Sarah is best known as an educational technology liaison and a proponent of edcamp. She is an active presenter within the field of education too.
"C.P.R. for the Drowning Educator"
First off, let me say that I am thrilled to be a guest blogger for FAAET. This opportunity is quite an honor, so I hope to do it justice.
Last week, I gave the most exciting presentation of my career at my county's annual technology conference. The title is not important, as this is much more so about the process; however, I will share a bit of the content, as I hope it can prove useful to readers. With all that being said, let's begin.
This story, like many other good ones, begins with a dare. I recently became a Google Certified Teacher, in the Atlanta cohort. When we were at the Google Teacher Academy, we were introduced to the idea of moonshot thinking, which reminded me of the question, "what could you do if you weren't afraid to fail?"
Ironically, simply applying to the Google Teacher Academy foreshadowed this "aha moment." While applying, I had reasoned that there was no way that I would ever be chosen, but that there was nothing to lose in trying. In hindsight, I made the right decision.
Moonshot thinking stuck with me, and I decided to continue employing it in my everyday life. My courage was once again put to the test, when the opportunity to apply to speak at SXSW was announced later that summer. This was insanity, as I was sure that I would not be selected. However, I dared myself to try anyway. As the old saying goes, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
I had no idea what to say or do. Somewhere, I had heard that acronyms were catchy. I decided to go with C.P.R., as it sounded interesting, and added "for the Drowning Educator," for good measure.
Next, I had to figure out what each of these letters would represent. This was tough.
The "C" was easy...collaboration. This was a no-brainer. Most of the successful practices that I had implemented in my classroom were as a result of being a connected educator. Over the past year, I had thrown myself into collaborating with educators around the world through social media. Through my PLN (local and international), I had learned of fantastic things such as flipped instruction, gamification, and many more. I had been preaching the power of being connected, so this would be an integral part of the presentation.
How about "P?" Well, P could stand for passion. I had just finished reading Dave Burgess's Teach Like a Pirate, after seeing him speak at NJAMLE in March 2014. Passion was definitely important.
The "R" was a bit harder, but after some reflection (which would have also been a good "r" word), I came up with reinvention. I had heard many members of my PLN say things to the effect of, "you can teach for 20 years, or you can teach one year 20 times." This resonated with me, as I have realized the importance of modeling life-long learning to my students.
After scraping together sections of my presentation, and copying/pasting the text into Evernote to save for later proposals, I crossed my fingers and hit submit.
This proposal didn't get accepted.
I'm totally fine with it. Days after I pressed submit, one of my friends invited me to join a panel that she would propose to SXSW. I chose to abandon the initial project for the time being, and instead focus on the group session. (Spoiler: it was accepted. Hee!)
It was a good thing that I did save the C.P.R. session for later. This is one thing that we should always remember when submitting sessions: a rejection only means, "this session isn't good for this event at this time." It may be a perfect match for another opportunity. Turns out that "C.P.R. for the Drowning Educator" was a hit at the aforementioned countywide technology conference. Many thanks to my PLN, particularly members of the EduMatch Voxer Group, for their help in brainstorming ideas for the session.
Five Lessons Learned (aka TL;DR)
- "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Too often, we get comfortable, and are afraid to take a chance. We are afraid of the unknown. We buy into the "if-it's-not-broken-don't-fix-it" mentality. While playing it safe is good, we need to take those risks to aspire towards greatness. If what we are doing is in the best interest of students, and there is nothing to lose, the question should not be, "why?" It should be, "why not?"
- Save all of your ideas, no matter how ridiculous they seem. You never know. With a little bit of tweaking, they may just work! This is super-easy and free to do, especially with services such as Evernote, Google Drive, and many other products that serve similar functions.
- [Many] things happen for a reason. Yes, this is super-trite, overgeneralized, and perhaps annoying to hear, but the older I get, the more I see this proving true. Sometimes, you must experience the bitter to make the sweet that much more delicious. For example, if you have a rough day with students, you can brainstorm ways together to make the next day run more smoothly. This leads to growth for all.
- Your PLN will save your life. Confession time: the evening before I was to give the "C.P.R." presentation, I had done nothing but the proposal. I knew that I had to make a touchdown, because I was on home turf. The pressure was insane. I was the one who was drowning. In a very vulnerable moment, I reached out to my PLN in the EduMatch Voxer group, and they came to my rescue. It is through that collaboration that the juices started flowing, and I was able to pull it all together. Conversely, you may be that rock for someone in their time of need. Work on developing your PLN. It's important.
- Jump in feet-first. Remember pool rules? Don't run around the deck. No diving head-first into shallow water. However, feel free to cannonball into whatever topic that strikes your fancy. Splash others with your enthusiasm. Pool parties are always the best.
Hey, don't be afraid of the deep end. Just work your way into deeper and deeper waters. I believe that I have taken this extended metaphor just about as far as I can, so I will bid you good folks adieu. Weigh in below with your comments. Thanks for reading!
Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur)
Posted By: Sarah Thomas
Date: November 16, 2014