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.
Published on LinkedIn February 5, 2017
There are many reasons to live in the Paris of the Plains; cost of living, beautiful parks, plenty of space, and Arts that rival larger cities. Kansas City is an ideal location for growing families. However, for the last 30 years, there has been one huge boulder of a problem within its urban core; the Kansas City Missouri School District. Due to the revolving door of superintendents, careless spending, and low test scores, the school district has had a bad reputation for numerous years.
In its heyday of the early 1970's, the Kansas City Missouri School District housed a large African-American population with schools that were busting at the seams with students. At that time, most African-American families lived within the urban core and black communities were filled with hard working families.
As the school system deteriorated and real estate opportunities began to open for minorities to purchase homes in surrounding suburbs, African-Americans began the mass exodus of leaving the urban core for greener pastures. School districts like Hickman Mills, Raytown, and North Kansas City began to grow exponentially.
The golden age of the suburbs brought African-Americans in droves to outlying areas leaving those remaining within the urban core to deal with failing schools, crime, and drugs. Homes within the core were being taken by the city if a home was considered a "drug house". Those homes were later boarded up or demolished leaving entire city blocks full of uninhabited homes.
As the city looks to turn the corner by building up its downtown and schools within the core beginning to rebound to accredidation; the inner city of Kansas City has become precious land. LandTrust has gobbled up abandoned properties along with wealthy businessmen to sale homes to gain huge profits. With this growing trend, many "well-to-do" suburbanites are selling their homes for the "urban scheik" city that many African-Americans gave away for pennies on the dollar.
I sometimes wonder what would it have been like if our community would have stayed within our own community. Would it have taken 30 years to get our schools back on track? Would Blue Springs win countless football titles and Ray South win countless basketball titles without the help of those student athletes whose families uprooted from the urban core?
As I look at my "suburbafied" sons that get disgusted with me everytime I tell them that I am looking to buy a home within the urban core, I wonder if I should have raised them within the city limits. Now my sons did get a top notch public school education but I often wonder if they really got what they needed to be successful in a country who's racial timebomb is ticking.
This time of year, my work life becomes fast-paced to an almost choatic level. Tempers get shorter with every passing email, minutes fly by as fast as Yusain Bolt, and preparing for professional development takes stress levels to unbelievable highs.
My team and I had mapped out a plan of times to meet to finish prepping for upcoming trainings. All week, something would come up and our collaboration time became shorter and shorter. Today was the last day to prepare for a streak of professional development sessions that will continue up to the first week of school. My team planned to meet the entire day to make sure our PD was flawless.
That didn't happen.
The morning got away from us and we only had the afternoon to put the finishing touches on our PD. One of my coworkers texted me to see if we could meet at another location as we had planned so we would not be disturbed. I agreed and told him that I was on my way.
I got in my car and headed towards our meeting place. As I drove, I heard an advertisement come on the radio. It was a construction company in the area that was sponsoring a job fair today. As a matter of fact, the job fair was taking place right at that moment.
At the stop light, I thought about my 17 year old sleeping beauty. I called him but he didn't answer. I knew that my youngest son was at home enjoying a deep slumber in the middle of the summer. I called him a second time and he answered sleepily. I told him to get dressed and I would be there shortly to pick him up.
Making a u-turn, I headed to pick up my son. I texted my team to let them know I would meet them in an hour and continued to pick up my boy. Once I got home, I explained to my son where we were going.
The experience was one that neither one of us will ever forget.
The job fair was filled with different union tradesmen who gave my son so much information on careers that he can walk right into as soon as he finished his high school diploma. The motto of the job fair was "Earn While You Learn" which stuck with me and my son. Each trade had a starting pay of $16 or more. The pay increases by on the job and free classroom training to amounts over 75,000 a year within 3 years of starting the program.
To see my son walk up to these tradesmen and give them a firm handshake, eye contact, and ask them questions about their career choices touched me. I knew at that moment that he is ready to make informed decisions on what he wants to do as a career.
I was always taught that college was what you needed in order to be able to make enough money to provide for your family. I have learned that college is not a one size fits all program. There are many trades that pay as much or more as college degree programs.
Although work can be stressful and demanding, we must always remember that family come first. It is so easy to get so caught up in deadlines and expectations, especially when you love your career.
I Love What I Do But I Love My Family More.
The 1980's had its share of scary movies. A nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween were huge box office smashes. Although those movies were considered frightening, I never felt that way about them. Those movies were filled with situations that could never happen in real life.
