Am I a winner? A professional goal was realized when I was selected to represent the United States as a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator in Barcelona, Spain. As the date closed in, I found that I was terrified. Terrified of failure, terrified of going overseas and terrified of not being able to stand on my own two feet. I suddenly realized the enormity of being selected to attend and to present at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum. My goal was to win gold for the United States. I meticulously prepared and rehearsed my elevator pitch for judges and packed two weeks before the forum. I talked incessantly about my project and my upcoming adventure and now officially apologize to friends, family and colleagues and thank you for listening and for lifting me up.
I discovered during my first “dance” with my judge from Finland, that my purpose was to share, not to win. This sage advice had been provided to me by countless mentors, friends, colleagues and family. But until I had the experience of sharing my program and meeting educators from around the globe, I had blurry vision.
I spent months planning, organizing, leading, controlling and executing my program and I was completely obsessed with the Microsoft rubric and on winning gold. I had absolutely zero sense of my impact on other educators leading up to the event; only focused on my performance and winning gold. Unfortunately, I was so completely enthralled with the rubric and judging aspect that I lost sight of what was about to occur. I became unsteady and uncertain of my own abilities. One million people could exclaim from rooftops that I was an expert educator and that I had an impact. In fact, Microsoft had already made this exclamation, but still, I was uncertain. My new goal became to get on the plane and to present professionally at the forum. I literally needed a virtual push from friends to get on the plane to Spain. And so I boarded the flight and my life changed. I was greeted by my cohorts Don Wettrick and Doug Bergman (two Expert Educators I met in Seattle at PiLUS 2012) on the flight and my nerves started to turn to excitement. The Microsoft Partner’s in Learning Network of educators are not just the best PLN on the planet, they are also friends and honestly, family.
I arrived in Barcelona ready to take on the world. Practiced my elevator pitch on the flight with my neighbor, much to his dismay, but I am proud to say he gave me quality feedback and reminded me to show my passion for education. On Tuesday March 11th, the hour of judgement had arrived. I am grateful to my first judge, a leader in education from Finland, who literally joked with me and put me at ease immediately. I laughed with him and started to share my “digital story” with pride. I do not know his name, but intend to find out through one of my fabulous managers on the Microsoft in Education team. That is the beauty of this network, as an educator, you can ask any question anytime, no matter how big or small, and a response is provided within hours.
I presented my program, CEO: Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity, and suddenly found connections opening up all around me. My world literally opened up before my eyes. Turkey, Japan, Egypt, Sweden, Germany, Thailand, United Kingdom, China, France, Spain, Mexico, The Netherlands, Ukraine and so many more all embraced me as a Microsoft Global Expert Educator. And so my journey truly begins…
My greatest take-away from the Global Forum was the connection I made around the world. I found that our goals and barriers as educators is inherently similar globally. Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, put the Expert Educators into International teams and then provided a global problem for our teams to solve through education. Sustainability, poverty and hunger or gender equality. I had the great fortune of being teamed up with Aly Khalil from Egypt, Mikael Bondestam from Sweden, Dr. Holger Frohlich from Germany and Khadia Armanakun from Thailand. I quickly learned that I had to adjust my approach to meet the needs of our team. I feel a strong breakthrough occurred between myself and Aly from Egypt. Aly was skilled with regard to communicating with me when I needed to change speed or adjust course and even brought in another member from his team Egypt to translate. Mikael and Dr. Frohlich provided clear feedback and helped me re-design our activity all while reminding me to have fun above all as we worked up until the last hour before our presentation. After several hours of making connections, Aly and I had coffee and discussed his culture and the role of women in his country. He was kind enough to bring in a female from his team to connect with me and join our discussion. She gave me a beautiful hair piece and I am eternally grateful. Overcoming cultural and language barriers was a key ingredient to our process for the Learn-A-Thon. Our team name was “The Marshmallow Connection” in honor of our melding together and our launch activity provided on day one of our professional development. Our team designed a program that uses Chronozoom to create a timeline of events in the future that impact sustainability. We created a company called “Global Solutions” with each countries teacher acting as the “boss” to departments including Math and Music from Germany, Technical Drawing in Egypt, Computer Programming in Sweden and Economics in the United States. The goal is for students “hired” in each department to collaborate with departments from around the world to solve sustainability for a given topic on the timeline. See our presentation here.
It is my hope that our project will be implemented in our classrooms over the next year as we continue to collaborate. Aly, Mikael, Holger and I are all friends on Facebook and continue to discuss our project today.
Aly from Egypt expressed that he would be honored to have me visit his school one day, and I told Aly that it would be my honor to have him visit my school in Canastota, New York. He replied that this would be “just a dream.” I replied “I believe that if you can dream it, it can happen.” Aly said “then let’s keep dreaming.”
So let’s continue to dream…build the dream…and watch it unfold in front of our eyes. This my friends is winning.