My First ISTE and IGNITE Sessions
I attended my very first ISTE earlier this year. I have to start by saying that finding ISTE on Twitter a couple of years ago was a game changer for me. I followed the feed and feverishly bookmarked the links and favorited the tweets being shared by the amazing educators. I spent much of the rest of the summer checking out the links, connecting with the amazing educators who shared out, and changed the way I taught as a result. Well this year I made the transition from having my own social studies classroom to being a tech integrator and I owe a huge thank you to ISTE and the educators who help me learn about things I had never heard of. If not for that learning opportunity I wouldn't be where I am today.
My ISTE experience kicked off with an amazing IGNITE session. If you unfamiliar with IGNITE sessions they are 20 slides and 5 minutes with no animation, video or other supports. You are in the room that was set up for the key note. So picture the largest room you have ever seen add 2 of the biggest screens maybe short of Dallas Stadium I have ever seen and then add the pressure that the audience if filled with your peers. Oh and don't forget you are 1 of 15 amazing educators many of whom could be the keynote speaker and there you have an ignite session.
What made this IGNITE session so amazing? Besides being my first ever because that in itself makes it phenomenal, but add in the amazing pool of presenters and you have a powder keg of awesomeness. However that isn't the key ingredient of spectacular. What put it over the top for me was seeing a colleague Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike present his keynote on being a Karaoke Kid. He is such a humble person that he didn't tell the rest of us about his IGNITE session himself. I am continually struck by the awesome things my colleagues are doing, many times hidden from view. What I mean by this is many times educators don't advertise their efforts. They simply do great things as part of their every day existence.
Sorry for this little sidebar, but it was this presentation and then my experience the rest of the day that provided my ah ha moment and the reason for this post. Jon discussed ---- putting yourself out there- being a Karaoke kid-- Please take a few minutes and check out Jon's Ignite session. It was unique, it was entertaining, but most of all it has a message that resonates
My ISTE was filled with evenings of Karaoke. This was not in my plans when getting on the plane and leaving Wisconsin, however it seems fitting that this would be how the week would go. After watching Jon's Ignite, I started thinking about how I wanted students to view me? I wrote another post about Get up and Dance that talks more about that relationship. Jon's vision to me was able taking risks, having fun, doing things that might be unexpected, and knowing it's okay. This is something that some people in the world of education with High Stakes testing, Educator Effectiveness etc. might cringe at. What does he mean take risks, we are being told what to do and when to do it. This may seem to be the case, but you are still in control of what happens in your classroom. You get to decide if you want to make Fun Friday, or make Fun every day that ends in DAY! You can introduce GeniusHour or Genius YEAR! You decide how you engage with your students. You get to decide if you will be and allow your students to be a Karaoke Kid!
Otus Gathering- let the magic happen!
I am sharing these images from the Otus Gathering at ISTE- they created an amazing event with, you guessed it, Karaoke! I included images that I hope demonstrate my vision for this post, the risk taking, and support shown by complete strangers. It is not my intent in anyway to embarrass any person in the photos.
Karaoke and the Lessons of Life!
The message from Jon's Ignite of taking a risk and be daring for your students was already resonating with me, but then we went to the Otus Party and saw educators dressing up, (I did and there is a pic I just couldn't find it), jumping on stage, and signing and dancing whether on stage or not. Watching the interactions of these people, many who had just met this week, that day, or during the event were joining together to support each other and create an epic event. This got me thinking and led to my thought about how a Karaoke Jam Session could connect to education. Here goes:
What do we want our classrooms to look like? What do we want to be as educators? How do we want our students to feel about themselves while in our care? How can you create that learning environment where students are nurtured, challenged to be great, supported in failure and will never ever not even for a second not believe they matter!
As I watched the multitude of people jump on stage and sign, many very well, some made me think I could potentially get up there, I realized a few things. Those who were signing were taking a risk. They were likely getting out of their comfort zone. They were likely nervous and a little anxious about how well they would do, especially if they followed someone who could be on American Idol. I also watched the crowd, and if you look at the images, you see people clapping, singing, dancing along with the singers. You see that they were there supporting perfect strangers. I was among this group. I was having an amazing time no matter who was singing or how well they did. The crowd chanted, cheered, sang along to fill in the melody and threw their hands up. They did whatever it took to make the people on stage feel like they were a champion. I watched this go on performer after performer for hours. I saw the reaction by the crowd never waver in support. I can only imagine how amazing it must have felt for those on stage. And then a question hit me.
