You should be jealous of me.
I can do anything.
I’m able, capable, incredible — I’m invincible.
You should be jealous of me.
This is where you should wonder how this is true if you haven’t scoffed me off yet for being an arrogant _ick. I hope it’s the former; give me a chance and I’ll tell you story that moved me beyond anything I’d experienced in the 35 years of my life that I’ve been conscious.
I work at an Apple Distinguished School. I work amongst Apple Distinguished Educators — okay, fine, right now our school only has one by title. Empowered by John, our Director of Learning Innovation, the current holder of the title, a roomful of us sat in his presentation and wondered at the possibility of it all — the glory, the honor, the coolness of being an ADE.
I looked around the room.
I felt very small amongst my colleagues. The fact that I’m 5’2” is not what I mean. I sat next to Colleen who kicks butt every day with Moxtra and these crazy PE apps like Coach’s Eye and transforms PE with the iPad. To the other side was Mark who, I kid you not, just touches my computer and fixes it (I really hate him for this…). Across the room sat Brittany who designs 3D jewelry with third graders with a crazy app on their iPads and then actually 3D prints them. Caddy cornering me was Diana, the eCoach who, before she was an eCoach, inspired me to go for COETAIL and ace it; next to her sat Marty who started the AMPed project at our school, pushing for our school to find “passion play” time for kids. Then there sat Ceci, a wiz with any device at her fingertips, the ever-self-challenging-go-getter who had just finished a brilliant Podcast project with her 8th graders.
I laughed out of good humor and genuine happiness. Our school’s got huge capable contenders. I’m not on that level, right? But man, what cool colleagues I have at #SISRocks!
At the moment I said to John that I’m just here to “sit through your presentation” (because it’s amazing every time), something unexpected happened. All these crazy cool people I mentioned said, “Of course you should. No question. Absolutely.” John said to me, “Even if you were to not get it, this experience of reflecting on your practice will be amazing. Of course you should apply.” With that, I was empowered to ask, “Could I…?”
I’m a teacher and lover of words, and I couldn’t stop the them from swimming inside my head, the stories that wanted to be told, looking for an escape route to be heard once the question, “Could I…?” was raised. So I remembered, wondered, wandered onto the keyboard of my Mac and began to type the letters that longed to be free. “I have a story to tell you,” my memory said to me, and I listened. And wrote.
When I finished my responses to the four ADE essay questions and recorded my spoken word piece for the 2-minute video, I turned to my trusted colleagues and friends for advice: “Will you listen and tell me if this is doable?” Ceci and Nicki heard it first: “This is doable. Your words are powerful. You must find a way to ensure that your video hits exactly where your words are powerful.” We brainstormed some ideas, and I started to put them into action, but got stuck. In the midst of it, Mark came over, and I asked, “Tell me honestly. Is this possible? If not, I’ll give up and that’s really okay.” He listened. He tried. He said, “The problem is, all I want to do is just close my eyes and listen to your words. If we put in all that Apple asks for in the video, it’s gonna be too busy, your words won’t be heard.” At the end of a myriad what-about-like-this-or-that, our solution was, “It’s gotta be a black screen with just your voice.” We entertained that idea for two minutes. Of course, with that conclusion, we gave up and went out to meet our friends for drinks.
Here’s where the amazingness began to pick up speed. Brittany who has by now heard from Ceci that my words are amazing (God bless my friends), said, “Cho. No. You’re not giving up. I have a vision: take a risk. You, on screen. This simple, industrial concrete wall [at this exact bar]. Picture-on-picture. Your images, what you’re referring to, popping up next to your head. You’re not giving up.” With it crept up the question again: “Could I…?”
The next day was filled with Day 2 of Adaptive Schools training. I was running out of time. At 5PM after the training, I roll over to our favorite new bar Dolores’s with my HD Canon, a borrowed tripod from Marty and we get to work. Ceci, who’s already submitted her application and is suffering from a lingering cold, has met us, too, and so has Colleen, there to do her work just in our company to provide moral support. Mark joins us.
Brittany lays me out on camera. Mark convinces the bartender to turn off the music. I use the new teleprompter app Ceci’s downloaded for me. She holds my iPad as the camera rolls and my words scroll and I begin to deliver. I’ve Ceci’s phone in my pocket, her expensive running headphones hidden under my hair to record my voice into her phone. Once done, we split into respective tables of the bar which we’ve taken over by this point: Ceci on sound, Brittany on iMovie, and I on Brittany’s write-up, editing. Then it’s like musical chairs as we dance through the night being fueled by each other’s strengths. Mark sits on his own Mac editing his footages gathered earlier in the day with the help of Carlos and Ben. We then circle around checking, re-reading, re-editing, re-recording, re-imagining. Re-visioning. Colleen joins in as she realizes the need for Mark’s ending to be redone, a terrible image of the Apple logo outlined by dominos that just didn’t work. Brittany re-sketches the Mac logo and Colleen takes the time setting up the tiny black squares all over again.
First fall of the dominos, we laugh.
The second, we laugh.
By the sixth time, you’d think she’d say screw it and leave, but she says, “One more time — this will work,” and we laugh yet again.
My product isn’t perfect, because the mic that would’ve made it so was locked up after a school event in a room to which none of us had a key. My face isn’t the perfect HD quality as we realized that 5pm lighting is not as clear as it seems to the naked eye, especially when the video gets cropped for zoom. But, I’ve never felt so empowered and proud of the work that I was doing, because the work that I was doing was the teaching and sharing that I do daily, truly this stuff that I’m trying to prove that I do, not just this video alone. It’s not cool that I’m making an ADE video; it’s cool that I have had an experience that can become the content of my story at all and that I live and breathe what I teach my students to do.
Herein lay my realization: When people stop being competitive and lift each other up by sharing their strengths, seeing ways to highlight the amazing potential within, we become incredible, invincible. Superhuman. I adore my friends and colleagues for being brilliant, unstoppable, confident, trustworthy and trusting to be the force that empowers me to be my best, even when I don’t see it within myself. We are our harshest critics, indeed.
Do you have friends and colleagues who will lift you to your highest potential, learning and growing with you, accepting you for who you are while inspiring you to always be better?
And that’s right, you should be jealous, because this – this – is something else. If you don’t have this, seek it; if you have it, keep it with the humblest heart and mind.
Thank you, my dearest friends and colleagues. You never cease to amaze me, and you truly inspire me to believe that I can do anything.
As for the incredible prowess of my colleagues, don’t just take my word for it. See it for yourselves. The videos only can tell so much, but I’ve worked with them to know that this is just the surface of what they do. Want to work with amazing people? I think they’re all here right next to me at #SISRocks if you want to find them. Biased? Probably. True? Most definitely. Congratulations to Mark McElroy and Brittany McCrea for achieving ADE2015 status!