Connection on the Road to Awesome: 1/15/2021

Everywhere, I have turned this past week, there have been a common thread- the importance of human connection. That might seem strange to say during a time where we are so focused at being physically apart, but in many ways, it makes perfect sense. We are all craving human connection as we work behind masks, computer screens or partitions.

This week, almost everything I have done seems to lead to this need and its importance. This might have escaped me completely if I hadn't been listening to a podcast for my SBTS podcast club on Wednesday. But afterwards, I could not stop but to notice the common thread between these seemingly stand alone events was indeed connection. All these connections were important stops on my journey to grow and learn- be the best I can be- or on my own personal "Road to Awesome."

Connection at a Technology Training

On Monday, I worked with my grade 1 and 2 teachers, instructional assistants, and classroom monitors to train them on how to use the new technology purchased for our school through CARES Act funding. Although these trainings were focused on how to use tools, it really struck me as we met, the power of this gathering extended beyond learning these tools, but also reconnecting with colleagues who I have not seen face to face since March for the most part. We began by informally chatting and catching up.

After, we began the training part, I knew there would be a lot of fear and apprehension associated with what I would be sharing- teaching concurrently is hard! I wanted my colleagues to not only get a preview of the technology that they would be using, but reassure them that they were not alone. This was just the beginning- we didn't expect them to leave that day, remembering everything. I, along with the admin team and my fellow tech support specialist, would be there every step of the way. To reinforce this, I even handed out my cell phone number. I wanted those colleagues to know that they were not alone.

Connecting with the Teach Better Administrator Mastermind

On Tuesday, I decided to join the Teach Better Administrator Mastermind. After participating in the 12 hour live during winter break, this was something I wanted to try out. I was not disappointed. As I entered the Zoom room, I was struck by how many of these people I was connected with on Twitter, but had never met. Meeting them virtually was amazing- the funny part was one of the participants told me how excited she was to finally meet me after following me on Twitter for so long.

This is an weekly awesome opportunity for educators to connect coordinated by Dave Schmittou. Even though I am not "technically" an administrator, I gleaned so much from the conversations we had in both of our breakout groups. In our first breakout group, we connected by sharing how we would spend $10,000.00 on our school. By doing this, we not only got to know each other, but got a glimpse into each other's priorities as a way to connect. In the second group, we got the chance to share and discuss a problem of practice.

Getting the opportunity to connect with amazing educators around the country was not only inspiring, but eye-opening. How many times would a tech coach get a chance to connect and learn in such an phenomenal way? But the connection did not end there, I also got added to a Voxer group that continues the connection all week long.

Connecting through a SBTS Podcast Club

On Wednesday morning, I participated in a SBTS (School Based Technology Specialist) Podcast Club organized by Nishi Langhorne and Lindsey Fisher. Prior to this gathering, we had all listened to Brene Brown's Unlocking Us podcast with Priya Parker, who wrote the Art of Gathering. During this club meeting, we came together to share our takeaways from listening to the episode.

What I loved about this was getting the opportunity to share my takeaways, while also listening to others. During this time, we met in two breakout groups, much like the mastermind session. In the first group, we built community by sharing an item of value with the group and explaining its value. In the second group, we discussed how the podcast connected, extended and challenged our thinking. Then, we came back together as a community to share final takeaways.

I left with so many thoughts and ideas that I ended up listening to the podcast an additional time, gleaning new ideas the second time. It is actually from that second listen that all of these random events from the week connected so brilliantly.

As I listened that second time, I considered recent gatherings that I had participated in like the Teach Better Mastermind and the technology training and other gatherings that regularly occur at schools, such as staff meetings and CLTs. What purposes did each gathering convey? How I felt before each one and after leaving it? I thought about gatherings such as my wedding to my husband almost seven years ago and how we purposefully created a ceremony and reception focused on joining our two families. How could I implement the ideas shared in the podcast and our club discussions to enhance future gatherings?

Connection at a PTA Meeting

On Thursday, I presented about Digital Citizenship at our school's PTA meeting. I focused on the Shared Responsibility between school staff, students and parents/guardians. During this presentation, I shared how the digital citizenship program my district uses and how parents can support this program at home. Once again, connection came to mind.

This presentation was adding our school's parents into our Shared Responsibility commitment. It was making a connection between what was learned in school and home. In our current virtual environment this was an essential connection to be made. Rather than focusing on a deficit mindset that focused on what students should not do and how parents need to restrict their children's access, it focused on empowerment. How can we better prepare our children to be safe and make wise decisions while using online tools?

Why Road to Awesome?

As all of these events were happening, I was also engaged in reading a new book by Darrin Peppard, The Road to Awesome. In this book, he shares his educational journey or the "Road to Awesome." As he describes his six game changers in his leadership journey, he tells his journey, which was not always smooth. He proactively shares how he decided to change his focus during his principalship towards empowering his community (students and staffculty) and focusing on what awesomeness exists in his district.

I loved as he described how he choose to change his game and how he led his school. He focused on ways that he elevated the school climate and culture. His focus on promoting staffculty growth and recognizing the amazing work going on in his school inspired me. If you want to know more about this, read this book- I don't want to spoil it for you. Once again, I noticed the commonalities of connections- as we build relationship, we build connection.

Think about the role connection plays in your life, your journey? Are you seeking out ways to include gatherings on your path? How do those gatherings make you feel? After all, there is no time like the present where everything is new again to look at these connections. How can we prioritize our precious synchronous time to connect? I would love to hear your reflections in the comments.

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