Participating in the “Better Blogging” Course Through Edublogs

I started my class blog in 2010 and have been personally blogging since 2012, so I’m not new to blogging, but I still struggle.  When sharing my bio with others, I always laugh at the last line – “You can read her sporadic thoughts at Teach.Tech.Love (www.mrsjeff2u.com).”  Key word in the cheeky sentence – sporadic.  And truthfully the reason the blog is sporadic has been for a variety of reasons.

  1.  Time.  Isn’t that a struggle for most of us?  I’m a wife, mother, daughter, educator, community service organization leader and time does not come freely.  In the past, I’ve thought of all the ways I could be a consistent blogger, but when times get tight – this is the first to go.
  2. Purpose.  When I first started this blog I was still in the classroom and I blogged about work that my students were doing, ideas I had (or wanted) to try, my successes and failures as an educator.  As I transitioned to an instructional technology coordinator, I struggled with exactly what and how to share.  This role was so different – I have not problem sharing my deficits, but in this case the deficits wouldn’t just reflect on me but on my school district.
  3. A Whole New World.  As I began to work more in this EdTech world, my eyes were opened to the gross disparities that were happening to students and adults with regards to equity.  I struggled with sharing those experience in a space where I also wanted to share tips, tricks, and resources.

To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t fully conquered these obstacles, but when I saw the email for Edublog’s 10 Week “Better Blogging” Course – I decided to jump right on it!  In addition, I thought it’d be great for my teachers to encourage them to begin blogging with their students.  I found so much success in creating digital spaces for my students!  They become better writers and it made them extremely proud to receive comments on their posts from friends, family, other students, and even our administration.

Goal Setting

In the first task for this course, we were encouraged to set goals for January, the 10 week course, and throughout 2018.

January Goals – To begin to become more consistent with blogging.  I’m hoping to release one post a week sharing my progress through this course.

Coure Goals – Complete it….ha ha!  But also be a resource and support system for others while growing my PLN.

2018 Goals – Put myself on track to have a clear vision of my sharing of the work I do my personal thoughts on technology and education.  Should I use this space only for content and maybe use Medium as my a space for my personal thoughts?  Sometimes those things overlap so how do I choose?

I’m extremely excited about this opportunity and am looking forward to growing as a blogger – one who shares more frequently.  I’d love to hear your feedback as well!

Until the next time,

 

Stripping Down Layers— My #OVAcademy Story

This post was originally posted the EdTechTeam blog on December 19, 2017 located here.

I’ve been blessed to have had so many amazing opportunities in my life. Right place — right time…..a higher power looking out for me…..whatever it is, I am eternally grateful. Participating in the Our Voice Academy was another example of a truly amazing opportunity and experience.

When I received the email, I was extremely honored but had no idea what the experience would entail. Immediately I thought, this will be a great way to extend my tribe and meet people to add to my PLN and if something else comes of it — so be it. I now look back at my 41 year old self (the email came 11 days before my birthday 😉) and laugh. I obviously had no idea what I was about to face.

I’ve always been placed in situations where I am called to serve in a leadership capacity. I see myself as a servant leader; always willing to assist, support, and develop. My life’s mission is to help someone become a little bit better than they are — because in turn I become a little bit better, too.

While interviewing for my current job, I was asked “How will you tell our story” — and that question became the driving force behind what I’ve done for the past three years. To tell my school district’s story and work to improve upon the teaching and learning here; so that our story becomes even more powerful than we imagined. And so, for the past three years, I’ve talked about the amazing things that we’ve done to enhance teaching and learning in my district. And in the upcoming weeks before OVAcademy, that’s exactly the story I had planned to tell. But you know what the say about making plans……

In those upcoming days before the academy, I struggled with the organization of my story that focused on student creators and how technology serves as an equalizer. Looking back now, I realize that the reason this story (a story that I’ve told and shared numerous times in numerous ways) was such a struggle was because it was not the story I needed to tell.

The activities that we participated in at the academy challenged me to go back to the foundation of me — my overwhelming belief that relationships are the foundation to everything. “The Power of Relationships” is definitely my fundamental belief….but it’s not as easy a story to tell as “transforming teaching and learning”. Telling the stories of relationships can force you to run the gamut of emotions — laughter, anger, fear, joy, and despair. And I am not comfortable sharing my vulnerability with others. I’m the strong one; the one whose head YOU can put YOUR shoulder on; the one who listens and advises. I’m a fixer — a problem solver and I don’t like not feeling confident about my choices or my actions.

