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IMHO… Keynotes

In my ten years in the education profession, I’ve had the opportunity to sit through and, when it’s good, participate in a lot of professional development. I’ve listened to and Tweeted inspiring, thought-provoking quotes by numerous keynote speakers. I find myself becoming increasingly underwhelmed. Some people may label me a cynic, a pessimist, maybe even arrogant. That could be true too, but I’d also like to start seeing the changes I’m told needs to happen in education.

Here’s what my cynical experience has been with a lot of highly paid, optimistic keynote speakers.

Keynote: Teachers deserve to be treated with respect!

<Audience cheers.>

Keynote: Teachers should be paid a lot more!

<Audience claps and nods heads.>

Keynote: Standardized testing happens too much!

<Audience claps and nods heads and cheers. Some throw shade at their administrators.>

Sure, for the amount most keynotes are paid, they are a little more eloquent than what I’ve presented, but it boils down to the same, obvious, repeated message. We don’t need a keynote to tell us why our profession is so important, that we deserve to be compensated, or remind us about the unbalanced emphasis on standardized testing. After ten years in education, I’ve heard plenty of inspiring speeches. I’m plenty inspired, thanks. I’m ready to start working toward action.

So I Passed Out

Turning 34So, recently I passed out. It was unplanned. It was at home with my family. Yes, I was sober. It was a first for me. I’ve been rocked in sparring sessions. I’ve come close to passing out during Jiu Jitsu grappling sessions. This was the first time I’ve passed out.

My stomach began hurting during lunch. I assumed I didn’t eat enough for breakfast – six raw eggs (a.k.a., Rocky style) and multiple cups of coffee supplemented with coconut MCT oil. I forgot to measure the MCT oil correctly but assumed my stomach could handle it. It couldn’t.

I stood up and tried to relax on the living room floor. Suddenly I felt exhausted. And nauseous. Peeling myself from the living room floor, I began to stumble to the bathroom. I had to pause and brace myself against the wall just outside my downstairs bathroom.

Then I woke up to Julie shouting my name.

I thought I was running late for work. I didn’t know I had just passed out. I figured I was waking up like I do every morning, except I was waking up on the dining room tile floor, not like I do every morning. And the right side of my jaw was throbbing. That rarely happens every morning.

According to Julie, I landed on my face – which explains why my jaw hurts – and was out for approximately 7 seconds. I didn’t have much trouble picking myself off the floor. The EMTs came and cleared me. Then my family came and doted on me. I put off a trip to the ER but promised to make an appointment with my doctor ASAP.

So, on my 34th birthday, I visited my doctor and recounted everything leading up to passing out. He lectured me about eating raw eggs. They took my blood, and I was done. I hate needles. It was a helluva way to spend a  birthday. And my jaw is still a little sore when I chew.

Controversial Feedback

NCTE CEL Profile PicI had the honor of presenting at NCTE and CEL this year (2016). It was my first time, and I was assigned to sessions about PLCs, Action Research, and Professional Development. To the best of my ability, I connected all three topics by sharing the story of Oklahoma Education from the perspective of a fish-out-of-water state government employee, me. Participating in Oklahoma Education’s four-year long story was exhausting. Presenting a condensed 25 minute (approximately) oral account was easy. I simply had to brag about Oklahoma teachers. As it turns out, I had a lot to brag about. I don’t know with any certainty whether the public impression of Oklahoma is negative, but I feel as though it isn’t as respected as it should be.

I put together a slide show complete with Reaction Gifs, old selfies with teacher friends, and screenshots of news headlines and various teacher resources developed in-house. I recounted the standards struggle that started in 2010, my role in it starting in 2012, the various efforts to build relationships with teachers, and the pushback by obstructionists. It was a risky presentation because so many of the speakers are dynamic and interactive, but my presentation was a lecture, of sorts, driven by narrative. However, I believe it is an important narrative. It highlights where we’ve been, where we are, and an outlook for the near future. As it turns out, it was a shared narrative. Many attendees lamented having experienced or currently experiencing similar hurdles. That frustration unites us. It is unfortunate that Oklahoma had to be the first to undergo such struggles, but we should acknowledge and accept the responsibility to help our sister and brother states.

We don’t have everything we need or deserve yet. But we have, believe it or not, done great things by building a community of leaders and advocates.

The full story deserves a dedicated post. What I most want to share here is my favorite feedback from one of the attendees. I wrapped up the story with a hopeful outlook, highlighting the work of the Implementation Collaborative, and said “any questions?” To which an audience member responded…

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s not a question.” That’s not the point. I guess we are a bunch of rebels in Oklahoma. We do controversial things in times of great need. What’s the alternative?

“You sure do play it safe.”

No one wants to hear that story.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is, thank you for four controversial years of support, Oklahoma Teachers.


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“It disgusts me how these immature, millennial liberals are burning the American flag just because their candidate lost! Grow up and get over it!”

“I know, right? There’s no excuse for such disrespectful behavior!”

They said, walking past the recently vandalized university dorms, carefully avoiding the wet paint dripping from the racial slurs.

Camouflage Racism

How do you camouflage racism?

Cover it up under patriotism.

Use religion.

Label groups as “too sensitive.”

How do you camouflage racism?

Bedtime Story

Tonight’s bedtime story: Dan, the Taxi Man.

I ask questions as we read because I want him to be College- and Career-ready or whatever. So I ask, “Where’s the Stop Sign?”

Stark: (Points to a stop sign.)
Me: How’d you know that’s a Stop sign?
Stark: S-T-O-P. Stop sign. (He says touching all the letters.)
Me: I would have also accepted “it’s red” as an answer.

The video that follows is an early indicator that this kid would grow up to be brilliant like his mother.

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