20,000+ NC educators marched – now what?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 was an incredible day for democracy in our beloved Raleigh, NC. Exhausted from years of low per pupil funding, failure to reach national average for teacher pay and perceived lack of respect from the legislative majority within both chambers of the General Assembly post recession North Carolina educators had enough. Roughly 1/3 of the districts in the state closed for the day allowing educators from all over the state to make their collective journeys to  our beautiful capital city for the #RedForEd march for respect. This allowed for the event to not only happen, but being a glowing success with a broad-reach of statewide and national coverage.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/16/us/north-carolina-teachers/index.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/thousands-of-north-carolina-teachers-protest-for-better-wages-1235565123863

As a school administrator, a sizable chunk of my position is supporting teachers, students and the school community at large. This day was all about advocacy for a public education system that is often perceived, especially in the past decade, at the state and federal level as under attack by many forces. That said, this made my presence at the march a necessity. Time to step away from the day to day to stand proud with my brothers and sisters in education.

 

For years, I have been an advocate for public education. I stand up and ensure the story is being told. Verbally, through social media, within the community, etc. I’m always advocating. There is a lot of negativity being circulated, and often loudly, about what “is happening” in public schools. These are often baseless, half-truths and sadly even completely falsehoods. We as educators should be constantly telling our stories of what is happening in our schools. Share it often, share it ongoing.

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Additionally, while Wednesday’s events were a beautiful thing we as educators must build momentum off of this. Many educators have been content for years with standing on the sidelines when it comes to education policy and legislation that directly effects public education.

As I posted several months ago – the time is now to get off the sidelines. At the very least, all educators should be informed and at least fairly knowledgable with policies coming from the state level that directly impact our profession.

https://brendanfetters.com/2017/12/17/get-informed-leave-the-sideline-take-a-seat-at-the-table/

 

We simply can’t leave the sky high energy from Wednesday’s events in Raleigh. Become part of the process. Be involved in local and state policy. Take that seat at the table. Engage in conversation.

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Embrace the uncomfortable.

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I was so very proud of many educators who came Wednesday who I know were so far out of their comfort zone in marching but were all there in support of one common goal – full funding and respect coming from the state level toward public education. That’s a beautiful thing.

The energy can’t stop there. We have the resources. Utilize them. Share our stories. Learn. Grow. Advocate.

If you’re not happy with what the lawmakers who represent you are doing with public education funding and beyond – we all hold the greatest power within our democracy…

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Relationships, relationships, relationships. The foundation for all aspects of education.

As I twirl through Twitter and see tweets from educators, hear district leaders across the nation speak in person or on video, blog posts, articles or even books we hear a lot about curriculum. We hear a lot about content. We hear a lot about data.

Relationships have become a significant buzz word in our profession in the last 2-3 years especially. However, everyone in our profession or outside of it can always, even if they’re 50 years removed from their K-12 experience can remember a few teachers and/or school leaders who made a significant impact on their life. Someone who believed in them through thick and thin. Someone who didn’t give up on them when doing just that would have been much easier. Someone who forged a solid, genuine relationship.

As educators we have a responsibility no matter our role to get to know each of the students we serve. In the hallways, in the cafeteria doing classroom visits. Getting to know students’ academic strengths, weaknesses but also their likes outside of school. Allowing students to see us as humans. Not most of the students we serve, all. Yes, including those kids. Education isn’t about teaching the ones coming to school eager to learn but in also generating interest in those that often might be labeled as “unreachable” or a “challenge” possibly even a “lost cause.” This is unacceptable but unfortunately some in profession are guilty of this.

Stop. Pause. Embrace the uncomfortable. You know I’m right about the above. Step out of your bubble if you think otherwise for a minute.

We must must ensure that we are reaching all students not almost all or most but all. Once we have them all and truly have them then and only then can we truly tackle content, curriculum and plow through but its still so uber important that we continue the relationship piece ongoing.

