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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Soldier On



I cannot state this teacher's name.  At least not now. 

All I'll say is that she is a teacher on the NetGen project.  You wouldn't believe the struggles that some teachers have to go through to be a part of global collaborative projects.

Every time, there are some teachers who apply who have to drop out because of lack of administrative support.  This year was:
  • They won't unblock the ning. (Notice we're not asking to unblock all nings, just one url plus http://static.ning.com in order to let the content through.)
  • Administrators don't see the purpose of global collaborative work.  (yes, someone said that!)
My heart is broken for those excited teachers dashed upon the rocks of discouragement by those who cannot see past the four walls that close them in.  Closed minds can be the darkest places of all.

Meet the NetGen Soldier
But then, there is this bright light of hope.  We have a teacher who has had to get EVERYTHING unblocked - the wiki, the Ning.  I'll call her the NetGen Soldier.  I don't publicly post her name or school because we must protect the district and keep her from having problems.  Here is a quote from an email today about why she couldn't access the Google Doc:

"it is a case of the department of education
blocking access to these sites at school and the department web filter team says that it is a directive from "above". I had to apply to get the wikispaces site unblocked but the join page of the wikispaces page is blocked for the students, which means that I have to create an account for them individually. But I'll endeavour to soldier on... I'm still really excited about working with classes around the world!"

This woman inspires me as she soldiers on.  How aptly put.

Do you honestly think "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen?"

So many teachers sing the old song "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" and use it as a lament for doing nothing.

Let me tell you something, "Everybody knows the trouble you've seen."

We ALL SEE IT! There are so many obstacles to this sort of work it could strike us all mute! 

I'm in control of my own filter and sometimes it blocks things that I have to check out before I unblock them or come up with an alternative.  We all have these troubles.

And yet, the soldiers are the ones who march on. The people who get things done to overcome geography, time zones, regulations, restrictions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, stereotypes, whining, complaining, and our own stinky attitudes that can sometime develop from all of this mess!

I hold onto a vision that will be mine for all of my life.

Children from around the world hanging out and laughing together in the Souk (a shopping bazaar in Qatar,) in the middle of Doha, Qatar.  Everyone looked at them and we looked at them laughing and enjoying the nigh.  It was amazing.

This is what can happen if we connect ourselves NOW in "nonthreatening" ways using the Internet.   

We are building the bridges today that society will walk across tomorrow.

Yes, I blame some of these admins -- people who want to keep the world closed, minds closed, and our future from EVER being any different than it is today.

Well, friends, guess what I've seen. I've seen a boy from Iraq helping a US kid get on the Internet.  And a child from Oman helping a girl from Australia come up with a way for kids to collaborate and learn not to discriminate against others.  THIS CAN BE DONE.

But it takes soldiers.  

You know, I was thinking this morning in the shower as I see everyone on the news berating and whining about "this economy" and "these times."  You know, we idolize people like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and yet if you ask anyone "Do you wish to live during the civil war?"  No one would wish that.

And yet, these people lived during the tough times and made a difference. Do we remember the people who led us during prosperous times?  Maybe.  But we revere those who lead us with a torch in the darkest periods of human history.

People are often made by the times in which they live.  See tough times as the opportunity to improve humanity at a time when society hungers for leaders to show them practical ways to improve society.


And it is those who rise above and get the job done -- who strive to be more, who see the big picture that make a lasting difference on society.

In 2000, my hometown was struck by not one but THREE tornadoes.  I knew some women and men who were so upset that they stayed home for days crying because their neighbor's house was destroyed.  I am sorry for them, I really am.

Because about 2000 of us in this tiny community (5,000 in town and 18,000 in the county) left our homes and worked and mobilized the 10,000 volunteers who came from around the country to help us recover.  Disaster agencies couldn't believe that a disaster that should have taken 2 1/2 years to recover from took us a year.  We have the joy of knowing that although the dark days came, that we worked together and DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  We made sandwiches, cleared land, and patched roofs.  And do you know my job: writing the database that managed this... and managed the website that told people where to go.  It was my small part but one unique to my own abilities.  Everyone did the part, nothing special about me.

People who sit at home and cry.  The whiners.  The mopers. 

"Poor me. Poor me."

Yes,  Poor you.  You are missing the greatest riches of life which is the privalege of being part of something bigger than yourself.  There is nothing easy about this life, it is HARD WORK.  Anything worth doing is worth sweating over.  Anything tough requires elbow grease, brain power, and WORK!

Pushing schools into a new day, a new era of educational excellence requires soldiers.

Soldiers like my dear, precious NetGen Soldier.  I cherish her emails.  She is quiet but she is determined.  She is my inspiration.

Maybe one day after this is done, I can share her name and picture and brag on her for all to see. But for now, she is anonymous, and a hero for all of us.  She is endeavoring to soldier on. 

How about you?  Will you endeavor to soldier on?  Can you make it through the struggles?  Can you see the big picture so you can deal with the hassle of the small picture?  Slog ahead, push ahead.

We do not know that we are writing a chapter of greatness until the last line.  But we do know that usually those chapters begin with dark moments, tough times, and big challenges and the greatness is intertwined in the stories of self sacrifice, vision, and persistence that steadily lead humankind on to a better day.

Soldier On

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