So so so many times I wanted to go back to what was safe; but I did what I tell everyone else to do — work through the uncomfortableness. I told one of my most devastating stories about a former student whom I adore who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a wrong deal. The story that 17 years later still makes me cry. I was SO uncomfortable with this story; what I decided to tell; how I decided to tell it; yet, I received nothing but support and encouragement throughout the entire process.  In this space, I could be me – unsure, vulnerable me that only a few people get to see and no one would think differently of me because of it.  It was unbelievably freeing.

My Practice Keynote Experience!

 

This experience was one of the most life impacting experiences in my life. Hands down one of the best professional development experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Let me tell you something — the men and women who took us through this process know their *you know what*! I am so thankful for Jennie Magiera acknowledging this need and taking the risk on her dream — this project; and the willingness of Ken Shelton, Monica Martinez and my homegirl Sarah Thomas to dedicate so much of their time, knowledge, and effort; because they so clearly understand my struggles – as my struggles are their struggles.

So in a way, I was right…… I extended my tribe and grew my PLN…..all of that, but so much more! In my struggles and uncomfortableness I experienced a success beyond imagination. I am forever changed.

The Crew!

 

 

How to Flatten Your Classroom and Encourage Authentic Writing Through Blogging

This piece originally appeared on EdSurge on December 16, 2016 located here.
How to Flatten Your Classroom and Encourage Authentic Writing Through Blogging

My ten-year-old daughter is on the autism spectrum. When we met for her annual review this year, one of her goals revolved around her learning how to extend her writing. I cringed. Last year, I’d bought a marble composition notebook, and I told her that we would write every day. It was like pulling teeth. She just didn’t want to do it.

This year, I was determined that I would come up with a plan that would both encourage her to want to write—and allow me to keep my sanity. The answer was so simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner. She would create her own blog!

In conversations with teachers, I frequently encourage classroom and student blogging because of the numerous benefits. Why did it take me so long to come to this conclusion for her?

“Camryn’s World” was an instant success. Although it wasn’t the easiest idea to implement (I mean, it still required reading and writing during her break!), she was quickly encouraged by the comments that she received from former teachers, friends and family, in addition to members of my PLN.

But Why Blog?

Well, for starters—it might help better prepare students for assessment.

With the newest addition to our South Carolina state standardized tests, where I work, our writing assessment has transitioned to utilizing the Text Dependent Analysis (TDA) model. In the TDA model, students are asked questions that encourage them to develop answers based on specific evidence within a reading passage and demonstrate their ability to interpret the meaning behind that evidence. Many students do not do well with this model because they don’t have the background knowledge to effectively answer these complex questions. Building a global classroom where students connect with students from all over can assist with them being exposed to situations and/or environments that are different from the one in which they live. And one way to do that? By blogging.

Blogging is unbelievably powerful for reasons beyond that, as well, as French teacher Sylvia Duckworth explains in “Top 10 Reasons for Students to Blog.” For example, I initially began student blogging to connect them with students in other places, who were alike (yet different) from them. My previous school was tiny, in an extremely small town, and having students connect with other classrooms in other states and countries was powerful.

Throughout my career, I spent 14 years as an ELA teacher. (Currently, I’m an instructional technology coordinator for a school district.) Back at the beginning, I chose ELA as my content focus because I am a voracious reader, and I wanted to share my love of reading with every child that I came into contact with. The reading and vocabulary instruction came easy to me. But the writing…. not so much. Teaching writing is a laborious task. It is an individual process, and it takes so much time to provide feedback to students. Imagine if you teach one hundred students a year? It almost becomes an impossible task if you’re tackling it alone. Hence, here’s my advice on how to bring blogging into your classroom.

Where Do I Start?

First, create a blog—and then show students how to do it. I’ve primarily used Edublogs and Kidblog for student blogging. Edublogs hosts the Student Blogging Challenge twice a year, which assists students and classrooms in getting their blogs off the ground. It provides the opportunity to connect student bloggers with a global audience while supporting teachers with their classroom blogging.

