What is Your Kryptonite?

I’ve never seen “Waiting for Superman” and I don’t intend to. I’m tired of hearing about what’s wrong with education. I prefer to focus on what’s right. I’m not waiting for Superman, in fact earlier this month I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a week getting energized by the light of over 100 Star Educators at the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute (DENSI). Every teacher in attendance was a bona fide superhero. As we shared, worked, learned and played together I could see that each one of us was gifted with their own unique super power. Combine those powers and you have an unstoppable force strong enough to solve just about any problem in education today – or at least that’s how it seemed.

"Up, up, and away!"

We made videos and built presentations. We got to meet and be inspired by big name experts like Danny Forster, Steve Hargadon (who we renamed “HargaDEN”), and Hall Davidson.  We conferenced and we un-conferenced. When the scheduled events ended, the learning continued though impromptu “sessions” in the dorm rooms before breakfast and late into the evenings. Sleep was not a priority. Why sleep when you can spend that valuable time learning?

The only problem with this amazing week is that it had to end. In a perfect world, all of us superheroes would just stay there in San Diego, living, learning, and playing, but a perfect world has no need for superheroes. A superhero’s work is to fight for truth and justice, to right wrongs, solve problems, and protect the innocent. In the end each us had to leave and go home to our own schools and districts to face our own challenges and deal with the inevitable post-DENSI depression.

Every superhero has a weakness. For Superman, it’s Kryptonite – that substance that drains his energy and makes him feel powerless. As a teacher and tech leader, what is your Kryptonite? Perhaps it’s one of these…

  1. Internet Filters – It’s happened to all of us. You’ve got a great idea for a lesson or activity that will really motivate your students and get them excited about learning only to find that the site you need to use is blocked.
    When a superhero faces a force shield, he does not give up and go home. He finds a way to go through it, go around it, or turn it off. Work with your school and district IT to get the site unblocked. As a teacher and an adult you have the right to override a school Internet filter or have have sites unblocked for you and you don’t even have to provide a reason. (See “Dispelling Myths about Blocked Sites” and “Knowledge is Freedom“)
  2. Consistency and Fairness – Ever been told that your class can’t do something unless all the other classes decide to do it too? How often do we sacrifice creativity and innovation for the sake of consistency?
    Superheros are sometimes required to go solo, moving forward where others fear to tread. Lead by example. Blaze a new trail for others to follow.
  3. The “Almighty” Inflexible Schedule – Does your education dictate your schedule, or does your schedule dictate the education? This is especially true if you are departmentalized. I know I’ve missed the opportunity to participate in numerous live events and webinars because it didn’t fit into the schedule or happened during break or ”switch” times.
    A superhero sees what needs to be done and fights for it. Often times this involves making personal sacrifices to bend the un-bendable. You may need to give up part of your lunch or prep time, or offer to cover for another teacher, or promise give up time out of your own class later on. If the opportunity is truly worth it, a superhero will find a way.
  4. Lack of Administrative Support – Do you live in constant fear of trying something new or innovative with your students because you know that if it doesn’t work or if someone complains that you’ll be left “hanging out to dry” by your principal or administrator?
    Superheros must sometimes work outside the law to do what is right. Don’t let fear of getting in trouble rob your students of a valuable learning opportunity. True innovators and those who make a difference are risk takers. Think of the inspirational stories of Jamie Escalante and Erin Gruwell.
  5. Fear of Failure – What if it doesn’t work right the first time you try it?
    Don’t give up. A superhero demonstrates mental discipline and chooses to focus on the learning goal rather than what could happen if he fails. When he does fail (notice I said “when” and not “if”), he doesn’t give up, but learns what didn’t work, makes changes and adjustments, and tries again.  We learn more from failures than successes. Besides what better way to model to your students that failures are just part of the learning process?

If I learned one thing at DENSI, it would be that even though I sometimes feel that I’m fighting the good fight all by myself, I am not alone. When the Kryptonite of the real world robs me of my power and energy, I can reach out to my fellow superheroes. Help is only a text, a tweet, a skype, a direct message, an e-mail, or a just phone call away.

Thank you Discovery for a wonderful week in San Diego and for helping me build a powerful circle of Superfriends.

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9 Responses to What is Your Kryptonite?

  1. Annette Campos says:

    Love this Dennis! I am suffering from post DENSI depression! Miss you all can’t wait till next year!

  2. Lea Anne says:

    And that my friend, I would call a “DENnis-ism”. You have an eloquent way of mashing words, pictures, movies and ideas so that everyone else can sit back and say…”yeah, what he says!” It was a wonderful week and like always, its hard to step back into reality. Thank you for making it such a joy every year. You are definitely one of the highlights!

  3. Peg Hartwig says:

    You are so right DENnis! No wonder you are so proud to have DEN accentuated in your Name as DEN truly becomes a very important part of each 21st century teacher! I am sad that our inspiring week at DENSI is over – but I am also inspired that we can continue to support and empower each other through the power of DEN and Technology – I know I can keep my momentum until we meet again next year!

  4. Davd says:

    Another kryptonite — parents who talk about wanting an innovative and relevant education for this children but, in the end, endlessly question things when the learning experience of their children is different from their own. It takes a lot of personal courage and administrative support to fight through those times when we know we are doing what is best for the kids.

  5. Charlene says:

    Thanks Dennis. For a great post on the positive power of failure, read Meg Wilson’s (@ipodsibilities) blog from her equally energizing experiences at the ADE Summer Institute: http://edreach.us/2011/07/24/celebrating-failure-it’s-about-the-people-not-the-technology/

  6. admin says:

    Annette, Lee Ann, Peg,
    Thanks for the compliments. Let’s keep the momentum going throughout the school year. I too miss my DEN Superfriends.

    Dave,
    It’s hard when parents want education to be better, but they don’t want it to be different. Another piece of Kryptonite, for sure.

    Charlene,
    I read (and loved) Meg’s post. I even left a comment. She’s definitely a superhero too.

  7. Kyle says:

    Well done, as always, sir.

  8. Sandy Groom-Meeks says:

    If I’m understanding you correctly, your statement regarding bypassing firewalls, “As a teacher and an adult you have the right to override a school Internet filter” is advocating blatant disrespect for rules and policies that may be in place within a school system. As an IT person, I’m appalled at this statement. Teachers do NOT have the right to override the policies their school has put in place. Disregard for that is a great “resume generating event”, in my opinion.

  9. says:

    Sandy, did you look at the links at the end of that paragraph? The statement is not my opinion. CIPA does not stipulate that sites have to be blocked for adults. In fact it states that if a site is blocked, as an adult I have the right to request that I be given access or permission override or have the filter disabled so I can access the site. I am not even required to give a reason. If your district has policies that go beyond what is stated in CIPA then you may need address that with your district administration. But if they are not allowing you, or any adult access to a site, citing CIPA or COPPA as the reason for doing so, then they are wrong. I just wanted to inform teachers of their rights. If that’s a “resume generating event” in your district, then that’s unfortunate.
    What’s also unfortunate is that there are some teachers who would abuse this right as something to give them free license to practice inappropriate workplace behavior. As a teacher, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to set examples for the students and parents. What we do and what we access online at the workplace should be focused on student learning and our curriculum goals. Teachers here a my school are trusted with that responsibility and given access to bypass blocked sites on our school network. That is as it should be. It is my job as a professional educator to determine what is and is not appropriate for my students, not the IT department.

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