The summer of 2015, the weather in Kansas City had been unsettling. Thunderstorm and tornado warnings have become a daily ritual. Thousands have suffered many summer days without power due to the inclement weather.
After a huge storm, I went to an IHOP restaurant for breakfast. The restaurant was packed to the gills at 7a.m., which is pretty early for a weekday morning.
As I walked in and took my place in the waiting area, I noticed an older caucasian gentleman wearing a LSU tigers t-shirt. Immediately I asked him how he thinks the Tigers were going to do this upcoming season. This one question sparked up a conversation that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
The gentleman went into why he thinks the Tigers were going to have a great season and how much he loved Louisiana. He talked about having family there and the southern hospitality that he has experienced which keeps him visiting several times a year. Next he asked if I was an LSU fan and I explained to him that I really am a fan of one of their biiter rivals. We laughed about it when the waitress came up and told him that his table was ready. He asked me to join him for breakfast and I did.
Unsure what made me so comfortable with this stranger that I never met but our conversation was chicken soup for the soul. He was a heart surgeon at one of the best heart hospitals in the country.
We talked about his career and his family. He was on his way to work on his vacation home that he and his wife were building in a small town a few hours outside of the city. We also talked about my family and career and ho We also talked about my family and career and how family is so important.
Three hours later, we decided to part ways as our one day friendship ended. You just never know what life has in store for you. That day, was one of the best ones.
This blog post was originally written July 10, 2015
Last school year, I met an intelligent, creative, and capable, 2nd grade black girl. She was inquisitive and wise way beyond her years. I figured from her conversation that she was a young girl that by circumstance, had to deal with some very adult situations. She missed days of school often but would always catch up her work when she returned.
In the spring of the year, she walked into my class with her head down. I knew something was wrong as this proud black girl always walked into class with a smile. As the rest of the class entered the room, I pulled her aside to check on her well-being.
She began to cry as I asked what her issue was. She told me that this was going to be her last day of school because she was being "put out" of our school by the administration because of her inconsistent attendance. Shaken by the news, I held it together and gave her a hug. I gave her my personal cell phone number and told her that if she ever wanted to talk she could call me anytime.
A month or so later, in the middle of the school day, I recieved a call from her. I took the call in the middle class expressing to her how much she was missed and that I would call her after class. We spoke briefly and she told me the name of the new school she was attending.
The next school year, I took a new position at the Board of Education in the school district that she was attending. I looked her up only to find out she was at a school that was 2 minute drive from my job. I got the email address of her teacher and I explained to her new teacher who I was and that I would like to come up to the school to have lunch with the student. The teacher thought it was a good idea so I explained to her that I would email her to make sure that the student was at school on the day that I chose to have lunch with her.
I went to the school and waited for her to come down the hall. When she saw me, her face lit up like a child who sees all the presents left for them on Christmas morning. We hugged and had lunch in the school cafeteria. I told her that I would come to her school for lunch once a month just to check and see how she was doing. Our once a month lunch dates brings joy to us both. We laugh, sometimes cry, and sometimes we just eat in each others company.
There are so many children that just want a trusted adult to communicate with. Sometimes they just want someone to listen. Just think if we all took an hour a month to just hang out with a child to see life through their eyes. It could make an immeasurable difference in the lives of our children.
With this being the first day of the year, I implore those who are able to take some time out to just communicate with a child. Leave your electronic devices in your purse or pocket and gaze into their eyes. Let them know that they are special.
Originally posted on 1/1/2017
First published July 7, 2017 on LinkedIn
Knowing that I was going to ISTE for several months in advance allowed me to do some research on what would be the best game plan to get the most out of the conference. I joined a group on the social media platform Voxer called Edumatch which included many technology professionals and educators who were ISTE Conference veterans.
Edumatch is a group of professionals from authors, teachers, to entrepreneurs, who are passionate about technology. Each member is matched up with professionals with the same interest. Also, many of the Edumatch group members are co-authors of a book called Snapshot in education 2016. Edumatch hosted a meet-up on the first day of the conference. This meetup allowed me to meet “techies” from all over the world who provided advice on which sessions to go to and how to approach the expo hall.
After the meetup, many of the Edumatch group members were ignite speakers. Ignite speakers gave 5-minute mini-sessions on what they were passionate about. These sessions were especially important because a quick snapshot of many different aspects of technology and education were presented.
