Coaching with Growth Mindset – Part 1

This post was written with rights granted to TeachBoost© and published as part of the “Your Coaching Toolbox” blog series. It has been cross-posted with permission.

Between stints as a coach in my previous district and my current one, I wanted to learn more about how to support teachers and decided to take a massive open online course (MOOC) called “Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick.” This course provided the first opportunities for me to get introduced to the term “growth mindset.” The MOOC, created and facilitated by the Match Education organization, provided participants with many meaningful messages and useful strategies and, most importantly, we learned to use the “growth mindset” concept to support the teachers we work with.

Growth mindset is a term coined by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, and made famous in her 2006 book called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Dweck’s research led her to conclude that there are two general mindsets people hold when it comes to dealing with change and growth: either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. According to Dweck’s accompanying web site, in a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success, without effort. In a growth mindset, however, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

Understanding the differences between the two mindsets and how the MOOC categorized people into four types of resistance according to their specific fixed mindsets have been instrumental in my work as an instructional coach. This understanding allows me to evaluate a teacher’s resistance and respond to them accordingly. I have worked with teachers who become resistant due to a fixed mindset because they are fearful; others resist because they feel inadequate. Of course, some are simply too comfortable—they have been set in their ways for a long time and feel that any change now would be unbearable. While all of these types of teacher resistance are challenging to thwart, they can be transformed. People can change their mindsets with any amount of help from others, or a lack thereof. However, real meaningful change happens when someone decides to transform their own fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

The work of a good coach is not forcing change upon someone but rather coaxing them to want to change something about himself or herself. At the end of the day, however, no one will change unless they see a need for it.

Change in the time of rapid change

When I began my teaching career, the most advanced technologies I had available to me and my students were the chalk board and the overhead projector. Our ideas of engaging lessons usually included ones where students were burying their noses in independent reading books with little to no interaction or collaboration with their classmates. Why did we think that the quietest lessons were the ones that were the most effective? What I haven’t even mentioned yet is that I started teaching in 2006, and as hard as that is to believe, that’s what education was dealing with even eleven years ago. Not long after that, not only did educational technology take off, but so did instructional methods and our appreciation for, and search of, better ways to get students to reach higher levels of engagement and understanding. While things can change rapidly in education, how I embrace changes when they occur and anticipate the ones that have yet to are what allow me to continue to provide quality education to today’s students.

As an instructional coach, I find this to be one of the most important parts of the job. It’s one that is not likely to be listed in a coach’s job description, or even that of a school- or district-level administrator. It is, however, a necessary evil of being a leader. Working with colleagues or subordinates to grow their minds and help them embrace change is never easy. When I was hired as the instructional coach at my school my administrators asked me to focus on two overarching areas: pushing the utilization of instructional technology (we were heading into the second year of one-to-one laptop initiative) and boosting the level of student engagement in the classroom. The subtle challenge there was to actually improve student engagement so much that it would improve the overall discipline at the school by driving down the growing number of student discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. These goals and challenges could never have been attained or handled with fidelity by anyone until teachers’ mindsets were preliminarily assessed and altered as necessary.

Why a growth mindset?

Last summer I attended an educational technology conference put on by the Leyden School District in Illinois. One of the keynote addresses was made by Josh Stumpenhorst, the 2012 Illinois teacher of the year, author, and trailblazing educator (his over 30,000 Twitter followers can likely attest to his influential thoughts and actions as an educator).  In his address he said something that completely resonated with me as someone who helps others to grow their mindsets in order to adapt to change and push education forward: when he began teaching he simply needed to be more interesting than the squirrels and the trees outside his classroom window, yet he now has to be able to capture and hold the interest of today’s students by being more interesting than YouTube and other technological distractions. Educators everywhere are finding that the teaching methods that were successful in getting us to learn new information when we were in school are no longer relevant, engaging, or effective anymore for modern students. That is why I have been a big believer in growth mindset for a long time.

Virtually all successful people possess a growth mindset around many of the things they do. Conversely, those who hold fixed mindsets will never get beyond thinking that no matter what they do, they can never expect to see change, growth, or improvement.

Those with growth mindsets push themselves to improve something because they do not want to remain stagnant or unsuccessful.

Dweck’s research on growth mindset highlights this in that people with a growth mindset see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point, and this is where educators’ mindsets need to be if they are to truly change their instruction to meet the needs of the students who are currently sitting in their classrooms. They must ensure that students are learning relevant material through relevant technology and other media, or other low-tech methods according to which works best for their students. They must allow the students to become immersed in the content to the point where they themselves become the experts. They must allow students to reach higher levels of thinking and learning by synthesizing, analyzing, and creating content.

