The Power of an Act of Kindness

Dear Teachers,

Earlier this week I quietly marked a significant anniversary milestone: it was 50 years to the day that my father died. I exchanged a short text with my brother (“Thinking of you” “I’m thinking of you too”) and mentioned it to my husband, but otherwise the day passed by without much fanfare. I don’t know what I feel, or what I am supposed to feel; it’s mostly just a lifetime of the sense of a great big question mark where a parent is supposed to be. I don’t really know what it feels like to have a father, so I don’t know what I’m missing.

My family has always been stoic, and not much for conversation. My recollection is that my father died and we never really talked about him again. In fairness, that may not be accurate, but that’s how I remember it. Chatting about fond memories is what keeps a person’s presence among us, and since we didn’t do that, I remember very little of what my father might have been like, or how his death affected our family. I remember that my first grade teacher, Miss Robbins, came to my house on that day 50 years ago, and that I sat in her lap, and which chair it was in our living room where I had her undivided attention for a bit. I have only the vaguest recollection of attending the funeral, and none at all of the end of my first grade year or the ensuing summer. Although I was happy several years ago to unearth this picture of us at the beach, I can’t conjure up even a whiff of the memory of the actual event.

beach

As I approached my office building on the morning of The Significant Anniversary, several other people were coming to work at the same time. I thought about how carefully I was protecting the personal gravity of the day’s date, and I realized that the date might hold a silent significance for so many others as well; perhaps it marked a loved one’s birthday; someone else was anticipating a court date that afternoon; another celebrated a year free of cancer. Maybe it would be only after the day unfolded that a new significance would be added to it: a birth; an accident; a diagnosis.

It is May once again, such a stressful time for teachers as you endure testing and try to keep your students interested and, in spite of your exhaustion, begin to look ahead to the next school year. You have come to love your students this year, just like you always do, and some of them, too, have experienced unhappy things over the past nine months. Some of those life events you may know about; some you may be completely unaware of. But I hope you’ll remember that someday, fifty years or more from now, your act of kindness today (one that you yourself will have likely long forgotten) may be the one thing in the blurry haze of memory that your current student remembers with absolute clarity. I don’t remember a thing I learned my first grade year, but I remember Miss Robbins, and her kindness, and how special she made me feel on what was surely the worst day of my six and a half years on the planet until that day in 1967. You have the same opportunity to affect your students in profound and unexpected ways, and I hope you’ll use every minute of the next few weeks to give them the kind of care and attention that they very well may remember for the next half century.

Fondly,

Nancy

 

Lagniappes

lagniappe

Dear Teachers,

I just got back from a fabulous experience: participating in the Google for Education Certified Innovators Academy and becoming an official Google Innovator! My husband asked me in the airport on the way home, “Do you feel any different?” I thought about that question for a few seconds before I answered; the reply was a resounding yes, but maybe not for the reasons I was originally expecting. cupcake

But before I get into that, I thought I would share with you some of the trip’s lagniappes, a term that was the subject of one of the Spark sessions by the fabulous Tinashe Blanchet. A lagniappe, as you likely read above, is an unexpected something extra. I experienced so many lagniappes on my trip to London, it’s hard to know where to begin. The first memorable one was this lovely gift that showed up in our hotel room the evening before the Academy began. Totally unexpected and made me feel so happy and excited and optimistic about the following day’s adventures! Many thanks to Wendy Gorton and Becky Evans at Google for starting us out on such a fun note! Continue reading

On Not Being the Smartest Person in the Room

Dear Teachers,

Growing up, I was usually among the “smart kids” in my classes. Learning (or at least, getting good grades) came easily to me all the way through elementary school. And then I hit 8th grade, and Algebra. I just couldn’t get it; it made no sense whatsoever to me, and back then there was no such thing as “promoting a growth mindset.” I just knew that for the first time in my life, something was hard, and I had to work at it. I assumed that all the other information I had gathered about myself as a good student was simply wrong, and that I must be “bad at math.” Grades in my other classes slipped as well, and so I began to experiment with a new identity: that of Not That Great a Student. I wasn’t exactly comfortable in that persona but with no one telling me otherwise, I tried it out for a while to see how it fit. I didn’t much like it, and have always regretted that slide in my grades and my reputation. Continue reading

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ – Keep Those Chromebooks Rollin’!

Dear Teachers,

It’s an exciting time in our district. We have 8 elementary campuses that are going 1:1 with Chromebooks this spring. A couple of schools already have their Chromebooks, and the other 6 will have them by the end of April. After about two decades of having 5-7 computers per class, this is an enormous paradigm shift,  and one that most teachers are eagerly embracing! Continue reading

About that Google Innovator Thing…

Dear Teachers,

Guess what? The third time really was the charm for me: I was accepted yesterday into the Google Innovator program, for my plot to take over the world CLICK project! It was a whirlwind of a day, between paying attention to all the emails from the Innovator program, the hundreds of laudatory tweets from and about my new tribe (#lon17 and #GoogleEI), and the Hangout chat that kept pinging on my phone. And oh yeah, trying to get my actual job done! I am still a bit stunned, to be honest. I feel like I’m finally in the cool kids’ club (and believe me, I’ve pretty much NEVER been in the cool kids’ club).

innovator-welcome

Continue reading

Digital Citizenship as Standard Operating Procedure

Dear Teachers,

I was working with my friend Julie Paddock today on our presentation for NCCE in a couple of weeks. I say “our” presentation, but it is really going to be all Julie; although I had originally hoped to be heading to Portland to co-present with her, it didn’t work out that way. So I’ll be Skyping in (barring any technology failures) and moderating the Padlet that Julie will be using for the backchannel chat. (Aside: honestly, how cool is that, that I’ll be able to participate in a conference in the Pacific Northwest from down here in Texas? It’s such a fun time to be in Education!) Continue reading