The digital Tote - My most beneficial takeaway
It is ultimately impossible to see and do everything at ISTE. It is like trying to see all of Disney World in one day. However, ISTE found a clever way to make sure each attendee had a chance to learn from each session even if the attendee could not physically do so. Each presentation was added to the ISTE conference website with a link called the Digital Tote. Each attendee could add their preferred presentations to their own digital tote to look over at their leisure.
I thought the digital tote idea would be an excellent way for employees to retrieve training materials from our website and beyond. Let’s say a presentation is given by the board or the superintendent which contained “how to” information in regards to any subject. Employees could have real-time access to the information which the link would automatically add the information to their own Google drive. This gives the user the flexibility.
Google Applications for Project Management
On Wednesday, I presented at the Leadership Playground on how Google Applications can be used for project management. I explained to the audience how the applications were used to run our 2017 summer school session. I received feedback from attendees of the session on how they could use the Google tools in their school districts as well. Also, there were discussions on updates to some of the applications that were showcased during the conference itself. For example, while presenting on how Google Drive can be used as filing system; one of the attendees described a new update called Google Team Drive. Google Team Drive allows each member of a team to add their information into a team drive, however, if one of the team members leaves the organization, their work still remains in the team drive.
The Conference Buzzwords “Personal, Branding, and Badging”
With so many conference attendees, it was hard to imagine that one of the buzzwords would be “personal”. With so many tools to use and so any speakers to follow and so many things to learn, each person must decide what is best for them. I thought this concept would work well with our employees. Give the employees many different options on learning and allow them to choose what works best for them. For instance, new employees receive a maximum of 3 hours training on our student information system. Creating an online classroom for the employees to sharpen their skills could be one option. Also spending a day on site at schools to give staff one on one training is another personal training option.
Another buzzword was branding. Education has fallen hard for marketing in the 21st century. With the superpowers of social media and the competition of charters and private schools, public school systems are working hard to brand themselves. I believe that all our employees should go through a course on social media branding. In today’s world, this could be life or death of a school system. This avenue gives all stakeholders a voice and allows us to give positive information to the public which has been missing for so many years in our district.
Badging has become huge in education. Tell me one person who learns something that doesn’t get that adrenalin rush of accomplishment? Badging allows learners to show off what they have learned in ways that before the Internet wasn't even imagined. I am going to work on setting up a badging system within our district online learning plan. This will allow the employee to show what they have learned with their colleagues, their professional learning networks, and on social media.
A Great Experience
The ISTE experience had been on my bucket list for several years. I had heard about it while working on my EdTech Master’s degree through a professor. Although overwhelming, it was an eye-opening experience that I will be able to use within our district immediately.
My first task is to create interactive training experiences for all employees. I want each trainee to not only learn from the training but to enjoy the experience so much that they thirst for more. Secondly, I will build a professional learning network with my district itself. Currently, I have an online learning network of over 1,150 professionals on Twitter and 1,400 on Linkedin from all over the world. Now I would like to create a local tribe with at least one employee and one student from every school, one board member, a minimum of 5 parents, a minimum of 2 community groups or businesses, and every cabinet member. Third, I will dive deeper into the knowledge base on badging as I see this could be a game changer for our employees. Lastly, I would like for the district learning network to attend ISTE 2018 in Chicago. The team could present on how our local tribe was formed and the programs and services that were created with the tribe.
Published on LinkedIn July 17, 2017
Sometimes we must check out to check-in. Drop everything and take some time to do absolutely nothing. I decided last week that I needed some time to do just that. First, I took 3 days of vacation from work. I knew that this was going to be tough. After the first day of periodically checking my email, I gradually began to let go of my work responsibilities. STOP!
Second, I turned off my phone. This was as fibrous as number one but I knew that it was necessary for me to actually relax.
STOP!Third, I binge watched television. I watched documentaries, baseball, and even a smidge of reality television (which I mostly loathe). HBO is showing The Defiant Ones, a documentary about Dr. Dre. and Jimmy Lovine and how their determination and innovation defined an era. An amazing work of art.
Next, I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up George Couro's An Innovator's Mindset. I challenged myself to read the book without taking notes. I needed to enjoy the moment. Finally, I went swimming. I love to swim or shall I say float. I laid on my back, sunglasses on, while baking in the summer heat.
Taking time to rejuvenate is paramount to your well being. It was grueling to unplug but once it was done, I found it so refreshing. It was like taking a camping trip within your own domain. Mellow time. Relaxing time. Staycation time. Me time is required.
I'm refreshed, replenished, and determined to "adult". Work hard at work, work harder at home, and marry the two like soulmates. My mind is clear, my body is rested, and my soul has been reset. I am ready to tackle the week like a linebacker.