Defining Your Brand #BeYouEdu

In case you’ve missed the #BeYouEdu blogging experience created by +Dr. Will Deyamport, III , it’s not too late to join! This month’s topic: defining your brand.

This is, perhaps, the most important topic of them all. By nature, many educators want to do it all or be involved in it all. We buy supplies for our classroom, food for our students. We attend our student’s games, recitals, and more. We eat together. We share together. We grow together. However, when it comes to a professional presence, we have to pick and choose. We cannot do it all. We need to share.

This year has been a year of learning for me. I left a district where I was involved in “it all” and was stressed out. And, I arrived at a school where I had to pave my own way. I had to figure out what my brand was.

I’m one to jump at the prospect of certifications. When Google began offering Google Certified Trainer statuses several years ago, I applied immediately. I continued to apply to every certification. I was everything and nothing all at once.

I was a Google Ninja. But, that meant nothing at my  new school. It was then that I realized it wasn’t a brand. It was loyalty to a company (though, you can argue it is also a way of thinking). I was great at giving tutorials at products. And, perhaps my brand was simply that – giving tutorials – but I wanted it to be something more. Giving tutorials wasn’t the only reason I got into this field.

Throughout this year, I’ve thought about what makes me happy. What do I want to do in my free time? What do I get excited about? This should be my brand.

I have always loved creating. When I get stressed, I want to create. When I get home, I want to create. In the classroom, I oddly loved creating lesson plans. I enjoyed creating new project ideas for students.

I am a creator. I am a crafter.

This year, I increased my focus on makerspaces and started a maker program at my school. I realized that I am a crafter, but have plenty of room to grow in the area of high tech maker. I have been a repurposer.

In remembering my passion, I found room to grow. And, it became overwhelming. How could I be an expert at all things and still learn more in my passion field? I can’t. I don’t need to.

That’s where sharing comes in. We need to share intellectual wealth. As an educator, I need to focus on my passion and wear it with pride. I also need to let others wear their passion. I need to support them and encourage them. I need to use them as a resource.

So, what’s my brand? It’s a creative brand. Sometimes it involves using Google Apps to bring and foster creativity. At other times, it is  found in creating renewable energy sources. The tool may vary, but the theme is the same: creativity. I also remind myself to focus on learning things in my passion area. Though I want to learn it all, I can’t. I can, however, wear my passion with pride.

To find your brand, you have to find your passion, your niche, your swagger, and your successes. They are all part of your brand.

My advice to educator-innovators – focus on your passion and wear it. Avoid getting involved in it all. Share the intellectual wealth. We need passionate educators far more than we need expert educators.

Your brand should be based on your passion. Own it.

#BeYouEdu: Finding Your Story

If you haven’t checked out the #beyouedu series +Dr. Will Deyamport, III is leading, you should and you should join! This month’s topic is finding your story.

This past year has seemed about nothing other than finding my story – the evolving story. The best part about life’s stories is that we don’t know where they will go. We can’t read them backwards. If we could, I wonder how different they would be.

For most of my life, I have been a maker. From an early age, I was diving into my mom and dad’s supplies and finding things to make. I had an obsession with my dad’s copy machine for a while. In fact, I still have a book of copies I made. I copied every thing (including myself) that I could find, wrote a story over it, and adding binding to it using the binding machine. I was 8 years old.

I’ve always found release and happiness in creation and nature. When I need a dose of happiness, I create or I take a detour outside.

However, I never thought about doing creation and nature in my career. Why? I don’t know. Partly, I’ve never thought I could make it into a career. I secretly doubted myself.

First, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I loved to uncover mysteries. I liked finding answers. Then, I saw a video of archaeologists smoking and I didn’t want to take part in that. True story.

So, I drifted into the world of astronomy. I wanted to be an astronaut. However, my inner ear issues reminded me that it would not be a feasible career.