The first time I truly was scared from watching a movie was 1985. The movie was spine-chilling,bloodcurdling,and alarming. The Atlanta Child Murders was a mini-series that told the story of 28 black children/young adults that were killed in Atlanta, Georgia between 1979 and 1981. I was around the age thosse kids. That movie shook me to my core. After watching The Atlanta Child Murders, I had sleeples nights from the nightmares of someone picking me up while I was asleep, removing from my home and then killing me. It's been over 30 years since a movie/mini-series shook me like the Atlant Child Murders Miniseries did.
The Netflix original mini-series, When They See Us took me back to those sleepless nights I had after watching the Atlanta Child Murders mini-series. When They See Us is the story of 5 Black and Latino boys that were falsely accused of raping a White woman in Central Park. The boys ranged in ages from 14 to 16 and served years in prison. Known today as The Exonerated Five, their stories were unfathomable, creepy, eerie, and shocking.
I didn't have sleepless nights watching this series but their stories resonated with me. The Exonerated 5 made me want to learn more about what to do if you are ever in police custody. It also made me think about how we need to do a better job teaching students what their rights are and why it is important to know them.
The journey of life always keeps me teaching and learning even when the subject matter is unnerving.
As a mother of 4 sons who are pretty much grown, I rarely see them on a daily basis. With their work schedules, school schedules, or just kickin' it schedules, Momma is usually not in the equation.
I miss 'em.
I miss those days of sitting on hard benches watching football games, creating raps for school talent shows, playing board games, and taking turns choosing the music as we cleaned up the house on Saturday mornings.
In order to keep up with my boys in this age of living 1ife 100 miles per hour, I had a thought, "What can I do to see them all at one time at least once a week?" As my brain began to churn, I thought about those $300 weekly grocery bills I use to have. "Yep, food is how I can get to them".
I texted them all and told them that we would be having Sunday dinner at 2pm the next week. Seconds later, my phone began to buzz as they all agreed that they would be there.
That was a year ago.
Sunday dinner in the Cook household has now become LAW. That moment when the spread is on the table and our hands interlock to pray is golden. Our time together may be as short as an hour or it may go on for the rest of the evening but what I do know is it's time well spent.
The summer of 1985 was amazing Michael Jordan was named rookie of the year, Microsoft launched the first version of Windows, and my cousin, who came to visit for the summer from Mississippi Valley State introduced me to LL Cool J’s Radio Album.
That was the year that I fell in love with Hip Hop.
“ The momentum of this party, will only increase, the design of this rhyme is a masterpiece.” LL’s strong voice mixed with a heavy downbeat was the perfect storm.
As I listened, I knew that this was something that I wanted to do. I grabbed my notebook and pen and began to write rhymes down. Countless hours were spent in my bedroom creating lyrics over instrumentals.
Friday nights at Bannister Mall was the place to be if you were a teenager in KC. Dipped in my pink Levi’s with white Levi jean jacket, Adidas Cortez ( with no shoestrings of course), and my Swatch watch to top it all off, I would float down the halls of the mall with my friends; Shonette and Neecy.
As we were walking out of the mall to leave, we noticed a group of teenagers in a circle laughing and clapping. The closer we got to the group I could here “Oohs” and “Ahhs” as two boys were battle rappin’. I listened closely as the two went toe to toe but in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to give it a try.
How I entered the contest is fuzzy as it has been a few years, however, what I do remember is words floating out of my mouth like magic. The crowd hung on my every word as hot 16’s flowed from me like a rolling river.
I ran into an old friend a couple of years ago who witnessed this battle and he exclaimed, “Andie, you were way before your time.” I thought about his words and for a long while I thought he was right, but now I know he was wrong.
At 48, I have realized that my time is now.
Today, I have the golden opportunity to remix my love of Hip Hop with Technology and Teaching. I am flying to New York City to create, critically think, communicate, and collaborate with like-minded individuals from around the globe at the #HipHopEd Conference.
My goal is to gather as much information that I can to build a Hip Hop Makerspace. This space would include a music and video studio in every middle and high school within our district. The Hip Hop Makerspace would give our students a safe space that they can unapologetically be themselves. Why not teach them through a lense that they can relate to? Every subject can be integrated with this tool.
Although my path did not take me down the road of Roxanne Roxanne (that’s for you “old heads”), Eve, Nikki, or Cardi, combining my passions will allow me to do something much greater; change the world for the next generation.