If You Don’t Apply, The Answer is Always No - 7/7/2020

As I was completing my last run this week, I was listening to Episode 186 of Teach Better Talk where Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart interviewed Jen Manly, a computer science teacher in Maryland. I loved how she shared how learning should be joyful and how she empowered students in her classroom. But what really struck me was her advice: "If you don’t apply, the answer is always no."

This year, my #oneword2020 has been CHALLENGE. I have really tried to model challenging myself to my family, my students and my colleagues. I hoped by modeling this mindset that it would rub off on others around me and it certainly has. I have watched many people around me undertake challenges this year as I continue to do so.

This became increasingly clear to me during a recent conversation with my eighteen year old son. We were discussing a trip to visit some of our estranged relatives that he wanted to take later this month. I was reasonably nervous about this proposed trip, fearing these toxic relatives and the impact they could have on him. He looked at me and said that he knew that this trip was a risk, but I had raised him to challenge himself and grow from it.

He shared that he saw me doing the same and empowering him to take challenge. That was why he had chosen to participate in a sports management program at Fordham last summer for the National Student Leadership Conference and why he had chosen to go to West Virginia University despite all the uncertainties this fall. As I listened to him talk and share, a huge sense of pride overwhelmed me. In a little over a month, he will be heading to college. For the first time in his life, I won't see him for several months face to face. But listening to him, I knew he was ready for the next chapter.

Hearing "If you don’t apply, the answer is always no," made me reflect not only on how mature my son sounded during this conversation but also on some of the recent challenges in my own personal and professional life especially as I get ready to push send on a very important application or risk of my own: my Google Virtual Innovator Academy 2020 application which is due this Friday.

Applying to be a Google Certified Innovator was one of my big goals this year. I was all set to apply for the Sunnyvale cohort when I learned that there would be just one virtual academy this year. Since this change, I have been working hard to get my application ready which in and of itself, required many risks.

One of the first risks I took was to ask my colleagues in Grades K-3 if I could interview them for my project. Six of my fellow colleagues took time out of their summer vacations to meet virtually with me and share challenges that they face in their classrooms. I learned so much during this process and loved getting a chance to listen and learn from my colleagues. I got the opportunity to speak with teachers in grades 1-3 during this experience. Listening to their challenges was enlightening and gave me so much to think about as I worked on narrowing down my topic from five main categories.

Being a tech coach, I ended up deciding to focus on empowering student agency using technology since this is an area that I am already passionate about, but I plan to use what I learned during these amazing conversations as I plan for the upcoming school year.

With a focus identified, I began to fill out the application using one teacher's interview as my main focal point. As I worked, I drafted my responses in a Google document for easier access. I then took another risk and reached out to some current Google Innovators for feedback.

When I heard back from both Stephanie Howell and Theresa Ducassoux, I was so appreciative of them for taking the time to give me feedback. I took their feedback and went back to my document and made necessary changes. Using their feedback, I also started to work on my 90 second video to complete my application.

Today, I continued the risk taking and completed my video. I will be perfectly honest- I hate videotaping myself, but I did it anyways. I decided to use WeVideo to put all the parts together after having used it for Classy Videos last summer with Tony Vincent.

I actually started making it by narrating the challenge that I was addressing while using graphics to support my message. Next, I worked on my 30 second introduction by adding graphics to overlay my video. Finally, I recorded my 30 second introduction video segment- this was definitely the hardest part for me to complete- but I did it!

Getting all of your thoughts out in a 90 second video is no easy task, but after many takes, I was finally happy with my video and attached it to my application. Now, it is time for the biggest risk- submitting the entire application. I am ready- after all, what's the worst that can happen? Sure, they can say, "No, " but what if they say "yes?"

What if they say yes? That has been my mindset this summer and this year in general. When Teach Better Ambassador applications opened on June 17th, I took a risk and applied. I was honored and thrilled when I became one of the first twenty-five Teach Better Ambassadors. Earlier this summer, I applied for the ISTE Digital Storytelling Summit, Virtual VSTE and Teaching with Tech Online Summit. Once again, I was super excited to be selected. My ISTE session went great and even one of my colleagues from school attended. I am looking forward to these other presentation later this month too.

But if my VIA 20 application doesn't get chosen, I will just have to try again next year. I know since there is only one academy this year, it will probably be very competitive, but I know that I worked hard and tried my best. I will just need to wait to find out the cohort is announced to find out.