So, I went to my other love: writing. Afraid I couldn’t make it as a writer, I thought I’d help others through teaching writing. And, that’s how I found myself as a high school English teacher – plus a few other details.

My love for creation and innovation returned in teaching. I added art, technology, music, math, and more to my lessons routinely. I struggled with classroom management but excelled in finding innovation. After other teachers came to me for advice on how to innovate, I decided to take the plunge into the edtech realm. That was 6 years ago.

I became a technology director. Within a few months, I realized I went to far to the other side. I missed the kids. I missed working with teachers. I missed innovating.

So, I became an instructional technology specialist and found my calling – for now.

One thing I’ve discovered about my story is that it changes and it changes often. I started in the edtech realm as a digital literacy enthusiast and quickly joined the Google cohort. However, that, too, has transitioned into an excitement over making and digital citizenship.

I’ve come full circle. Now, I find myself seeking maker opportunities, seeking books on creation in education.

Each decision I’ve made has pushed me into education, but my love more making keeps returning. Now, I find my story merging – creator and educator.

You can’t escape your story. You need to live your story. You can, however, evolve your story. Our focus needs to be on evolving and growing our story. The best stories in literature are the ones that draw us in. They are full of color and life. The best life stories are the ones that change. The ones we can’t predict.

So, in 2016, I challenge you to try something new. Evolve your story. See where it goes. See if it comes full circle. Each time I find my story, it changes. It evolves. I thought I found my story as a Google Educator, but that has evolved. It is part of my story, but it isn’t my only story.

Make your story a story of stories.

#BeYouEdu – Finding your success

If haven’t joined the #BeYouEdu movement, it’s not too late! This month’s featured topic is about finding your success.

It’s funny how often we define ourselves by our successes or our perceived successes. Students will say “I’m a math person because I’m good at math.” However, when you ask how they know they are good at math, answers will include “because someone told me so…because I score well on tests…etc.” Our successes are often defined by what others say our successes are. A great example is in art. Art teachers will tell you that we are all artists, but few find themselves success as artists and, therefore, do not define themselves as artists.

What we find successful in ourselves directly relates to how we define ourselves. And what we find successful is often related to how others define our success. So, that means our definitions of ourselves often come from others.

I think about my own successes – or what I’ve thought of as my successes – and so many of them are a result of others saying I’m successful. These successes are important but they should not be our only successes.

First, you need to define what is a success to YOU. Success should also be a personal thing. It doesn’t have to be related to others. In thinking about how I define success, it has to include the following:

  • Personal goals – sports, work, meditation, etc. 
  • Trying something new
  • Day well spent – family, friends, art, outdoors, sports
  • Career goals – not just moving up the job ladder
  • Emotional goals – how I treat others
And, we also need to think about how we treat ourselves and others we we do and don’t find the successes we were hoping for. Are our goals realistic? Are we defining our successes by what others say? 
I’ve met and worked with other suffering from depression. And, common thoughts focus on unrealistic goals and basing our self worth (or success) on others. We need to define our own success, but also make it realistic to our own abilities. 
For me, success is growth. I often stray from remembering this, but on particularly difficult days, I try to remember this and ask myself: “have I grown today in some way?” And, if the answer is “yes,” I have succeeded. If the answer is “no,” I work harder the next day. What’s also important is our reaction to failure. Failure can be a success. 
I’ve failed in art projects numerous times. By failed – I mean the project did not come out like I wanted or like others’ projects. But, this can also be a success. Some of my favorite paintings are painted on canvases that have several layers of art under them. Art can be transient. It can shift and it can change. It doesn’t have to always be a failure. It can turn into something new.
Life is this way. It is also transient and it is not permanent. Success and failure are both temporary. A success can be a failure and a failure can be a success. And, one person’s success can be another’s failure. 
As an ambitious person, I work daily on remembering that failure is not a destination nor is success. Rather, it’s how we learn and act after each event. You can find your success in your failures. And, you can find failures in your successes. 
I find my success when I have grown personally, emotionally, career-wise, in activities, and, in love for another. I fail often in each, but I try to remember that is only temporary. I can paint over the canvas or make something new out of it. It can lead to my success.
How do you define YOUR success? Is it tied to others or unrealistic expectations? How do you find your success?

