Choosing to Passion Up Even When Things Feel Down

It’s taken me a while to write again as for the last several months like so many others, I have been on a mission to learn. With a commitment to a deeper culturally responsive and anti-racism lens, I didn’t just want to prepare for online teaching as I headed back to the classroom. I wanted to be better, a lot better. My posts also tend to be longer which means wider gaps in between and trying to connect a whole lot together. So I decided to try something many have mastered already, writing more often and not trying to include it all in one post.

Before writing about my new teaching adventure so far, I wanted to share a final story from the spring. This post honors the people in my educational life who have recently changed it. It highlights the strengths of others in a collaborative effort born out of discomfort. This post reiterates that even when faced with challenging times, people need us to be human. And I believe it’s within our humanity that passion lives. Making the choice to “passion up,” a concept I first wrote about two years ago, has made all of the difference.

In “What the Heck just happened,?” a panel of local (and one we all wish was local) administrators share their journeys over the last six months. Beth Houf so openly discusses that as the pandemic quickly knocked down her normal, she temporarily lost her purpose. An animated leader whose building thrives on an indescribable energy found herself wondering how she would continue leading her school community. Although I am not an administrator, I can certainly relate as I had to transform how I would reach my colleagues. Moments of doubt arose, yet those that offered encouragement quickly took over. Like Beth and many others, I made a decision that although we were surrounded by uncertainty, I would still bring who I was. Life had abruptly changed, but my WHY had not.

Connection, empowering colleagues, as well as highlighting their awesome are my joy and a big part of why I show up. When my digital learning role during the spring extended to PreK-12 (and became completely virtual) this became a bit trickier, but I was able to speak with colleagues daily through online office hours, many of whom I still haven’t met in person. Although I was in a support position, I learned more from our discussions than I could have possibly imagined.

With inspiration and belief from administrators I was working closely with, my momentum was building fast to take what I was learning and do something with it. Before I knew it, I was composing an email to my district titled, Trying Something New to Highlight What I’m Learning From You:) The rhyming was a little corny but I’ve learned that corny often sticks. I included a short video introducing a plan I had no idea would work. I would simply share an idea in a quick video, how I was inspired to create it, and offer “Coffee and Conversation” to discuss further.

With a racing heart, I finally clicked send and the responses came. Suddenly there were over two hundred views on that very first video which also included an example of a bitmoji classroom and the teacher who opened my eyes to it. For weeks, colleagues were in touch with ideas they were trying and as bitmoji classrooms and offices were on the rise, I learned that many staff members had them up and running. Some simply replied with appreciation and anticipation for more to come. One email stood out that I will never forget and alone made the risk worth taking. A teacher brand new to the district saw the CO on my hat and included this in her reply:

I love the nod to Colorado! (that’s where I’m from). Simply watching that video made me feel more like a part of the family. I look forward to more!

I had only two colleagues ever “join” me for coffee but I’ve learned the number doesn’t matter as much as the risk we take in putting our ideas out there. I am crazy about using video to communicate as it lends itself so naturally to being human so that was certainly my preference. The first was followed by eight more that imperfectly captured the power of collaboration. Back in June, I had the honor of talking with Tara Martin about my experience that honestly sparked from teachers coming to me and me not having all of the answers. I learned to not only live in this discomfort but embrace it.

I’ve learned to accept my thumbnails:)

Below is my first Youtube Playlist. I was asked during the conversation with Tara to share the videos I had created (Thank you Meghan LeFevers!) At that time, they were unlisted or in Google Drive and I was feeling a little nervous. I knew the quality wasn’t awesome for those I would record early in the morning while the rest of the house was asleep and I did many of them quickly. Yet over the past several months I have formed a bond with imperfection and so far, it hasn’t let me down.

The Google Meet LIVE Stream video has a special place in my heart. A passionate paraprofessional who I had never met wished for students to be able to see chick eggs hatch, a tradition at this particular elementary school. I know nothing about chicks and have never been driven to learn about birds BUT I was quickly on a mission to help make this happen. In a time that certainly felt (and still feels) scary, kids, teachers, and families were able to celebrate life by watching chicks hatch out of their eggs right from their homes.

Although this year I am also back in the classroom, I am taking what I learned from the spring in offering a weekly “Digital Learning Delivery.” I am hoping to highlight once again the work of my colleagues (and students!) and ideas inspired from connecting with them. I have already worn my hat and messed up many times (which I love to turn into bloopers) as connection and being human will always come first. I am also in the process of offering more office hours, but never sweat it if I’m the only one who shows up:)

I am incredibly lucky to stand in a place where I have remained physically and emotionally okay enough to try and make even a small impact. For me, because I am able, it has become a responsibility. I encourage anyone reading this to share their own passion up story from the last several months and commit to living new ones. And if you don’t hear from anyone, which has happened to me on several occasions, it doesn’t mean no one is listening. I wish you safety, health, and happiness and I look forward to writing next month about my online experience with middle schoolers who inspire me daily.

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