Over many of years as an educator, I have presented to many audiences in many capacities. I’ve presented to students from Kindergarten to secondary, students at the university level, educators on staff and at professional development events, parents at PAC meetings or on school tours. I have informed and entertained individuals to large groups. I can throw a good party where everyone is invited. I can fill in uncomfortable silences and make my guests feel welcome.
I was invited by Gabe Pillay to present at EDvent2017. An event framed around the words of Cicero, “Learning is a kind of natural food for the mind”, promised an entertaining and thought provoking event. The ideas came fast and furious. What makes a fabulous restaurant experience? What makes an optimal learning experience?
I had 5 minutes to quickly enlighten and inspire my audience. The challenge from my friend and SFU colleague, Linda Klassen, was to try the Ignite format based on the Japanese PechaKucha . Twenty slides advancing with a timer. She did warn me about the challenge of maintaining the timing with the slides and the talk but assured me I was up to the challenge.
I loved the thinking around the idea of a menu for meaningful learning. On Spring Break, the ideas came together on the beach in Vietnam. Choosing the slides was fun. The big challenge for me was being concise. As I’ve told many of you, when my Auntie Myrna said “What’s your story, Morning Glory?”, I included a well developed plot with all of the details. Words had to be cut right, left and center. Every word that was uttered, mattered. Of course, it didn’t help that the slides and timing were submitted long before I finished changing the script. If only I had followed the advice frequently given to my students to leave lots of time to practice. I stopped scripting talks long ago because I thought it made me sound stilted when I talked. In this format, I needed to relearn the art. Scripting was imperative to maintain the timing. My Grandmother singing Rambling Rose was in the forefront of my mind. I needed to focus. To be specific yet still…inspiring…entertaining.
With every risk comes the chance of failure. When self doubt triggers, it multiplies exponentially. I am a big picture thinker with imagination which in cases like this does not help. I am on the slate of presenters who I respect. I step up to the podium with a real sense of regret I hadn’t finalized in enough time to memorize the talk. Why am I doing this again? I scan the room and consider the worst case scenario. Yes, I was that nervous.
In 5 minutes, it is all over and I am free to truly enjoy the rest of the event complete with inspiring speakers, yummy appies, hilarious Iron-EDU-Chef challenges and the infamous Candy Bar. This risk taking endeavor has perhaps not been as inspirational as I had hoped for but has allowed for a connection with the audience and an experience to reflect on.
As school leaders we welcome, encourage and prompt our staff to take the risk to try something new on a regular basis. The new curriculum in B.C. commands not only new ways of approaching established curriculum but new ways of thinking. Yet, it is easy to forget the range of emotions engaged by the process of taking risks. It is an act of courage to try something different. It is an act of bravery to do it repetitively. Every now and then I think we all need to try something that scares us enough to remember the extent of that bravery! Kudos to our teachers who do it everyday!