There’s No Place Like “Home”

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I’m home for the first time in almost five years, which is the longest I’ve been gone without visiting.  Maybe this is the reason why I am noticing more changes than in the past.  Subtle changes like an increase in self-service and a decrease in customer service.  Other not so subtle things, like an increased polarity of perspective.

Other things don’t change at all.  Friendships that slip straight back into normal conversation, as if it hasn’t been three, five or seven years.

Still, I feel more foreign here than I do where I just came from, though where I came from is no longer home, and I find myself slipping into defensive mode about my most recent “home” and my soon to be new “home.”

There are so many misperceptions about the world,  When I lived in Taiwan, my students commonly thought that Americans didn’t love their children as much as Asian parents because of the movie Clueless – apparently, because the main character has a lot of freedom, my students perceived Americans as unconcerned about their children. Obviously, this perception is ridiculous, and I am sure we perceive ourselves as very caring parents.

The perceptions about the Middle East are equally unfounded.  Yet, it’s difficult and somewhat exhausting to try to explain how wonderful the Middle East is.  Or Taiwan. Or Sweden.  Or England.  All places, I very much consider as home.

My whole life, I have encountered questions about my “homes,” my ethnicity and my experiences.  The questions are generally well-meaning, but they are not always respectful.  This time home, I find myself floundering for patience and missing the people with whom I share common experiences.

Regardless of where we are from or what we believe, we are not so different from one another.  I wonder at what point, we can accept this and stop trying to compare and compete?

Vlog Letters of Rec

A couple of days ago, I posted on the power of digitally archiving ourselves via video, which has amazing potential in teaching and learning for ourselves and others.  If they are posted and published, they become part of the Vlog world.  However, we could “vlog” in various other mediums as well, perhaps internally within our organizations or even privately over time to become part of a bigger piece – perhaps leaving a message for our children each year for 15 years and then editing them together.  The possibilities are exciting.

One such possibility that is taking rise are video recommendations.  As online portfolios take rise, candidates are looking to market themselves differently.  Recently, a teacher asked me to provide him with a video reference, and I agreed.

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He came in with his video camera, asked me to discuss some talking points and hit record.  I gave a 4-5 minute recommendation, which included elements that I would have included in a recommendation letter.  We finished in one take and he was very pleased to have heard live my reference of him.  From my perspective, taking 5 minutes to record a recommendation is far more efficient than taking 30-60 minutes per letter to wordsmith the “perfect” recommendation.  Additionally, it was a positive interaction between the teacher and I, so it also served as a relationship builder.

After we’d finished, we discussed a couple of uses of such videos.  Busy administrators may not have time to watch 3-4 five-minute recommendations.  Thus, we could film numerous recs and then edit them into a single clip, leaving the original archives available for those with more time.

Though I don’t love being on video, I’m loving the possibilities of video!


Embracing the Imperfect

One of my profound flaws is an excessive need for perfection.  On a rational and logical level, I understand that the world is rife with imperfection.  Yet, I still struggle with my daily imperfections, for example losing my patience with Mia or saying the ‘wrong” thing.

While I am very aware of the fact that I am not perfect, I have an irrational expectation that all that I do and say should be perfect, particularly as a leader and a parent. Often, when I blog, I’ll write a post and ponder for days whether I should post it.  For example, I agonized for over a week on whether I should post my thoughts on ego.  Yet, when I did, it was met with a lot of positive feedback.

This 30/30 exercise allows for imperfections.  My all-time favorite blogger, George Couros wrote recently about his blog being a place of sharing and personal learning, that writing helps him learn.  He posts often, and though not all of his posts are perfect, I always learn from him and I am always inspired.  Plus, our imperfections allow us to show our humanity, which deepens our connections and relationships.  Today, I embrace my imperfections and hope to learn from them.

Video Archive Yourself?!?

This morning, I presented virtually at ISTE 2015. Actually, I re-presented a shortened version of a webinar on Narrative Poetry & Digital Storytelling that I presented for the ISTE Digital Storytelling Network in April. As I was preparing and reviewing for my presentation, I realized that in my Kuwait-Saudi move purging frenzy, I’d tossed all of my handwritten notes and commentary.

