Notes from #ISTE2016

No kidding. Another #ISTE post!

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EdSpeakers trio at ISTE2016: @edifiedlistener, @ShellTerrell & @Regionalconsult

First, the excitement: I finally got to hug @ShellTerrell, @Sarahdateechur, @CoburnCori, @ShanaVWhite! On top of that I got to hang with @RegionalConsult (Juanita Hines), @mrhooker, James Kapptie as fellow keynoters. Here’s a periscope link of the ISTE Affiliate Keynote Smackdown.

So now that the nerve-wracking portion of my attendance has passed, I can take some time to step back and “observe my observations.”

I brought one book with me on this trip: (Yes, a real hold-in-your-hands, takes-up-space-in-your-carry-on book.) Researching Your Own practice: The Discipline of Noticing by John Mason (Routledge 2002) which was recommended to me by a Maths educator friend on Twitter, @dannytbrown. The author’s premise is that developing professionals, particularly teachers, rests on the understanding that “change is not something you can do to other people but something you do to yourself, following the maxim that ‘I cannot change others, but I can work at changing myself’.”

We have heard this idea expressed before. Yet Mason’s emphasis on the practice of noticing in all of its cognitive and emotional and physiological facets, provides a surprisingly compelling impetus to try the exercises, to test oneself and discover both the challenges and rewards of actively noticing.

So I am at #ISTE2016 and working on noticing.

This morning I sat down to sift through some of the flyers in my bag. There are several from (I’m guessing) the biggest sponsors alerting me to events and presentations supported by their companies in some way. There are some key official ISTE resources – maps, program, contact info. One thing which caught my particular attention was the raffle booklet for various vendor giveaways. Naturally, you fill out a stub with your essential contact info and your name is entered to win some fabulous object or service. This is a common tradeoff.

But leafing through this booklet, I was struck by the language in many of the blurbs referencing the sponsoring product or company.

“Set your teachers free with _____________! … Enjoy the flexibility of presenting lessons anywhere in the classroom and increase personalized learning.”

“The tools you need to be wired, inspired, charged and protected.”

“___________ harnesses the power of technology to empower, inspire and support schools with end-to-end ed-tech solutions.”

“Imagine idea sharing without barriers. Turn classrooms into interactive learning environments with __________. It’s the easiest way to get students connected and sharing ideas from any device. Smarter collaboration starts here.”

“________ helps teachers turn parents into partners by giving parents guidance and actionable suggestions, simplifying communications and activities management and making engagement fun.”

“…an online eLearning platform to help students improve skills in reading, writing, math, and science, access interactive prep for the SAT, ACT, AP …”

“Presenting an ultra easy standing desk solution…”

” _________ is one of the fastest growing education platforms that develops solutions aimed to enable educators, empower students and engage parents.”

“…Teachers have the ability to orchestrate and deliver content, work collaboratively and monitor student PCs.”

“Here’s your chance to teach 21st century skills to your students with the award-winning ______________.”

“In higher education you need to be able to work smarter and not harder. ___________ is redefining the way that administrators and educators coordinate and deliver great work.”

“The award winning ___________ is ideal for differentiated instruction, communication of school-wide initiatives and recognition of academic achievements.”

“____________, your leading provider of innovative, evidence-based instructional solutions and services, want to help you bring your lessons to life with the ___________!”

“…Students ‘learn by doing’ in a virtual environment where it is easy to undo mistakes and make changes with no material costs or clean up…”

“Technology charged learning starts here.”

I notice the language of magic: “turn into…” I notice the emphasis on ease, simplicity, and competitive advantage (i.e. “award winning, leading”). “Solutions” are prevalent as are high hopes for engagement, inspiration and communication.

This is what I noticed.

It is terribly exciting to be on site for this huge convergence of educator energies and passions. At the same time I am poked and prodded by the awareness that we are, above all, in a sales environment. As teachers, administrators, consultants and bloggers we are being wined and dined throughout the conference by industry representation currently giddy with investment dollars. It’s impossible to be here and not notice that.