First, however, they must realize that there is a need to change based on something that has not been successful or remained stagnant for too long with little to no movement or growth whatsoever.

That is why instructional coaching positions have popped up all over educational institutions across the country and across the globe. These professionals, like myself, are tasked with the difficulty of getting teachers to find weaknesses in their students and themselves, then to plan and implement newer instructional methods that will be more successful. It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it!

 

How Transformational Leaders Can Shape Organizational Collaboration

One of my goals is to write more about the potential topic of my future dissertation, “Transformational Leadership Practices That Inspire Growth Mindset.” I recently submitted an assignment for a doctoral course in which I was asked to discuss organizational team building, teamwork and collaboration. Having an interest in transformational leadership already, I decided to write about these topics through the lense of how this particular leadership style can be applied to them. The following post is adapted from that assignment and will provide my own thoughts and feelings, supported by research, about how transformational leadership practices can help shape an organization’s success through teamwork and collaboration.

Educational and other organizational leaders face many challenges in their pursuits toward high organizational achievement. Not only must they establish and maintain a high standard for their organization by setting and pursuing a shared vision and mission. They must also manage and support their staff through collaboration and team building measures. However, there has been much research to shows that leadership can affect the culture and climate within an organization and people’s perceptions of the work environment, and that different leadership styles produce different effects (Raes et al., 2013). Transformational leadership theory and practices is the one leadership style that I believe can best help a leader with team building and communicating goals, values, and procedures.

As it relates to teamwork and collaboration, transformational leadership practices have leaders and followers, through a well-established and mutually-supportive culture, focus on the common good of the organization and the accomplishment of the goals of the organization (Eliophotou-Menon & Ioannou, 2016). This aspect of collaboration separates transformational leadership theory from other leadership styles in so far as it challenges leaders to empower their followers to each provide their own level of leadership. When staff members/employees feel empowered they contribute their unique passions, talents and ideas toward achieving organizational success (Tabassi, Roufechaei, Abu Bakar, & Yusof, 2017).

When it comes to team building and team learning, transformational leadership seeks to empower staff members/employees and take them past their own immediate self-interest by providing individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, and inspirational motivation (Raes et al., 2013). Therefore, through transformational practices, the organizational leader spends time understanding each staff member/employee’s own talents and abilities. Then, they tap into them by developing them and utilizing them to grow the entire organization. According to Tabassi et al., (2017) this can specifically be done by “developing particular aspects of the teamwork process, such as conflict resolution, team communication, and cohesion”. Therefore, practicing transformational leadership is likely to help improve team building by emphasizing relationships among staff members/employees, thus boosting the organization’s achievements.

Finally, communicating goals, values, and procedures is one of the most powerful ways transformational leaders can grow their organization. Using this leadership style benefits the organization while building upon benefits to individuals. The organizational leader helps set a shared vision and mission for the organization, while highlighting achievable and actionable goals. Then, the leader harnesses each individual staff member/employees’ talents. Therefore, each staff member/employee’s growth is valued and supported while they each use them to advance the entire organization. The shared vision, mission and goals provide a framework that is used as a blueprint to provide a foundation on which the organization’s successes are built upon.

Conclusion

According to Raes et al. (2013), “Generally, it is stated that transformational leadership is likely to have a positive impact on learning processes that take place in a group.” Furthermore, through that learning process, transformational leadership practices can affect the culture and climate within an organization and people’s perceptions of the work environment, and produce effects that help boost an organization’s achievements and level of success. These reasons support my belief that aspects of organizational leadership such as team building and communicating goals, values, and procedures are most successful when organizational leaders use transformational leadership theory and practices.

References

Eliophotou-Menon, M., & Ioannou, A. (2016). The link between transformational leadership and teachers’ job satisfaction, commitment, motivation to learn, and trust in the leader. Academy Of Educational Leadership Journal, 20(3), 12-22.

Raes, E., Decuyper, S., Lismont, B., Van den Bossche, P., Kyndt, E., Demeyere, S., & Dochy, F. (2013). Facilitating team learning through transformational leadership. Instructional Science: An International Journal of the Learning Sciences, 41(2), 287-305.

Tabassi, A. A., Roufechaei, K. M., Abu Bakar, A. H., & Yusof, N. (2017). Linking team condition and team performance: A transformational leadership approach. Project Management Journal, 48(2), 22-38.

