Tears on the Keyboard

Photo by rent-a-moose on Flickr

This global collaboration thing isn't easy. This morning there are tears on my keyboard. Tears of heartache for a teacher who is giving everything she has to help her tiny town see the world and help students break out into a globally competitive marketplace.

Yet she has been shut down because:

“No one else is doing this in our state, so why should we?”

Here are some words I wrote her just now:

I'm heartbroken with  you and for you, my friend. What else can I say but push through – this too shall pass. You're leaving a legacy. We can look back and know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb but as he failed 99 times you know he had to cry on his soldering. He had to. He had to wonder if it would ever work just right – it worked and he illuminated the world.

When we get this right – it too shall illuminate our world in powerful ways. We cannot stop but have to improve.

Earth Island Rising
This is the struggle of moving into this arena. The struggle of connecting. So many people see the islands but don't see that these islands are connected by the cabling running under a sea of change. The seafloor is rising and we are becoming one big blue and white swirly island of interconnected people: Earth Island.

But this is PART of being an innovator and it is not easy. We had a parent one time accuse us of being terrorists because students collaborate with countries in the Middle East. We've been accused of being everything.

Everything that a local community hates about that faceless enemy “out there” that is another race, another culture, another country over there somewhere else that somehow is wanting to come through the computer to take things away from those living in isolation and denial that the world is connecting and that those who understand how to connect have the advantage.

Success is a Connection
Success is no longer a location but rather, success is a connection. Being connected can overcome barriers that miles cannot block. Not location, location, location. Connection. Connection. Connection.

If you innovate you know what I'm talking about and it is OK. Yes, times are tough. But we don't come out of tough times by “marching in place” — advance — advance. When money is scarce the advance no longer comes by spending the extra coins in our pocketbook but through the sweat and tears that provide the fuel. Honestly, sometimes blood and sweat is a more turbo-charged fuel than money: both together can be powerful but also quite rare.

What Do you Teach Your Children?
Do I ever wonder if it is worth it? Do kids understand it? Do parents appreciate it? Of course.

But I teach my own children this year – one is in my grade 9 and the other in grade 10 and I'm teaching like a madwoman because my time is short and my own children HAVE to know this.

Here's the litmus test. If your own child was in the class you are teaching what would you be doing? Well, my children are in my classes and I'm doing Flat Classroom, Digiteen, NetGenEd, and every technology I can get my hands on.

Tears may be on my keyboard but fire is in my heart to do right by my own children… and yours.

So, back to writing this Flat Classroom book even though I am deflated and my heart hurts right now for my friend. My heart hurts because she is wounded and so am I. Yet, this is part of being a leader and doing the right thing. Company is lonely on the bleeding edge but it is so funny how many people want to claim you without paying the price or really knowing what it is like.

Get up and get moving!
Friends, if you're one of us crying on the keyboard– wipe your tears. Stop it right now. Get up and get to work. We've got work to do.

Who do we think we are that the tough things in this world would all of a sudden become easy?

Do we think we have some right to be coddled or have an easy life here?

We need to get over ourselves and know that hard work is hard work.

Positive change requires positive effort and constant reinvention. It also requires knowing that we will be criticized, misunderstood and that by putting ourselves out there that we can become the topic of debate as our field moves towards better best practice. There will be those who will try to jump in at the end and “steal the formula.” Who cares.

This will be a life journey well traveled if we travel it with people who work hard at work worth doing. This, my friends is work worth doing.

Remember your noble calling, teachers. May tears never extinguish the spark in our hearts to make this world a better place one student at a time.

dedicated to my friend, Suzie Nestico – you are my hero. Keep the faith and keep going. I'll see you when I keynote at PETE&C in a few weeks.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Honor Moorman January 17, 2011 - 3:30 pm

I was touched by Vicki’s story about our colleague’s innovative efforts being blocked, and then I was irritated by the situation, and then read the conversations on Scott McLeod and Shannon Smith’s blogs, and I started thinking . . . what can we learn from this?

One thing this situation emphasizes is that teacher leaders need followers, too. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend Derek Sivers TED Talk: How to start a movement, in which he shows the importance of “first followers” to “transform a lone nut into a leader” (http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement.html).

So one key point we can all learn from this story is that we can be advocates for innovative and creative changes in education by being the “first follower” in support of our colleagues’ ideas, transforming them from teachers on the fringe to teacher-leaders pushing the edge of possibility. Don’t be afraid to lead by following, as long as you’re following in the direction you believe in.

Suzie Nestico January 19, 2011 - 3:36 am

Unreal… I just read the first two chapters of “The Influencer,” one of my first new NOOK downloads. And, I am plodding through. I need to go back to bare bones, focus here, and start building a better, stronger case and do more leading based simply on my own good everyday examples. As I said before, this whole disappointment will surely serve as a blessing in disguise as I am learning and continue to learn everyday from my colleagues in this space.

Suzie Nestico January 19, 2011 - 4:08 am

Thank you, Honor. I will certainly have a look at Derek Sivers as the “transform a lone nut into a leader,” quote about hits the nail on the head at the moment. Oddly, I am OK with that feeling right now particularly because I know I am learning so very much. I have accomplished much to date by the very notion of “leading” by “following.” I’ve so much to learn and am just fortunate to have found such inspiring, amazing people to follow.

Yesterday, I also found another fitting piece of inspiration in Diane Laufenberg’s TED talk: How to learn? From mistakes (http://www.ted.com/talks/diana_laufenberg_3_ways_to_teach.html). Rest assured, I am now focused solely on the learning occurring for presently versus initial disappointment.

ptr5006 January 20, 2011 - 12:40 am

This is incredibly frustrating from a second-hand perspective – I can only begin to imagine what it must be like firsthand. So many students in the world today are “getting an education,” but are they really “educated”? My argument is, probably not. And unfortunately, things like this that have the opportunity to become invaluable tools for REAL education and learning are often squashed by administrators because they are simply not mainstream. Frustrating, but certainly not all-encompassing. Stay strong!

coolcatteacher January 20, 2011 - 1:24 am

Thank you for your comments and encouragement!

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