This post has been a long time coming…A little over 2 years long to be a bit closer to exact. I feel as though one post wouldn’t adequately describe this journey, so I’ve broken it up into 3 posts (“the prelude”, “the event”, and “what happens next”).
It all began on July 13, 2011. I had completed my first full year of teaching in none other than Philadelphia. I was also completing one of my graduate school courses at Drexel University. One of the main course requirements was to interview someone who was considered a Technology Leader in Education. Being so new to the world of education, I went with interviewing the person who had WOWed me the most. I interviewed Brandon Lutz on that 13th day in July. He had blown my mind with his 60in60 presentation at one of our district-wide professional development sessions, so it seemed natural to pick his brain for my paper. Lutz gave me so much advice about how to work with diverse audiences. His pointers and words of wisdom have helped me in becoming the Instructional Technology Coach that I am today.
During the interview on that day in July 2011, Lutz shared with me that he was a Google Certified Teacher. This was the first time that I had heard of the program. It seemed like such a great thing to be a part of, but I was so wrapped up in starting a new job and completing my Master’s degree program that the Google Teacher Academy was something that had to wait. A week after I completed the interview with Lutz, I ended up writing a paper entitled “Understanding the Concept of Connected Leadership” – how ironic 😉
Fast-forward to July 2012…
I had completed my first year as a Technology Teacher in Charlotte, NC. At the time, I really thought that I was innovate, having students create tours on Google Earth, getting Kindergarten students to create their very own collaborative Powerpoint, and so on and so forth.
I thought, ‘Hey, I think I’m finally ready to apply for the Google Teacher Academy’. Thus came my first application submission in July 2012 to #GTANY12:
My First Iteration (#GTANY12)
Back in July ’12, I really thought that my video was catchy, or at the very least, poetic. Coupled with my application responses I learned that this combination didn’t bode well with the application reviewers of #GTANY12, as I received the dreaded “Thank you for applying….We’re sorry to inform you…“.
On to the next one.
Coming right off of the #GTANY12 application, I took some time to reflect on what I had done with my application video and my responses. I thought ‘it can’t all be bad’. So, I made a few minor tweaks to the video (it’s hard to notice) and revised my responses to the application questions, thinking that my initial responses were the reason I didn’t get in to #GTANY12. By this time, I was at an all-girls school in Washington, DC.
It was October of 2012, and I remember thinking “I’ve got this”. Thus came my second application, this time to #GTAMTV12:
My Second Iteration (#GTAMTV12)
Upon getting my rejection letter from the #GTAMTV12 application attempt, I knew that in order to get in, I’d have to scrap everything and start from scratch. Thus came my 3rd attempt.
My third Google Teacher Academy application submission was for #GTASYD13. I remember dreaming of how amazing it would be to attend the Academy in Sydney, Australia. I even went so far as to tell the CEO of my school that I was applying, and asked if I’d be able to take the week of the Academy off if I got in.
In putting together my application, I completely revised my application responses. By now, it was February 2013, and I thought that the last 5 months had prepared me to be successful in my latest application. However, when it came to the video, I was stuck. I knew that I needed to do something bigger and better than I had previously done, but I had a really hard time letting go of my poetic words. So I put together some videos and pictures of my students doing a few different computer-based activities, traded the whimsical music for some up-beat jazzy music, and hit the ‘Submit’ button in February ’13.
After hitting the ‘Submit’ button, and sharing my submission with my PLN, I received this incredibly supportive tweet from Nick Cusumano.
Nick and I had both applied for #GTASYD13. He got in 🙂
MY THIRD ITERATION (#GTASYD13)
When I got my 3rd rejection letter, my feelings were a bit hurt. You always hear ‘3rd time is the charm‘. Well, this was my 3rd time applying, and I remember thinking of how uncharming the rejection letters were getting. Instead of internalizing the rejection, I took to Twitter. You see, I had spent the last year getting into connecting with others on Twitter. This was primarily because I had attended ISTE 2012, and I wanted to stay connected with the amazing people that I had met there. So, I decided to become more vocal about my application attempts to feel, well, less alone. Being connected really does make you feel less alone, and more supported…even if these people you’re connected to are ones that you’ve never met in person.
Rejection, failing, stings at first, but when you have a supportive group of people pushing you forward to try again, it makes getting up again a little bit easier.
For my 4th Google Teacher Academy application attempt, I sought the guidance of my PLN. Upon posting my request for application reviewers on Twitter, I received a DM (direct message) from Lisa Nowakowski. Lisa and I had never met. She was in California and I was in Washington, DC at the time. She opened my eyes to the amazing kindness of humanity. Not only did she critique my video (before I submitted it), she also gave me the most amazing feedback on my responses.
By the time the June 2013 application deadline for #GTACHI13 had come around, I KNEW that I was getting in. From February ’13 to June ’13, so much had happened.
