Saturday, June 8, 2019

Catch your wave and ride it out

This spring has taken me for some twists and turns in all aspects of my life, but especially in my role in education. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, where I am, and the students I work with daily. I am quite grateful for the school where I work and the opportunities it lends me as an educator.

I have long stated that I strive to be among the best at what I do. I consider myself a lifelong learner. I know that I can do more and do better. In seeking to improve and grow as an educator, I am seeking to improve and grow my students. They will ultimately benefit from the goals I have set for myself.

I want to start with what I have decided is a perfect analogy for what I am experiencing and feeling in my life as a connected educator, an edtech enthusiast, and the lead member of the EdTechFamily.

On Wednesday, we returned from the first leg of our first vacation of the summer. You see, the plan was this: Capitola Sunday to Wednesday, home for two days, then head to Eureka for three days. It didn't play out quite as smoothly as I would have liked to start, but ultimately, we are on track. The Capitola leg of the trip is the birthday present for my children, a couple of days on the coast including surfing lessons. We did not head to the coast as prepared as we had hoped, but we were open-minded and ready for adventure. My daughter has a healthy fearlessness about her that is balanced with a respect for the water. My son is more fearful but has been working diligently on overcoming his fears independently. Both had an amazing time.

Now, for the analogy. I, too, took a surfing lesson. It was a bit of a struggle between the mama who wanted to show the kids that anything can be done and the mama who wanted to keep a close eye on her kiddos at all times. My son remained on the shoreline, still fearful of what the day had in store, and my daughter was catching her first wave as my instructor said, "this is your wave, are you ready?!" "I'm not, but, that doesn't" He had pushed me off and I was riding the wave. I moved my hands to push up on the board...and....rolled, back first into the water. The wave slammed down on me, separating me from my board and submerging me in the salty ocean water. In that brief second, I knew that this is where sometimes you may not know which was up. I reached out and started for the surface of the water. My head bobbed up, I took a breath just as a new wave pummeled me below the water's surface. "Are you kidding me? Ok, I can do this." I reached out again. This time, my fingers slipped across the edge of my board just as a third wave knocked me back below the water. I could feel my legs starting to shake. I kicked and fought my way once again to the surface. I grabbed my board, looked over, and there was my instructor. He smiled. "I...can't....breathe...(pause) well, I can, buuut...." He said, "I know." I caught my breath. I got back on my board. And, with a little encouraging, I paddled back out. I wasn't quite ready for another wave, but I was ready to head back out. I needed to do that. The water and I had a new relationship. I was ready for more, but I needed to catch my breath. My son entered the water soon after that. I watched him ride a couple of waves. My daughter was beaming across the waves. We had done something awesome. None of the three of us stood up on our boards, but all three of us rode waves that day. And all three of us are ready to go back. We have a new relationship with the Pacific Ocean that will continue to grow. And, at some point, we may even stand up.

It starts with an idea.
Then there is a little fear.
Then exhilaration.
Then enthusiasm.
Then the quest for more.
The quest to do it differently. And, better.
The need to get back out on the water and eventually, find your wave and stand up then ride it to shore.

This Spring, I started to bring to life a dream for our small rural school. It started at first as a piece of my Google Innovator project idea about a year ago. I pitched it in a hastily thrown together video. I was proud of the video and I was excited about the idea, but when the decision came down that I was not to be included in the Google Innovator LAX18 cohort, I went back to the drawing board. I did not want to let the idea wither away there, but I did still have my sights set on going through the Google Innovator program. I have long-known that this is something I am passionate about doing. I proceeded with pieces of my idea focused on implementation at my school site while also revisiting my Google Innovator pitch. In the meantime, I started working closer with the third grade teacher on STEAM projects and ideas. Together, we put together a proposal for a STEAM Club for our school. In April, our school board accepted our proposal. I was on top of the world. I know our students will greatly benefit from this added investment in STEAM at our site. I am excited to have a partner in this, too. And so, a significant part of my original Innovator pitch is coming to life in the 2019-20 school year. What I found in this is that I still want more for myself, my colleagues, and my students. I was able to pair down my ideas and I got very excited at the prospect of joining the LON19 cohort. I engaged my students and my children as I put together my new idea. In fact, my two young children (then in sixth and third grades) helped a great deal with putting together my video.

I knew this was it.

I knew it only to once again have rejection look me straight in the eye. Damn. This one hurt. I thought I had done it right. I had it all figured out.

Or did I?

There were changes in the approach to the Google Innovator program that I had not fully embraced and understood at the time of applying. That would be a significant part of my "downfall." I have done something new now. I have reached out to to Google Innovators, I have done regular notes and sketch notes. I have researched and soul-searched. This summer, I will work on revamping my plan, my ideas, my big question yet again. I had a huge momentum in the immediate aftermath of rejection, but a lot has gone on since then. I do not want to lose the drive, the momentum, the hope, the plan. I return from the second leg of our first big vacation on Monday. Work on this and other goals begins Tuesday. Not that I have stopped working on it. In fact, I have not. I still have a ways to go, though. The really cool thing is that I am better connected this time on this path than ever before and I have drawn inspiration from a long-distance a colleague (if you will), a member of my PLN who applied five times and is headed to London in July. For him, the fifth time was the charm. He found his wave. He's ready to stand up and ride that wave.

I recently received a "thanks, but no thanks," in response to my Fall CUE presentation proposal. It was just like that second wave knocking me below the water's surface. I kept my discouragement to myself, not even telling my parents this time around. Then, today, I made it a part of my "failing up" story. A wonderful Central California educator and fellow CCCUE Board member, Scott Nunes, tagged me in a Tweet asking for fails.  I truly believe that the only failure is in not trying. So, just as I did not fail at surfing due to getting knocked off my board nor for not standing up to die a wave in to shore, I have not failed in other aspects of my life. I am a go-getter, an achiever. I want the best for myself and my students and I will fight to get there. Waves may occasionally knock me down, but I am never out. I will kick as I reach for the surface. I will gab the board I am tethered to that is my PLN and I will try again. And again. And again.

At the end of it all, I will be my best me to help my students and my colleagues become their best selves. I know where I am going. I see the shoreline. I just have to catch the right wave. That wave was not LAX18 nor LON19. My wave is still to come. That wave was not Fall CUE this year. That's ok, too. My wave is out there. And when it comes, you better believe, I am going to ride it all the way to the shoreline and I am going to celebrate. If I stand up on the way, even better!

By the way, I did ride another wave. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. What I have found is that I need to do a little more boogie boarding first, but we will be back out surfing again next summer. I look forward to catching the wave that helps me reach the point where I am truly "sittin' on top of the world."

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