#OneWord 2018

Embrace failure. Missteps and roadblocks are inevitable but are ultimately an opportunity to learn, pivot, and go after your goals with a new perspective. –Jenny Fleiss

2017 was a hard year for me, and I am hoping that 2018 is a whole lot better. On January 5, 2017 I had a colonoscopy because I was having GI problems, and although my primary care doctor was certain my gallbladder was not functioning, the surgeon refused to take it out until I got the colonoscopy. I had that and an endoscopy performed on the same day.  Some polyps were removed, and I was told to come back in a few weeks to get the results. That was a Thursday. The following Monday I received word that my father who was vacationing in Hawaii had a bleeding mass in his stomach. By the end of the day, we had confirmation that he had stomach cancer. Wow! What a way to start the year. On January 30, I spent eleven hours at Parkridge Hospital in Chattanooga while my dad had 2/3 of his stomach removed. About a month later, he began an aggressive treatment plan that included several rounds of chemotherapy, several rounds of daily radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and more rounds of chemotherapy. He lost nearly 100 pounds during his battle, but thank goodness he is cancer free.

I don’t think that I have ever addressed my childlessness in this blog, but I cannot have children. In 2016, I started the process of becoming a foster parent. State agencies move as fast as pond water, so it took a long time for me to get approved. I got approved right as my dad began his treatments. I decided that I could not devote my attention to my dad and a foster child so I told the agency to put me on hold. That wasn’t a good idea because I was imagining the worst possible outcome for my dad and was driving myself crazy. I realized I needed somebody to take care of so I wouldn’t continue to worry about my dad. On March 27th I got a call asking if I could provide a home for an 8-year-old boy. I immediately said yes. That was the best decision I could have made for myself. My dad was getting the care he needed, and I had someone who needed my attention. For 235 days, I had the opportunity to provide a loving, nurturing home to a child in foster care. While he was with me, we discovered he had some medical issues that needed to be addressed. We did, and then I turned my attention to my own care. Remember the bad gallbladder?  It had progressively gotten worse, so I made plans to have it taken out right after the new year. I didn’t want my foster son to have a crappy holiday season because I was recuperating from surgery.  I had my plan and expected everything would be fine. Not so.  He left right before Thanksgiving. To say that I was devastated is an understatement.  Two weeks later, I was in the back of an ambulance on my way to the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t. I was dehydrated, my potassium level was pretty close to non-existent, and my gallbladder had just given up on me. I spent the weekend in the hospital and decided that since the little one was no longer with me, I would move the surgery up. My gallbladder came out on December 13th.  I spent the Christmas holidays recovering although that is not what I wanted.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I don’t want a repeat of 2017 because I feel like I couldn’t get my feet on firm ground. Professionally, things weren’t so bad. I did not accomplish everything that I wanted to, but in retrospect, I think I had my hands full. At the beginning of the year, the book I co-authored with 19 other phenomenal educators came out on Amazon. To see my name on the cover of #EduMatch: Snapshot in Education 2016 was a dream come true. In April, I was named the ISTE Edtech Coaches PLN Award Winner for 2017, and in June, after two failed attempts, I was accepted into the Google Innovator Academy as part of the #WDC17 cohort. Getting that email was definitely the high point of my year.

Too many heart wrenching things going on personally. Great things going on professionally. I just couldn’t figure out how to mesh my personal and professional lives. I have been at home since December 13th with lots of time to think. I still don’t have all the answers, but I do know this: I did not accomplish all that I set out to accomplish in 2017, but I will in 2018. How do I know this? I know because I come from a long line of strong people, and we are resilient.  Things were shaky last year for me. That’s not the case in 2018.  What I didn’t do in 2017 will get done in 2018. What will get done in 2018, you ask:

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Ernie’s STEAM-tastic Mobile School Bus

This is my Google Innovator Project.  My intention is to renovate a school bus and turn it into a mobile STEAM lab that will travel around our district providing hands on learning for our students and professional development for our teachers. I have a lot of work to do, but I look forward to the challenge.

