2017 in review: No longer “unwritten.” (#OneWord2018: confidence)

One year ago I was in an interesting place within my career. I was humming right along as an elementary curriculum coach. I knew deep down it was time for a change of pace, scenery, and perhaps position. My beloved principal, Mr. Barham, had just left my school to open a brand new school in our district which intensified this need for a change. While 2016 had been a banner year personally and professionally, 2017 was truly unwritten which is why choosing that as my #OneWord2017 was such a breeze.

My path professionally in 2017 started to shift from being unwritten to in progress very quickly. Early in the year, along with my good friends Renee White and Michael Parker West co-presented two sessions at the NCties conference in Raleigh. Taking the leap from the district convergence symposium to presenting at the largest education conference in the state. Learning and growing indeed. 

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Later that very month, Mr. West and I co-organized the spring edition of #EdCampWake. The two of us spearheaded many new an innovative features within our local EdCamp including inviting the Wendell Middle step team, area high school jazz band and having two educational authors Google Hangout from Ohio in one of the sessions. All and all a lot of planning but a most successful day.

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The biggest piece to the formerly unwritten puzzle was taking the leap when opportunity knocked. Being in my comfort zone within the elementary setting my entire career was something I was ready to change when the right opportunity knocked. It might have been well into 2016-17 but it happened. The door opened, I explored, and took the leap. Haven’t looked back and continue to be so grateful for the opportunity Mrs. MacWilliams provided. Another giant leap in long history of risks but this was near the top. https://brendanfetters.com/2017/03/25/walking-the-talk-taking-leaps-of-faith-to-achieve-personal-and-professional-growth/

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As referenced in the post above the song below by Nashville recording artist Lionel Cartwright has always been a motivator for me whenever life throws a challenge and it certainly came through yet again.

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As I continued to grow as a learner and leader I took on a new role and cherished the opportunity to experience the ISTE conference with colleagues in San Antonio which provided several days of intense learning and relationship building with peers.

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One of my proudest moments this year occurred when several building peers participated in Racial Equity Institute training which led to the creation our school’s equity team work I’m extremely passionate about. Love that so many on our faculty are embracing the uncomfortable and engaging in this powerful work. https://brendanfetters.com/2017/09/23/the-other-side-building-capacity-within-embracing-the-uncomfortable/

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Besides expanding my role as leader within the school and district I also continue to grow my work with education policy. Always aiming to build capacity in others in and around education in this powerful work. 2017 saw a lot of growth in both of these areas.

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In order to make an impact you have to at least leave the sideline. https://brendanfetters.com/2017/12/17/get-informed-leave-the-sideline-take-a-seat-at-the-table/

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22179720_1477488702342433_5502877955342734371_oIn recognition of 2017 all the trials and triumphs its now time to look ahead to 2018. What’s my #OneWord2018? Confidence. This has to be ongoing — even when the times get rocky. If there is one this 2017 taught me personal and professional growth can happen, but even quicker with ongoing confidence. With confidence, never arrogance, even greater things will happen both personally and professionally – mark it down. Here is to 2018.

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Risk rewarded – raising the bar with #EdCampWake

About three years ago, the great Steven Weber  encouraged me to attend my first EdCamp. I had heard of the concept but wasn’t really sure what it was about, but knowing Steven was a fan encouraged me to at least check it out. After all, it was free PD, and local. So I stopped by the Friday Institute for a few hours to check it out. What a unique concept – an unconference. I really didn’t know what was going on initially but I liked it – and did a lot of listening. I could only attend in the morning but knew I would be attending more in the near future.

From that point on I became hooked and have been to roughly 10 EdCamps around North Carolina traveling to Charlotte, Salisbury, and various locations within the Raleigh/Durham area. A few years ago our district (Wake County Public School System) began hosting EdCamp Wake at our central office. It was good but having the event in an office building chipped away at some of the “organic” feel to the traditional school EdCamp setting. With the district’s blessing, this past fall Kyle Hamstra and Melanie Farrell had the bi-annual event shifted to the campuses of Davis Drive Middle and Davis Drive Elementary. Not only had Kyle and Melanie managed to move the event from central office to a school they pulled it off as a “hybrid” having some sessions in the middle school and afternoon sessions in the elementary next year. Outside the box thinking, eh? Brilliant.

As the day and the learning went on last fall, thoughts in my head began to swirl about how great this event was but what could be done to take it up a notch for the spring edition. Where would it be held? What could be adjusted? Scraped? Added? Hmmmm.

