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Ever since I took my first breath, I have been underestimated.
Being born with a cleft palate and cleft lip, my mother was told by the doctor not to expect much from me. He told her I probably wouldn't be social, I wouldn't speak that well, and would probably not excel in school.
Thank God my mother did not listen to him and raised me, along with my father, to be a strong woman. I definitely had setbacks: I had to take speech classes, wear braces, face teasing, have surgeries, etc. However, I learned very quickly through the very supportive family and friends in my life that my cleft did not define me. I grew and I excelled.
After being an Army brat, we settled in a small town in Louisiana. Going to my high school, I faced a few teachers who seemed to underestimate me! That only made me work harder! I realized when adults underestimated me, especially when I felt it was for racial reasons, it really fueled my fire to work. Succeeding was my way of fighting! However, I would never talk about my succeeding. That is why when it was announced that I was fourth (and then later moved to fifth--that's as story for another time) in my class, I had some classmates exclaim, "Wow...we didn't know you were that smart."
OK. Thanks again!
Now, in my adult life, I have definitely had setbacks! However, I have had so many INCREDIBLE people in my life...they have helped me overcome so much! Recently, I was in a position where many people underestimated me. It was horrible. I started to feel like worse than nothing...like I was worthless and could do nothing right. Around the same time, I felt something growing inside me: motivation. The more I felt worthless in that position, the more I felt empowered to create something of my own! Them underestimating me lead to me branding myself and the creation of my own company, which has lead to some amazing, life-changing, not in my wildest dreams opportunities.
So, what I have learned about myself is the more those around me underestimate me, the more they motivate me! It is a strong, real consequence of them either trying to bring me down or not thinking I am worth anything. I share this to say this: PICK YOURSELF UP! If they do not see your worth, find faith in your higher power and find faith in your family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances...anyone who sees the greatness in you. If you have no one around you that does, then find faith in yourself. You can do this!
Let their underestimation be your motivation too!
Too much inspiration...is there such a thing?
I just finished an EdTech Event in California that was simply awesome! Jennie Magiera and Rafranz Davis were the keynote speakers and I got to hang with them and talk about the education issues of the day. I left this event tired, of course, but so, so inspired!
But then something odd happened. My inspiration took me to a dark place of almost hopelessness. I began to do the worst thing I know you can do in this educational landscape: COMPARE! I began to think...there is no way I will ever be where these ladies are...great speakers, so knowledgeable of the educational issues of the day and how to solve them, and just overall great people who are always willing to help.
Now, don't get me wrong! I think I am awesome (and oh so humble...haha). However, sometimes I see some of the amazing things that others are doing all around me and I feel I do not measure up! And I KNOW others are feeling the same way because I get emails and comments that say things like "how do you do it all" and "I want to be you when I grow up." And I stop and think that I am not doing anything special...I am just doing what I am passionate about...helping teachers in any way I can.
So when my inspiration leads me to that dark place, I know I need to stop, breathe and realize that I need to stop comparing myself to others. The world needs ALL of us because we all bring different things to the educational landscape. And then I realize why I was so inspired by Rafranz and Jennie in the first place! It is not because I want to be them, but because of who they are! In her keynote, Jennie spoke about wanting to be a teacher EXACTLY like her former teacher who she respected, but her former teacher told her, "If you try to be me, then who will be you?" Let that sink in for a minute...
JUST BE YOU! BE INSPIRATIONAL, BE KIND, BE KNOWLEDGEABLE, AND SHARE YOU WITH THE WORLD!
It has been a year!
It has been a very exciting year since I became a Google Innovator in #COL16! It has truly been a whirlwind and so much has changed in my life since that time. I have met the most amazing people and feel like I am part of an amazing family!
I didn't think I would get in.
I was new to this world of Instructional Technology and I decided to kick down the door and be as active as I could in this world. I heard about a Google certification. I wasn't completely sure what it was and how it would help me, but I knew I loved and taught Google products, so why not! I was interested and started down the path to becoming a Google Certified Trainer (old program). Then, I learned you can become Level 1 and 2 certified, so that was next! Finally, I learned Google had an Innovator program, but that it was hard to get in. I decided there was no good reason not to apply and at least try, so I did! I got in on the first try! And then...my journey began.
I had just started my company, Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC, and that was where all of my passion flowed. So, I decided that when they asked me to chose a passion project, my company was a no-brainer. And it worked! I was thrilled to go to Colorado for the first time and meet other people who were passionate about education, technology, and Google!
You know how people say there are events in your life that are so life-changing that there is a before that event and an after that event. Well, this was one of those events! The people I met...the things I learned...my life would never be the same. Before this, I thought I was getting into the instructional technology world, but through this, I learned that there were so many things that I did not even know about.
I was transformed!
I am so happy and proud to be a part of this community...of this family! It has opened up so many doors for me and my company. It has lead me down roads I did not know existed and I feel like this is only the beginning for me.
If you are thinking of applying, do it! If you have applied already and did not get accepted, apply again and reach out to an Innovator for help with your application. It can happen for you and, take it from me, it is absolutely worth it.
Do it! It is one of the best decisions I have made in my life!
I consider myself an educational leader. Does that mean that I am perfect in any way? Absolutely not! It actually means that I am harder on myself than anyone else could be. I am constantly wondering what I can do better, how I can make better decisions, and how I can help as many people as I can while also consistently learning how to be better. I find myself trying to be everything to everybody, even though I know it is not possible. I have learned so much in a small amount of time about the human condition. How different people work in different ways. Sometimes, it is lonely at the top (as someone told me recently).
