Why an Outsider’s Point of View Matters
If there was one thing I have heard more than once, it was that not being in education was an asset to those in education. This aligns with my belief in ‘opening ourselves up to connect with unlikely suspects’. When this is done with meaning, we are able to find a shared purpose and begin to create an impact together that is greater than anything we could do individually. It also is a theme that Peter Welch talked about, which is that a fish can't see the water it’s in. I have called this ‘not being able to read the label of the jar we are in’. Outsiders can often see what we don’t. They are not biased by what has always been done, or the institutional structures that exist. They question what they don’t know and are able to provide fresh thinking and solutions to help create impactful change.
There were many concepts shared at #CEESA2019 that provided steps that could improve agency, empowerment and results . When we have the same people and mindsets facing an irrational, yet very real, fear of change, expecting different results may never be achieved to their fullest potential because of the comfort of knowing the current results we can achieve and the steps we need to take to get them. Any change comes with an unknown. The unknown is a scary thing to embrace and until we change our relationship with this irrational fear, change will never happen. Maybe if we stopped calling it the ‘unknown’ or ‘predictable’ and started calling it ‘insanity’; we would be able to remind ourselves that we are in control of trying new things: exploring, experimenting, and being willing to fall down and get back up. It sounds like something we ask of our students. Why aren’t we asking it of ourselves?
Changing The World
It’s a bold and inspiring statement but do we understand the negative impact a statement like, ‘Changing the World' has on preventing people from continuing to, or starting to, make a difference, when they don’t achieve the final goal? Change doesn’t have to be radical. Perhaps if we starting saying I changed something in my community that made a difference, we would see more people trying to make an impact. The more people who try, the more people continue to forge on because they can celebrate the small achievements along the way. This is instead of facing the daunting thought that they are so far away from the final goal, even though they have made such a difference in so many people’s lives along the way.
We Teach to Learn
If there was one thing I came away with, from CEESA 2019, it was just how much I learned. Even though I hosted a pre-conference workshop, 3 mini workshops and a curated talk where I shared what I knew, the dialogue, engagement and feedback I received as a result provides lessons and learnings that I will continue to use to help improve and innovate what I share. As I told this to many who asked how my sessions went, most said something similar to, “We learn by teaching.”
Letting The World Feel Our Heartbeat
One of my favorite workshops was one I facilitated about letting the world feel your heartbeat. Why? Because it was the one that made me bring tears to my eyes and get goosebumps several times. It was a simple exercise of having everyone think of something they are passionate about that they had started and always thought they would like to do more with. The next step was to think about the time someone acknowledge them for what they had done. I will share my story with you.
I was at an event in Dallas called Changers of Commerce and had been asked if I wanted to share my story. What I didn’t realize when I responded, “Yes!” was the amazing people who were going before me and the impact their stories had. As I was listening to them tell their stories, I made a decision that I wasn’t going to tell my story, but let them know that I could help share their story. At the time, I was working at HuffPost, had my own blog and was active on social media, so had many options to help them get their stories heard. The response was, “You don’t know who you’re saying this too.” I replied, “Yes I do. I just heard all your stories and know the people who are in this room.”
A couple months later, one of the people in that room ran the social media agency with the No Kid Hungry account. I was asked if I wanted to join the social council for No Kid Hungry to help spread the word of ending child hunger in America. Fast forward a year and I was back at the same conference and reconnected with Jeff Power, who I had met the first year. I was telling him how when I first started getting involved with No Kid Hungry, a few people would like my Facebook posts. Then a few months later, more people were liking my posts and several were asking how to get involved. Then people started sharing my posts, so it just wasn’t reaching my friends, it was reaching my friends’ friends. And then people started seeing signs or businesses supporting No Kid Hungry and would post about it on their page and tag me.
Jeff looked at me and said, “You know what that is? It’s you letting the world feel your heartbeat.” I now have “Let The World Feel Your Heartbeat” tattooed on my forearm.
The suggestions I gave to everyone after they told their stories was this:
Reflect on what it took, the feelings you had and the obstacles you overcame to create the impact.
Share those feelings, learnings, and obstacles.
Share it with you co-workers, write about it on your blog, post it on your Facebook page. Anything you can do to let other people, who may be interested in doing something similar or possibly joining you, be able to understand what it takes and inspired to do something themselves.
If you ever get frustrated, remember the acknowledgement you received and never forget that feeling. My tattoo never lets me forget what Jeff reminded me of.
Attending for the first year, especially as someone from outside the industry, I felt very welcomed. Everyone that I spoke with or interacted with made me feel like part of the community. Many even making me feel like I had been coming for years. I am pretty experienced with networking and walking up to people I don’t know and starting a conversation with them. Not everyone has this skill. One suggestion I have would be for there to be some ambassadors, seasoned attendees of CEESA, who would be assigned to first time attendees and help them connect with others who they may want to meet. As I was in the car to the airport, some of the people I was with mentioned that there is a shortage of international school teachers, especially from the US. This made me think of and idea of bringing some education students to the CEESA conference and letting them experience the event, but most importantly, get to hear first hand from others who are teaching internationally and the reasons why it’s been so rewarding for them. I realize this would be an added expense, but I am sure there are ways to help fund this and have those students go back to their universities and share with other education students about what working at American International Schools has to offer. You create an opportunity for a few to experience, and those few go back and tell many.
What suggestions do you have to help make the world our classroom and create a global community of, and for, educators?