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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Goodbye to 2016, hello to 2017. Next steps? Unwritten.

As an educator, I’ve taken many risks throughout my career. This is a topic I’ve spoken, tweeted and even blogged about numerous occassions. Taking “the road less traveled” is so significant to me I devoted an entire post to the subject and the song based on the meaning to me. 2016 is a year that saw a lot of growth in me professionally as an educator.

I bring up my love of taking risks and encouraging others within my district and profession in general to do so because of the great learning experience(s) and powerful reward involved.

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As I look back at 2016 professionally, risk reward and fail forward moments are the cornerstone without question. For me, it’s truly all about staying on track and following the principles below…

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In the spring, my first significant risk came in the form of being asked by a trusted friend and district colleague, Mrs. Melanie Farrell, to be part of her presentation group at the Wake County Public School System’s 2016 Spring Convergence Symposium. While I had presented for the faculty several times at my school I had never presented at a large venue.  However, considering the topic was something I was very well versed in, Twitter for educational growth and connectivity, why not? Leap of faith. Huge success. I not only grew as a learner, leader and educator but was also found something I truly enjoyed – presenting to others and helping them grow and learn. Powerful learning experiences in the “Twitter Garden.” clbk8zfuyaaipsc

In the summer I took the leap by being on the leadership planning team of Ed Camp Leadership – North Carolina. While I had attended several EdCamps locally and throughout the state, I had never been on the planning committee. That changed in July when a group of of us worked together for several months to successfully plan and oversee the second #EdCampLDR. Another leap of faith. Was the event perfect? No. Did we learn from the #FailForward moments? Absolutely. Growth, growth, growth. Looking forward to next summer’s event which will be even better and stronger. http://midcareer.gse.upenn.edu/edcamp-leadership

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This experience made the decision to co-organize #EdCampWake with Mr. Michael Parker West this coming spring much easier. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/edcamp-wake-tickets-30179882842

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At the beginning of the school year “inservice days” before the students arrive the principal, assistant principal and I spent a day taking turns diving into relationships and cultural proficiency with the staff. I presented on relationships staff/staff, staff/student, student/student. The presentation was powerful and was centered around Angela Maiers’ #YouMatter initiative and TedX talk.  https://vimeo.com/103280107

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The experience was so powerful and well received I decided to blog about it on the ASCD Edge platform: http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/refreshed-recharged-and-ready-to-go-in-2016-17

While I got a lot of positive feedback from that blog post, I never realized the true impact until a month or so later when Angela Maiers contacted me about the post. She loved it, adored my/our work at the school and wanted to have a phone conference. Wow. Really? A few weeks later it happened. A conference call with myself, principal, a literacy coach and a classroom teacher and Angela Maiers. A 45 minute conversation that was liberating and could have gone on for hours. Empowering puts it mildly. Great advice and encouragement throughout to help us #BecomeBetter as educators in reaching the students we all serve while building the #YouMatter message throughout the school. Powerful experience for all of us involved – Mr. Shane Barham, Mrs. Fran Haley, Mrs. Kim Edmiston and Angela.

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In the fall, Dr. Sandy Chambers, an amazing principal in our district, invited myself, the above mentioned Mr. Shane Barham and Mrs. Melanie Farrell along with my friend Ms. NaShonda Cooke from Durham, NC to attend Racial Equity Institute training at her school. This two day emersion training was extremely empowering. Life changing. Attending was something that took a bit of a risk. Why? I was stepping way out of my comfort zone but engaging in a topic that would enrich my leadership and overall well being in not only my profession but personal life. My attendance was something I really wanted to do but it took risk. I’m eternally grateful to Dr. Chambers for offering this experience to me. Top notch organization and truly life changing experience – no way around it.  https://www.racialequityinstitute.org

In November, I presented with several key stakeholders in my PLN, including the above mentioned Dr. Chambers, at the Fall Convergence for our district on the power of the PLN – I recently blogged on this session and Fall Convergence experience in depth. The successes of these presentations were the culmination of the previous experiences listed above and #FailForward moments. Grateful for my presentation pals both in that session and Mrs. Renee White and Mr. Michael Parker West with whom I love presenting with and am truly looking forward to again in March at NC Ties 2017. http://ncties.org/conference/index.php

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All of these planning sessions came with the assistance of Google Hangout which is quickly becoming invaluable to professional development and a tool I added to my arsenal this year as well. Google Hangout even aided the teachers at my school last spring when my friend Mrs. Kara Brem, a teacher on the other side of our large district held an interactive Seesaw session via “GHO” with our faculty. Powerful.

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Much of the above mentioned and so much of my growth can be attained to the work of John Maxwell. Many that know me well know I’m quite the fan of Maxwell’s work. Most notably his “value added” model. It’s always important we stay focused, #StriveForGreatness and aim to #BecomeBetter but also vital we add value to others and seek to surround ourselves with those who add value to our lives. The basic parameters of this concept can be found here: http://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/the-law-of-contribution-7-tips-to-cultivate-an-attitude-of-growing-others

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Additionally this brief clip on the subject by Dr. Maxwell is also powerful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1OQcdYyjJU

Most that know me know I’m always on the go and continually very “global.” It wasn’t until I stopped and actually reflected a bit that I realized just how significant 2016 was on my growth as a leader, learner and educator. What’s next? Well, that’s still unwritten. This song and the corresponding lyrics sum it up well though… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7k0a5hYnSI

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Unwritten

Performed by NaTasha Bedingfield

Written by Tarik L. Collins, Ahmir K. Thompson, Karl B. Jenkins, Tahir Cheeseboro Jamal, Khari Abdul Mateen, Radji Mateen, Ridhwan Mateen

Copyright © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

I am unwritten

Can’t read my mind
I’m undefined
I’m just beginning
The pen’s in my hand
Ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Oh, oh, oh

I break tradition
Sometimes my tries are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes
But I can’t live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten
The rest is still unwritten

Oh, yeah, yeah