Next, connecting. I initially began connecting with other classrooms through the Quadblogging experience. With Quadblogging, you’re assigned as a group of four. Each week, one of the classes is the “focus class” while the other classes comment on that blog. We also participated in the Global Read Aloud yearly, where we connected with classrooms in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas. Students had conversations about their thoughts and predictions on a chosen book, as well as what the average sixth grader’s experience looks like in those other states. As an added bonus, “buddies” began providing constructive criticism to each other, and students became a little more attentive when it came posting publicly. Peer feedback is powerful, so it should come as no surprise that my gentle reminders about following proper grammar rules were reinforced when their Kansas buddy says, “Hey man! You should always capitalize ‘I’ when it’s alone.” It’s a win-win.

And then, there’s feedback. How many times have we attempted to use the peer editing model, and all students did was give it a cursory glance and say, ”Looks good to me”? Linda Yollis and her third graders provide great examples of how to comment on someone else’s blog post, and that’s what I used as our model for “peer feedback.” Students were expected to:

  • Share something they liked,
  • Share something that could be improved upon,
  • Make a connection, and
  • Ask a question that might allow the writer to extend their piece.

When You’re Ready for the Next Challenge: More Feedback with Blogging Buddies

Seeing how much of a difference blogging made in my student’s writing encouraged me to create a full blogging buddies program within the classes and our grade. I decided to do this for two reasons. First, it was obvious that the peer feedback worked, and simultaneously, it helped to put an additional eye on the work before I got to it—thus dealing with some of those basic grammar issues so I could focus on the content.

As a final note, I made it a point to share students’ blogs with their parents and other family members. Students were tickled pink when they received a comment—from family members, from the principal, and even from other educators. Comments like, “Excellent job in stating your ideas… you’ve definitely given me something to think about” made them so proud. They realized that their words mattered.

Trust me, it wasn’t all unicorns and glitter with my students… nor with my daughter! But, I have seen growth. People are reading my daughter’s words and responding, and it has made a world of difference. It made a world of difference with my students, and I truly believe that it will make a world of difference for your students, too.

How to Manage the 4 Types of Teachers You Meet in Professional Development

This piece originally appeared on EdSurge on June 6, 2016 located here.

In my heart, I will always be a middle school English Language Arts teacher. As I continue this path as a district administrator, I want to hold close to my heart the plight of the teacher: what it’s like to have to work all day with children and then go home and work on lessons, assessments, grading, etc. What it’s like to sit for hours in professional development sessions and be bored because you already know it or frustrated because it’s way over your head or not relevant to your grade level or content area.

So in my role, I find that it is imperative to provide Professional Learning (PL) opportunities that are relevant, on-going, and effective. In the article, I’m going to highlight the types of educators that we may encounter and ways to provide PL that is beneficial for all.

In a book titled “Crossing the Chasm” (1991, revised 1999 and 2014), Geoffrey A. Moore focuses on marketing strategies for technology start up companies, but I find the idea can also be applied to teachers integrating technology in the classroom.

Source: Smart Insights

The Lagger

“I don’t like technology. Technology doesn’t like me. It’s too much. Kids don’t need to play games, they need to learn.” These are the ones that you have to drag kicking and screaming to classroom technology integration. Everything was fine before, so why do they need to change?

The Solution: First and always – talk about the why. Talk to them about how everything we do is to prepare our students to be productive citizens in their society and how we do them a disservice by not providing them with access to tools that will assist our children in doing just that. Take things sloooooooowly. These teachers benefit from sessions that are either one-on-one or small group. Encourage baby steps and be realistic in expectations. Talk to them about things they can do to make things easier in their life in general. For example: talk to them about using a grading app to help them score multiple choice assessments, Google Drive for organizing and having constant access to files, or using a gamified formative assessment tool (Kahoot!, Quizizz, Socrative, Quizlet Live, etc.) that will allow them to gain immediate feedback to quickly differentiate students’ needs. In your conversation, have them choose one tool and allow them to develop that tool until they feel completely comfortable.

The Majority

“I see the merits in some technology. I use it when I can ‘fit it in’.” These teachers know how to handle the basics, but aren’t very comfortable going much further.

The Solution: Find a way to consistently share tools that are fairly easy to implement. Introduce them to a tool, have them use it with their students, reconvene to discuss the process and adjustments. When I was still a Teacher Leader, I initiated “Tech Tuesdays”. With my principal’s support, I met with our faculty once a month and introduced them tools that fell under a specific category. Throughout that month, teachers practiced with the tool and shared examples of student usage with the administrative staff and me. We ‘gamified’ this process, so that they could earn points and rewards for taking the leap – they absolutely loved it! For those teachers that were still a bit apprehensive, they scheduled 1-on-1 time with me to meet and flesh out their concerns and make tweaks.