- I had pulled out all of the Common Core State Standards that were implicitly related to technology integration
- I was attending my second ISTE conference
- I had created and accepted a promotion as a Technology Integration Specialist which went into effect the day that I returned from ISTE
After racking up so many awesome undertakings, I really thought that I would get in to #GTACHI13. Plus, I actually spoke in my application video.
Besides, back in March 2013, when my rejection letter came in, one of my students had asked me why I kept applying. I told her, ‘When you see something that you really, really want, you can’t give up on it’. I really wanted to prove to my students that you CAN do anything that you set your mind to. So, I took the plunge and applied for the 4th time, in June 2013 for #GTACHI13.
My Fourth Iteration (#GTACHI13)
The anticipation on the Twitter stream was building up! We were all counting the days until our acceptance letters were to be delivered.
By the time the 4th rejection letter came in I KNEW that my video was the primary problem. When you’re applying for the Academy alongside someone as great as David Theriault and he puts together an application video that looks like this, you know you’ve got to step your game up.
So, as I put together my 5th application for the Google Teacher Academy, I began thinking of all of the neat things that I had done. From June 2013 to October 2013, there were so many great things that I could add to my ‘resume’.
- Within 2 months of my first promotion, I was promoted to the position of Educational Technology Coordinator
- I started (and ended) my first Twitter chat #gitchat or #girlsintechchat, where I initially connected with Joanie Le, who had helped co-moderate the chat one week.
- I facilitated an afterschool blogging club
- I oversaw the production of a daily, student-led news team
The application for the 2013 #GTAUK (in the United Kingdom) and #GTASWE (in Sweden) was coming up, and This girl was on fire!
MY FIFTH ITERATION (#GTAUK13 AND #GTASWE13)
The 5th rejection stung! But I kept it moving…
If I wasn’t on fire back in October ’13, then I definitely was by May ’14. This time around, I called upon Lisa’s help once again. I also reached out to some of my more immediate colleagues to make special guest appearances and got one of my Coding Club students to randomly record a few interactions. The wisest decision I made this time around was to get video feedback from one of my more critical colleagues, JE.
JE was able to tell me what worked and what didn’t in my first few drafts, which, in turn, enabled me to condense my video down to one, jam-packed minute. She even convinced me to remove this song from my video, which probably helped me – sometimes you can add so much to a video that it actually takes away from it (go figure).
This time around, I had so many more accomplishments:
- I had attended my first GAfE Summit (and won a ChromeBook)
- I was leading my school through the adoption of Google Apps for Education
- I became a Google Qualified Educator
- I had attended FETC
- I facilitated Hour of Code activities for all 3rd thru 5th graders, which led to the creation of a Coding Club
- I began a case study on the impact that coding has on one’s academic success
Truth be told, I really hoped that I’d get into the Atlanta cohort (GTAATL14), as I was already going to ISTE the week after that Academy, so the timing would have been great. But, from everything that I heard about Mountain View, GTAMTV14 was the place to be. So, after several edits, I submitted my #GTAATL14 and #GTAMTV14 application on May 11, 2014. I remember being so excited for the opportunity to actually get in this time. So excited in fact, that I refused to book a flight to ISTE (in Atlanta) until I found out whether or not I got in.
The following video showcases my 6th Google Teacher Academy application submission. (I finally found the confidence to speak AND show myself in ACTION in this video).
MY SIXTH ITERATION (#GTAMTV AND #GTAATL)
The night of May 20th, Twitter was all a buzz full of all of the #GTAMTV14 and #GTAATL14 applicants anticipating the news that was to be delivered on May 21st. We were all so excited to find out whether or not we got in. Many created IFTTT recipes to get acceptance alerts more readily. I remember jumping all day as I received email alerts. I probably stalked Twitter more on May 21, 2014, than I ever had before. While at work, I received nothing, no email saying ‘Sorry’ or ‘Congratulations’.
I left work around 4:30 p.m. or so, hopped in my car and began sitting in traffic. While singing along with whatever was on the radio, I hear my IFTTT recipe go off. It was 5:09 p.m. My phone in the seat next to me, I debated looking at it. I didn’t know if I was ready for the news. If I got another rejection letter, then it would be back to the drawing board to revise my application, and prepare for the next submission. This iteration process had become so routine that I was always thinking ahead. Then, a part of me thought…”What if I actually got in this time??”.
While sitting in the traffic that DC is notorious for, I decided to pick up my phone and glance at the alert. As I looked at my phone, I was so elated. After 2 years, and a total of 6 applications, I began screaming and crying when I read the following words….
It had finally happened! I had finally been accepted!
The next day, at school, I went and found that student that I had discussed my application journey with. My heart runneth over. She was now able to see an example of how you can do whatever you put your mind to.
In the end, this prelude to the journey was only Part 1. The path to this first destination required a great deal of iteration and reflection. Thus, the old adage holds true, that if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try, try, try, try again.