 

 

edumatch publishing As yet to be determined book penned by Leslie R. Fagin 

I have met with my publisher and should have had the first draft of my book done in September. That didn’t happen. I am thinking of changing my initial idea so that I can write about something a little closer to my heart. My publisher and I will be meeting again in a few weeks to discuss the direction of my book.

 

The completion of my Google Innovator project and my first solo novel will not be the only things I work on during this year. I am on the leadership team for two of the ISTE PLNs – the Digital Storytelling Network and the Edtech Coaches Network. Both PLNs have a lot planned, and I anticipate being very busy. The Edtech Coaches Network is kicking off a book study via Twitter in just a few weeks, and I will moderate several days of the book study. Of course, since I am heavily involved with two PLNs, I will be at the conference in Chicago this June. I love going to ISTE because I am able to make connections, renew acquaintances, and gain so much new knowledge. I must admit though, ISTE 18 will be a little different for me this year. Not since ISTE 14 have I not been a presenter. I was brand spanking new to my job when I attended ISTE in Atlanta. Since then, I submitted proposals for the conference, and presented in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Antonio. In addition, I worked in PLN playgrounds and was a conference volunteer. I was worn out when I came home from San Antonio.  My fellow coach and I asked our boss if we could attend and not present. Thankfully, he agreed. I am looking forward to being able to attend more sessions and actually play in the playgrounds.

In February, I hope to be presenting at the EdTechTeam Southern Summit. I submitted two proposals and hope to hear any day whether or not they were accepted. I love attending their summits because I get to see so many wonderful educators sharing tons of Google goodness.  Our district is moving towards blended learning, so Robin and I will be in Rhode Island at the Blended Learning Conference in April.

So, for Leslie Fagin, AKA The Faginator, my #OneWord is #resilient.  I will bounce back from all that I dealt with last year and keep moving forward. I have to. In an earlier post, I was excited that I was chosen to be a Google Innovator. That means I have a project to finish. I have a book to write. I have teachers to learn with, from, inspire, and collaborate with for the benefit of our students.  We tell our kids to keep pushing through. I have to do the same.

 

 

 

Until Next Time,

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Ms. Fagin Went to Washington, Part II

Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible. –George Washington Carver

I was chosen. Yes. Me. I was chosen. I was chosen to join 36 other educators to go to the mountaintop.  That mountaintop was located on the 9th floor of a nondescript building at 25 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C.  I had already received an email message telling me that I would be part of the #WDC17 Google Innovator Cohort in June, but to be sitting in a room with the very same people who received the very same congratulatory email message was inspiring.  As a matter of fact, to hear, “We chose you.” from the people in charge of the program sent chills up my spine the very day they said it and still does today.

I am going to digress for a moment. I have mentioned before, I am a middle child. I don’t know how any other middle child feels, but this one feels like there is absolutely nothing special about being the middle child. I wasn’t the first, and I wasn’t the last. I don’t have children, and they each have a son and a daughter.  My grades were better than that of my brother and sister. I graduated from college before both of them and received my Master’s degree before they did, yet I have never felt special. I didn’t feel special the year I was selected Teacher of the Year in 2010 at the school I worked at which also happened to be my alma mater. I think it didn’t help that the principal said that from that point on, meaning after I was TOTY, it would mean something to be Teacher of the Year. It would no longer be a popularity contest, but a testament to the contributions the teacher made to the overall educational setting of the school. Wow? Really? However, for that moment in that room at the Washington, D.C. Google Office, I felt special. I was chosen out of the millions of people who applied (yes, slight exaggerations). Me. Leslie Renee Fagin was chosen to be part of a program that no doubt is going to stretch and push me more than any other thing in my professional career. That’s okay. I am up to the challenge. I hope. I do have some doubts from time to time about how I am going to turn a fully functioning school bus into a mobile STEM or STEAM lab, I am not quite sure, but I do know that I have a support group that stretches across the United States and Canada. For the three days that we were at Google, we talked, laughed, and grew together as a group. We shared our projects, our passions, our challenges, and offered solutions to one another. We shared resources and contacts and just the right amount of constructive criticism needed to keep us going in the right direction.  Now that we are back at home and knee-deep in another school year, we will work on our projects, our day jobs, our hobbies, and our families. We will send messages in our Google Hangout Chat,and we will follow each other via social media. We are a tribe. We are #WDC17. #WeAreInnovators.

