Many Faces of Me

I know this post is several months behind but I am glad I got around to doing it.

You know I get a little bothered when people think they have the recipe for what you should do, how to do it and how much of it you should serve up. I guess somewhere along the way they figured that they were masterminds behind our God-given talents. Though I am open to suggestions and feedback that will build me up– don’t try to puppeteer how to make me dance. I have my own set of drums and choose which rhythm I want to play!

I am cut from a cloth of many colors and because of this my tribe has helped to cultivate some AMAZING things within me –I am proud to say that I am multi-talented. I dream in rainbow colors and my passions cannot be limited to a single digit. I figure there are many of you kindred spirits that come from similar tribes and have matching drumsets.

  • I am fortunate to be bilingual. I can speak and read Creole fluently.
  • I am thorough, detailed and organized (most of the time)
  • I have a knack for connecting with people (tiniest toes to the more established feet)
  • I can help others LEARN and can be TAUGHT by them as well
  • I choose to ENCOURAGE, INSPIRE and UPLIFT
  • I have an ear for music and can hold a decent tune
  • I am a juggler of hats (mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, educator, co-host to DCTV430, teacherpreneur)

The list can go on and on but I won’t—-instead I will just focus on one way I INSPIRE and UPLIFT!

All of this to say that these are The Many Faces of Me! 

When I think of this particular aspect I have to reflect on the tribe and rich legacy of my people. In February, we celebrated Black History Month which may be short-lived but everyday is a celebration for me. I do not look at this as a time to elevate one culture over another but more importantly it is necessary to look at history from everyone’s perspective— from everyone’s truth.

With these HOT times in America —it was important to resurrect the Living Museum after a 3 year hiatus. The injustices can no longer dominate because people are no longer sitting silent and watching helplessly. In fact, they are up in arms and protest vocally on a regular basis about the wrongs happening more frequently than they would like to admit. The quiet Sit ins, Stand Ups, About Faces or Turning the Other Cheek– JUST. WON’T. DO!

My husband (Xavier Lewis “The Antidote to RnB”) is an artist, a visionary and he too wears a coat of many talents. Our blended fibers hold a stinch of 16 years in the field doing great work with young people from Florida, MAryland and Georgia. Creating this production and telling the story of our tribe was not going to be in the form of a SUPER talent show –it needed to be intentional and impactful. This was just not for the attendees but also for the participants themselves.

We live in a blended society (which isn’t a bad things at all) but those church leaders often do not look like me and cannot teach the history from which my ancestors journeyed. Parents are sometimes too busy to give those rich cultural experiences that will help shape the lives of the younger generations. So the story is lost and that is problematic.

So here is my BEEF–the curriculum that is taught boasts stories usually from the powerful or the victors. A 360 view is never shared out and because of this–the story is missing important pieces or ultimately incomplete.  Their history books often do not publish the stories of inventors and innovators that look like them or have contributed in major ways. So we pride ourselves in digging in the crates and finding information on things they did not know and have not learned.

Through the process of creating we recognized that students need to own their learning (outside of our facilitation and advisement) and so we allow them to have voice and choice in their monologues. We push, pushed  and continue to push  them beyond their limits and often into places they never realized existed because “school” has placed limitations on opportunities to cultivate these talents.

To watch the students brainstorm and test out their monologues, collaborate with their peers and receive feedback from others is where the magic truly happened. This was a PBL all in itself because of the varied components involved, mutiple disciplines included, the span of time spent over several weeks researching and gathering, and revealing answers to questions that soothed a painpoint or lead to deeper understanding was the great reward.

One of my good friends Valerie Vaughn, sent me a list which was acquired from http://www.blackinventors.com to assist us (but not limit us) in the process on determining our museum exhibits, props and setup. This was a great spark to conversation not only amongst the students but even in my EduMatch Voxer groups with other educators. The discovery of new information and the dialogue that occurs can be powerful. When you look at the list below, what things can you admit that you did not know before as inventions by African-Americans?

Black Inventors List Part1 Black Inventors List Part2 Black Inventors List Part3

This list gives me life and you can only imagine what it did for students that could see the Many Faces of People that looked like them. We are more than just athletes and rappers but are the foundation of many things within a country that for too may years kept us oppressed.

3D First Place Winner

My goal is not to sit and highlight the wrongs that were done but I also feel that those conversations still need to happen. Because of this, the production is inclusive. Not only did our high school kids participate but the elementary and middle schoolers from our cluster were involved in the production as well as the schoolwide art contests which were displayed throughout the museum. We used tech by incorporating social media, Kahoot! trivia challenges for attendees, and a GooseChase (scavenger style game) which unfortunately we could not get to activate because of the overwhelming numbers of users trying to log into the application.

This wasn’t a movement by blacks for blacks but a movement of humans for humans. Students included the contributions of other races to Black History so we can settle the ignorance that “Black History is only for the black kids!” The support from the community and many sponsors are so apprreciated and speaks to the testament that there are lots of do-gooders that exist!

2D First Place WinnerDuke Ellington

So if I had to pick one stripe to shine a light on for this blogpost then it would be the one that ENCOURAGES, INSPIRES, and UPLIFTS. This video (done by Gwinnett County TV) captures the essence of the program. You missed the whole of it if you did not attend (but there’s always next year).

I am paid in FULL from the joy that fills my heart when students give their testimonial on how much they have learned, reflected on the process, and sparked a lasting impression that has charge them to go forth into the world with their heads held high and their chests puffed outwards because they come from a tribe that celebrates them as an IMPORANT SOMEBODY!