Early Adopters

“I just saw Amy use this awesome tool in her classroom. I’m going to go home this weekend and figure out how to implement it with my students!” Your early adopters jump right on a tool or resource as soon as they see it being successful somewhere else. They are always looking for ways to provide better opportunities for their students with technology.

The Solution: Share, share share! You want the early adopters to be visible to other teachers so they can see tools working. Sometimes the adopters become so focused on tools that they don’t take time to invite other teachers into their practice. That’s where you come in.

I was an early adopter in my district, and I’m doing my best to share lessons from that time. This year, I sent out a weekly “Tech Tidbits” newsletter to everyone in our district, co-hosted a weekly podcast (#dcsdtransforms) and created a Remind group where I shared tips, tricks, & resources. You also want to provide them with opportunities to explore. Your Early Adopters love a challenge. I created a challenge site for Digital Learning Day in addition to providing incentives for teachers who participated in challenges that I shared via Remind texts.

Also, provide the experiences for them to become facilitators. Those opportunities alone assist in making them stronger technology leaders. Encourage them to participate in outside professional development opportunities. Have them engage in activities that will purposefully allow them to learn and grow.

Innovators

Early Adopter: “Hey! Have you heard of the tool _________?” Innovator: “Yes! My students LOVE that tool, we’ve been using it for a few months now!” Nothing gets past your Innovators! They are first on the cuff of….well everything! They often spend a great deal of time, energy and creativity on developing new ideas and gadgets. And they love to talk about them.

The Solution:Provide them with the support and publicity for their ideas. Invite these teachers to be partners in designing projects. Allow them the space to fail and learn from it when new things don’t work. Provide them opportunities to travel and learn information from innovators across the world. Send them to ISTE and other featured technology conferences. If they’re not connected, strongly encourage them to be. Allow them to spend time with other innovators whenever possible. This year we initiated the DCSD Digital Transformation Academy. I met with those teachers monthly and we explored technology tools, resources, and strategies for effective technology integration. They became their school technology leaders. It was so exciting to see them grow in confidence and pedagogy.

Appreciate the Differences

Each of these personalities has its strengths and its weaknesses. It is extremely important to know which one you’re addressing and which strategies work best with them. Also, consider which group will yield the biggest returns at your school and focus the majority of your energy there. If you carefully and deliberately mold your Innovators and Early Adopters, think of how many other teachers you’ll reach just by empowering them to be leaders on their team, or in their departments or schools. And always, always, always bring it back to the reason we do any of this: for our kids. Each one, reach one, teach one.

Sweet Innovation – My Google Innovator Experience

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The Big Daddy of Google for Education – Google Certified Innovator.  An elite group of educators who have a passion for innovative teaching and learning.  And now a title that I can proudly add to my resume.

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It’s so hard to believe that just 2 days ago I was in the room full of amazingly brilliant people who are just as passionate about transforming teaching and learning.  People who I now call my friends….my family.

Google Innovator #TOR16 Cohort

Google Innovator #TOR16 Cohort

 

What IS a Google Innovator?

Google for Education Innovators are ambassadors for change and empower other educators and students.  They want to change the world of education by tackling complex opportunities to develop new-to-the-world solutions and already foster a thriving innovation culture within their own classrooms, schools and organizations. (via the Google for Education EduTraining Center)

As part of the program,  Certified Innovators receive 12 months of ongoing support for an Innovation Project that you’re passionate about, participation in an Innovation Academy, rich programming and ongoing opportunities for growth and collaboration, and access to a global community of other Innovators. The goal of the Innovation Academy is to build community and trust, create connections with Coaches and Advisors, get inspired by Googley culture, and prepare to complete their Innovation Project within 12 months. The foundation of the Innovator Program are the tenets of Transform, Advocate, and Grow.

At the Academy

The Academy is designed as a workshop to inspire and build capacity for Innovators, while giving us the opportunity to spend a great deal of time delving into our projects. 

My project focused around this question:

How might we create an easily searchable space for classrooms and kids to list, find, and connect with each other through their blogs.

Check out my application here and my Vision Video and Slide Deck below:

Day 1

I arrived into Toronto around noon.  Luckily, I was not alone (my mom was seriously worried about that) as #TOR16 Coach, Donnie Piercey and #TOR16 colleague David Lockhart were on the flight with me.  We met up with #TOR16 coach, Rafranz Davis and #TOR16 colleague James Allen, took the train to Union Station, and had a 10 minute walk to the hotel.