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This is one of the things I worked on while at the Google Innovator Academy. I laid out plans for what needed to be done, created a prototype, conducted research about my end-user, and received feedback from my fellow Innovators.

Now, back to the experience of being at Google DC. I don’t know if that’s the official name of it or not, but that’s what I am calling it. I used to be an English teacher, so I often take liberties with making up words and names. We had a tour of the Capitol prior to the first session at the Google office. It was my intention to participate, but after sitting on a plane for nearly two hours and trekking across the city to get lunch and then head to the Capitol,  my feet just didn’t cooperate. In 2008, I fell down the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy and tore my Achilles Tendon. It hasn’t been right since. My first day in DC was painful so I opted to skip the tour and have a fan girl moment with one of our coaches. When we were sent our initial congratulatory letter with Academy details, we were told who the coaches would be. I was impressed with all of them, but secretly I wanted Jennie Magiera to be my coach. I knew I would be good with any of the coaches, but I have been a HUGE fan of Jennie’s since ISTE 2014. As referenced in an earlier post, I was hired for my current position about two weeks before ISTE 2014. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited to see that Ashley Judd was going to be the opening keynote on Sunday night. She was good. Jennie Magiera was BETTER. Ashley was a celebrity who was talking to educators about relevant matters. Jennie was/is an educator talking to educators about the lives we lead and the lives we touch. Jennie is in the trenches every single day just like we are. She understands because our lives are similar.  I was so pumped by what she had to say. I knew that at some point in my life I had to meet her. I never imagined that I would be fortunate enough to meet her and have her be my coach during the Google Innovator Academy.  Jennie’s voice was the first I heard at my very first ISTE, and I have not forgotten what she said or how empowered I felt as a brand new instructional technology coach. After spending three days with her and having the opportunity to share my vision with her and get feedback, I remember why I felt so empowered. She is amazing. If by chance the other coaches are reading this, please don’t think that I think you aren’t amazing. You are. I have learned so much from all of you and am thankful for the time spent with each of you. But I think you get it. Jennie was my coach, and I spent most of my time learning from her. She was sympathetic and accommodating when I had issues arise with my foster son and a certain unnamed state child welfare agency, and she was gracious enough to take pictures with me so I could send them home to my foster son. I would like to believe that by placing us in groups with similar project themes, the Innovator program people in charge meant for the people in the groups to connect on a deeper level. The #RebelRousers did just that.  We are forever connected by the times we spent sitting at our table sharing our life experiences, our hopes, our fears, and our visions on how to change education and leave a lasting legacy.

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My people. My tribe. My #RebelRousers with our amazing coach Jennie!

Yes, I was chosen. Yes, although I still struggle with the thought, I am special. Regardless of what anyone else thinks or says about me, I am special. Not because I was chosen to go to the Google Innovator Academy. I am special because of who I am, what I have done,  and what I will do. What will my legacy be? At this point in time, I have no idea. I do know that I have worked with children all of my adult life. I probably reached some of them and made a difference in their lives. I am currently working with adults. I know that some appreciate the help I provide with their technology needs. That may be part of my legacy. I have loved my family and friends, and most of the time, they know that. The love and dedication I have for my family will be part of my legacy. My Google Innovator Academy #WDC17 project will most definitely be part of my legacy.