But I just heard Eric Sheninger @E_Sheninger speak and he said something to let me know that I am on some type of right track. He said “You are not a leader until you have produced another leader!” I strongly believe in that. I tell educators that as a leader, you should want…no EXPECT those “under” you will eventually grow enough to lead on their own and leave you. That should be a goal that you are progressing your people to become leaders or to find the leadership qualities that are already in them! As a leader, we have to help build people up!
What I do not understand is why that is so scary for some people/leaders. Why is it so scary to have someone else succeed? Wouldn’t it be a blessing to say that someone that you trained can take your job one day and hopefully go even further than you have gone? I truly do not understand! But, I honestly believe in this mindset and I hope that many other leaders do too. I will hold on to the hope that they do!
People call me a lifelong student. I guess I am.
I will turn 40 at the end of next year and I will still be in school at that time. I don’t know why I feel the need to get a degree in everything that I am interested in! haha I have 5 now, but I am finally finishing/starting again the one that has escaped me: the PhD! When I was on track at Louisiana State University, I was on the path to have 4 degrees and have one of them be my PhD by the time I was 30! However, that accomplishment never happened. I got all the way up to the Generals and I dropped. My life changed and I moved to a different state (hello Texas). I left the classroom and became a library media specialist. That led to my real 4th degree. Then, life happened again and I moved back to Louisiana and started working in technology. Along came my 5th degree.
But still no PhD. It still evaded me.
Am I tired of school? Why, yes…yes I am! But I never tire of learning! So…here I am back again to get my EdD. I have no doubt that this time is the right time and I strongly feel that God does everything for a reason. As I begin this degree (today is the very first day of the program), I am nervous, but excited to start this final (yes…I am claiming no more school after this…haha) journey to a degree in school. EdD…here I come!
I just realized what makes me a little uncomfortable with Ed Tech. It's the loyalty factor. I find that some companies/individuals want you to...except you to be loyal to one brand. If you are a "Google person" then you can't be a "Microsoft person." If you love Nearpod, you can't love ClassFlow, which means you can't love Pear Deck. I find that some wish to put products against each other, not to simply see which is better for their situation, but to pledge allegiance to one or the other. And I am not sure if it is the actual companies doing the "loyalty shaming," but I definitely see it being done by some consumers. Shouldn't we be showing more loyalty to our students than to a product? Shouldn't we be looking for whatever ragtag, mismatched tools we can to create the perfect digital working environment for our specific situation? Enough is enough! I love so many different Ed Tech products and each bring different pros and cons to the table. Why not teach about each of them and let the educators who attend or sessions decide which they want to use and not feel guilty about not showing loyalty to one specific product.
Now, with that being said, there is also nothing wrong with loving a company's suite of products. I have to say that I do indeed love me some Google! But it is because I use the product daily and believe in the product. If an educator tells me their situation and I think Dropbox would work best for them or Edmodo is the way to go for their online classroom, I will let them know that. It isn't disloyal to the brand, but it is loyal to my mission of helping educators succeed in the plans for student success. So, to all Ed Tech companies/gurus/lovers out there: It is a good thing to have your favorite products compared to others! If you have/love a quality product, it will be used...it will be taught...it will be recommended to others! And it will definitely be added to my toolbox as another great Ed Tech option!
How do you find your passion?
Most of us know what makes us excited and we know what makes us what to stay in bed and hide. However, sometimes it is hard to pinpoint more than what makes us happy, but what we are truly passionate about. I like to ask this question, "If you won a million dollars, what is the one thing you WOULD NOT give up?" Now, I know many of us would say sleeping, watching TV/movies, and hanging our with friends/family. But what do you DO that you would not give up? That is your passion. For example, if I won money, it would go into my consulting business...I do not have any plans to give it up no matter how much money I have.
But you know what? As I write this, I have to be even more honest with myself and say it is not the business aspect so much as what I do with my business. If Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC had to go away, I would still want to help teachers through professional development. It truly is my passion. I love doing it. I will forgo food and sleep to present to teachers! I really would (and have)! I just get a joy from teaching teachers and helping them on their journey to making students grow (academically and personally). I also love to help them on their own journey with their personal and professional growth. I never want to stop doing this! Never! So think about that for yourself? What brings you that much joy? That is your passion! Then ask yourself what you can do in your life to spend more time on your passion!
OK...I can feel some of your eyes rolling. But, I promise it can happen! Think of it as a reality! It may take some sacrifices, patience and changes in your life, but envision how much happier you would be by doing what you are truly passionate about! And then take action towards it! Think big and start small! What is one extra thing you can do per week to move you towards your passion? DO IT! Write it down as a definitely thing you HAVE to do! Make it a priority. As you go for it, you will have great successes and you will also have some setbacks! But that is OK because you will know that you are doing what you really love!
So, find your passion, set your goals and GO FOR IT! You can and will do this!
When I first thought about starting a blog, I broke out in a sweat! Why would anyone want to know how I felt about topics? Why would they care? Then, I started my business and realized that my words and actions had value and worth! Who knew?
However, even after I started my website and my company, I still thought that my personal experiences did not really matter in the grand scheme of things. Then I read the EdTech Team's announcement that my Google Innovator mentor Jennie Misong Magiera would be their new Chief Program Officer. In that announcement, she was asked some questions and she answers one of them by saying, "Don't underestimate your own story. As educators, we have a tendency to downplay our experiences, value and voice. Model the confidence and empowerment you want your students to exhibit." Wow! I feel like that little blurb I read on my phone between meetings woke me up! My goal is to help all teachers feel empowered and use their voice, but I kept my voice hidden inside myself. Now that I see the light...I really don't know why I stayed in the darkness so long!
Well, that is over! I feel really good to get back to writing, to write about what I love and to share my experiences! I am here now and I am ready to just be Honestly Desiree!