That Gut Feeling – More than Numbers

This blog post has been swirling for a while (see a pattern) but I kept second guessing it. Did I have the right to write it? Was it really that meaningful? Maybe this post is more a reminder for me than a learning piece for anyone else.

Have you ever had one of those weird feelings in your gut? That feeling that something doesn’t sit right, something is off, but you can’t tell why. I remember feeling that way whenever chatting about Social Risk Index data and I was baffled.

Then one day it hit me.

My final year of high school I remember going to an OSAP meeting in the library. I can still picture standing across from the OSAP officer and a guy I had a crush on (a small miracle considering I forget what I have for breakfast). We had been back from Italy for a year and I was still adjusting to the changes of high school in a small town. At the time I believed OSAP was the only way I was going to university (Looking back now, I’m sure my grandparents would have helped). My worry wart tendencies started to make me panic so I just went up to the OSAP officer, told her how much my parents made and asked if I would have any problems getting assistance. She chuckled and dismissed any concerns I had. I think that was the first time I truly realized how little my parents made.

For most of my childhood I would have been reflected in the social risk index. 

  • Speaking a different language at home
  • Moving every few years
  • Didn’t own our home
  • Mom dropped out of high school to raise us (Went back to university later in life. Way to go mom!)
  • At times my parents were on student visas not officially employed, at others making a limited income

img_1220See all those stats are true but they don’t tell you my story. I have had the luxury of often blending in which helped as well as the fact that going overseas makes it sound exotic today. It really was an amazing childhood looking back. As I was watching a 60 minutes clip with Bruno Mars shared today, I loved how he mentioned it was the best of times. As kids we often don’t notice any of the above.  Michelle Obama had a similar note in her commencement speech at CCNY, reminding us that our struggles are really advantages in the long run. Looking at just the checklist misses the lessons I learned, the adventures had, the strengths that I developed.

Then I got that terrible gut feeling again.

How often had I let a set of data, labels or checkboxes lead my conversation about learners (big or small)? Was I letting the numbers become an excuse or see them as opportunities for growth and learning? How often had I stopped to connect to the learner’s individual story?

What did I learn? Data is important. It helps us see trends, needs, a bigger picture. But data should never come before the wonderful being behind it. Humanity first, numbers second. Another reminder to #listenclosely.

 

Storytime Part 2

It’s been almost a month since we were all sitting in rows in the grand hall of a Berlin hotel anxiously awaiting the start of the institute. 400 or so Apple Distinguished Educators that made the treck from various corners of our world to learn together.

I’ve been thinking about the takeaway for my time together with such amazing educators and every time I’m led back to the idea of STORY. It was my takeaway last year as well (Storytime Part 1: read more here), the power that comes from listening and appreciating the stories of others or co-creating a story as a community.

The week was definitely chockfull of stories. Some of the most memorable came bright and early during the fast paced morning spotlights. House lights down and 3 minutes on the clock. Each story brought with it inspiration, from educators that took the risk and innovated their practice whether it was connecting on social media or having learners design their learning space, to stories of empowerment and student voice. I had to hold back the tears more than once seeing/ listening to the story of learners that found confidence and a voice through the tools and the support of caring educators.

Every lesson I shared about stories last year stood true: the humanity, the inspiration, the power to build community. This time I picked up a few more.

We often look for story in the words written on a page or spoken on a screen but there is a story being told all around us. As we had the opportunity to explore Berlin one day, I realized how much PLACE tells it’s own story. Definitely there is no greater city than Berlin to illustrate that each road, each monument, each dimple in a wall carried with it a story. It made me wonder if I was taking the time to listen closely, to observe and appreciate the story that was all around. Funny how you have to travel thousand of miles sometimes to be reminded of simple truths.

Sharing stories can spark new adventures. Our work group was massive at the institute. Many amazing folks with great ideas of how they had used STEAM with K-5 learners and how we could support fellow educators. I’m going to blame my inattention on the fact that I just finished an AQ course or my introvert-ish tendencies but Seth Godin said the good stuff happens at the edges, right? Well either way, as we sat on the steps Stuart shared his story of success with animation. It got me sharing my story with animation and math this year. We roped Matt and Mike in suddenly there was this spark with our small group that grew to even more by the end of the week. We could see the common thread between our stories of success as well as our stories of need. What we needed to share was #1smalltweak. (Stay tuned for more!)

We all tell our stories differently. I have been working on #the100dayproject and it came to an end right in the middle of the institute, actually the same day we heard from the team at EyeEm. I was excited to listen to a fellow photographer. As I sat and listened to her process I did have a moment of panic. Listening to her process it varied so greatly from mine. It took a few seconds to realize that was ok. We each have a different process, desires, drives for our storytelling and that is ok. It was a reminder to be open to different paths. To approach each story with open ears (eyes) understanding our different rhythms.

It’s amazing the power stories can have to connect, inspire, empower us. As varied as the storytellers or the formats, each story reminds us how much we have in common.