gradebook set up, device resets, and other technology related prep work necessary for the school year. When I finally came up for air after the first two and a half weeks of school, I realized I hadn’t really done anything with our collaboratory. My new media specialist asked how the set up for the collaboratory was coming along, and I responded, “uh, it will be going soon.” I knew I needed to get my butt into gear and make this thing happen. I worked for three days straight asking for input from my new media specialist as well as tossing ideas around in my own head. I continued to move past feelings of uncreativity and self-doubt and did the work with the intent of making a special space for our students to learn. When I finished, it was one of the few times I was truly 100% proud of what created. The collaboratory fulfilled the ideas of my principal and media specialist as well as my vision and thoughts that both had been doing backflips like Simone Biles in my head since late May.

 

This past Friday, I was blessed with the opportunity to open the collaboratory to our first classes. I was super nervous about making this over 5-month vision officially become a reality. I worked with one of our very good ELA teachers and came up with the plan of attack for the first learning opportunity in the collaboratory. I created a Poetry Lab for her students who were studying figurative language and poetry earlier during the week. Students would pair up and not only write their poem (of one to two stanzas and include figurative language) but also give a visual representation of the poem’s theme using creative tools of their choosing. To be honest, I was nervous for a variety of really valid reasons. This was my first attempt at creating a lesson for our collaboratory and my first lesson created ever related to 6th grade ELA. Second, I was worried that being out of the classroom for a year would cause me to lose my touch and ability to relate to students and get them excited about the Poetry Lab. Third, the kids would be so used to being robotic and not feel comfortable learning in a new way through creating, using hands-on activities, messing up and trying again. Again, I had to make the conscious decision to get out of my own head and feelings, extend myself past my own comfort levels, and trust things would go well more than doubt that they would.

Astonished, floored, and amazed would be the only three words that could remotely sum up my experience on Friday. I was in awe with all of the students’ excitement, engagement, creativity, and learning. The bubbly laughter, deep thought, and great dialogue that filled the room for all four class periods brought a huge sense of joy to my spirit. I knew without a shadow of a doubt, this learning opportunity was so needed, wanted, and appreciated by our students. I was so floored that students thanked me for letting them learn poetry this way, they wanted to come back, and even one student said it was the best experience he’s ever had in a classroom. I was so humbled by their kind words and honesty, but unbelievably amazed at how great this collaboratory learning experience was for all of the students, their teacher, and even for me.

 

This collaboratory experience from start to finish has been a microcosm of my experience so far in the edtech world and as a technology coordinator. It was great to learn and be reminded of the following things:

  • See a need that is in the best interest of all students and become relentless and bold in your pursuit of making that need no longer exist.
  • “Do the work. Don’t worry about the naysayers.”-Michelle Obama
  • Meaningful things that help all kids can be hard and don’t always come with fanfare.
  • Overcome your lack of confidence and go out on a limb for kids.
  • When your intent is pure and for all kids, things always work out.
  • Push the envelope, fight doing what is comfortable and find colleagues that are willing to do the same.
  • Provide opportunities for students experience success and do new things whenever you are able.

The Creekland Collaboratory grand opening was a huge success!! I’m so amped for day two with 7th grade math classes coming up soon and for all of the students who will get to learn in this environment tailored for them to be successful and engaged in their own unique ways.

 

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“The Creekland Collaboratory: a purposeful, fun, and safe learning space for all students.” The Collaboratory was established in August 2016 at Creekland Middle School by Shana White. For more information on the Collaboratory check out this website: Collaboratory Website

 

 

 

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More Constructive or More Critical….

To be honest, I am my own worst critic. Nothing is ever good enough and anytime I do something, I always feel it could be done better. I think to be able to maintain high standards, but ones that do not damage your self-esteem or worth can be difficult. There is such a fine line between confidence and cocky, constructive and critical and I seem to tip-toe that line between the latter two on a consistent basis.

When I hear the words “constructive criticism” it feels more like an oxymoron to me now. One of the main reasons I feel this way is because the intent and motive behind the constructive criticism are huge factors in whether the information will be received as more constructive or more criticizing. What is our intent when we share a constructive criticism? Is it to make the other person better? Is it to provide guided and helpful feedback? Is it driven by our ego? Is it because what the person said or did hits a sensitive nerve? Is it because like Snoop said, “animosity made you speak what you spoke?”

Aside from the intent of any constructive criticism, another huge factor is the relationship you have with the individual. I know as a very extreme type A person, it is so much easier for me to take any feedback or suggestions from people that I have a built relationship with. Their constructive criticism is less critical and a lot more constructive. The reason it is easier to receive is because the person knows more about me. They know what things are going on in my life. They have my best interest in mind. They know if my intent and motives are legit and pure. They know what makes me tick. They know enough about my history and have seen the foundation which I’m trying to build upon. Their constructive criticism feels more like moving bricks, suggesting different bricks to add, and helping me in restacking bricks to make my “house” strong.