When I was a classroom teacher I spent the first two weeks of school doing next to no academics. Did this put me “behind” some? Yes. However I knew I had to and I mean had to set my foundation. By the end of the two weeks my students would move mountains for me. In turn we moved mountains together and the students’ academic results spoke for themselves. My principals were amazed at how well so many of the students did some were those kids. The ones the previous teacher(s) would say “oooooh I’m so sorry Mr. Fetters…” when class lists were distributed. Ironically many of those kids are some of the students I made the biggest impact on in my career and reinforced the most how much I love this profession. Visiting a child at a game on a Saturday afternoon can truly turn a student’s world around for the positive. Believe me, I’ve seen it and lived it.

Fast forward to now as a school leader. Every student has a story. It is paramount we get to know the students we serve far beyond the surface level. Chats at lunch are a time for me to get to know the students on the grade level I support. During observations whether informal or formal, seeing the students in the classroom asking questions about their learning I often learn as much from them. In the hallways, at sporting events, plays, performances, reaching out to parents for balancing phone calls for positive reasons, always offering support in any capacity, the list goes on.

When you tell a student you believe in them, mean it. The students we all serve can tell when we’re authentic or superficial in a nanosecond. We life in a superficial world all too often as I’ve posted about in the past. We need to be authentic and ongoing in our relationships with students, their families. Everyone has a story. Yes, even those kids. Get to know their stories, all of them. You’ll be surprised what you find and you’ll be surprised in the content you can cover by not just plowing through right out of the gate. The “unreachable” can be reached – if you make a valiant and authentic ongoing effort.

This concept isn’t new. My career high school English teacher mother told me often throughout my undergraduate career at Wilmington College going into my first few years in education the “challenging” students will be your favorite. “Listen to them fully, believe in them and guide them.” She was so right. As a classroom teacher and school leader this is so very applicable daily.

Content, curriculum and knowledge are all powerful but you must have your solid foundation first. Do you in your classroom? How do you root the faculty you lead in truly seeing the value of this? Are the right people on your bus?

Deep thoughts rooted in a rock solid foundation of solid, genuine relationships. They take time to build up and foster but are always, always worth it. After all, #KidsDeserveIt, right?

Proud to be on the #TeamKidsFirst faculty where we foster this overarching mindset daily. Follow the hashtag to see our work in action. social Media Carroll

I can’t accept not trying. My grandfather’s impact on my life and career.

Yesterday, April 22, is always a significant day for me. It’s Earth Day, yes, a day when we should all reflect on being good stewards to the earth and make an ongoing effort to protect it. Very true. While this day is very important, Earth Day is not the reason for this post – my maternal grandfather’s life, legacy and impact on my life is.

My father recently had many of our old home reel videos from the early 1980s up to the camcorder VHS tapes of the late 80s and early 90s digitalized and sent to me on DVD. I have enjoyed watching these slices of family vacations, reunions, tours of our family’s farm, etc. greatly. My father always loved taking videos when I was growing up. Sometimes it would drive us crazy but in retrospect I’m very glad he did. Most of all it “reconnected” me with several family members who are no longer with us. While all of this was significant this especially rang true with one man – my Grandpa Marshall.

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April 22, 1916 Joseph Marshall was born. Growing up in Lexington, Massachusetts (the “birthplace of America” as my grandpa would always proudly announce) my grandfather worked his way through Boston College proudly obtaining an education degree even though he had his military dreams set. He enlisted in the Army Aircorp (now Air Force) as a young man and despite his small frame of just over 5 feet tall – became a pilot through hard work and determination. A successful pilot at that flying in both WWII and the Korean War and Blind Bat missions in the height of the Vietnam War where he received the Purple Heart. Grandpa loved to tell about the C-130 in Vietnam and especially his beloved P-51D Bonesie as well as the lessons learned and sacrifices made for his family. Beyond his wartime experiences my grandfather’s military career led the family all over the US – South Dakota, Louisiana, New Hampshire and even a few years overseas in Okinawa where my mother and uncles were in DOD schools. Finally my grandfather was stationed Columbus, Ohio where he would end up retiring from the Air Force after a lengthy career.

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Retiring a Major in the USAF my grandfather had a full, successful military career. He could have easily hung it up for good. He didn’t. He had an education degree from a top-notch university he had never utilized. He entered a middle school classroom. He taught, loved it, grew and returned for more. 10 years in fact. Loved his “post retirement” career. Then he retired for good.