This is also the point at which I acknowledge my distinct perspective as a participant-observer. I have come here on my own dime and am under no obligation to a school or district authority to account for the time spent here. I have the luxury and privilege to be able to browse, take-in, network and contribute at my leisure and level of comfort. While the atmosphere is tangibly celebratory, I know that there are many folks, vendors included, who are here and have business to attend to.

So I’ll work on my noticing skills and try to rein in my impulse to judge, judge, judge. #ISTE2016 is an amazing place to be, to learn, to become aware.

 

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Back in August I joined a professional life coaches group on LinkedIn. As a freshly minted leadership coach testing the waters of self-employment for a year, this seemed like a wise idea. Here’s my picture so far:
There are a ton of coaches out there, scattered across the globe.
Since we’re all on this particular networking platform it makes sense that people use the space to call attention to their unique offerings.
Sometimes a contributor posts a link to a useful article or interesting video.
Some coaches post questions, usually about the business side of things.
It seems that the vast majority of us need or would like to have more clients. Some folks have some tricks of the trade they are willing to share (for a small fee).
Several contributors seem like actors in an empty theater, just hoping that someone, anyone will stumble across their special slice of heaven on offer.
If you read a few introductory tag lines, you may be overcome with either infinite optimism that You Can Change Your Life Right Now or perhaps remarkable cynicism that what sounds like so much snake oil marketing is perhaps just that, backed, however, by someone with really good intentions.

The more notices that land in my in-box, the more convinced I become that this probably is not the right group for me. If more of the conversations were about the practice of coaching – good, bad and in between – I would feel more inclined to stay and contribute. As is, I feel like just one more face in that immense target audience who ought to be wooed, won over, impressed and ultimately sold. That’s not what I came for and I see this set-up is not serving me. At all.

My year of self-employed coaching is going just fine if I allow it to just go. Focusing on doing my best coaching every session with every single client is the best way I can think of to retain great clients and attract new ones. Extolling the virtues of my offerings through random social media appearances will likely never appeal; recruiting the most interesting and forward-thinking clients I can discover absolutely does.

If you happen to fit that description (interesting and forward-thinking), I am on the lookout for you and the lessons you have to share. Until that time, thrive, be happy and pay no mind to the snake oil sale underway in your neighborhood.

5 + 5 Reasons Why I Work with a Professional Coach

image from pixabay.com

image from pixabay.com

Lots of people work with professional coaches for a host of reasons.  Done well, coaching enables individuals and groups to achieve what was originally thought impossible or to do something far better than imagined.  Although the process can sometimes feel magical, coaching is not magic. Coaching is partnership between coach and client. The client is the expert in her life – she knows her destination and has ideas about how to get there.  The coach provides support for the journey through various thought and inquiry processes, exceptionally insightful feedback, and an unflinching belief in the client’s capacity to succeed.  Alongside my work as a leadership coach I habitually take advantage of coaching services offered by a fine colleague.

When I sat down to reflect on what it is I really reap from being coached, I came up with two lists: What I actually receive for the money I pay and then the internal benefits I draw from the relationship.

From my wise, witty coach, I get:

1. her full and undivided attention focused solely on my agenda.

2. feedback that is honest and often highlights something I am showing yet not seeing.

3. pictures of what I’m saying. (She makes simple graphics, charts, lists which show what we worked on.)

4. a partner in crime who holds me accountable to my stated goals.

5. an incredibly satisfying and positive customer service experience.

In the process, I give myself:

1. a break. I don’t have to do everything on my own. I can get help and move forward faster.

2. time and space to fully be who I am and explore who I want to become without fear of being laughed at or shamed.

3. a tangible self-affirmation: I deserve to have a coach – who I am and what I do are worth the money I am investing.

4. the challenge of living up to my own expectations, complete with a built-in accountability feature.

5. 100 reminders, large and small, of why this is the field of work I am also choosing for myself.

As a result of the work I have undertaken on myself with the aid of my superb coach,

  • you are among several others reading this post,
  • I have coaching clients of my own,
  • I am proud to share my work with groups through workshops and talks, and
  • I am fully convinced that I am in the right field at the right time.

Curious about what kind of difference Sherri Spelic Coaching can make in your life right now?  Click here to find out more.