Why ALL Educators Should have an Abundance Mentality

When 2017 began, the closest I came to making any resolutions for this year was when I noticed many connected educators asking each other to use the hashtags #oneword and #oneword2017 to come up with one overarching word that would motivate us, guide us, and drive us to be successful this year. After I reflected on what areas of my leadership and educational pursuits I thought I could improve upon, I kicked around a few words that I thought could work until I finally settled on the word SHARE.

I, and probably most educators, got into teaching because we love to work with kids and to share with them information that we have grown to appreciate and master. Many times, it seems, that the appreciation for this content stems from the teacher’s own passion for it. In my case, I had a passion for writing that was sparked in me in high school and only grew stronger when I became involved in journalism and broadcast media in college and early in my career after I graduated. As I have come to understand recently, however, is that there are other reasons for and benefits of this innate passion that inspires us to share what we know with others.

In his book, Lead From The Heart, author and business and leadership expert Mark C. Crowley describes that innate desire to share as an ABUNDANCE MENTALITY. Crowley wrote that, “Leaders with an abundance mentality fully understand that they’re expanded – that their own lights glow brighter and brighter – when they help others to grow and achieve.” This concept is among many that have drawn me into appreciating and studying transformational leadership theories and practices, but that is for another blog post at a later date.

I have been in education now for almost 12 years and nearly half of those have included being in some sort of a coaching role. Although I experienced success as a classroom teacher, it is in this coaching capacity that I seem to shine. I believe that I owe this to my own abundance mentality. Come to think of it, even other leadership roles that I have held in my past including my high school marching band, college marching band and fraternity, and summer camp have helped shape and presented opportunities for me to utilize this abundance mentality.

Speaking of sharing, in his book The Innovator’s Mindset (which has taken the teaching world by storm over the past two years), author and former educator and principal George Couros argues that teachers cannot survive in this day and age without it when he wrote, “Innovation (and enjoyment) flourishes when teachers collaborate to learn and practice new strategies. Isolation is often the enemy of innovation,” and,  “Today, isolation is a choice educators make.” According to Couros, there should no longer be any excuse for 21st century teachers to not share and not have an abundance mentality.

So, how do educators share?

Share with others at your school/district

Before I became the instructional coach at my school prior to the start of last year, the position had never even existed before. Not only that, but before last year teachers did not even have common planning time built into their program (at least not since I have worked at my school). It quickly became my mission to encourage more sharing among the staff at my school and within my district. I ventured to figuratively break down the classroom walls that isolate teachers and even students. I created a shared Google Photos album where the staff and I can upload and share photos of the great things they are doing in their classrooms that others may not normally get to see. I also adapted ideas from Robert Kaplinsky‘s movement called #Observeme, where teachers invite others to observe and provide feedback on self-selected elements of the teaching/learning process. I established a process for teachers to participate in learning walks. Plus, this year I helped our district re-think the way we provide professional development, or – as my superintendent would rather us refer to it – adult learning by giving teachers more choice in what they learn and even providing EdCamp style sessions. One thing we made sure to do was to value the amazing talents and experiences of our internal staff over relying on outside presenters.

I would never disagree with any educator who claims to be overworked and underappreciated. It is a tireless and thankless profession much of the time. However, someone once said to me, referring to time management and task prioritization, that people will make time for the things that are important to them. That is why it still amazes me that it takes so much effort for some educators and some schools just to get teachers to collaborate. Experience tells me that sharing, collaborating, and truly capitalizing on that abundance mentality does not become additionally burdensome to educators, it actually helps make their jobs and perhaps even their lives easier.

Share with others outside of your school

Without a doubt the last 14 or so months have been, by far, the most fulfilling of my career to date. Not because I am in a new role at my school, but because I became a connected educator. As George Couros made reference to a choice educators can make to either live in isolation or not, so too do they have a choice to connect with other educators either via social media or other face-to-face settings. When educators go across county lines, state lines, or even go outside their country to connect others with a growth mindset and/or an abundance mentality, amazing things can happen. I have seen it.

I would like to highlight just some of the ways to do this.

Social Media

Twitter has emerged as the leading social media for educator collaboration. Following other connected educators, authors, businessmen and women, and even celebrities allows for an on-demand sharing of ideas and content that is difficult to match anywhere else. Furthermore, another reason Twitter is one of the ultimate sharing tools for educators is because of its chats. Twitter chats typically happen weekly, bi-weekly or monthly and tend to focus on topics of interest to educators. Chats have even been established for teachers in the same state or even the same school or district and around certain content areas or age levels. In each chat, participants can respond to questions, respond to and engage in discussions based on other participants’ responses, or share content related to the chat topic. Some of my favorite chats include #ctedu, #educoach, #arvrinedu, #edumatch, #leadupchat, and the one that I created and moderate, #growthmindsetEDU. To find other chats, visit Participate Learning.