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While I don’t remember my grandfather teaching I do remember him telling me about many of his experiences in education. I was blessed to have 17 years of my life with my grandfather. I can honestly say that in the the last 6-7 years of his life especially as I grew from elementary to middle school and  started high school, my grandpa became my best friend. My grandparents lived 45 minutes away but I would always visit several times a month, often weekly. Often I would be together with family but the older I became the more my grandpa and I would have discussions, go to games alone or out to lunch or dinner. It was during these visits the bond grew even closer. As many flying stories as grandpa had he was equally proud of climbing in his beloved (and despised by everyone else in the family) orange Chevette and driving to the school daily to teach. It was apparent that although he spent far more time in the military and had a deep love for it his admiration for education was just as strong.

I have had many influences in my decision to enter education, most notably my mother and several educators I had in school growing up but my maternal grandparents were also a big push especially my grandfather. He was so proud of his daughter, my mother, for being a career teacher and by the time I was in middle school knew that I would follow those footsteps — was elated I wanted to be come the third generation educator in the family.

While my grandfather passed unexpectedly when I was 17 he’s always with me. Just before his passing he gave me a very well crafted watch for Christmas. That very watch has been with me almost 20 years now. That watch has been with me for the significant events in my life he couldn’t attend but I know he was there in spirit. My graduations from high school, undergraduate school, graduate school, interviews, speeches I’ve given, etc. – If I have something significant the watch is on and my grandpa is with me.

We all have significant members of our family who have passed who’ve contributed significantly – Joseph Marshall was just that to me. We loved sports – specifically our beloved Red Sox and Celtics. We also shared great admiration for Michael Jordan and his dedication to success through good times and bad. One year growing up I received Jordan’s inspirational book, I Can’t Accept Not Trying he co-wrote at the height of his career. My grandpa and I collectively shared so much inspiration in this book. Its contents and my grandfather’s belief in me always despite when times were tough — fueled my growing up and continue today. 15978017_10154639138095804_8026454115205786936_n

I have a lot of drive, ambition and will find a silver lining in the most dire situations. Much of this is attributed to family, friends and people in my life. It’s strong now and I’m grateful for that but the initial drive for success was laid by in the foundation my family set for me. They always believed me and pushed me. My grandfather was a colossal part of that. Even though he’s been gone many years and would be 101 and today – I hope I’m doing him proud. He pushed me to #BecomeBetter and #StriveForGreatness long, long before hashtags were a thing. I’m forever grateful for those 17 years with my grandpa and with so many other significant influences throughout my life who have and continue to add value to me. I’m truly blessed.

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Striving to be an All-Star through continuous improvement

I’m a hockey fan and have been since the day I was dragged to my first Columbus Blue Jackets game during their inaugural NHL season back the year 2000 when I was in my undergraduate education program at Wilmington College of Ohio. I didn’t know what in the world was going on at the time, but I knew I liked it. From that moment on I was hooked and have remained ever since. Columbus Blue Jackets 2000-01 inaugural season highlights

Hockey is now by far my favorite sport to watch and follow. It’s beautiful. Poetry in motion. Every pass along the blue line, check, odd-man rush, or one-timer requires near perfection in order to be executed properly. As I write this blog post I’m watching the midseason classic better known as the NHL All-Star Game. My beloved Blue Jackets have been rewarded for having a strong first half of the 2016-17 season by having three players representing the organization.

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As I watch this game in particular, while no the players aren’t skating at full strength much less making contact I’m reminded of how incredible these players all are to make it to this point. They all are playing in the top professional hockey league in the world for starters but not only that are the best of the best within that league. Impressive, eh?

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While all of these players have natural gifts, talents and for most part have played the game the vast majority of their lives, yes, they all must constantly work to improve their skill and refine the technical aspects of each of their own weaknesses to be the best player they possibly can be. Do any of the players at this level today especially settles for “good enough?” No way. Each of the players in this game is grateful for being here and striving to #BecomeBetter daily. They all know that as hard as it was to get to where they are today there are so many players within the NHL, minor leagues and in college eager to take “their spot” nothing is given.