After the event, around 15 of us, mostly friends in education around the district and surrounding areas gathered to discuss the day’s learning. Being that the event in the fall was on the western side of our district (and county) my good friend Michael Parker West and I were based on the eastern side of the district (I’ve recently switched – but that post is forthcoming) we decided right then and there to inquire about Wendell Middle School pending the blessings of the WMS principal and eastern area superintendent.

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Fast forward a month – We now had the blessings of both Mr. Morrison and Dr. McFarland. Michael and I started planning #EdCampWake for Saturday, March 18 in late fall. Immediately, we wanted to go big. Knightdale High School jazz band in the morning during breakfast, WMS step team to open the welcoming, invitations to WCPSS district leadership, Board of Education members, etc. The bar was going to be raised.

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Mike wanted two WCPSS educators to open the day’s events with a presentation so he called on two of our district’s finest – Bill Ferriter and Paul Cancellieri who recently co-authored Creating a Culture of Feedback. In the afternoon, after lunch I came up with the idea of having two connected educational leaders from other parts of our state speak on topics of interest in the end of lunch going into the last session of the day. Two friends of mine came to mind immediately – Bethany Gullion from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Leslie Kinard from Guilford County Schools.

I always talk about striving to #BecomeBetter. I live the actions ongoing and this was no exception. With Mr. West right along side we continued to plan weekly and as the months and later weeks to the actual event got closer gathered a leadership team of good friends from our district to tighten the “nuts and bolts” of the event – a big chore.

The ball started rolling… potential sponsors turned into sponsors. A conversation at a hockey game over holiday break with Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe turned into a pre-arranged Google Hangout session discussing contents of their book, Your School Rocks. A planned moderation of #EduGladiators chat turned into a promotion of our event and the chat thanks to Marlena Gross-Taylor’s  brilliance — a win-win. Everything was falling into place.

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As the final push to the event moved along, Mike and I spent most of the Saturday before the event printing out banners, creating the day of slides, signs, sponsorship orders and commitments were in order, etc.

There is so much more involved with organizing an EdCamp than we realized – especially the higher the bar is raised. Promotion, promotion, promotion! Both word of mouth, district email, social media blasts and promo videos helped us get the word out attract over 100 educators from around our district and state to EdCamp Wake on a Saturday.

The Friday before the event I made my way to Wendell Middle to make final preparations along with the “leadership team” Mike and I assembled. Together we spent several hours preparing and staging things so they would be ready for the morning. We were ready. As Mike and said several times during the actual EdCamp Wake — everything went smoothly because we were prepared, had a plan and most of all had a very solid team assisting throughout the day.

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Just as the case of the sponsors (seen above in a photo) without our leadership team of Juliette Kuhn, Karen D’Elia, Melanie Farrell, Kyle Hamstra and Chris Tuttell, there would be no EdCamp Wake. Period. Adding value to our profession and specifically EdCamp Wake doesn’t do the situation justice. Amazing people.

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The day of the event – everything went without so much as a slight bump here and there. All the planning paid off despite raising that bar. The KHS jazz band rocked in during breakfast, the WMS step team opened the day, Dr. McFarland (WCPSS Eastern Area Superintendent) welcomed the crowd to EdCamp Wake, Mike and I went through the day’s events and protocols. Everything on planned….

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17362844_10154817042700804_4243003267434957758_nConnected Educators welcome participants to #EdCampWake

Sessions, breakout events like the #EduGladiators chat, lunch presentations, lunch conversations — powerful, powerful. If you weren’t inspired after #EdCampWake – you might be in the wrong profession.

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Always great learning and growing with edu friends Derek McCoy, Leslie Kinard and Bethany Gullion.

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Your School Rocks session via Google Hangout with co-authors Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe.

17265106_10154817046110804_3299891847559155103_nPhil Echols, Mariah Walker and Gia Hoke. Some of WCPSS’ finest educators.

While it was exhausting planning and overseeing the day’s events with Mike and despite the fact we weren’t able to really attend sessions the joy of having a successful EdCamp Wake and the energy buzzing from all the learning and excitement made it all worthwhile and then some!

I’m grateful for the experience and eager to assist whomever takes the torch next. Prepare to raise the bar even higher in our ongoing quest to #StriveForGreatness and #BecomeBetter as educators and leaders. Goodbye, #EdCampWake — see you in the fall.

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