Voxer is getting utilized as a wonderful communication tool for educators to share and capitalize on their abundance mentalities. This walkie talkie smartphone and web-based application allows for sychronous communication to occur among educators. Unlike Twitter or other social media, real-time conversations can happen between and among pairs or groups of people who are not in the same location. My journey to become a connected educator advanced exponentially when I connected with #Edumatch on Voxer. Along with other Voxer groups such as LeadUpChat, EduCoach, PassthescopeEDU, GrowthmindsetEDU, ARVRinEDU and more, I have been able to virtually meet other educators whom I can reach out to any time I want with questions, answers, ideas, or just to chat. They even hold entire EdCamps on Voxer, usually with one in the summer and one in the winter when many groups open up to educators to join during the days of the EdCamp or even longer. The #growthmindsetEDU group that I run actually began as a group that emerged during an EdCamp on Voxer and, due to popular demand, remained active and even spawned into a monthly Twitter chat.

Periscope (or other live streaming services) is also gaining steam as a sharing tool. I have already mentioned how helpful Twitter is for educator collaboration. Well, when Twitter bought Periscope, more possibilities arose. Educators who follow each other on Twitter can also follow each other on Periscope (or Facebook Live, or Instagram Live) to catch live action of what is happening in their classroom or in their school, in professional development settings, on field trips, or anything else they wish to include in a live video stream. I am in a group called PassthescopeEDU that “scopes” each third Thursday of every month around a different topic. We vote on ideas to create a monthly hashtag and then get creative to find ways to do a live stream to discuss the topic. For example, this being the month of March, our hashtag was #marchmadness and we “scoped” about our most valuable (edtech) tools (#MVT) and/or our favorite people (#MVP). Here is my scope!

Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Google Plus and other similar social media are also great for sharing and collaborating. Facebook’s, Google Plus’s and Snapchat’s (new) feature that gives users the ability to create group chats, Instagram’s and Facebook’s hashtag feature, and Pinterest’s feature to curate resources by “pinning” to users’ boards are some of the most enticing features of those social media for educators.

Blogging

As much as I love writing and pride myself on my writing ability, this is the area of sharing that I probably struggle with the most. It goes back to the argument about time. I often psych myself out by thinking that writing a blog post includes a time commitment that is hard to budget for. However, as  I said before, as I place more value in this style of sharing, the more time I will be willing to devote to it. Plus, there’s nothing that says that blog posts need to be as along as the one you are reading right now. Blog posts can even be short pieces about anything an educator wishes to share publicly. Blogging can not only help the educator who is writing by allowing them share their ideas, thus feeding into their abundance mentality, but it can also certainly benefit the audience. A blog’s readers may gain new ideas, new tools or new perspectives about concepts that have eluded them until they read that blog post. I encourage any educator to seek engaging and interesting blogs to read. Start with this Teach.com daily ranking of education blogs for inspiration.

How do I get in touch with my inner abundance mentality?

In summary, I believe all educators have a passion and knack for sharing information. The trick is to turn that passion into an effort to collaborate with other educators to advance the profession. I have wrestled with my own place in this collaborative process, often thinking that my message is the same one that other educators have heard before, or that I lack original thoughts and/or ideas. To combat this feeling, it important to understand the following thought.

Paramount to one’s abundance mentality is the ability to realize that we all have something to share.

Someone somewhere is waiting for your thought, your idea, your message. That person could be in your school or district, in your state, in your country, or somewhere else in the world. The exciting this is that you never know whom your sharing will reach, or on what level it will reach them. But rest assured that it will be received and it will be appreciated.

I am not an expert, I just know a lot

So, I haven’t blogged in a while and had been meaning to get back into it anyway when I came to a realization yesterday that I just had to write about. What was the realization? Well, it’s more that I came up with a motto that I think should be representative of how I conduct myself mostly professionally, but personally as well. Ready for it?

I am not an expert, I just know a lot

Here is the story of how and why I came up with this motto:

Let me just back up for a second to tell you about two important things. First is the importance of relationships. Of course, both romantic and platonic relationships can exist in a wide variety of situations and settings. There are spousal or partner relationships, familial relationships including pets, friendly relationships, collegial relationships, etc. For the sake of this post, I will be mostly referring to the collegial relationship that exists between me and my coworkers, the teachers who work in my school.