Looking at this through the lens of education – we are all constantly learning and growing. Or are we? We are professionals. Constant growth and improvement should be a significant part of what we do. Whether we are a first year teacher or in the district central office with 20 plus years into our career we all should be striving to be an All-Star in education.

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Building your PLN, reading, reflecting, conferencing, repeating. Growth, growth, growth. This is beyond “mandated” professional development sessions or book studies at the school or district based level. Personalized professional development, genuinely wanting to grow, learn and reflect is when the magic happens. That’s when the “spark” in the eye occurs and when the great educators make the push toward All-Stars.

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Pictured above – Allison Stewart and Rachel Lawrence are amazing educators in our district. These two ladies are All-Stars but are constantly reflecting, reading, connecting and growing to refine their craft. So much of what they do is self-motivated above and beyond behavior. This is the overall betterment of students they serve as as well as their own personal growth. They are All-Stars but both know they must continue to work at “maintaining” that “status.”

Are some educators true All-Stars? Absolutely. However, it’s imperative we continue to learn, grow, soak up information and put it into practice or else we will slip in our craft just as the players in this game will if they “let up.”

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I lead by example with the above mentioned. I’ve always been considered a reflective educator throughout my career but I’m constantly doing the above mentioned, taking risks and reflecting upon my practice. These help keep me sharp and push me to strive to be a better educator always. We should all aim to be the best we do in all we do daily. In life and career. So the choice is yours – the puck is on the ice. Are you going to strive to be an All-Star?

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“Don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

Taking risks, stepping out of our comfort zone, leaps of faith – all of these are phrases and actions I am a fan of. Learning experiences from #FailForward moments are some of the most powerful – with zero question in my opinion and from my experiences within not only my career but also life.

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Growing up in rural Ohio, I was exposed to a lot of country music. Not exclusively as oldies, classic rock and the “modern” 80’s pop music was easily accessible in my house growing up in the 1980s. However, being in a farm family and the fact that most of the radios in my family’s tractors only picked up country stations I became a fan from an early age riding with my grandfather or father and later driving and tending the land myself as I got older.

I’ve blogged about George Strait before and how his music has had significant impact on my life and career. While George is a universally known talent, my second favorite country star growing up and even today is the late, great Chris LeDoux.

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I first gained exposure to LeDoux in the early 1990s when Garth Brooks burst onto the national scene. Brooks single-handedly brought the then underground LeDoux to the mainstream. LeDoux was a genuine as they come. A native of Wyoming who tended his ranch when not performing or recording and was a former world champion rodeo star. Aside from his music, which often drew life lessons from his own rodeo, life and learning experiences, I also liked the fact that the man took significant risks – did things his way.

If you’ve ever been to a Garth Brooks show you know it’s quite the spectacle. Lights, sound, in his younger days especially, Brooks would dangle from wires above the crowd always putting on quite the presentation. A showman of showmen.

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Brooks’ admiration of Chris LeDoux came from LeDoux’s stage presence. Despite being middle aged at the height of his career – LeDoux would ride mechanical bulls mid performance, leap from the stage with fire bursting all around and really put on a show. He did what no one else was doing – taking a risk doing things his way, telling his story and putting on his show in his own unique way. One of my greatest regrets is never seeing the man live as he passed away in 2005 after a lengthy cancer battle. Garth Brooks recorded Good Ride Cowboy shortly after LeDoux’s death as a tribute to his fallen friend.

Chris LeDoux inspired so many with his lyrics, upbeat personality and positivity. While I loved his music, and still do, I adored his genuine nature just as much. Even when he was battling illness he was always smiling and even recording when he could. In what would end up being his final album, 2003’s Horsepower, he recorded one of my favorite songs and certainly most inspirational – The Ride. The song is all about taking risks, leaps of faith and leaving your comfort zone through life — all through the lens of a rodeo man like so many of LeDoux’s songs were.  The Ride

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The Ride

Recorded by Chris LeDoux

Written by Lonnie Melvin Jr. Tillis and Sam Weedman

Copyright 2003 Universal Music Publishing Group

I was six years old, my brother was ten
One July day came runnin’ in
Seen a Ferris wheel at the edge of town
So, of course, we headed on down