After we checked in, we were able to experience the famous Canadian dish, poutine, and then prepared for our opening session.

We were welcomed by the amazing organizers, Becky Evans and Justin LeCap in addition our coaches and the many Canadians who were a part of our cohort.

We were then broken into groups and by the end of the night we had to come up with a team name, chant, and theme song for graduation.  We decided on the name GSweet7.  Rafranz was our coach and this is the group we completed in the challenges with.

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GSweet7 #TOR16

Our graduation theme song was Macklamore and Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us”.

Before we arrived to the academy, we’d received mini BreakoutEDU boxes that the group needed to collaborate with in order to figure out our next steps.  After that we had to create our own Breakout to be used to introduce ourselves to our group.

Days 2 & 3:  Sparks & Sprints

The Innovation Academy was framed by a series of Sparks and Sprints. I’m going to highlight the other two days of my experience through these two concepts.

Sparks were the sessions designed to build capacity, influence development of new projects, and otherwise “spark“ a new thought or idea.

Throughout the two days, we were treated to short sparks by our outstanding coaches: Michelle Armstrong, Sandra Chow, Rafranz Davis, Sylvia Duckworth,  Jeffrey HumphriesDonnie Piercey, Afzal Shaikh – in addition to Google employees Liz Anderson (Google EDU), Prachie Banthia (Product Manager, G Suite for Education), Aaron Brindle (Head of Public Affairs, Google Canada), Becky Evans (Global Program Manager), Wendy Gorton (Program Manager), and Mark Wagner (CEO of EdTechTeam).

We created a light bulb with the use of a mason jar, pencil lead, batteries, tape, electric connectors, and a toilet paper roll.  We learned (kinda….well not really) how to juggle with Donnie.  Rafranz guided us along as we created our signature story. Sylvia gave us a mini Sketchnoting Bootcamp while Sandra talked to us about perspective and focus.  Afzal allowed us to use his students’ littleBits kits in order to complete a mini maker challenge.  Mark talked to us about passion while Michelle, Becky, Wendy, and Justin kept everything moving smoothly along.

Each of the Sparks gave us something to think about ourselves as innovators and some really neat collaborative activities. As a matter of fact, I’m very excited to implement a few of these ideas with my DCSD Digital Transformation Academy!

In addition, we even had a Spark Camp where members of our cohort shared.  I shared how music and movement helps to engage learners.

Spark Camp #TOR16

Spark Camp #TOR16

 

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Sprints were 30-minute intense and flexible work periods sprinkled throughout the two days. These work periods are specifically designed for us to push our projects forward.

We were so fortunate to have the amazing Les McBeth with us to help with the mapping out of our vision projects.   We used the IDEO’s Design Thinking for Educators as the philosophical foundation to guide us through shipping our project.

Next Steps

Now I continue the work.  I will choose a mentor who will assist me on my journey along with my coach.  I will work to make my vision a reality. It is my goal to begin the process with teachers in my district, staring with my academy, and then growing from there.  I’m looking forward to the journey ahead!

Until the next time,

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It’s Here! Class Dojo Student Stories

Everyone’s buzzing about student portfolios!  This summer it was one of the most requested sessions for summer professional development and I’m really excited about how they’ll increase student ownership in the classrooms in my district this year!

Today ClassDojo released Student Stories, an easy way for students to add photos and videos of their classroom work to a digital portfolio.  So it’s kinda like Instagram for school.  Parents will now be able to follow along with their child’s learning — a photo of a poem they wrote, a video of their volcano erupting, a message on how exciting it was to finally solve a tough math problem. Just one photo can now spark hours of conversation at home. Parents, students, and teachers become part of a shared classroom experience.

Made with young learners in mind, Student Stories is incredibly easy to use. After a quick scan of a classroom QR code, students use a shared classroom iPad (Chromebooks and Androids coming soon!) to take photos or videos of their work and add a reflection or comment.

A simple tagging feature allows any student to add the work to their digital portfolio – along with others in the classroom for those projects done in groups. Nothing is saved or sent home without teacher approval, after which the images are instantly shared with parents wherever they are.

For more information on Student Stories, check out classdojo.com/studentstories. I think you, your students, and their parents are going to love it! And if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help 🙂

Until the next time,

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Failure to Connect or And You Wonder Why They Don’t Like You….