#BeYouEdu: Finding Your Super Power

If you are not familiar with the #BeYouEdu movement led by +Dr. Will Deyamport, III , you need to get on it! It’s one of my favorite posts to write each month. They are a great way to challenge you to think about what you bring to the table. I’m thinking of doing a similar series now with students.

This month’s topic: Finding Your Super Power

I love this. It implies you have a super power.

I have more teachers than I should mention to me that “[they] could never do that.” I see teachers who are confident in their subject area, but who are not confident in their risk-taking abilities. The problem is that the most critical part of learning is risk-taking. To learn is to take risks. And, it’s not unique to teachers. I see the same problem in students. The fear of taking risks – the belief that we do not have a super power to offer.

And, that’s why this topic is perfect. It already assumes we do have a super power. What many lack is the belief that they do have a super power. They lack confidence.

What happens to our confidence? I watch as my niece jumps from one chair to the next with a hulahoop in hand. She’s not afraid. Perhaps, she should be. But, what makes a child stop taking risks? We will take risks, knowing the consequences, but won’t when we don’t know. We stop leaping because we don’t know what may happen. We don’t know what’s on the other side. And, at some point along our journey, that becomes scary. We stop doodling. We stop creating. We think we could never do that. We compare ourselves to one another.

It’s all of these things that prevent us from seeing and understanding our super powers.

The irony to this is that I have struggled with self confidence for as long as I can remember. However, I am not afraid take risks. I’m a skydiver, hang glider, parasailer, paraglider, mountain climber. And, I’m scared of heights to an extreme level. I want to learn everything. I’m not afraid to invest myself in learning something new. Though I lack confidence in how others perceive me at times, I have a super ability to take risks. I love change. In fact, I strive for it. I move a lot. I admire traditions and I hold them sacred. But, I love risks.

My super power is that I know I have a super power. That seems a bit ridiculous, but I’ve found many adults, teens, and children, who do not recognize they have a super power.

A fellow educator once told me we all know something that no one else in the world knows. I believe that. And, it’s an amazing concept. She said that we should be out to find those things from each other. This concept makes us all unique and all super in at least one way.

I believe in risks. I believe in the impossible. And, that is my super power. It’s what makes me determined and it’s what leads to success for me.

What do you know that know one else knows? You have super powers – what are they?

#BeYouEdu – Finding Your Purpose

If you haven’t joined in +Dr. Will Deyamport, III ‘s #beyouedu movement, you should. It’s a great chance to reflect each month in a meaningful way. October’s topic is finding your purpose.

This is one that I find a lot of students and peers struggle with. I look back at my own educational experiences and remember how uncertain I was. I was told to make decisions on my career path early on when I wasn’t even for sure what my purpose was. As a result, it seemed methodical and less passionate. I am not alone in this.

One of my biggest complaints to students was a lack of passion or devotion to the work. It seemed they were just going through the motions. And, after reading comments about my own students from other teachers (all students who are polite, make the grade, are are generally likable), I know I am one of many teachers with the same comments.

But, how can we ask students to show that passion when they have not had a chance to really explore their interests. As adults, we are in the same place. We need to take a deep breath and reflect (a bonus of this blogging series).

Finding your purpose is very similar to finding your swagger and finding your happiness. When you find what makes you swagger and what makes you happy, you also find your purpose. Your purpose is to do what you are passionate about. The world needs more passionate people. Hence, our purpose is to be passionate. Our purpose is to live.