Do our classrooms look like this? Do our students feel this support in everything they do? If not why not? If not now, when? If not, what needs to change? How can we make that change? Can you do this alone, or do you need support? Who will you seek out to help? I do not ask these questions to call anyone out, but to rather broach the subject. Why would perfect strangers support people singing Karaoke at and educational conference but we don't always see this in our classrooms, faculty lounges, etc. We can do better!
It is time that we put kids first- we need to stop testing and start supporting them. We need to stop judging or labeling them and care about all of them. We need to embrace that education is not about content its about the person, the individual. It was No Child Left Behind, not we must teach every factoid. We aren't creating Ken Jennings to rock Jeopardy because Jeopardy is not our students reality. Don't prepare students for when they will be in the real world. They are in the real world! Students go home to a variety of living conditions. Some are nurtured, loved, accepted, many face a different reality. This is still the real world it is real to them, it is impacting them. It is impacting all of us. When they enter the doors of your school and your classroom will you embrace them as your student, your child and someone you are going to invest your time and talents into nurturing their abilities to see them grow and succeed, or do you see the multitude of labels our world places upon all of us. Where we come from, our circumstances, our mistakes and failures do not define who we are. It is how we respond to those shortcomings that do. Remember this when you deal with students. Be forgiving even if the person hasn't said they were sorry. teach them how to be problem solvers, inquiry driven individuals with a quest for learning and creation. Don't sell them short, don't sell yourself short. #YouMatter and your students matter most. Make sure you tell them and show them everyday that matter to you and to this world.
While at ISTE earlier this summer I went to a number of social events with co-workers, colleagues and just amazing people in general. Over the course of the five days in ISTE, we had opportunities to connect with so many people. I talked education, technology, and where to get the best Philly Cheesesteak in town. I have to admit if we didn’t find the best it wasn’t from lack of trying. My doctor would frown at my dietary choices. To the point, I was presented an opportunity to attend an amazing conference with thousands of passionate educators and there were so many choices I had to make each and everyday. Each would determine how my experience would unfold and what I would be able to take away from this opportunity. I could write about the laundry list of takeaways from ISTE, but I wanted to focus on one simple idea that stuck with me. Shut up and Dance!
A group of educators found ourselves at a social gathering where karaoke was rocking so loud we heard it from down the street. When we got there, a few in the group immediately signed up to sing. That is not something I do because I know I can’t sing. However I made the choice to dance- to get out on the floor and have fun. I knew there could be cameras there - this could be posted- this could be embarrassing- I danced in front of coworkers when I wouldn't do this in front of family members at a wedding. What is the difference between the two situations? I made a choice. Simple as that I made the decision to have fun, to dance to be part of something bigger than myself. I took the cues from those around me that this was a safe place to "let my hair down" and dance.
Listening to a great IGNITE presentation, and yes I might reference this a few times because I am thoroughly impressed by this young educator I have been able to work with over the past year, Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike. In his presentation he references the idea of being wild and crazy for the kids. To do things that are a little different and wild. This is an area in my life both in and outside of the classroom that I struggle with. Many times I put on my teacher suit that confined me to the persona of a professional. Now I am not saying that being a professional is negative, but in my case it meant building a wall between myself and my students. While I think we all have a border to maintain proper relationships, my wall was too often too tall and too think. Picture the Great Wall of China. It didn't allow me to show my students who I really am. I am someone who can relate to the quiet kid in the back of the room who knew the answer but was afraid to draw attention to themselves. I relate to the student who feels overwhelmed in math class but is afraid to ask questions because they don't want to feel stupid. I connect to the person who could be the class clown and someone who at times takes risks.
I was all of these people at the same time and yet only show my students one snapshot of me. Unfortunately, early in my career, I never took off my teacher suit in front of my students. I continued to let this wall stand between us. In the last ten years, but more honestly the last five or six I really began to make the transformation from my old rigid teacher suit to more of a leisure suit. A more flexible, hip, (at least I hope) and honest presentation of who I am. I am still a work in progress, but I am continuing to make the decision to connect with my students, get to know them, build relationships and grow.
I made the choice to dance. I hope you will too!