Three years ago, I joined my current school district in what can only be described as my dream job in education. After walking the pavement of doing the work for kids, traveling on my own dime to learn and fully immersing myself into the life of an “edtech using connected educator”, I was finally ready to tackle the school district role of my dreams…leading our digital revolution.
Three years doesn’t seem like a long time at all but in education, three years can be a lifetime. What I can tell you is that as much as I complained as a teacher about “the suits” who didn’t seem to listen while holding off on resources that we actually needed…
This work is not as simple as it sounds.
It is hard.
It’s weird to me that we live in a world where technological advancements have literally changed everything that we do from how we order food to how we travel, receive medical care, learn random “non-textbook” things and of course communicate with each other.
…but in schools, there are so many of us still trying to convince people that technology does in fact have its space in the work of kids. I’m not talking about digital state assessments or the cutesy tech that gets shared across social media and in dedicated learning spaces. Like it or not, there’s room for that too.
I’m talking about the adoption of new…forward thinking ideology where kids have creative agency, space to grow, cultural connections and access to do so how and when they need it.
…the kind of learning reserved for stock photos, private schools, gifted labeled kids, special programs and those of privileged communities.
A few months ago, I logged onto instagram and saw a friend posting about her working with teachers on “Google Classroom for STAAR Prep”. I felt so sad and yet I didn’t blame her because just as teachers are under the microscope of achieving certain scores…those in technology support roles are often under a different microscope where they have to prove their worth in schools, especially if they have school leadership that doesn’t get it.
They’re also trying to keep up in an industry that is so corporate driven that we often buy into “special badges” in order to stand out when in essence, we are more or less playing a part in that company’s marketing plan in order to keep them relevant and in schools through our free sharing of their product.
…because honestly as more tech is implemented, more communities of practice are necessary to account for the lack of support for those tasked with supporting
For three years, I’ve been spoiled because I have had a superintendent that didn’t force me or my team into “test centric” roles but instead stepped aside and said…build the ship…be innovative
Sounds simple, right?
Even as I have had creative agency of my work and department, it has been a difficult road…mostly because of my own expectations of myself and where I believed that our district should be.
Yes, I too made the mistake of comparing our work to everyone else even though our community, cultures and accesses within it were vastly different.
It took a long time for me to stop this madness but the key to doing so was in recognizing our successes as seen in the faces of students and teachers across the district…even in struggle, there were plenty of successes.
In conversations with my friends in “school edtech struggle” across the country, we often uplift each other from the shadows of doubt created by unjust exclusion in our policies where we have no voice and the harsh realities of needing to be tougher on ourselves because the world (and often local politics) demanded it.
For me, the extra toll of carrying the burden of voice for global diversity and inclusion has been difficult…so much so that I thought that I needed to retreat from connected life just to breathe.
My friends didn’t need me to speak up for them. They could handle themselves and they did. They also stepped in to support me through my struggles…defending my name and also demanding a higher quality of inclusive learning for all of us.
…because those that control the external spaces where we learn still operate from “POC in Edtech” lists or worse, completely ignore us until called to task.
Their response has been uniformly, “We want to do better. We just don’t know how.”
I don’t know…maybe stop needing us to point out the obvious? Maybe you do that for yourselves before publishing your super “non-global community mirroring” list of experts and then getting upset with me for asking the questions that you should’ve asked yourself?
In coming back from my hiatus, I am thankful for my close friends who allowed me the space to rediscover “me” amidst the stresses of work and chaos all around.
I do not regret taking a break. I do regret all of the years of self doubt but am thankful for the support of everyone on this path, including my superintendent who is moving on to guide a new community of leaders. My gosh, I miss her already.
Three weeks ago, I became a grandmother to the most beautiful bundle of love imaginable. When I look into her eyes, I understand exactly why I am here and why it’s important that we continue to push and fight moving forward.
Dear Nyla, your life of learning will be different because we will step aside and support you as you craft your own path. Generations of women in our family have thrived on the strength of those before us and you will be no different. In your eyes, I see purpose and possibilities. With every breath in my body, you will see the same. Love, Gigi
This is why I exist and can no longer retreat.