Well, it took us an hour to walk that far
Carryin’ our fortune in a Mason jar
It was all pretty sad, a cheap county fair
With a few old rides but there was ponies there

Well, the ponies stunk and the air was still
In that dusty circle behind the ferris wheel
This old guy smellin’ of smoke and rum
Swung me up and sat me down on one

Well, I’d never rode a horse but I’d seen it done
Cowboy movies made it look like fun
This old man whispered a few soft words
It was the best advice I’ve ever heard

He said, “Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

I went up a kid with shakin’ hands
But I came down a full grown man
It was like he’d cast some voodoo spell
Things were different for me now, I could tell

‘Cause whenever troubles come wanderin’ in
His rhyme would pop in my head again
And somehow I rode through the needles and nails
Brambles and thorns that life entails

He said, “Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

Well, I know some day, farther down the road
I’ll come to the edge of the great unknown
There’ll stand a black horse riderless
And I wonder if I’m ready for this

So I’ll saddle him up and he’ll switch his tail
And I’ll tip my hat and bid farewell
And lift my song into the air
That I learned at that dusty fair

Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride
Now, don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride

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In the spirit of enjoying your ride, my #OneWord2017 is “unwritten” and one of my professional goals this year was to jump into educational leadership podcasting. An opportunity presented itself recently and I was able to jump head first into it when Marlena Gross-Taylor (@mgrosstaylor) asked me to be her guest last week on the #EduGladiators podcast on YouTube live. I jumped at the chance – a little nervous but I knew I needed to tell a story, share and took that leap of faith.

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Was the event flawless? No. Were there things I wish I did or said? Yes. Learning experiences gained? Absolutely. Will I do it again? (If Marlena asks of course) Without question.  #EduGladiators Podcast episode 5 – Connected Ed

What do I get from all these personal experiences and those drawn from others? Always make the most of every situation and live life to the fullest. One life to live, make the most of it. Take that leap of faith and don’t look back. Never wonder – “what if…” How do we as educational leaders expect our fellow educators and students we all serve to take risks if we don’t lead by example first? Your ride, your opportunity. Make the most of it or not – the choice is yours.

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Flexibility. Powerful word in education and in life.

Make no bones about it, Winter Storm Helena has had her way with much of the southeast the past few days. Altering much of our plans here in North Carolina and beyond. While the Triangle region didn’t get hit nearly as hard as other parts of the the state and southeast, many alterations had to be be made for folks throughout the region.

https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/winter-storm-helena-impacts?cm_ven=T_WX_LL_10717_4

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Businesses closed, events cancelled, postponed, rescheduled. Even our state’s new governor was forced to give his inaugural address from inside the executive mansion this morning in place of the traditional outdoor address and formal swearing in ceremony on the steps of the state capitol.

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As many of us are forced indoors the next few days due to snow, ice and in climate weather we’re reminded of the importance of being flexible. When even our governor can brush  aside significant formalities and make the best of the situation, it really puts things all into perspective.

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We as educators are flexible. We have to be. Everyone at my school knows I always have my Google Calendar accessible whether by laptop or my phone. One or both are always on me. Are those dates, times, meetings in stone? No. Why? Need to be flexible. Period.

Life happens. We need to make the most of unfortunate events such as Helena-induced inclimate weather which causes delays or cancelation of plans and adapt.

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As I write this blog the above photo shows the current situation on one of our city’s major highways. You can see there isn’t much traffic. Most folks are heeding the advice of the networks, DOT, Governor Cooper and other stakeholders, staying off the roads and remaining home unless they absolutely need to travel. This is significant time to catch up on things at home. Spending more time with family, catching up on chores, or in my case finding inspiration for my weekly blog post.

Flexibility is vital. We can either complain about changes or embrace and move it along. I am notorious for finding a silver lining in any situation. I’ve found it in this winter weather this weekend. I had several plans – they were all dashed. Now, what do I going forward?

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I’ve already found inspiration to blog today and am now making plans for an upcoming #EduGladiators podcast (shameless plug) What about you? Ball is in your court.

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

 

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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