As an instructional coach, I truly recognize how building and maintaining relationships is a tremendously crucial aspect of my role. I know that if I do not do these things well, teachers will be turned off to me and my role very quickly and very easily. See, in this role I have very few of the the same pressures of a classroom teacher. I don’t have the lesson planning, the grading, the classroom management, the parent communication, none of it. What I do have are the abilities to set my own schedule, have better access to school and district administrators, and more time to learn about current educational trends and best practices. With that freedom often comes resentment from others. Plus, there is still much confusion that my colleagues, and even I sometimes have about what instructional coaching is. Therefore, if I don’t try my best to support teachers in ways that meet their individual needs, or try to push my own agenda or one that is perceived to come from the administration, they will tune out quicker than a hummingbird flaps its wings.

Speaking of relationships, interestingly, according to an eHarmony article called Top Ten Ways You May Be Unintentionally Turning Her Off, three ways men are unintentionally turning off women include talking about yourself too much, coming on too strong, and false advertising. These are some of the exact pitfalls I want to avoid when trying to not come across as a know-it-all in the relationships I have with my colleagues.

Next, I want to emphasize how important it is to set goals and strive to achieve them. At this point in my life and career I have a rather long list of personal and professional goals that is refined constantly. Professionally, though, my goals are mainly tied to the goals of the staff in my building, just as classroom teachers’ goals should be tied to the needs of their students. Well, entering year two as the instructional coach at my school, I have developed goals that correspond to supporting and training teachers alongside (with) them. I felt that in the past I trained teachers a little too much by informing them of a new technique or new technology and walking them through it, without actually being with them/in their classrooms to initiate it.

That brings me to yesterday.

At this year’s first meeting of the ACES Regional Coaches Council that I belong to, we were discussing the concept of Restorative Practices. The graphic below represents an aspect of this theory having to do with levels of supports. What dawned on me right away was that the goal that I mentioned, doing more to coach alongside teachers, is shown in this diagram as someone leaves a lower level of control (permissive) to enter a higher level (restorative). As I thought even more about it, I sought reasons that would prevent this transition. One reason stood out to me more than the others.

social-discipline-window

Thus, I came up with my motto: I am not an expert, I just know a lot.

My hypothesis is that the more I can live out this motto in my actions and my relationships, the more successful I will be. And I don’t necessarily mean just my work relationships either.

I have two masters degrees, I hold certifications in multiple content areas and building-level administration, I have been fortunate to experience a ton of trainings and professional development that sometimes classrooms teachers don’t, and I have even gone back to school, working hard to earn my doctorate degree. And do you know what that means to the teachers I work with or others with whom I have personal or professional relationships? Not much.

It’s not my level knowledge about anything, expert or not, that will make me, my wife, my kids, my colleagues, or anyone else successful. The key is in understanding how that knowledge can be used not just by me, but WITH them.

 

 

My First (Amazing) Edcamp Experience!

It’s not you, it’s me.

Step aside, traditional professional development methods. You’re not right for me anymore. I’m an Edcamp guy now!

Only recently I found out about and realized the awesomeness of a relatively new form of professional development for educators called edcamp. See, I have absolutely become a self-admitted education nerd, spending (probably too) much of my spare time browsing the internet, Twitter and Voxer reading about, talking about and tweeting about teaching and learning. And as I have dedicated this spare time over the past few months to becoming an uber-connected educator, reaching out to other teachers, coaches, administrators, consultants, etc. around the country and even around the world, I have been finding so many new ways to grow myself and my colleagues. That’s when this concept of edcamps suddenly appeared up on my radar.

I should mention that I have attended or worked at a summer day camp almost every year since I was entering nursery school at four year old. I have served in many roles in my time on the staff; from group counselor to activity specialist to administration. That may have been part of the initial reason why the word camp stood out to me, but it may have also been the same reason why the unconventional format of edcamps confounded me.

According to the Edcamp South Dakota‘s explanation of what Edcamp is, “Edcamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs. What makes Edcamp an unconference? Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. Instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions. Sponsors don’t have their own special sessions or tables, all of the space and time are reserved for the things the people there want to talk about.”

So, last week I found out that edcampswct (Southwest Connecticut) was happening that same weekend. This would be an amazing chance for me to get even nerdier about education and learn more about my craft so that I can get better at supporting the teachers I work with. Selfishly, it would also be a great way to put faces to the names of some of the other educators from around the state whom I had followed on Twitter or spoken to on Voxer, and to connect to even more people than I already had.

