It's been awhile since I have attended an ed-tech conference for a multitude of reasons, but chief among them is what I have perceived as the increased "self-promotion" of individuals and the exploding capitalism of learning by ed tech companies. Around every corner, there is always a person or product willing to take your money and solve your problems for you. There is also no shortage of people who will showcase how amazing and transformative something is without actually being able to provide evidence of the impact on student learning. This is also one of the reasons why I have shied away from the use of social media altogether in recent months.
Meeting George face to face actually gave me a sense of guilt and shame because he is one of those people who I believe actually walks the talk. My shame stems from the fact that I often don't make the time to write and reflect. My guilt stems from the fact that I don't participate and share the way I believe we all have an obligation to do. Sadly, I spent most of the early parts of our conversation complaining about lots of things instead of engaging in meaningful conversation. As I became aware of my overt negativity, we chuckled and George even commented that I should change my twitter handle to @bitchychad. ( I looked it up and no one has used it yet. Maybe we can get it trending.) But in that moment, I also realized how much time and energy I have wasted complaining instead of doing. Even in a moment such as this, instead of focusing on potential, instead of learning about how to be the change, instead of learning from someone with expertise, I was fixated on sharing my frustrations. I can't say it was one of my prouder moments.
This realization has implications on my perceptions of social media and conferences. When we only see the negative, when we only see the problems, we miss the beauty and the opportunities all around us. I often think of a white sheet of paper with a tiny black dot in the middle of it. How often do we focus on the black dot instead of the vast, white, clean paper ready to be transformed? How often do we only see the negative in our classrooms, schools, or communities? How much time do we spend focusing on the problems instead of celebrating and working at the opportunities in front of us?
And if I am being truly open and honest, I think it's how many of us waste a lot of our time and energies. We consistently kick the can down the alley: blaming others, blaming our circumstances, and blaming the system. There is no doubt that there are hurdles to overcome. There is no doubt that there are systems in place that make it challenging. But they aren't impossible circumstances to overcome and the hurdles aren't impossibly high to get over. We have to stop admiring the problems. For some of us, it would mean we might have to admit that we aren't good enough yet. For others, we would have to acknowledge that it is going to take a lot of work to get to where we want to be. And for others still, it would mean looking deeply at why we are avoiding moving forward.
Tomorrow, I am excited that George will keynote #petec2016 and spend some time sharing many of his thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on leading and learning in funny, engaging, and provocative ways. And I will listen, not focused on what can't or won't happen, but by recognizing that there is potential for every student, every teacher, every administrator, every board member, and every parent and community member to do amazing things for our schools and our community. I hope to get him to sign his book for me, even if he does sign it "for @bitchychad".
What would we gain if we stopped complaining and just started doing together?