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Friday, December 16, 2011

Your Reward is Great (reflections on #eddies11 and #iste12)

Been pondering on rewards and awards. The inevitable onslaught of upset people after the EDublog 2011 award finals has begun.

But some have asked why we should even have awards in education. Shouldn't teaching be reward enough?

When it means judging the unjudgeable, not a good idea
In my church youth group, my youth minister created an "Eagle Award" for the "best Christian" youth. He said kids needed an award at church to make the kids want to come and compete for that award.

In this case, I didn't like this award and rightly so. As a Christian, walking daily with God IS my reward and the greatest rewards come later in heaven anyway. In this case, the journey is the reward and to create an award is to judge something on the inside that no one can see: motivation. We have to be careful about casting judgement on others and that is what I see a lot of happening.

When you point a finger at someone, you always have 3 pointing back at yourself!

Rewards vs. Awards
The looks on my eighth grader's faces as I knocked it out of the park teaching filmmaking yesterday. That was a blast. By the end of class we were huffing and puffing we were working so hard. That rewarding lesson was great for all of us.

My Daughter "Didn't Win" with her Flat Classroom Video
Today, the Flat Classroom projects will have our awards show at 8 am to announce our winners.

I haven't told anyone until now that this semester's project has a very special student in it: my daughter. She's special to me. She wanted to win the Flat Classroom project video competition more than just about anything. I wanted it for her.
Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Project

She spent over 20 hours drawing each frame by hand in Paint.net and importing. Julie and I have an agreement that when our students are in a project, that we completely distance ourselves from judging. Fairness is essential.

I've seen the final list and my daughter didn't win anything huge. She did make the list. Am I disappointed? Of course. She's disappointed. Am I glad we had the competition. YES! It spurred her on to do more and be more. She's going to dissect the winners and prepare for NetGen in the spring because she loves making movies. She will learn and do better next time.

She didn't win but did that mean she lost: no! She gained a valuable learning experience.

The Grindstone of Life
Life grinds on you. You can choose to let it either it polish you to a bright, shiny gem or grind you down. It is all how you take it.

Did I lose or did I learn?

So, what about the edublog awards?

Joe Bower raised his concerns in a post "Why I Don't Like Edublog Awards" and Melissa (who had commented on my original post mentioning the Edublog awards) said:

"Thanks for posting this! I actually commented on someone who was nominated for said award. She was encouraging her readers to vote for her because she wanted to be awarded the "best teacher blogger." I was really turned off by this because I thought...what message is she sending to her students if she did not win said award. I asked if she needed the award as validation AND was having 1,000 followers not enough validation. I don't think she cared too much for my comment, as she mentioned that I was passing judgement on her...no judgement, just curious of why all the self promotion for an award saying that you are the best teacher blogger. No worries...I will remain a follower."
My response about the edublog awards on his blog:

"I think these are great comments. Melissa commented on my blog. The reason I wrote my post was because I was nominated in five categories and, to me, I didn't feel I deserved a lifetime achievement award after only 6 years of blogging. So, I said which awards I felt that would mean something and best teacher blog was one of them. I also wanted to thank those who nominated me. It is a pain to nominate for those awards and I should acknowledge that. Enough of that.

Secondly, all awards are flawed. Especially ones involving online polls. (Author's note: See my post about the online poll involving a Redskin player trying to stack the poll for his cousin versus our school's quarterback to see just what I mean.) This poll was based on ip address. That means if someone really wanted to and thy had a mifi card, they could turn it off and on again and vote all they wanted. Hopefully no one did that but the fact is that it is easily hackable. The awards were given in most categories with just a couple of hundred votes. Not many.

Online polls are flawed. Period. See these for what they are. The people who win must mobilize their friends, fans, family and schools to win by ASKING. Period. You will see that behind everyone who won. If you want to win. You ask.

Don't ask. Don't win. The name of the game. I don't apologize for telling my readers about the awards for this reason. You never know unless you ask.

But I think it is fine to have these conversations. We should always know that the best value of the eddies or any other award like it that is popularity based is to help us find new voices. Help us see new people. Truthfully, every link to the eddies opens up more conversation.

It is ok. In life not everyone can get an award and not everyone deserves it. The best awards is always knowing that you helped someone. None of us would ever blog just because of the eddies, that would be silly. But it would also be silly to ignore something that recognizes excellence in what you love. I get up every morning at 5 am to write and set up my tweets for the day. Blogging and Tweeting is very near and dear to my heart.

Just see these for what they are and it is fine. But to have nothing to recognize rank and file teachers means the only educational writers would be journalists etc and that would be sad.

None of us will unfollow you for this post. It is well written and has good points. Likewise, Melissa, no blogger worth a flip would take your comment with offense. When you ask like I did it is a risk you run and there are always people to disagree with something in every post. It is the nature of this beautiful wonderful online conversation. Up with edublogging."

It is a fact that the more people who vote in the Edublog awards, the more it will mean and the less likely someone could hack it. Does that mean we should get rid of the edublogs because it is flawed. The Academy Awards are flawed too, but we don't get rid of those. All award systems are imperfect, especially online polls.