Speaking of connections, one that I had recently made was to a teacher who was very well connected in his own rights and, believe it or not, teaches at the middle school in my town. Little did I know at the time that this teacher, Joel Pardalis, not only grew up in the house next to mine and that our kids take the bus home from school together, but then I found out that he was one of the organizers of edcampswct. I knew then that this “unconference” experience would be something I would definitely have to check out!

It is difficult to describe what I was feeling when I arrived at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, Connecticut this past Saturday morning. I do know, however, that I definitely expected to learn a lot, and I was eager to assert myself in conversations and sessions throughout the day. That is what led me to post my own session idea. If you have opened the link above to the picture of the session board, my session was posted in the last time slot in room 1045 and would be about online close reading using ActivelyLearn. I decided to facilitate this session because I wanted the experience, but I also figured that this program that I wanted to demonstrate was relatively little known, so I would be able to offer a certain level of expertise that perhaps the other participants would not. So, it would be like teaching in some ways, taking the information that only I have and giving it to others. I also decided to post the session in that final time slot because, since this was my first time even attending an edcamp, I wanted to guage various aspects of the other sessions I would attend first.

I decided for the first time slot to attend a wonderfully informative session faciliated by an amazing district-level technology coordinator/coach Alexa Schlechter – whom I had also recently connected with on Twitter, although she added me later that day or over the weekend – on the 20 Google Chrome extensions teachers can’t live without. It was tuly an enlightening session. I quickly learned how to manage my time between following along with Alexa as she presented the various extensions and live tweeting my experience using the Twitter hashtag #edcampswct. However, that was coincidentally when I began to get a little nervous.

One of the appealing aspects of edcamp and the “unconference” format is that it allows session participants and even facilitators to not be experts in the area of the topic being presented in a session. In fact, Joel, who had facilitated a session of his own on the question formulation technique – getting your students asking the questions, had mentioned that he even told his session participants at the start of the session that he saught their input as he did not consider himself a leading expert on the topic. But Alexa seemed like such an expert in the extensions she was presenting and had clearly put in the time to prepare her presentation. And the next session I attended, led by another edcampswct organizer and recent education connection on both Twitter and Voxer, Rob Pennington, on the use of another amazing education tool called BreakoutEdu, was again a well-prepared and expertly executed session. I was definitely second guessing my decision to facilitate the ActivelyLearn session. And, oh yeah, I had met another inspiring educator, who herself was highly knowledgable about ActivelyLearn. I worried that she knew more than I did and should have been the better choice to run the session than I. I was feeling a bit intimidated and very unprepared.

By the time I got into my third session as a participant, despite enjoying the edcamp experience immensly so far, I was beginning to think of excuses to get out of running my own session. I found out that after lunch many of the conference goers leave to enjoy the rest of their day and weekend. I also was dealing with a pest problem at my house that I may have needed to leave to deal with at any moment. Perhaps these would prove to be opportune ways for my session to be cancelled. But what would that say about me? What would it do to my chances of becomming/staying well-connected in the education world? Why would I stray from my personal commitment to being a highly-regarded educational leader?

I stayed at the edcamp, determined to run my session and live up to my own expectations of myself. I have to admit, there were certainly aspects of my session that I would have liked to go better. The other participants (there were seven others besides me) and I had some trouble signing into the program I was presenting, and my goal of having them become “students” in my sample class never really happened. Plus, I had to figure out the answers to a few questions on the spot. But I stayed the course and lived to tell the tale. And I’d like to think that at least a couple of the other session participants even learned a few things and may actually implement the program in their own classroom, or better yet even recommend it to others.

So, what did I take away from this, my first time at an edcamp? Realistically, too many things to even begin listing here. But I will tell you that I am so glad that I went and so very glad that I didn’t flake out on my own session. It was a completely worthwhile and fulfilling learning experience that I am now starting to think will become something I get hooked on. Just in the few days since this event I have reached out to others to find out how to become even more involved in edcamps than simply attending/participating. I have also begun to think about ways to organize an edcamp in my own district (stay tuned for more info. on that as it arises).

Thank you to the founders of edcamp and to the organizers of edcampswct. You have further fueled my fire to become that highly regarded educational leader I alluded to already, and inspired me to think outside the box to come up with fresher ways of enhancing professional learning for me and the other educators I am connected to on both a personal or digital level!