As I noted in my “Whirlwind” post, we move fast. Perhaps too fast, and in just two short months, though I knew the content well, I was no longer in the same preparatory space as I’d had been when I prepared the original presentation. Luckily, we record our webinars, and so I watched the archive and took notes from myself. This proved interesting, useful and I learned again. This time from myself.

Though I may have archived my webinar for my portfolio, I probably would not have watched it all from start to finish had I not been preparing a secondary presentation. And though I had a detailed outline, it was really interesting hearing myself present, hearing the thoughts I spoke in real time and hearing the connections I didn’t know I’d made. I learned something and revisited a place I’d not been in a couple of months. Additionally, I was able to revise my upcoming presentation and improve upon it.

Yesterday, I also came across a video blog by one of my favorite coaching experts, Stephen Barkley.  Though I don’t typically love video presentations, his “post” spoke to me.

These two experiences, one of viewing Barkley speak in real time and the other of of going back in time and hearing myself speak as opposed to just reading old notes or journals, has got me thinking that it might be valuable to take video archives of what we do. We advise novice teachers to record themselves as a form of reflection.  Perhaps, this should be standard practice.

  • What do we look and sound like when we are presenting, teaching, collaborating, etc.?
  • What do our planned thoughts look like in real time?
  • What is the uncut version of who we are?
  • What can we learn from watching a past version of ourselves?
  • Can recording and presenting our thoughts deepen our online connections?

As a writer, I know that I do not capture nearly all that I think.  I also know that as much as I plan and script presentations, I always go off book.  Thus, listening to myself was illuminative.  It was also nice to remember the intensity of the passion I feel for the topic, and this is something that words on paper/screen simply can’t do.

Additionally, listening to Stephen Barkley speak, think and pause made me connect with his content in a manner that differed from reading blog posts (though I also love the traditional blog posts).

As we journey further into the digital age, I would challenge us to start recording ourselves live and uncut, at least some of the times.  And then, watch it a week, month or year later. Though it occurred by chance in a moment of necessity, it certainly proved to be a wonderfully reflective exercise.

A link to my original Narrative Poetry & Digital Storytelling Webinar can be found here or at

Ode to Reflective Educators

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.26.37 AMAfter my “Whirlwind” post yesterday, a wonderful educator, colleague and friend (@emilysb1) retweeted my post adding her own twist.  I felt immediately inspired and grateful, as I always do when working with Emily (and so many other wonderful educators) because she added an element I had not thought of.

I had been viewing the 30 days with some hesitation…maybe 30 opportunities to fail at being focused (and then I could write about the necessity of failure).  Yet, here was Emily, so positively turning it into an exercise of gratitude.  And so I write with gratitude to all of the educators who inspire me each day, particularly those like Emily who are able to think deeply, reflect and always have time for the process.


I want to write everyday.  Blog everyday.  Exercise everyday. Mediate everyday.  Read volumes of brilliant literature or any of the hundreds of great books I have that will make me a better educator and person…everyday.  Be a mindful mother.  Play.  Walk. Do Yoga.

And that’s just what I want to do everyday.  That doesn’t count the 101 projects I have on the go…all inspirational things that feed my passions – a book of poetry for Mia, stories about runaway cupcakes for Madison, a peace charter, the fledgling research proposal for my PhD application…and the list goes on and on.  In fact, my husband jokes about my ongoing list of “things to do.”

Yet, I find myself resisting.  Not so much by not doing anything, but in doing too many things at once.  In being unable to focus.  Currently, I have cut back from the five books I was reading to just two, and wow, what a difference it has made.

Part of my “scattered,” I think, is the result of a hugely busy school year.  Leadership and teaching is being able to juggle numerous porcelain plates without dropping them, and even when we do it well, what we lose is our ability to slow down and focus.

And so this summer, as I transition from one place to the next, I am going to take some time for mindful reflection and sharing, and I’ll be using this space to download some of my “scattered.”

I believe we should be sharing and learning together, and so I am going to use this blog to share some successes and failures, reflect upon the past year, and generate new ideas.  Essentially, I am going to use this blog as a way to remain mindful, practical and reflective.  Hold me to it as I embark upon my 30/30 plan – 30 posts for 30 days of reflection.

