Pain is a good thing, right?

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Click here for picture of FHS team at Microsoft’s Innovative Teacher Forum

Where to begin?

Participating in Microsoft’s Innovative Teacher’s Forum in late September continues to cause me severe pain. My enlarged brain is now so full, I’m sure it will blow any time now. Trying to figure out how to organize my many thoughts is almost as painful as trying to make space for all the new stuff I have in there now.

Some of the greatest lessons in life are the simple and unexpected discoveries we make about ourselves. I went to Seattle hoping for the best, but secretly worried that I had little to offer others. Being wrong never felt so good. It was a wonderful experience realizing that I need to speak up, take more action, push harder for the changes I know need to take place. So, one of the best things I got from the Innovative Teachers Forum was realization that I am a truly innovative teacher.

Collaboration. I like that word. It’s a great word. It brings lots of positive things to mind and makes me feel sort of like I used to feel when I travelled the world with Up With People almost 20 years ago – hopeful, global, neighborly. It takes a village to …… well, you get the idea.
But I understand it differently now. It’s less about the process (which brings back that loving feeling), it’s actually about the product. Everyone gets something from collaboration. The networking concept is not new to me. Collaboration is not new either. But talking to strangers about common interests and goals is new to me. And I’m sold on its effectiveness. I can’t wait to make this a common daily practice.

Time deserves respect. I need to change my attitude about time. For some reason I have been working really hard to “beat” it as if it were an opposing team, the plague, or the Crimson Tide football team. I can’t remember ever trying to work with it as if it were my trusted friend. If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of amazing weeks about time it’s this: I’d like more time in my day than everyone else has and I can have it. Yes, I can have more time for what I really want to do. I have just given myself permission to take what I need. If it means a little less sleep, cutting corners on other things, or removing some things altogether, I can do that. I hear so many teachers tell me that they don’t have time for this or for that. Actually what they are really saying is, “I don’t care enough about this or that to do it.” It’s simple. We do whatever we really want to do. I really want to dig, learn, collaborate, grow, explore, and use all I learn to become a better teacher. So, that’s what I am going to do. I am so excited that MY spare time is actually going to be MINE!

The last couple of weeks have been full of new opportunities for me as well. I may soon be writing for the Teacher Leader Network. There is just no better way to find your voice than to exercise your hands. Thinking on the most pressing issues facing teachers and other educators is a challenge I’m excited to accept. Moreover, I’m beginning an amazing journey in the study of engaging instruction. Working with gifted professionals from the Alabama Best Practices Center in Montgomery, I am thrilled help plan special training for teachers AND students in designing and implementing engaging 21st century curriculum. There are many other interesting projects on the horizon for me in Talladega County as well. These opportunities offer me the professional validation I need to spur me toward all that awaits me on the horizon.

Before setting out to win favor with the seletion committee for Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers Forum in Redmond, Washington, I knew it would take a lot of work. I never dreamed that after returning from the forum that I’d want to work ten times harder to win favor with myself. Now that’s the kind of professional experience I’d like to bottle and give to every teacher on the planet.

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