On the other hand, when you do not know the person, that constructive criticism seems more like a wrecking ball bashing levels of your “house” and has no constructive nature or intent at all. The critical part of the remarks are a lot more resounding. In these situations, the constructive criticism can be myopic without necessarily having all of the facts because the personal connection is missing. In cases like these, silence is sometimes a lot more beneficial because perceptions and observations are allowed more fact finding time. By gathering more data and knowledge you aren’t exacerbating the situation, but instead helping to bring more clarity. At times, I now realize when I feel the need to be critical towards other people, it’s better just to be silent. It is not my job to fix adults or have someone conform to my expectations. Instead of imposing my expectations or sharing constructive criticism, my energy would be better served improving upon my imperfections instead.

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Is there a time and place for criticism? Yes, when one is speaking out against oppression, blatant hatred or disrespect, or systems that are unfair or unjust. Those situations usually deserve a critical tongue in order to be broken down or deconstructed. We live in America so everyone has the right to free speech, both critical and not. My concern is, should we offer constructive criticism of people? Well in my opinion that answer is both yes and no. Again it goes back to do I really know the person? What is my intent? We should also understand when we offer constructive criticism that it might not be well received. It might be like throwing water on a grease fire, might severe ties, might even create a negative ripple effect that reverberates for others. Unfortunately,  I just hate seeing constructive criticism go awry and happening to students and even adults when we all can improve personally first. We should all just be more mindful when we decide to give constructive criticism. I am definitely making an effort to be cognizant of offering constructive criticism and will choose more often to remain silent and personally improve instead. Ultimately the goal in mind when sharing ideas, suggestions, feedback, or constructive criticism is for everyone to improve, right?

Unapologetically bold….

Timing is so amazing, great, and sometimes weird. Recently in a Voxer group, members were discussing when and how people of color should speak out and when we should be “cautiously quiet” in edtech or educational spaces. As a weird coincidence, at almost the same time this discussion was taking place, I was completely blessed by the opportunity to meet and hear Mrs. Ruby Bridges speak. It was an amazing crossroads of conversation and opportunity that really hit me more emotionally than I thought it would.

 

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Hearing Mrs. Bridges (Hall is her married name) speak was both deeply emotional and thought-provoking. The experience was made even more memorable because I had the chance to share it with both my mom and my daughter. It was an honor for my daughter, mom and me to hear first hand the emotions, feelings, and experience of a civil rights icon. It was so powerful and surreal. It was moving to hear Mrs. Hall vividly recount her first day as a first grader as she made these powerful statements:

 

  • She was placed in a class by herself with one teacher. She only knew other students were in the building because she heard their voices every day through the wall in the closet where she hung her coat. Not until her teacher threatened school officials was she allowed to see and interact with the other students in the building.
  • Her entire neighborhood walked alongside and behind the car the entire trip, she, her mom, and the US Marshals rode to school that first morning.
  • She was one of six other children of color who passed a biased and rigged test that determined who would be allowed to integrate all-white schools in New Orleans.
  • Both of her parents were sharecroppers, neither of them made it past 9th grade. Her mom convinced her dad to allow Ruby to integrate William Frantz Elementary School.

 

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To be able to hear about a six-year-old girl and her parents who made the decision to not be cautiously quiet is almost indescribable. This unapologetically bold decision has forever changed the face of education in this country. Equally amazing is the confidence and strength portrayed in images of Mrs. Hall’s first day. Her visible confidence, unwavering determination, and boldness are so inspiring. As a woman of color, it is these same characteristics I wish to instill in my daughter as well as bring to my job every day. Sitting back and being cautiously quiet is not where change is made or things are fixed. Being cautiously quiet is almost as dangerous as silence. It shows you accept status quo. Be bold and purposeful with your actions and words.

Is there some danger in speaking out? Absolutely. Is there a chance you are labeled or ostracized for standing against something? Definitely. I realize there are inherent risks involved in advocating for students of color, speaking against inequities, and asking for less bias and privilege in the world of education or educational technology. However, the thing I’ve realized is all great leaders presently or who’ve come before me have been bold and purposeful with their words and actions. These great leaders are not cautious or quiet, have boldly done the work, and in some cases, are relentlessly continuing to do more. Those who are unapologetically bold in education, demonstrate their unwavering determination and are “about that life” as my friend Jose says. The risk of being unapologetically bold for what is right is worth the reward. It is my duty to use my abilities, talents, and voice to continue to raise questions and bring light to inequities that marginalized individuals face in education. If I don’t, I nullify what an unapologetically bold, beautiful brown girl did in New Orleans in 1960. Being unapologetically bold is authentically who I am and what desire to cultivate in my daughter. I don’t know how to be any other way.

 

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!

    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)

    Adobe Spark

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

    Fun, Fame, and Fighting: My ISTE conference take aways….