I am still contemplating a name for the project though I know my mother’s name will be tied in somehow. My mother was a para-professional in our district for 15 years before a terminal cancer diagnosis cut short her career. She loved the children she worked with and spent way more time than she got paid for creating opportunities for them – all of them. Especially the ones who needed just a little extra love and attention. When my STEM/STEAM bus is riding around town, I want her name to be visible as part of her legacy. This bus will be for the children in our community – all of them. All of our children have dreams, and we have an obligation to give them a forum to nurture those dreams as well as the opportunity to create, collaborate, critically think, and communicate. This bus will be for the teachers in our district. They crave more although sometimes they are too tired to do more.  Guess what? They do more anyway because that’s what teachers do. They want to give our students every opportunity for success, and they want to be prepared in every way to help them. The bus will also be used for professional development so that our teachers are equipped to help the students. The bus will be for my mother because this is just the kind of thing she would have wanted. She grew up extremely poor and never had anyone to encourage her to think about a better life. Thankfully she married my father, a career Army soldier, so she got a better life. She never forgot where she came from and spent her life-giving back. Lastly, this bus will be for me. I was chosen. I am special. I want to leave a lasting legacy for the children in my community. It’s my community because this is where we moved after my dad retired from the Army. It’s my community because I was educated for the last five years of my school career. It’s my community because this is where I live and work. It’s my community because this is where I choose to make a difference. Every time I go into a school and look at our students, I see so many possibilities. Every night when I put my foster son to bed and we have our nightly chats, I see so many possibilities.  Those possibilities will become a reality as I work through the process of re-purposing the bus and turn my dream into a reality. The work began before I got to the Innovator Academy. I dug a little deeper while in Washington, D. C. It’s time to get to work and get this bus in motion.

I was chosen. I am special. I am preparing my legacy.  That’s what happened when Ms. Fagin Went to Washington. She found herself.

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The possibilities are endless. I was chosen. I am special. I found myself.

Until next time…

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#GoogleEI #WDC17 Some of the most amazing educators I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from.

 

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Ms. Fagin Goes to Washington, Part I

The innovation point is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams. — W. Arthur Porter

The first time I applied for the Google Innovator Academy, I really thought that I had a good project idea. However, because of medical issues, I could not fully commit to putting together a top-notch application and video.  The day applications were due was the day I created my video. I had just been at home on medical leave for 4 weeks and not feeling my best. Needless to say, I was rejected. I was disappointed but not much.  I knew what I submitted was not my best work, so I couldn’t really be upset when I received the following email from the Innovator Program Team:

Rejection 1

The second time I applied, I loved my idea. I put together a great video and application. I eagerly awaited hearing back from the Innovator Program Team.  It wasn’t to be. Again. This time I was more than disappointed. I couldn’t figure out why I was not accepted to be part of the Boulder 16 cohort.  I remember watching the Twitter hashtag for the academy, and I was quite jealous. I felt like my time had passed, and I would never be a Google Innovator. I saved the second rejection email. I am not sure why, but I did.

Rejection 2

When I was rejected after the second application, I decided that I would take a break from applying.  I fundamentally believed that there was something wrong with how I was approaching the entire process, and I needed time to regroup. I also thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with me since I could not put together an application packet that was worthy of being accepted.  I would watch the #GoogleEI Twitter feed each time a new cohort was announced.  Each time I would see the congratulatory emails from those accepted, I was reminded of my failure.  I pretty much decided that I would not apply again.  I felt like I could make a difference without the Google Innovator label. Plus, I was tired of getting the email that said, “Sorry, we don’t want you but keep doing what you are doing.” Okay, that’s not what the email said, but that’s how I interpreted the message.

