Adding value to others – the innovative educators all around us

George Couros (georgecouros.ca) has had so much influence on my life and career in education. Risk. Innovation. Mindset. Inspiring others. All of these are traits that Couros lives and breathes through his speeches, blogs, tweets and presentations. #OneVoice: George Couros at TedX BurnsvilleED

It’s not a secret that George is my inspiration for ramping up my blogging to the next level after his presentation on portfolio blogging at our school district’s 2016 Fall Convergence Symposium at NC State University. https://brendanfetters.com/2016/12/03/blogging-2-0-taking-the-leap/

Upon recently reading George’s book The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity it’s even more evident that in all aspects of Mr. Couros’ life as an educator of all walks, teacher, principal, speaker — he lives and breathes connections, relationships, positivity and most of all innovation.  One of the most inspirational quotes from the book to me is  “What I care about is that kids are inspired to be better people because of their experiences in my school.” How simple, yet powerful that is. So true though, right?

Recently, George Couros explained a powerful story referenced in the book in greater detail about the power of innovation regarding an Uber experience before, then after a conference. To say this example of innovation is powerful is a significant understatement. Developing “The Innovator’s Mindset” – The Connection Between Innovation and Being an Artist

I’ve been blessed to have district colleagues and members of my Professional Learning Network who have truly helped me #BecomeBetter. We all have strengths in weaknesses in not only our career but in life as well. We all fail. Learning from those failures are what make us stronger. With a strong network both near and far that’s where the growth and often “magic” happens in response to those failures. Leadership expert John Maxwell summed it up best with this quote:

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Taking risks and being innovative is one thing but it’s made easier when you have professionals around you who push to strive for greatness always and look to inspire the same out of others.

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A few times a year I gather with these significant people. All are fellow district employees from various walks. All have their own unique gifts and talents. Some I connect with on the regular more than others. However breaking bread a few times a year at least is powerful. Going above and beyond what is “mandatory” when we discuss articles and books we’ve recently read, blogs we’ve written, conferences we plan to attend, etc. and most of all what we’ve learned from the these and how we can grow together to #BecomeBetter. Powerful.

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These significant educators add much value to my life. I first connected with Barrett Royal (@Grade1Royal_ty) several years ago when she student taught at my previous school during my administrative internship. I had never seen such a motivated, talented and inspiring student teacher. Miss Royal was a natural. We’re blessed to have her in our district now as a first grade teacher. I’ve always believed in her and have kept in touch. Recently visiting her school I made sure to stop by and sure enough she inspired me with her “I believe in you” written and verbally stated culture around the classroom. So genuine. I’m so proud of her growth and now learning from her. Inspiring.

Juliette Kuhn (@jawkuhn) is the ITF (instructional technology facilitator) at Barrett’s school and a dear friend of mine. One of my top go-tos for tech issues in our district and also a great supporter who keeps me grounded. Both of these ladies add significant value to my life and are always innovative. They inspire me and so many around their building with their desire to grow as educators while spreading positivity.

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Two of my favorite educators in our district – Michael Parker West (@mikeaustinwest) and Renee White (@RaRaPenguin) have so much energy and thirst for educational knowledge. They both inspire me daily and I’ve been blessed to co-present with them several times sharing our collective passion and knowledge with educators of all walks and levels. They are both significant, innovative and certainly add value to my life.

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Passion, innovation and being a true life-long learner is one thing but these significant people possess that but also have the “nuts and bolts” down. Sometimes we don’t have all the answers. Whether things are coming from the state or our district or I just want to bounce ideas I might have I know my IRT colleague Amanda Nichols (@afnichols86) will always have great insight or can at least steer me in the right direction. At the central office level I can always call on Tonia Parrish or Shawn Johnson (@tonia_parrish and @ShawnJohn_1974) These friends in education certainly help me #BecomeBetter and I try my best to return the favor always. I value each of them greatly and they certainly add value not only to me but to so many educators in our district and beyond.

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I’ve learned so much from this leader. Mr. Shane Barham (@ShaneBarham1976) was principal at Wendell Creative Arts and Science Elementary for 7 years before being tapped to open the brand new Rogers Lane Elementary in our district. While he is no longer my direct supervisor, I keep in touch and certainly value his leadership. In my year and 1/2 under him I learned so much about being a reflective listener when it comes to leading and life. Wonderful person who I’m so blessed to have worked and learned from directly. I’m better because of him there is no question.

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Allison Stewart (@allisunrae) and Rachel Lawrence (@Tchr_RachelM) are extremely innovative middle school Science teachers in our district. Both of these ladies helped me get introduced to the EdCamp movement several years which I’m now a firm believer in. They pushed me when I was reluctant and have now become dear friends in education. Their passion and pursuit of greatness in their students and peers alike is so inspirational. I’m grateful for both of them.

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Ryan McLane (@McLane_Ryan) and Eric Lowe (@Ericlowe21) are two educational leaders from my native Ohio. Both of these men were doing amazing things with school promotion. I was amazed from afar hearing and seeing what they’re doing through their social media posts and videos. Their book Your School Rocks tells their story and then some and it truly kicked my school promotion ideas and innovation up a few notches. I appreciate these gentlemen. I’m lucky enough to sometimes catch up with them face to face while visiting family in Ohio — usually at Blue Jackets home games as in the photo above.