These students, this generation of new innovators represent The Many Faces of Me and I am everyday proud and inspired mostly by them and the great things they will become.

 

 

 

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Why Most Professional Development Stinks—and How You Can Make It Better

At the end of summer vacation, the agenda or itinerary for pre-planning week arrives in the mail, and the feelings take over like the charge of a rushing flood with the thought of “PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.” It happens to the best and worst of us as we ponder what we’d rather be doing in our course teams or classrooms than taking useless PD. Ironically, this summer strummed a different type of emotion within me… I realized that for once, I wanted more–I wanted more from my PD.

Professional development sessions should not be met with frowned eyebrows and a scrunched up face, but instead with a growth mindset and opportunity to improve teaching and learning–yet or even better, as my colleague Dorian stated, PD should make you “fall in love all over again.”

How Administrators Can Improve Their Deliverance of Professional Development

Building administrators and leaders are often following county-level or district-wide mandates when serving up PD to their faculty. These things just have to get done. No contest there! The downside to achieving these goals is that the ensuing sessions often resemble someone standing in front of the group and talking “at” the audience, while we all we just “sit and get”. This torture is usually coupled with endless scrolling PowerPoint slides and a manila folder, which might as well have the stamped words “You’ve Been Trained” handed to you.

Ironically, time arrests that folder, and places it away in a cold, lonely drawer within a file cabinet. It’s always with good intentions that we get back to what we learned, but time usually jangles the keys in our face and laughs hysterically until the mention of that topic resurfaces or the school year draws to an end.

While engaging in a discussion with colleagues through a chat on Walkie Talkie app Voxer, I picked up several pieces of advice on how administrators can better the PD they offer. To kick us off, Aziz Abdur-Raoof (@ziz87 from MD), shared this photo which sums up best what administrators do not want to happen.

With that image in mind, here are some suggestions for how administrators can engage and understand more what teachers are looking for.

  1. Offer teachers some choice throughout the year in things they want to learn about. This is the personalized learning that sparks the flame and makes you want to go deeper without being told to do so. Isn’t this the same thing we want for the students in our class? This can be achieved by collecting ideas on a Google Form or creating a Choice Board where teachers can share their interests. For more largescale changes to the actual event, follow anEdCamp-ish type model, where participants pick their poison.
  2. Observe, in order to differentiate, then decide what the group needs. Just as in writing, know your audience. How do they best learn? Where do they shine? How can you establish buy-in versus push-back? Matthew Mayer from Illinois challenges administrators to do just that here, in this Voxer file.
  3. Be clear and transparent about why something can’t be done. Teachers may often give suggestions as to what they’d like to learn, or at least what they think is meaningful. Tell them the broader lense that you are looking through that may benefit the whole group, or perhaps why this moment may not be the most appropriate for their particular desire.

    How Teachers Fit Into the Equation

    The buck doesn’t stop with school leaders and administrators–teachers should go deeper with their learning and ownership over PD. When the excitement sparks from within, then we can teach our students better and apply our knowledge. For example, my #satchat buddy, @TG_Neil distinguishes professional development from personalized learning (in her opinion) here in this Voxer file.

    Teachers, here are some suggestions for how you can own your PD.

    1. Familiarize yourselves with the local school’s improvement plan and how that helps the district overall. This may not always be what we want personally, but may be what the school needs as a whole towards a common goal. There is always a challenge in education that could be solved with our simple ideas as suggested in Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez’s book, Hacking Education.
    2. Proactively seek out opportunities to share, lead, and earn PLU credits and stipends on your passion areas. I usually don’t wait for an opportunity to fall in my lap, but instead I try to create them by running a parent literacy night, leading a teacher group, or suggesting and teaching an intervention class for students with disabilities. I am honing my craft and leading in areas that I am passionate about. Find your passion, seek it out more in depth, and impact those around you positively
    3. Attend conferences and join professional organizations. ISTE, Miami Device, EdCamps, and those put on by Staff Development for Educators (SDE) and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) are all opportunities to learn deeper and meet like-minded people or those with a different viewpoint. Subscribe to publications like National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) for articles and latest research.
    4. Get connected and establish global connections through Twitter (#gwinchat, #SoFLEd, #EduMatch, #satchat), FB Groups (PoC in EdTech and Hack Learning), Instagram and other Social Media outlets (i.e.Pinterest). Though technology can be a game changer, it is not the only tool out there that you can use to change the game. Remember to find value from the people within your building that offer tons of knowledge and are rich in experience and connect with them first. Remember that you are a “forever learner,” and keep a growth mindset. Learning new things can often be uncomfortable until you try and begin to experience success.

Professional development is what your leaders say you have to do, and that may make you feel like your hands are tied behind your back. However, you hold the greater responsibility to personalize your learning each day, and oftentimes for free. The major cost to you is your time, and perhaps a few moments away from those you truly love.

In the end, for any educator, grow your network to include like-minded individuals (and perhaps even those with a varied point of view) that may be within your building, outside your district, and perhaps even across the country. The perk in this is that you can and will exchange ideas (even simple ones), share resources to improve your practice, and grow through learning in both your professional career and personal passions.


Valerie Lewis is an educator, and can be reached on Twitter at @iamvlewis.

This post is part of the EdSurge Fifty States Project (representing the state of Georgia). The project is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the individual contributors alone and do not reflect the views of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.