That sounds simple enough, right? It’s not, though. We get caught up in doing what we think we need to be doing. Or, we are afraid to take the risk and follow what makes us passionate. We may have a family to support and the risk seems to great. And, all of those are great reasons why we may not pursue that ultimate passion. That does not mean, however, that we cannot find passion in what we do or that we cannot make room for being passionate in what we do.

For example, I find passion in creating. When I create, I feel alive. And, since our purpose is to be fully alive and present, I know my purpose is to create and inspire. But, I’m also a very type A person. I can get very stressed and, being stressed, does not lend itself well to creating. So, I have started to reclaim my time. Meaning – I save at least one hour to myself on Sunday evenings to do whatever art or creation makes me happy. I also discovered makerspaces so that, even while at work, I am creating and inspiring others to create. Just making those two small changes have given me greater purpose this year than ever before. I feel I am fulfilling a greater purpose than simply going to work each day (even though that is pretty important).

So, the key is finding what makes you smile. What makes you feel the most alive. What do you wish you were doing at this moment? If that activity is skiing, perhaps, you can generalize it and say you enjoy the mountains, alone time, cold air, outdoors. Make time in everything you do for those. If you live in flat area, find others with your interests. When you connect with others with your interest, you are making a new purpose.

You are important. You are enough. Your purpose already exists. It’s just a matter of finding what makes you tick each day.

So, what’s your purpose?

#BeYouEdu: Finding your bliss

If you haven’t joined the #beyouedu movement, you should. Each month there is a new topic and each month, I feel re-focused. Each month, I am inspired again. Each month, I have bliss – through writing and through a network of passionate educators.

However, my bliss is not confined to education. In fact, bliss comes from all aspects working together in harmony. Just as negativity can stretch across lines, so too, can bliss. For that reason, I call myself a bliss-seeker.

In my grandparents’ and my parents’ generations, there was more job consistency. If you took a job as a teacher, you stayed a teacher, despite feeling bliss or not. My generation is different. Many are quick to leave when bliss is not apparent. Other generations sometimes scorn this bliss-seeking. And, though, I agree that failing and seeing something through are critical to success, so is seeking bliss. So, I aim for balance. When I have bliss in my personal life, but cannot find it in my professional life, I know change is needed. Likewise, if I have it in my professional life but not in my personal life, I know change is necessary in my personal life.

That said, bliss is interconnected. Bliss is not just limited to who you are as an educator. It is who you are as a person.

So, how do you find your bliss? Start by making time each day for at least one action that makes you happy. This can be stepping outside, taking a hot shower, visiting your nieces, or simply reading a book. It’s that single action that helps dictate our level of bliss.

For me, I find that when I haven’t made time for myself to be outside, removed from others, I lose that bliss. I am not alone in this idea, though. Many “introverts” are the same way. Remember this when dealing with students or co-workers. Space is a critical component to bliss. Space is key to creativity as well – both the lack off and abundance of. What feelings do you get when you have minimal space compared to an abundance of space? I bet you have different moods for each.

When finding your bliss, it’s also important to remember that “you are enough.” External things and people can make us feel happy, but it can be short-lived. The saying “you make me happy” is only partially true. You dictate your own happiness. Another person or thing can impact it temporarily, but you decide it long-term. So, you must first decide to be happy before you can find your bliss. Though, it’s not as simple as it sounds. We do not wake up and say “I’m going to be happy today.” No, rather, it comes as we make time for those blissful moments each day. It comes when we find permanent actions that contribute to our best state-of-mind.

When you mold these ideas into a professional setting, you must make sure you are achieving a balance – making time for those blissful moments. Sometimes, we blame work for making us unhappy, but it’s really our lack of making time for blissful moments. Give yourself time each day – even if only a minute. Cherish those moments. Take deep breaths.

Finding your bliss is about finding you. I find me when I make time for being outside, when I get to inspire others, when others have their ah-ha moments. I cherish these moments.

How do you find your bliss? What is your bliss?

#BeYouEdu: Find your hustle

Great topic, +Dr. Will Deyamport, III !