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Of all the innovative educators I’ve worked and/or connected with over the years – Chas Miller tops the list. (@ChasTweets) I was fortunate enough to teach under Mr. Miller several years and also do my administrative internship with him. One of the most global and forward thinking leaders I’ve ever met. Chas was always 3-4 years ahead of the curve. While Mr. Miller took his educational leadership talents to the state of Washington we stay connected through Twitter and beyond and I’ve shared his genius with several of my colleagues at the district level. His impact on my career is immeasurable and I’m forever grateful for his nudging me into leadership roles which I now embrace with open arms.

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I could go on for hours with many other people in education and beyond have added value to my life and career. As Dr. Maxwell says “Opportunity is a series of doors…” now how will react when opportunity knocks? It’s always better when we surround ourselves with those who are innovative and make us strive to #BecomeBetter. Don’t you think? Look around you – there are innovative educators all around us, find them. Learn, grow, share, repeat.

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Blogging 2.0 – taking the leap!

After wrestling with blogging for nearly a year I finally took the leap in the summer of 2016, when so much interest among fellow educators throughout our district and state wanted to hear my connectivity journey through Twitter. I finally decided I wanted to blog about a story I had verbally told countless times. Already an ASCD member (www.ascd.org and @ASCD) I took the next step of blogging on their ASCD Edge blog post platform – one that several friends in education, notably Dr. Steven Weber (@curriculumblog) and Mr. Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) had utilized for some time, and encouraged me to utilize.

After that first post,  The Power of Twitter, being and connected educator and the PLN on my career, I started to blog here and there once a month or so, often after being encouraged by others in my PLN, but always on the same platform. I was enjoying the occasional blog post on ASCD Edge, but was remaining stagnate in terms of my overall growth as a learner and educator in this domain. I needed a change but didn’t truly realize it.

Fast forward to last this past week. I’m blessed to work in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) the largest school district in North Carolina and very progressive in terms of new concepts, ideas and innovative thinking within education. Every fall and spring, WCPSS holds a Convergence Symposium at the McKimmon Center at NC State University. This is a conference event held over two days with an opening and closing keynote address. The keynotes often hold a few sessions as well. Think smaller level of NCties on the state level or ISTE on the national level regarding what this conference is like. Edu tech and media services are the primary targets so every tech facilitator both school and district based is invited along with media. Additionally classroom teachers, administrators and other stakeholders in our district are often invited along with a handful of out of district guests in education. For the past two years, I’ve been fortunate to attend and also present at both fall and spring editions of the WCPSS Convergence Symposium. 15220046_10154486311260804_4758858825984773281_n

This year, I was excited to present in three sessions with some of my biggest edu heroes in our district: Mrs. Melanie Farrell (@MelanieCFarrell), the above mentioned Mr. Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra), Dr. Sandy Chambers (@DrSandyChambers), Mr. Michael Parker West (@mikeaustinwest), Mrs. Renee White (@RaRaPenguin) and Mr. Phil Echols (@PhilEchols) all of these wonderful educators in our district are vital to my PLN and certainly recommend following on Twitter if you aren’t already.

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Going into this year’s Convergence, aside from presenting material on a large level, I was most excited about day 2 out of the gate. This was the day one of my biggest heroes in education was presenting, George Couros. (http://georgecouros.ca/blog/ and @gcouros) While George was presenting three sessions Wednesday, I knew I would only be able to attend his final presentation since his first two conflicted with sessions I was presenting in. However, his final presentation before his closing keynote address was one I couldn’t wait to hear. Blogging. Yes, I knew, thought didn’t verbally admit it, I was stalling in my blogging movement and desperately  needed to hear Couros’ message considering he’s quite the edu blogger. Did. He. Ever. Deliver. A few days later, I’ve created a WordPress account, upgraded to a personal account, and have shifted from being isolated to having my own blog and domain. Yes, Couros’ session sparked all of that (along with powerful lunch conversations with many of the above mentioned plus post conference discussions all about blogging next steps.)

This is where it all began. In a packed room at WCPSS Convergence. Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 30, 2016 Throughout George Couros’ presentation on blogging my head could barely contain it all. I had moved past the fact that despite being a life long Alberta resident, Couros was far more into NFL and NBA than the NHL, hence our limited conversation about hockey, which was a bit of a downer, though I digress. So much information was being tossed around though in that 45 minute, information and energy packed session, I knew it wasn’t a question of if I was going to take my blogging to the next level but when. After his session had concluded and we chatted about the day so far over lunch with a group of 30 or so connected educators from our district and beyond over Amedeo’s down the street https://twitter.com/edtechtom/status/804017450962583553 blogging took center stage of the conversation for nearly all of us present.

By the time George Couros started his closing keynote address Wednesday afternoon, I knew I was ready to “blog 2.0” as I began to refer to this “next step” in my blogging adventure.

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His closing keynote was so strong, so empowering, I knew that my inevitable when with blogging 2.0 was coming even sooner.

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In short, while my 2016 WCPSS Fall Convergence Symposium experience was one of the highlights of my career in education thus far because of the lasting impact of George Couros’ words, message and our conversations I would be neglecting the power of my PLN both in our district and beyond if I didn’t mention their lasting vital impact. Not only the above mentioned co-presenters but also “my tribe” pictured below and all by folks I’ve connected with through EdCamps around the state, district level meetings, Twitter, Voxer, etc. Your impact on my career has been and continues to be invaluable.

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In the words of another one of my true educational heroes, Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) #YouMatter. (Which coincidentally is a central theme in one of our presentations at Convergence and will be presented again at the 2017 NCties Conference in Raleigh.)

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Here is to my wonderful PLN, George Couros, Angela Maiers and so many who have contributed in my ongoing effort to #BecomeBetter and make the leap from entry level blogging to “2.o” I truly appreciate all of you more than you’ll ever realize.

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