We could not have been more honoured on Friday than to have alumni @danielleganley (Danielle Ganley) speak about her life after cohort 21 and how to stay involved. Danielle stayed with the cohort for two years as a coach before moving on to work with Apple and other Ed organizations. A fantastic English teacher at HTS Danielle epitomizes “Leading from the Middle”. Here are her wonderful words
Life after Cohort 21 – How to stay involved by Danielle Ganley
“Thank you so much for inviting me to speak this morning. It’s truly an honour as I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people that stand among you today. Four years ago I made a decision to sign up for Cohort 21, not really knowing what I was actually signing up for and then stumbled upon some of the best professional development I’ve been a part of in my 22 year career. I found a group of educators who really became my tribe. A group of learners who were leaders, often without titles, people like me, who wanted to keep pushing themselves to make learning personalized, meaningful and relevant for students.
So when I was asked to speak to to you all today, I wanted to take a minute to consider what makes Cohort so magical? (I’m an English teacher, we use words like magical.) You sit among a group of cheerleaders who want you to succeed. In our day to day lives, how often do we get that? Someone who is always rooting for us, asks us to sit and think deeply about our practice? Who wants us to publicly share the journey (And also realizes how scary that prospect might actually be). This cheerleading squad magically and loving curated by Garth and Justin is second to none. Facilitators and coaches that know their craft intimately, and who truly follow the belief that “there is room at the top for us all to succeed.” They consistently show up and follow up, ask questions, and wait for our answers. And for me, most importantly, they live those very struggles and questions in their own classrooms. That precious support and feedback when we venture into new territory is crucial. We know this to be true in our students and it is equally as true for educators. I want to share a quote that comes from one of my favourite people on the planet, Brene Brown. She is quoted as saying “unless you are in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” This team is in that very arena with you.
So as you finish this year, I want you to consider what you accomplished this year. You become alumni of a program that is changing the face of professional development. You are educators who were quietly changing the landscape of learning through cheering others on in 140 characters after a long day of teaching, daring greatly and showing vulnerability in writing about your journeys and making them public. You opened your classroom doors literally and metaphorically to others. You asked questions of yourself and others. You began those questions with “How Might We” so often, you might even find yourself asking your partner to consider “How might we come to a consensus about dinner plans” on more than one occasion. You declared lofty action plans with a silent prayer that you could actually pull off what you proposed, and yet on this final day, I hope that you have found that it wasn’t really about the action plan, the design thinking protocols or a snazzy end game for a presentation, it isn’t really about a finish line at all but the journey itself.
And in the proverbial all about the journey stuff is really true, I hope you realize that the journey doesn’t have to end today. I hope that it feels like you are just getting started! If I think about where I was four years ago and where I stand today, the journey continues. I went on to another two years as a coach with cohort. I presented at conferences on tech, assessment and pedagogy. I have the most amazing side hustle supporting teachers for Apple Canada. I’m off to Lethbridge Alberta on Tuesday to work with teachers and ipads. Finally, I realized a dream I’ve had for a long time. I recently became the English dept head. Small side note to that….On the day I found out I got the job, I texted Garth who had acted as a reference for me. He called to congratulate me that night and also left me a message the day I began my new leadership journey. Cheerleading at its finest.
I’m here to suggest that journey is not over. Im sure they have said you are part of this community for life. What does that mean? What does that look like?
Here’s a few ways to keep a connection:
- Those amazing playing cards you traded? Why not pick one up and send a message to a colleague. Keep following those around you on twitter and blogs. Follow those that came before you and cheer on next year’s tribe.
- Continue to share your OWN journey in the 280 characters of twitter or in a blog post. I tell my students all the time that we write to know we are not alone. Your post about how you made quadratic equations easier for your kids or how a particular strategy makes your heart sing? That might just be what that Lakefield or BSS teacher needs on that day. Continue to share. Your willingness to be vulnerable in front of your colleagues (and the world) might even remind you how scary (and rewarding) it might be for your students to do the same on their own learning journey.
- Coaching. Some may find an opportunity to share in this experience as coaches next year but we can all share our experiences with our colleagues. Open your doors, invite others in, pass ideas and articles around to people who you can bring into your tribe.
- Finally, continue to seek opportunities to grow. Why not try an action plan next year? Dust off your blog and share a lesson that went oh so well or completely bombed. Comment on that blog. Retweet. Remember the first time someone commented on your blog? You throw out ideas into the universe and it’s thrilling when someone says I am here. I get it. I’ve been there.
As a final note, I encourage you to keep that connection going. A connection to others. A connection to current pedagogy….My spirit animal Brene Brown defines connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued. That definition couldn’t be more fitting for the people in this room. Continue on in your journey knowing you are seen, heard and valued. Thank you.