In the Fall of 2017, Danelle Bowron, the Educational Services Coordinator for ACSA, reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in performing as the Keynote Speaker on the opening day of the Lead 3.0 Symposium in April of 2018. For those who aren't familiar with this gig, it is my all-time favorite flavor of Edu Conference. Lead 3.0 is custom suited to me: the "3.0" is based on the trifecta collaboration between three organizations that each have influenced my career - the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership (TICAL) and CUE - which produces California's premier educational technology conferences and events. These three incredibly influential organizations in the California educational sector, have collaborated each of the past ten years to produce this event that focuses on Leadership, Technology, and Innovation.
No joke, I love this conference. I dig tech, I present on this topic all the time and am continually fascinated by the ways that educators are leveraging these tools to create access and equity in American classrooms. I think many people assume that innovation goes hand in hand with tech, but what I have come to realize is that any invention, sprung from the mother of necessity, qualifies and if it works...it should be shared. So, the crux of this conference for me is how Tech and Innovation can be shared amongst Leaders. Thus a need was proposed: I accepted the honor of keynoting and now I had to decide what I could share with the overwhelmingly sophisticated eduLeaders in the room.
A room filled with leaders from across the state, educators of every shape and size of the educational landscape. The room would fill with principals who were masters of culture. There would be directors who are amongst the nation's leaders in curriculum and assessment design. This room would host TOSAs who lead teams of innovators, as well as superintendents who lead districts large and small. My charge was to speak for about an hour.
"Talk about whatever you want."
Yikes. What in the world could I say that would tie together the relevant experiences of such a diverse and intimidatingly #eduAmazing group? This problem became my catalyst for creativity; this was what kept my head spinning for several months; some people sing in the shower, I spent the last season of my life speaking to this crowd in mine; this problem to solve became my mother of invention.
I am a 20-year educational veteran and have now worked and lead in K12 environments as well as a short tour of duty at the district office. As I searched my inventory of topics that might reach this entire group, I found my centerpiece: Leading Change. This is one of my favorite EduTopics and one that I have spoken on often. On many occasions, I have talked about "Stretching our Rubber Bands," in the direction of change. This analogy has carried many talks for me and is my favorite way to describe the iterative process of both learning and making change. However, for this particular talk, having an hour to fill, I decided to organize everything I knew about leading change, every eduNugget of knowledge I have that is at all associated with the topic of "Stretching our Rubber Band," in the direction of change. This exercise catapulted my thinking to a new found depth of understanding around a topic which I thought that I already knew well.
I started by brainstorming all of the effective tips and tricks I could recall using over this past decade or so as an administrator. Looking at my mind-map on paper, it dawned on me that I knew maybe more than I had realized, but the more significant realization was that when woven together, these tips were the foundation for creating a school culture, filled with educators that are adaptable, open and willing to engage in change. Rather than a playlist of methods to coerce people to make change, these topics laid the foundation upon which smart, hardworking adults, find their own reasons to stretch in the direction of a commonly agreed upon state. I felt like the idea cloud I had generated was a curation of every eduLeadership book, lecture, side-conversation, and experience I had taken in for over a decade: now the challenge was to organize these thoughts into one story.
To make sense of this eclectic collection of leadership lessons learned, I did what any good EduNerd would do: I created an acronym. The topic of my keynote evolved into: "Building a Rubber Band Culture," and the acronym that sprung from this central theme became "STRETCH."
Once my thoughts were curated into these seven buckets, the keynote started writing itself. In fact, the problem of filling an hour became an entirely different issue: I had too much content rather than not enough. As I put this speech on its feet, began to rehearse and eventually performed this story for hundreds of the most amazing EduLeaders in California, it became a reflection of my career and a celebration of my journey as an educator.
As I look back at the experience of first being asked to speak, which was maybe the highest honor of my professional career, to the process of organizing my thoughts into one coherent story, I am appreciative of the mother of invention. I don't know that I would have taken the time at this point in my career to stop, reflect, analyze and organize my experiences thus far, however, being asked to speak in a room filled with people I hold in incredible esteem was a powerful motivator that lead to a work that I am incredibly proud of. I am grateful for the opportunity to have spoken at Lead 3.0, humbled by receiving so much feedback and honored to have been a small part of such a successful event.
I have shared the video of my keynote here in this blog post, and hope that anyone who has the time to give it a watch would recognize that these topics apply to each of us in educational leadership positions. My hope is that anyone who has the chance to sit through my talk would realize the influence we each have as leaders to inspire innovation. During this keynote, I did something I have never done before - I launched a hashtag. I wanted to create a space where ideas may be curated as well as questions posed around the topic of Building a Rubber Band Culture. Already it has been such an honor to watch those who were in attendance at Lead 3.0 begin to use this hashtag as a place to celebrate. Should anyone reading this blog, or watching this keynote have any inspired thoughts that generate from the conversation of Building a Rubber Band Culture, I would be honored if you would share your thoughts using the hashtag #StretchEdu.