This post has been weighing on me for at least a week now.  As I’ve gotten angrier and angrier, I blamed myself – I should have NEVER engaged in a Facebook post, it’s only what I deserved.  The post, from a former coworker, insinuated that the #BlackLiveMatters movement was created on the basis of hate and that it will cause for America to be lawless, because in essence it was THOSE men’s fault that they were killed and we’re wrong for defending the bias and racism that initiated the initial action and subsequent reaction.

Last.straw.for.me.  I shared my feelings on the reality behind the movement, the fact that NOTHING those men did warranted the death penalty without judge and jury, and how black lives have not been valued for as long as we have been in this country. Slavery, Jim Crow, the influx of crack into black neighborhoods, anyone?

The response?  “As long as everyone stays calm and respectful, there shouldn’t be any problems”.  And I call straight up bull on that!  How long has this been the preference – the quiet negro….the mild negro…..the “go along to get along” negro….?  But what happens when enough is enough?

Meek Negro

Once the “Negro/Black Man/Person of Color” has had enough and initiates a movement, they are considered disrespectful, hate filled, dangerous.  Whatever happens – they “had it coming to them”, right? A comment on that particular post said this:

The whole reason the police were called is because a homeless man was asking Alton Sterling for money and he couldn’t give it to him.  Instead, he flashed his illegal gun.  So the homeless man had the cops called.  I bet now he wishes he had been a literal more generous with his CD money, or at the very least, been cooperative with the police.

Wait, what?  Alton Sterling didn’t want to give a homeless person money and he deserved the DEATH SENTENCE?? Seriously…..

In a state of denial, I asked a friend to look at the post.  I had to ask, was it just me?  Am I wrong in my thinking? Her response:

Well I’ll be!  And I’m not so ignorant to believe that everyone will understand our plight, but to be an educator and to have this mindset, let alone publicize it, parallels perfectly with her inability to have never been able to build a relationship with her students of color.

I immediately thought of this quote by the incomparable Rita Pierson from her 2013 TedTalk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion”.

Rita Pierson

If you refuse to understand your kids….if you refuse to empathize with them…make connections with them, what are you doing?  Why are you even here? Being an effective educator, no matter the race, color, or creed, depends on not only having a mastery of the subject matter but mastery of what it takes to build positive relationships. And as long as we make no effort to do better….be better – we are a part of the long suffering and corruptive system that all those years ago as pre-service teachers we passionately said we wanted to change. If you are going to do the work in those places, it is imperative that you understand the plight of children of color….children of poverty.  And not only understand it, but digest it, use it, believe in it to make this world a better place for us all.  Or, as a 50+ year sorority sister member said to us (in something totally related)….”Get the HELL out!”

Until the next time,

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We Gotta Wake Up Ya’ll!

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My heart is so heavy. So so heavy.  I’m emotionally….spiritually…..physically drained with the events that have transpired this week.  Last night I was so exhausted I couldn’t even talk….literally. I crawled in the bed and was asleep by 9:30.

On the way to work today, I was listening to the Steve Harvey Morning Show and there was an officer who was on as an interviewed guest. There was a question asked of him about things that could be done to better prepare officers so that they’re not afraid and don’t overreact when they encounter people of color.

Immediately I thought about a conversation I’d just had yesterday with a few colleagues of mine about teachers who are afraid and/or overreact when they deal with children of color. We talked about how sometimes people get into this profession for the wrong reasons, how frequently they’re ill equipped to handle difficult students who are not like them, how sometimes they become jaded and apathetic to the needs of children, or how truthfully…..I don’t even think they even LIKE kids.

The correlation between our conversation and that interview was startling! Do we all think that preparation programs (higher ed and police academy) do an effective job of getting these babies (and I mean no offense by that) ready for what they’ll encounter when they walk into that classroom, police car, office on their very first day? Heck No! They come in bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to change the world. And then that exuberance is beat out of them through the pressures of being overwhelmed and under supported, lack of mentoring, and sometimes being led astray by cynical colleagues who just don’t give a crap anymore.

But since these situations aren’t just happening with young fresh faced darlings, that cannot be the entire problem. So what’s really missing is tolerance, empathy, and a refusal to acknowledge our own biases. Someone shared a Facebook post where a teacher shared her passion and desire to teach her kids to be color blind. Frankly, that’s straight up bull. 9 times out of 10, race is the most effective way of identifying someone. No one should be afraid to say that someone is White or Black or Hispanic as a way to describe them. That’s NOT the problem. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, it’s not the fact that someone is a different color, race, or religion than us that’s the problem. It’s the biases that we associate with those differences that are the problem. It is unrealistic to say that we are completely unbiased. It is only when we acknowledge those biases and work towards changing them and healing our country.