I think the thing that bothered me most about Joe's post is this. He says:
I realize this isn't going to win me many fans, and I'm likely to lose followers on Twitter and subscribers to my blog, but I guess that would be my point. 

People often imply that they risk having people not follow them because they have a contrarian viewpoint. Long live the contrarian. We need more people who can disagree respectfully. And we don't want group think. If we are to be bridge builders we listen to all sides of an issue. We include everyone and treat everyone with respect.

What about ISTE?
A note on ISTE. I have NEVER had a session accepted where it was just me. ISTE cares about "we" presentations -- or groups of people. Lots of people will have their feelings hurt. Lots of deserving, amazing people. But ISTE has a rubric as well and when you have groups of people, the rubric is obviously stacked in your favor.

Don't be disappointed, look at what was accepted and learn.

We win some we lose some
Yes, it is trite but it is true. Right now, you could say I "lost" the Edublogs. Sure, I was second to Stephen Anderson (@web20classroom) in the Twitter category but still. I didn't "win"... or did I? (Honestly I had like 90 votes and he had 120 - not huge vote counts either way but he has 36K followers to my 26K -- I would agree that his numbers speak for themselves but 26K is nothing to sneeze at. Neither one of us compare to the millions that follow rock stars - just keeping perspective. I know Stephen does, that is why he's such a great guy and so many of us like him.)

There are awards I don't even apply for any more. The fact is that most awards in education judge your pedigree as a major factor in the awards and I don't have it. I'm a private school teacher who didn't go to a school of education. That is OK. So really, there are just a few things I can "go for." Those very few things I can... I do.

The fact is that links build traffic and if your business is online and you are writing books and creating projects that depend upon social media and education, it is important to your livelihood and life to get on every list and awards program you can. I love my babies and this blog is helping send them to college.

I gave up a 6 figure income to go into teaching and am just fine with that but now in a year my first child will go to college. Everything I may get from this blog or book writing is heading to help pay for college. Honestly, today, I have no idea how we're going to do it. If I put my name out there and let people know and they choose to vote for me, then that is great. If I get more people who find my blog and like it because of it, that is a good thing. But I'm not going to sit around and say "poor me" and not at least ask. No way. I love my babies. It is a risk I'm willing to take. I'm putting out there my motivations and not hiding them -- that is transparency. For you to judge me any other way is to judge but certainly that is your right.

I really wanted to get accepted as one of the TED Teachers. I worked sooooo hard on that nomination and even had about 10 of you on Twitter join in and nominate me. It was risky to even mention it on Twitter because if you're doing anything in this world some people are going to love you and some people are probably going to hate you. It is the nature of doing anything worthwhile.

So, we were supposed to hear from TED on Monday. They said we would. We haven't. To me, this means, I didn't make the list or even the cut. Am I dissapointed... of course. Will I try again... sure. Will I take anything away from the 10 who get picked -- NO. I'll tweet them and blog them and share them. They are winners and we all win when we encourage good teachers.

Jealousy is a bitter lunch that will make you sick and anemically unable to contribute.

So, the only way to become a loser is to act like a loser.

Losers wallow in self pity. Losers only care about themselves. Losers whine when they don't get their "fair share."

Well, life isn't fair and few people share.  Awards are part of life but if you teach or blog, you should be doing it for the rewards of the conversation and helping people but if an award happens, then, great.

Win with your actions
Winners encourage others. Winners share in the conversation. Winners root others on and congratulate the winner.  Winners look at their rewards and keep perspective about awards.

Awards are flawed measures. They are an attempt to find best practice and we certainly need that.

If they spur us on to excellence, then great. I know they spur me on to excellence because I want to be the very best I can be. Not because of the awards but the rewards but I make no secret about wanting to be world class.

OH, but you can judge me.

"Vicki needs validation. Vicki should be happy with all her readers and followers."

Oh, yes I am. I'm thrilled with those things. Every time a major newspaper or someone asks me to write - I'm in heaven. I love to write.

But I've lost more awards, competitions and contests than I've won. I've lost 5 beauty pageants and won 1. I lost 15 elections before I started winning as I ran for offices. Each time I competed, I became better.

Competition is life. Awards are part of them. Some choose to compete and some don't want to. That is a personal choice.

But anything that recognizes and rewards excellence in the field of education - as long as the system of judging is fully disclosed -- has my vote.

Keep perspective. You are a winner because you are a teacher -- that is your reward. Awards come to only very few and if you're fortunate enough to be one of those, use it well

but if you don't win --- don't be a loser. 

You're a winner for just being in the game at all. (Please do not imply that I think Joe Bower is a loser for his post. I think he actually expresses his thoughts in a respectful way.)

Remember your noble calling teacher. The only way to lose your nobility is to give it away by acting in ways unbecoming to your profession.

Happy Holidays and thank you for taking the time to read all the way to this extremely long, rambling post. Just had to get this off my chest.

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