So What?

Back in April when we were in London (you know, because of that Google Innovator thing…), my husband and I enjoyed eating at a little place called Pret a Manger. I have no idea if the locals enjoy that place, but each of the multiple locations we encountered was always busy, the food was fresh and tasty, and its prices seemed reasonable – although it was in pounds, so who knows. Thrift seems to elude us when wpret-a-manger-napkine go on vacation.

Anyway, our last stop at Pret a Manger was at Heathrow airport, and the slogan on my napkin caught my attention: “Nothing to declare.” I thought the play on the natural content of the food and the typical customs questions was really clever. I saved the napkin because I liked it so much, and I came upon it again a couple of weeks ago as I was continuing to make my way through the detritus of the trip.


The napkin popped up as I was gathering all the swag from the trip (you know, the one where I became a Google Innovator...) and creating my first-ever attempt at a shadow box. The wife of one of my fellow innovators had made him one, and when he posted it on our group chat, I knew that I wanted to give it a try, too. It needs a couple of extra pins in a couple of places, but overall I’m very happy with it, as it displays in one place so many happy memories:


But I’ve been thinking about that napkin in relation to my whole trip, already six weeks in my past. People ask me about Google London, and I tell them, “It was wonderful! It was the best professional experience I’ve ever had!” and while that’s true, I want to make sure that I put into practice the things I learned there – or else, I’d have nothing to declare – yes? So what is it that, a month and a half after the fact, I took away from my Google Innovator experience? What’s the “so what”?

  1. The design thinking process is something that can and should be applied in all our training plans. At the Academy, we were taught to think in terms of [User] needs [unmet need] because [insight]. In my district, we use the Understanding by Design framework for all our curriculum planning. Those of who plan professional learning also need to keep our learners in mind when we plan our classes. Every class we’re teaching this summer needs the deliberate forethought and planning that we so often do by intuition; thinking about users’ unmet needs and how we can address them (and why) will help us to sharpen our preparation for the classes. 
  2. Have a bias toward action. I need to continue to be proactive in my efforts to affect change in our world. That might mean reaching out to  individual teachers and schools, designing new classes or initiatives, or just thinking through how to solve a problem before turning to someone else for help. I like to think I do those things most of the time anyway, but I want to become more conscious of the idea of a bias toward action.

    Along those same lines, I can’t just sit back and expect my plot to take over the world my CLICK project (the reason I made it to the Google Academy in the first place) to manage itself. I need to keep pressing forward to see it grow and become the resource that I hope it will. And some of the action I’ve taken since I returned is already paying off! Stay tuned for another blog post – soon, I hope – on the latest developments there. (Squee!)

  3. Start suggestions for new ways of doing things or new initiatives with “How might we…” Opening a conversation this way implies both optimism (the implication that we can, in fact, accomplish whatever the goal might be) and collaboration (we, as in us, working together). How might we tweak our Chromebook classes? How might we make ETSI even more successful this year? How might we reach out to more schools in the upcoming school year? How might we demonstrate technology integration more effectively? … the possibilities are endless. And these kinds of questions open the door to more creativity and new ideas, rather than just going with the fallback “way we’ve always done it.”
  4. The power of NOW-HOW-WOW – thinking of ideas that can be accomplished right away, those that can be accomplished with a little help or some additional resources, and those really “moonshot” ideas – the ones that make us say WOW and might seem impossible at first. But those “WOW” ideas are what will really end up changing the world. Fifteen months or so ago, CLICK was a WOW for me – just an idea and a dream that I couldn’t let go of.  I don’t know that it’s going to change the world, but I’ve loved every minute of working on it and seeing it move from a “WOW” to a “NOW.”

My Innovator cohort, #LON17, continues to interact, bounce ideas off one another, and share successes, and I daresay we will all continue to communicate with one another into the foreseeable future. I’m looking forward to reuniting with some of those fabulous, brilliant people at ISTE in San Antonio later this month, and the group is talking about other opportunities for future reunions. As I continue to reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I know that I, unlike my souvenir napkin, have something to declare: the Innovator Academy was a professional learning experience like no other, and one that will continue to influence my actions for a long time.







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.


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.






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).


Continue reading