When I was five, Chuck E. Cheese was the place to be…an oasis where “a kid [could truly] be a kid,” and escape the many pressures of kindergarten life. On their television ad, there was a particularly happy child who had just won some stupid game. I guess it was skee-ball, because that’s all I remember of Chuck E. Cheese. The pit, the six-foot-tall rat, and skee-ball.
Anyway, so the kid won or something, and jumped up and down (rather obnoxiously), yelling, “I won, I won!” Of course, being a master of imitation, as most five-year-olds are, I couldn’t *wait* for the day when I would be able to reenact this scene, with all of my kindergarten homies giving me dap. Like a G. One day, this glorious moment came. I had just won…skee-ball, I guess…so it was totally my cue. Lights, camera, and accione!
“I won, I won,” I yelled, jumping around like the annoying kid on TV. However, unlike him, nobody crowded around, showering high-fives upon me. Barely anybody even looked. The ones who did shot me glares of contempt and disgust.
Later, I learned that some people didn’t appreciate the bragging. I didn’t understand how someone can be your friend, yet be so mad when something good happens to you. As I got older, I learned that people will decide to hate you for far less than that. You don’t even have to announce any of the good things that you do…a lot of people will see your shine and attempt to bring you down.
The lesson about haters was a tough pill to swallow, but I learned my lesson a little too well. It came to the point where I would downplay most of my accomplishments, just to save myself the drama of people hating. (Note to self: they will find something to hate anyway.)
While this has earned me a reputation of being a private person, it has also cost me quite a bit. I’m sure most people have heard the saying, “be careful what you wish for.” If you wish to get lost in the shuffle, you will. While you may have less “haters,” you may also be passed over for opportunities, simply because people don’t know the full extent of your capabilities.
Another thing that shocked me was a comment made at a workshop, prior to the beginning of this school year. A question was asked to the crowd, “why don’t educators collaborate?” An answer provided from a participant was that, “people don’t want to share, so that they can keep all the glory for themselves.” To my surprise, many people shook their head in agreement. Even though the comment wasn’t directed at me, I kind of wanted to bury my head in the sand.
Livin’ On the Edge
So, what can you do? It almost seems like you’re gosh-darned if you do, and gosh-darned if you don’t. Well, my friends, fear not. There has to be a happy medium, and I’m determined to find it. My plan is to step out of my comfort zone big time and start toeing the line. I believe that I’ve come a long way since that day at Chuck E. Cheese (and the resulting aftermath), by doing the following:
Identifying my strengths. I’m a proud geek…always have been, always will be. I learned to read thanks to the efforts of my family members, as well as a video game. In it, there was a scary clown that would pop up every time you would hit the letter C, but that’s beside the point. Game-based learning hadn’t even been identified as a best practice in the 80’s, so my family was way ahead of the curve on that one. Good job, family. Anyway, this is all to say that I was pretty much born with a keyboard in my hand. I really take issue to people who say that you can’t be a digital native unless you’re under 25 (*cough cough* bs), but that’s another post for another time. The point is, I’m reaaaaally good at technology. I started my teaching career as a general primary educator. Let’s just say it was a bumpy road…that is, until a very clever principal allowed me to use my background in media and tech. From that point, it was on and popping. In my building, I am THE crazy tech lady, and I love it.
Acknowledging my weaknesses. We’re all human, right? I mean, last I checked…but anyway, nobody is perfect. Humans are a weird type of creature…it’s almost like the more you fail, the more other people like you. This is to an extent, of course…I mean, if you’re a total fail, you’re kind of a drag. But anyway, the more perfect you try to be, the more you’re going to get hated on. I just read this article today that says pretty much the same thing. It’s weird. The more perfect you try to be, the more people will hate. Isn’t the point to try and get them not to hate?Anyway, this is all to say not to be afraid to try, and even fail from time to time. Another benefit…according to the same article, the more you fail, the more successful you are. I guess that’s because it means you’re actually trying, instead of sitting on your derriere, trying to be Little Miss Perfect.
Combining the two. Ok, this is where I am now. Recently, I went to this awesome branding session at #edcampnj, where the presenters, Tony and Joe, stated that, unless you share all of the great things that you do, you will be the only one who knows about them. I believe the line was, “tell your story, or someone else will tell it for you.” This struck a chord with me, and really made me think. I also realized that I have established a phenonmenal personal learning network (PLN) through sharing and collaboration. Ideas from my PLN have totally reinvented the way that I teach. For example, I learned about flipping at a conference back in January, but was really able to grasp the concept through suggestions from other educators on Twitter and Pinterest. I am now passing on this knowledge acquired from my PLN to more teachers. This reminds me of tribal wisdom passed down through generations. Ooooooooooh. Aaaaaaaaah. For another example, I wanted to implement backchannel discussions in my class, but when I tried it, I had kids telling “yo mama” jokes the whole time. A member of my PLN suggested that we backchannel through Edmodo so that I could monitor the conversation during and after the lesson. Golden, yo.
Recently, I’ve started up some initiatives to put myself out there even more, and to grow my PLN. I’ve been resisting this for a while, since Chuck E. Cheese was still fresh in my mind; however, I’ve realized since then that this isn’t about me. It’s about networking and growing my PLN. We are all in this together. By increasing my PLN, I’m learning more and more…about more and more. Then I can take this new knowledge and regurgitate it to other teachers who want to know more, like a mother bird feeding her young. Or something.
I just started up a new website at sarahjanethomas.com. That’s me! Speaking of me, that’s my email address. Me@sarahjanethomas.com. No, seriously. I went on fiverr and got all this stuff done for $5, including a logo, a theme song, and a rapping puppet video. I kid you not.
Anyway, this is getting a bit lengthy, and I’m now about to take on the challenge of using social media to find dissertation participants. That can be a whole ‘nother blog post by itself. Hmmmmm…