    Well almost everyone who is engaged in educational technology or EdTech as many conveniently call it, converged on Denver, Colorado over the last few days. ISTE or the International Society for Technology in Education is a global organization who is attempting to redefine learning for students all over the world, create global citizens and enhance classrooms worldwide through the effective usage of technology. Although I was an ISTE conference newbie, I was prepped by veteran attendees on what to expect, things to look out for, and given a general game plan for attacking this event. I was grateful and definitely took all of their wise advice into consideration. Here are my takeaways from my first ISTE experience I wanted to share.

    Meeting people you respect, appreciate, and admire in real life is the coolest!

    There are quite a few people that I have connected with online, gotten a great vibe from, and many I can call friends. Being physically in their presence really took our interaction to another level. The first time I met a few of these individuals I even became a goofy and awkward teen fan girl with them (luckily they still decided to talk to me again).

     

    It is so important when navigating new waters (the EdTech community in my case) to have allies and people you can be yourself around, trust, and know they are genuinely themselves around you. It is great to know these connections and face to face interactions provide opportunities to actively keep moving our educational system in a positive direction. Educators, remember we all have our own pockets of influence. It is imperative to connect with educators in real life as well as via social media to magnify our pockets of influence and our voices. When we collectively raise our voices and the bar above status quo norms, we will make things better for all students in every school. ISTE provided me an excellent opportunity to finally meet educators all over the world I respect tremendously, allowed time for fun and engaging face to face conversations and ultimately helped to continue to strengthen our friendships and rapport.

     

     

    There are still people that don’t get it.

    I know, I know, I come off that great high talking about meeting great people in education and then my inner negative Nancy come out. Yes, there are people that think it is all about them. Yes, there are still people in this (education/EdTech world) for selfish reasons and attention. In the social media world, you can get a sense of who some people are but the interaction in real life really pulls away all masks that the internet can provide. It was interesting to see people in real life and watch them maneuver the conference in ways that reminded me that my idealist way of thinking about all educators is, unfortunately inaccurate. Swag in a bag was more important than connecting. Looking important was more pressing than learning from people doing it better. Crowded buzzword filled sessions were in some cases less impactful than small, sincere group conversations. Individuals whose intentions and motivations are not in the right place (doing this work for students) are people that cause me to want to work harder to combat the poor behavior/attitudes they are bringing into our schools and districts. Unfortunately, not everyone is in education or EdTech for the right reasons, which isn’t okay, but the conference was a reminder that I need to keep fighting for what is right and there is still work to be done.

     
    Edu-fame is real….well just at ISTE.

    As a new kid on the block, I take Twitter followers, retweets and likes with a grain of salt. I like who I am on and off social media and am good in the friends department, so I don’t use my social media presence as a gauge to determine if I matter. These past few days many of my friends and even I (shocking, huh?) got approached not by a hello, but instead “aren’t you are so-and-so, I follow you on Twitter!” How do you respond to that? I honestly had no clue and stumbled around my words and said: “really, okay thanks, that’s great.” It might have seemed condescending but how should we really respond? Greeting a person in that manner, what is the motivation? Are you trying to let me know that I’m important? Are you trying to make yourself feel important? I don’t know the answers, but I am grateful for all the genuine people I’ve connected with via social media. The difference between the ones I’m grateful for and others is this: I’ve engaged in conversations with them, supported and cheered their work and efforts, and actively built a sincere rapport with them. As mentioned in a previous post I wrote, like is an emotion that is fleeting, respect is what I always aim for. Although this weekend reminded me that Edu-fame is still very real for many, it’s not my cup of tea.

    Here’s a little advice (albeit unsolicited) to those new or not as connected to the education social media train should always remember:

    1. Don’t try so hard to fit in by using social media and your Twitter presence as a form of validation.
    2. Actions always speak louder than words.
    3. Do the work. Remain humble.
    4. Sincerely support and encourage others.
    5. Always remember why you are in education. Edu-fame is not real.

     

    Silenced and oppressed voices are making moves but there is still a long way to go.

    Kudos to ISTE for getting Dr. Michio Kaku and Dr. Ruha Benjamin as keynote speakers, bringing diverse voices of color in front of thousands of people. Although it was my first time attending ISTE, it was also great to see a good number of people of color leading sessions and sharing their voices at this massive event. With those positives being said, improvements can still always be made. The EdTech community has been a certain way and filled with certain voices for a very long time. Breaking through the glass ceiling can be painful and tiresome, but is a necessary process. With strong leadership and active efforts from groups like EduColor, the Digital Equity PLN, and EdSpeakers, I hope ISTE continually sees the value, importance, and works to empower diverse perspectives, rather than diversity and inclusion being the new flavor of the month.

    Can’t wait to rest from ISTE and catch back up on the things (family time and grad school work) that I missed while I was in Denver. This was definitely a very memorable experience but I’m sure glad to be home.