“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” – Anita Roddick
Your words are powerful. As a teacher or administrator, you use them to impact students, parents, and others in your building and district every day. Sometimes our voice is something we take for granted. We don’t realize how much of an impact our words can make in the lives of others. Your local impact is after all why you probably got into education, but have you ever thought of sharing your words beyond your daily work?
I work at an amazing middle school, one where innovative things are going on every class period. Our 1:1 digital transformation initiative that started two years ago has made a huge impact on the teaching and learning in our classrooms. But often as a classroom teacher, you get stuck in your room with little ability to share with others who are even next door to you.
To try to remedy this, we recently held a professional development during our staff meeting this past week called Edu Fest – Innovation Showcase where 35 of our teachers and administrators took 10 minutes to share something innovative that they do in their classroom or in our school. The staff was able to choose, much like a conference, which sessions they wanted to attend. Furthermore, the staff voted on the sessions they want to make into 30 minute in depth share shops to be held in a couple of weeks.
Edu Fest, something we have done for the last three years, was again a hit with our teachers. It was engaging, collaborative, active, meaningful, and most importantly, it gave our teachers the ability to have an impact on others. But what I found interesting as we put this PD together was teachers would tell me they didn’t do anything in their classroom worth sharing. My jaw dropped. Every teacher has something to share! Educators really are among the most humble professionals, but I think there is another factor that is holding them back.
I have teachers in my building, much like each of you reading this blog, that should be blogging, creating podcasts, and presenting at conferences. Yet they are afraid to take 10 minutes to share a creative and innovative practice from their classroom. And believe me, I get it; I’ve been there. Standing in front of your colleagues is much more intimidating than standing in front of your students. Even worse yet, writing for or presenting in front of a group of educators you have never met is even scarier.
Prior to my first blog and presentation (which were actually one week apart), I had a multitude of fears. My thought process went a little something like this: I don’t have anything interesting or ‘new’ to share. And even if I do, no one will want to read or hear what I have to say. Or worse yet, they will but won’t like it. And I’m not a good writer/speaker anyway. And so on…
But after reading the book Linchpin: Are you Indispensable by Seth Godin last fall, I used one of his quotes to propel me into the public forum of presenting and blogging:
“Fear for a linchpin is a clue that you’re getting close to doing something important.” -Seth Godin
The topic I chose to share was how our school flips staff meetings, patterned off of the flipped classroom that Jon Bergmann and Aaron Samms have made popular. Our flipped staff meetings have enabled us to capture a much needed additional 25 hour of professional learning for our staff, allowing us to do the conference-like PD I referenced above.
My first presentation on flipping staff meetings with Paul Hermes at the TIES conference in Minneapolis, MN was a whirlwind. After a lot of hard work, and facing the fears of presenting in front of a large group of professionals, we felt like we had made an impact. But that impact was limited to those in the room. So we decided to make a flipped video for anyone to be able to hear our presentation.
And although we were able to reach more educators with our video, I wanted the impact to go further. So, this summer I contacted Te@chThought about writing a post on their national education blog. Te@chThought published my blog post, and as I watched it circle the globe being tweeted out by nationally recognized educators, the fears of rejection and ridicule remained. Yet, I was in awe of the impact technology had afforded me.
I didn’t quite grasp that impact until I received an email a month later from the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL), who had read my Te@chThought blog post, to write an article for their October e-leading magazine. And just as that article was being published, I was contacted by an ICT in Ireland who had read the blog post as well and wanted to design a course through the National Association for Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) for Irish principals and deputies on how to flip staff meetings. Just last week, Paul and I were interview as the international experts to kick off this course.
If someone would have told me three years ago that my words and work would have a global impact, I would have said they were crazy! I was living through all the fears that hold people back. In fact, I still do. Every time a submit a piece of writing or present our ideas, those fears still plague me. But if you face those fears, if you put yourself and your ideas out there, maybe, just maybe, your words will have an impact…an impact beyond the four walls of your classroom and school. And isn’t that what we as educators really want: to have a lasting impact on students, teachers, education, and the world? We have technology now that can help you do just that.
And now it’s your turn to face your fears. Stop letting them get the best of you. Stop allowing them to hold you back. Your words can have an impact. How can you use them to influence the world?