After enough time had passed, and I found other reasons to be proud of my work (I co-authored #Edumatch 16: Snapshot in Education and signed a contract with my publisher to write my next book due next year), I decided that I could try one more time. I am not a quitter, and I could not let myself not try again.  This time I didn’t spend hours trying to find a project. I let my project find me. One evening I was online and saw a bus that had been repurposed into a mobile learning center. At that moment, I knew what I had to do for my next Google Innovator application project.  I am not the instructional technology coach assigned to the elementary schools in my district, but I do visit them from time to time. I also have an eight year old foster son living with me. He loves to tinker with stuff. There are many days that he will go in his room and make things. He then will ask me to come in and play whatever game he has made up.  His games usually involve throwing things and counting things.  When my idea hit me, I knew that we needed a mobile STEM lab in our district.  Our kids need places they can tinker, create, collaborate, critically think, and communicate with one another.  Just like districts around the country, money is an issue.  We cannot put STEM labs in every school, but we can have a bus that travels around the district and expose our students to as many opportunities as possible.

From the moment I had the idea to make a mobile STEM lab, I knew that would be the project that I would do regardless of my status as an Innovator.  I want it for my foster son and the children in our district.  I now know that in my two previous attempts, I was not passionate. I cared, but those projects did not keep me up at night.  This project does. This is the project that I want to complete and share with others around the world.  This project I want to use to train teachers in using STEM in the classroom.  This project will allow me to go from school to school in my district and possibly neighboring districts and watch students be amazed as they create and communicate with students in their classrooms and around the globe.  Yes, they will be able to do Google Hangouts while in the bus.

When putting my project application together, I had to do a slide deck explaining the problem, and how I hoped to solve it.  To complement the slide deck, I had to create a video and upload it to YouTube. I spent a lot of time on both because I wanted my passion to shine so that those judging the applications could see how important this project is to me.  I even went so far as to record my video on a school bus.  I felt that atmosphere would add just the right touch.  As I completed the various parts of the application, I had trusted friends look over it and give me suggestions.  I wanted to make sure that I was not overlooking anything.  The most consistent feedback that I got was to make sure that my project was scalable meaning I needed to make sure that the mobile STEM lab idea is something that can be replicated by others.  Sounds easy enough. Right? I tweaked the application and submitted it.  I will go ahead and tell you that I am not a patient person.  Initially applicants were told that acceptance letters would be sent out on June 4, 2017.  Somewhere along the way, the date got changed to June 6th.  I was tortured every moment of every day as I waited to see if I had finally been accepted to be a Google Innovator.

I began checking my email at 12:01 AM on June 6th.  I checked, rechecked, and checked again. All day long. I watched the Twitter feed. I checked my SPAM folder. I had two training sessions on Google Classroom.  My mind was half on the  training and half on my email.  Still no answer by the end of the work day. My church had Vacation Bible School that week, and I had registered my foster son and my nephew.  Let me apologize to God for what I am about to say.  I have no idea what transpired that evening during VBS.  I was checking email.  At exactly 8:00 PM, my pastor was praying.  I did not have my eyes closed nor was I paying him any attention.  I was scanning my email and saw one from The Google for Education Innovator Program.  Before I clicked on the message, I saw, “Congratulations from the Google for Education Innovator Program Team.”  Although my pastor was praying, my church is not one that is okay with folks screaming out during the prayers.  I had to refrain.  I opened the email and saw what I had been wanting to see for so long:

Innovator Acceptance

I made it!  Finally. I was going to be an Innovator.  I, Leslie R. Fagin, was going to Washington, DC, with 36 other phenomenal educators.  The #WDC17 cohort would be tasked with something similar to our predecessors – be different, be creative, be innovative, be the driving force behind change in our educational system and our communities and our world.

Of course, being selected to attend the Innovator Academy is not the end of my journey.  It’s just the beginning.  Since my intention is to share the process with others so they can replicate it in their districts, I will blog on this site and add videos on my YouTube Channel.  Not long after our acceptance letters were sent out, we received a ton of information about what to expect as well as things that we needed to do prior to our arrival in DC.  I will continue to share my experience as I travel the road to becoming a Google Innovator.  I can’t wait until I get to the Google Office in DC, nor can I wait to see the bus in motion sometime in 2018.  I already have a name for it, and I can’t wait to unveil it at the press conference.  Yes, there will be a press conference.

Stay tuned…

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