As Good As Your Team

I’ve been in my new role in my district for 4 months now. The fastest 4 months of my life. I’m learning lots and it’s happening multiple times a day. I’ve asked lots of questions and I’ve taken more handwritten notes than I have in years. It’s been great and I’m very thankful for being where I am.

Whenever someone asks me how things are going, these are some of the most common responses they usually hear from me. One thing I make sure of is letting others know how fortunate I am to have inherited such a great team. Now, this isn’t a touchy-feely post about how awesome my team is. Don’t get me wrong, they’re awesome, but that’s not the point of my writing. I still have plenty (and I mean plenty) to learn about the roles and duties of my position along with many more technology-related acronyms. 🙂 Also, I have much yet to learn about how to be a good leader. It’s something I will always keep learning about.

In my short time in my new role, I’ve come to discover, that the true earmark of good leadership is directly related to the team that you serve. I am only as good as my team. They teach me every day. I represent them just as much as they represent me. Whether it’s a tech department, a curriculum team, or the staff at a school, we’re truly better together than we ever could be apart. We need to remember this now more than ever. Our people and our functioning as a team are always worth investing our time and resources in.

My favorite Guardian of the Galaxy sums it up best: “We are Groot.”.

picture of baby groot in a flower pot
https://www.flickr.com/people/chrisandholley/

 

The Way ISTE Should Be Attended #iste17 #iste18

How do you think we build a future? I think we build it by investing in our kids and investing in education.
~Elizabeth Warren

Everyone has now returned from the beautiful chaos that is ISTE. I’ve been to ISTE several times now, and it still feels just as massive as the first time. However, this year was different in one big way. How was it different you ask? No, it wasn’t a product or app that I saw, it wasn’t a vendor party, and it wasn’t a particular presenter (way too many great ones to list anyway).

This is the first time I’ve attended ISTE as part of a group from my school district. In the past, I’ve always gone as just me; I attended on my own. This year, however, I was fortunate enough to attend with 10 other fantastic educators from my district. Our Director of Curriculum, one of our instructional technology coaches, 6 high school teachers, and 2 middle school teachers. This is a really great group with a great desire to be better for kids and a desire to help their colleagues be better too. It was such a pleasure to help them experience their first ISTE and learn from so many of my excellent friends. I was able to hear about their excitement first hand after listening to my friend Jennie give a standing ovation-worthy keynote, I watched them post selfies with other presenters that I knew they’d love learning from. I felt like a proud parent! 🙂

I just kept thinking, “Every person that attends ISTE should get to attend this way.”. I know many do, but I also know many that wish they could. That’s not to say attending solo cannot be impactful; just want to make sure that’s clear. And yes, many have a tribe of people that they only see at ISTE each year that they’ve become connected to through Twitter, blogging, and other connected means. Those connections are important too and a huge part of who I am. I love getting to see so many amazing friends that live all over the world…it’s the nicest feeling ever!

However, if you work for a school or a district and you have the means to take a group, please do it. Take your district leaders, school leaders, and certainly your teachers. As many as you can take. Plan now for 2018. It’s worth the investment I promise.

ISTE 2018 in Chicago

Growing People Change People

I often see this question in Twitter chats, in keynotes, or when it’s asked of esteemed panelists: “How do we create real, systemic change in education?”.

While I’ve never thought there was one clear answer to this question; one particular action or formula that could solve all the problems in education, I do believe that people (as in you and I and every other education Bonsai plant picturestakeholder) have all the power to make the changes that need to be made for our students. The power lies with us. We should never underestimate the power of a group of people who are well-informed about the possibilities available to our students.

Think about it this way. What if every person that attended a conference, went to an edcamp, participated in a Twitter chat, etc. committed to sharing 1 new idea with just 1 person? Then the 1 person they told commits to sharing with 1 person, and so on and so on. While your school or district likely sees the value in participating in professional learning opportunities, do they see (and hold teachers accountable to) the value of sharing out what has been learned? Not just creating reflection around how it will help me as a teacher, but looking deeper at how it will help me help others.

Just like we should be personalizing and differentiating learning for students, I wholeheartedly believe teachers should get the same in their professional learning. While I’m sure there’s more work to do in that specific area, I think a lot of systems are seeing the value and starting to provide a wider variety of options, particularly self-directed ones. However, we must make a more concerted plan of how our learning is not only going to affect our teaching and learning but how it could affect all teaching and learning. We need to lean more on our own people and empower them to spread their genius to all stakeholders.