Poetic Voices: Using Digital StoryTelling to Visualize Narrative Poetry

As part of my work with the ISTE Digital Storytelling Network, I just presented a webinar on using digital storytelling with narrative poetry.  The archive to the webinar will be posted to our wiki at:

I am also embedding the presentation below.  Feel free to use, share or modify.  I’m happy to answer any questions.

Feel free to view the presentation here and make a copy in order to revise for your needs.  Thank you to my wonderful co-presenter Julie Jaeger.

Happy StoryTelling and StoryKeeping!

Digital Storytelling & Narrative Poetry Webinar – April 13

Greetings StoryTellers and StoryKeepers!!
It’s Poetry Month!!
Our 2014-15 DSN Webinars continue with…

Poetic Voices: Using Digital StoryTelling to
Visualize Narrative Poetry

Join DSN Execs Tara Waudby and Julie Jaeger
April 13th at 8:00 PM ET, 7:00 PM CT, 6:00 PM MT, and 5:00 PM PT
Register at this link….

Poetry is a powerful mode of communication, and in the history of storytelling, poetry is an essential element of the genre. Learn how we can make poetry come to life and give image to the imagery of poetry with Digital Storytelling. The session will incorporate three ideas that we can use to visualize narrative poetry. We will review digitizing poetic personal narratives, using digital stories to demonstrate analysis of poetry, and using digital storytelling to inspire the creation of original poetic narratives. Hope you can join us!!

DSN members…find numerous resources and webinar archives at our
StoryKeepers-DSN Wiki

Please feel free to send this information on to others…our webinars are free and all are welcome to join us. Hope to see you there!!

Five Reasons to go Ego-less

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Too much ego is a pervasive, worldwide problem and one that is holding us back.  In my own experiences, I have witnessed (and experienced) how our ego holds us back from collective growth.

When I say ego, I am not talking about Freud’s balance between the Id and the Superego.  I am not referring to self-confidence or self-esteem, and I am certainly not arguing against positive feedback and praise.

When I say ego, I am talking about egotism.  I am talking about the right/wrong dilemma that is so prevalent today.  I am referring to attachment and defensiveness.  And, I am referring to the fixed mindset (versus the growth mindset) that keeps us tied tied to our own self-importance.

In this post, I am arguing for a collective letting go of ego.  Here are five reasons why we need to let go of ego and embrace the discomfort of real growth.

  1. Our ego serves no one, not even ourselves.  When we get attached to an idea, that is our ego refusing to let us grow.  When we get defensive, that is our ego protecting us against vulnerability and discomfort.  But vulnerability and discomfort equal growth.  If we do not practice being uncomfortable, we will never reach our highest potential.
  2. Our ego is detrimental to our goals.  Our ego puts up barriers and tells us that we are right.  Maybe we are, but how does being right serve the goal?  What would be more helpful in moving the situation forward in a positive direction?
  3. Our ego keeps us attached to mediocrity.  Our ego tells us that we are great, wonderful, right…What it doesn’t tell us is that we are also fearful and timid.  Perhaps of being wrong? Rather than being focused on being right, commit to learning more, being better, and serving the greater good.
  4. Our ego equals pride.  Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  Need I say more.
  5. Our ego causes fights.  Our ego eggs us on, tells us that we are right and revels in conflict.  It feeds our anger and makes us feel righteous and indignant.  But, does righteous indignation actually feel good?

If we are truly in the business of learning and growth, we must be learners ourselves.  That means allowing ourselves to be wrong and “inexpert” at some things.  As humans, it means being vulnerable.

Serving our own egos does no one any good, not even ourselves.  So, I am calling for a collective letting go of ego(tism), so that we can all grow, continue to improve, and learn more!

Sometimes No Means No

Arguing has become a prevalent response in many modern cultures.  Be it a form of disagreement, outrage or simply frustration, arguing abounds in the world we live.  And the need to express our indignation at an inefficient system (or simply a system with which we disagree) also abounds.

But sometimes, gracious acceptance of the rules is better.  Sometimes, walking away is better.  Because really, the righteous indignation is often just a temper tantrum in adult format.  We can’t always have things exactly as we want them.  And that should be okay…