A couple of weeks ago, I started work at a new school – a private school. It’s my first time working in a private school. After completing my 10th year in public school, it’s already seeming so very different. The one thing that has resonated with me in these first weeks is the idea of a 360 teacher. It was evident in my interview process and it’s even more apparent as a tech integrator.

So, in finding your hustle, keep in mind the idea of a 360 educator. Your hustle should not be limited to education. In fact, that is detrimental. It can lead to burn-out/brown-out and a less fulfilling impact. We are 360 educators and we teach 360 students. That’s an aspect I often forgot. To our students, they are not two dimensional. They are not just students. They are artists. They are musicians. They are skaters. They are athletes. They are gamers. They are brothers & sisters. They are 360. So, don’t hide your “360” from them. When talking about your hustle, don’t limit it just to education. You are not two dimensional.

When I first thought of this topic, I thought of finding my hustle as it relates to education. But, that’s assuming I am two dimensional. So much of what contributes to me as an educator has to do with who I am outside of school.

Take time to reflect on your 360. That’s where you will find your hustle. What gets you out of bed? How would you spend your perfect day? In there, you will find your hustle.

So, what gets me out of bed? What is my perfect day? Creating of all types is one of my favorite things to do. I love giving things “makeovers.” It’s part of the reason I am a secret cleaning star. My family jokes that I actually like doing renovations, cleaning out refrigerators, and doing any cleaning overhaul. But, I like it because I can see change. I can see what it was before and what it is now. I am creating. I am creating a new space and a new look. Creating is essential for me.

I also have to have the outdoors in every day. This includes windows – a lot of them. I need my own space. I love to collaborate, but I need quiet outdoor space to be productive. I need to move. Sitting is one of the least motivating things I can do. It’s tiring and draining and uninspiring. The only time sitting is great is after a hard work-out, a long day, or outside. No exceptions.

Why is all of this important? It’s what makes me a 360 person. Each aspect impacts my own “hustle.” It impacts my motivation.

It’s now not a secret why I make a ton of presentations. I love to create. It’s not a secret anymore why I moved into technology – I love to move and create.

As a high school English teacher, I found myself constantly finding new ways to innovate my classroom – not tools – but ideas. I was excited to try them all out, but I didn’t have the time in the year to do it all. So, I needed to move to a larger scale – an arena where I could share out many ideas and help create change. That’s what moved me into the edtech spectrum. I wanted to create large scale change. It’s change that drives me. It’s the ability to create that drives me.

My love for the outdoors has moved me into the makerspace arena. I never saw myself as one working with Arduinos, robotics, Raspberry Pis, Makey Makeys and the likes. However, I found it because of my love for tinkering, moving, and being outside. It combines tech with art, nature. It is 360.

My hustle is creating. It is not just related to education, but to me as a whole person. Your hustle extends beyond just tools and cool new devices. It is a way of life. What makes you tick? What are the constant themes in your life?

I will always be a creator, an inventor. It’s who I am. It is my hustle. What’s your hustle?

#beyouedu: Finding your swagger

Can I say just how much I love this topic? Finding your swagger.

Swagger is otherwise known as confidence. However, I like the term “swagger” better as it depicts a confident stride. Your confidence in action.

In 2006, I started with my first classroom of my own. I was nervous, excited, and young – very young. I had only just turned 21 and I was teaching 17 and 18 year-olds. My confidence or swagger was not fully there yet. But, that first fall, I took a chance. I had my students write “where I’m from” poems, go through the peer-review and editing process. Then, they transformed those poems into movies. After spending a week making movies, we held a movie showcase. The result: awesomeness. In fact, some of the students took the lesson with them and taught it to third graders.

It was that moment I felt my swagger starting to emerge. I knew then that I liked being a creative teacher. I liked taking risks. From that moment on, I tried a variety of new approaches in the classroom ranging from electronic portfolios and documentaries to podcasts. After five years, I had begun to swagger in the edtech arena. I knew I loved being creative with technology. I wanted to teach literacy as a whole – not just the writing and reading aspect – but the whole range.

