Side note: I'm going to do a press to finish the 30 by Thanksgiving with #30 being a Thanksgiving post, so I hope and pray that you see a flurry of activity over the next week. Following the lead of a my friend Michele on Facebook, I'm going to focus each of the last six on something for which I am grateful. These might tend toward personal reflections, so those looking for hard tech stuff might flip back a few pages.
I'm very lucky this past couple of months to have had the opportunity to talk to groups of teachers, principals, religious educators, and superintendents in different parts of the country. I love traveling (I know that I outline my traveling frustrations in detail on Facebook, but these are ephemera in a sea of exciting experiences), and I love speaking to groups of people more than almost anything I do. When I feel a connection with a group, start hearing laughter or seeing nods, I enter a state of near hysterical ecstasy, where the people and the material merge into one and I start hand crafting a talk for them as I give it. Many of the best lines I use are a result not of planning but of this live symbiotic relationship.
It was about 5 years ago that I gave my first edtech talk at a conference. Obviously from my job I knew I was a good public speaker, but I didn't know if I could be successful with groups who didn't know me. While preparing, I confided in a friend that my fondest wish would be to become good at this and to be able to do it regularly. During the past 5 years I have had amazing opportunities, many successes and some disappointments (I still remember the time I spoke at a conference and NOBODY came to my workshop). I'm also very aware that adding the title of “superintendent” has broadened my audience and my appeal beyond my own skills. I have been very lucky, and very blessed with the many good people who have heard me and whom I have met.
Slipping into tech for a moment, I've also been lucky to live in a time when technology and my position support a traveling lifestyle. No matter where I am, I am connected completely through phone and email to anything going on in the office (I have many times suggested that I could do my job as effectively from a Starbucks as I could from the office). In fact, some people think I am more diligent about answering email on the road than when I'm home. I often criticize the “always connected” life, but it has its merits.
This blessed time has not been without its stresses (beyond those of discovering that you arrived in a city without your ipad VGA adapter and running all over looking for a BestBuy). Most of these are of my own making (surprise). Since so far I've worked primarily by invitation, as I finish each conference I feel a small trace of panic, fearful that the next opportunity might not present itself. Every time I receive a call or email asking for a talk, there is a rush of relief…thank God it isn't over! Likewise I am very conscious of the fact that speaking to groups is a self-cannibalizing act, once you have said something to that group, it's used up. I always am self-conscious about people who have heard me before, and I am always working to come up with new, fresh topics. Some have asked me if I would like to do this full-time. I must admit I would love to, but I also like the things I do in my real life and I could never stand the constant fear of the phone not ringing.
But today, let me be thankful for what is. I believe with my core that the message of educational technology is vast and vital, and I hope that I can keep playing a role in the conversation. If you are reading this and I met you at a conference, thank you for your interest and for your hospitality. I hope that I will meet many more people in many more cities in the years to come.
And, as always, I welcome your comments
Image credit: Image: 'talkin' turkey' http://www.flickr.com/photos/94507863@N00/3074620301. Found on flickrcc.net