Our country is in peril and we will all perish if we don’t work towards being better….each and every one of us.

Until the next time,

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The Revolution Will Be Periscoped (My Thoughts on #ISTE16)

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Photo by LatheeshMahe © CC BY-SA 4.0

Exciting….exhausting….empowering….are all words that I would use to describe my first ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference experience.  First of all, I think I bit off waaaay more than I could chew with my commitment to the ISTE Digital Equity PLN and my EdTech Coaches panel…plus my desire to DO IT ALL….attend every meeting, luncheon, breakfast, and meet-up planned for this amazing experience.  CRAZY!

As I’ve spent the past few days attempting to process my trip, I wavered on the focus for this post.  Should I talk about the meet ups and my sessions? Should I talk about my work with #ISTEDEPLN? Or should I talk about what’s been tugging at my heart strings since Tuesday?  My Tuesday  experiences are totally unrelated, yet significantly parallel activities – watching Jesse Williams’ BET Humanities Award speech that morning right before heading into the Keynote Address of Ruha Benjamin and the miraculous conversation that occurred with her, Rusula, Mustafa, and Ymasumac.

rhua convo

Anyone who knows me – knows that I have a weakness for the underdog. I’ve spent all my years in education in high poverty/low income schools where the odds are sometimes stacked impossibly high against them even before they exit the wombs of their mothers.  I know without a doubt this comes from growing up with parents who instilled in me a pride in who I am and the charge to make this world a better place.  My parents were activists in every sense of the word – my mother was actually arrested and imprisoned during the Civil Rights movement for her work while she was a student at Claflin.  Both of them were extremely active in our local NAACP, which meant that my brother and I were as well.  “Service and Equality for All” are words that I live by.  Action – Make this world a better place by being a better person.

Last Tuesday morning, I wasn’t sure if I was going to that morning’s keynote.  Most times I have difficulty focusing for that long – so why bother.  I sat downstairs in the lobby of a hotel waiting on a friend and as I was surfing through Facebook, I saw the link to Jesse Williams’ BET Award’s speech.  I had the time….so I clicked.  Oh  my gosh….I was blown away!

Now, this award – this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country – the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. – Jesse Williams (2016 BET Awards)

And after watching that….hearing that….digesting that…. I was compelled to go to that keynote. And I am so glad that I did.  To hear Hadi talk about Hour of Code and CS for All and then Levar Burton discuss the power or reading was powerful – but to hear Ruha……no words….none.

I was spellbound.  Her words were a direct connection to what I’d heard that morning and it deeply resonated with me.

Why is it that we can imagine building heart cells in a lab, but not empathy for others who are not like us?……..Children today live in parallel worlds where some are nurtured and others crushed. – Ruha Benhamin (#ISTE16 Keynote)

If you’re interested in reading the full transcript, click here.

Later in the day, still pumped up from the keynote, I found out that my sweet friend Rusul was granted the opportunity to Periscope Ruha. I IMMEDIATELY sent her a message.

Me:  You’re interviewing Ruha tonight? Are groupies welcome?

Rusul:  You can join us!

DAY MADE!

That conversation and the subsequent periscope in that nondescript restaurant was EVERYTHING to me.  Ruha’s words, quickly gathered after two hours of us just talking about our place in this world….our responsibility to make it a better place, was so powerful the sky opened up.  Seriously.  A quickly passing thunderstorm showered rain and hail down abundantly.  For real.

My heart was so full after that and I was armed with a newfound strength to do what my parents, my mentors, my family and friends expected of me….change the world.  Not to get bogged down in the logistics of devices, tech tools, and help desk issues – but to focus on how I can use my influence to provide a better world for our children!

Whether you’ve been actually verbally told that or not…..I believe that we have a responsibility to make this world a better place than it was when we entered it.  And whether we want to believe it or not….in some ways….in so many ways – it’s not.  We can no longer put our heads in the sand….

As Jesse so eloquently stated….

Now… I got more y’all – yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that toEric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.
Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money – that alone isn’t gonna stop this. Alright, now dedicating our lives, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.

Or should I say…..badges on our profile?

Until the next time,

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