So, I took a risk and left the classroom. I knew I wanted to help teach teachers and work with students in the tech literacy front, but, at the time, the only job nearby was a tech director position. And, without looking back, I took the position. It was not the best two years of my life, but they gave me my swagger. I was forced to learn immediately on the job. I mastered networking. I ran cables through the ceiling. I installed projectors. I did all tech repair, maintenance, instruction, and management. My background: a passionate educator. Because of being thrown in, I learned and I learned fast. I gained confidence in my skills.

After two years, I found a job with less fixing and more instruction – Round Rock ISD. Because of my tech background, I came in full-force, ready to make changes. In fact, I took so many risks that first year, I can’t count them all. I was a risk-nut. But, after that first year, I took the largest risk: I helped start the RRISD Google Ninja Academy, a one-day conference of over 500 educators from around the state of Texas. I realized, then, that I loved providing opportunities for teachers. I feel confident training. In fact, I thrive on it. I love taking risks. I am passionate about providing learning opportunities. I learned this from my teachers and through the risks I took.

Now, I find myself transitioning to a new role at a new school, my swagger in full stride, ready to take on a new challenge training and educating teachers and students.

Your swagger is your passion. What makes you confident? Where do you find pride? What do you love? These will lead you to your swagger.

Finding my swagger was a series of fortunate events. Each event led to a new notch in my swagger. The key: take risks. Don’t be afraid. You will never fail.

#BeYouEdu: Finding Your Tribe

When +Dr. Will Deyamport, III first mentioned June’s topic of finding your tribe, I immediately thought of my career. But, in reading others, I noticed a theme: the people around them made up their tribe. Clearly, a tribe has varied meanings.

Because of this, I decided to look up “tribe.” According to Merriam-Webster, a tribe is: a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. It also said a tribe is a large number of people or a close-knit group.

Perhaps, it was the latter term that brought my instincts to say “career.” I feel at home in my career. It is challenge and safe simultaneously. I am surrounded by others who are passionate about change. It is encouraging and frustrating all at once. It is like a family.

After reading the definition, it occurred to me that the definition of tribe itself could cause problems. It states that there is a recognized leader. However, I’ve never thought of a tribe that way. It has felt equal to me – a place where I can grow as I need to. But, do all feel this way? Do others feel as if there is a recognized leader? Are they followers in their own tribe? Or, am I perhaps the leader of my tribe and I don’t realize it? What are you: a leader or a follower? Do you feel like there is room for growth in your tribe?

I know many of my students and teachers are in tribes where there is no room for growth. There is a leader in place that stifles their growth. They need to leave their tribe. Despite the definition, a tribe needs to be a nurturing place. Without that nurturing, the individual and the tribe cannot grow.

For most of my life, I have been a competitive runner (and I’d still be if my knee didn’t have a voice the the matter). And, for most of my youth, running was my tribe. I would compete to move up the ladder in my group. I retreated to this group of athletes who knew my journey. It was challenging and nurturing. However, there came a time when I had to leave that tribe after injuries continued to plague me. Now, it is just a part of my past.

You have the right to leave your tribe. If your tribe is prohibiting you from growing or it is causing you pain, leave it.

We often feel loyalty to a tribe, but tribes can be flexible.

I am now part of an innovative tribe. I gravitate toward others who are passionate and excited about making a difference. The members of that tribe change constantly. In many ways, we are wanderers, in search of a tribe that meets our current needs. And, that’s okay. Tribes must be fluid. They must allow for turnover and new blood.

I am also part of own family. That tribe continues to change as new members are added and others, sadly, leave.

Be part of a tribe that nurtures you. Be willing to change tribes. Be willing to join multiple tribes. And, be willing to be a leader and a follower.

What’s your tribe look like?