I just spent an entire weekend geeking out with some absolutely inspirational speakers and presenters, friends, and an amazing group of attendees at the Toronto EdTech Team Summit at Cresent School.
I’ve presented at a couple of similar Summits. In fact, I’ve presented probably at least a hundred times to audiences as few as 6 and as large as 400. I love to share my learning. I am becoming a better presenter ever time I speak at a conference. And yet…
There is a thing called a Demo Slam. Have you seen one? It’s a 3 minute live-demo of a tool you love. It’s supposed to be fun, but it’s intense: it’s just such a compact time, often the tech doesn’t work, and some of the keynote speakers participate which means you are up against some brilliant people.
I am a pretty courageous, go-get-em kind of person, so I’m not sure why I was so nervous to begin with. Maybe it’s because I was presenting up on a stage and I prefer to present at the same level as the crowd (maybe it’s because my subconscience flashes back to grade 5 when I was on a stage and froze in front of a live audience and couldn’t perform, Is this Love by Whitesnake). Perhaps I didn’t practice enough, because I chose to go out the night before? (when the Royal Ontario Museum becomes a Night Club, it’s kind of a no-brainer). Whatever the reason, I know that I made a promise to myself for 2016 to jump out of my comfort zone whenever I can. Also, I am organizing a Demo Slam for an upcoming PA Day, and felt like I really needed to participate if I was going to invite others to try it.
But to say I was nervous would be an understatement! I was literally shaking when I approached the stage. I was doing fine until the demo part and I completely blanked. I was demonstrating Google Keep–one of my favourite tools, which is so simple a grade 2 student could use it and I have used it hundreds of times.
And yet there I was, standing in front of all of these expectant faces; many of whom I admire very much because they are techno-EDU rockstars, and I could not for the life of me remember how to create a note in Google Keep! I drew a complete blank and stared at the screen and likely mumbled quite a bit.
Within the last 15 seconds, my brain popped back and I started to demo the tool, but of course, the timer went off. Needless to say, I walked off the stage mortified and despite the fact that I got some high-fives and a few very supportive words and tweets from friends and peers (Thanks Sylvia, Larissa, Amit, Jeff, Jeffrey, Andrea Mike, Sandra, Dawn, Diana, & Kevin), this was an extremely difficult pill to swallow.
I felt embarassed and almost let that feeling stop me from attending the social afterwards. I’m glad it didn’t, because despite what I thought in my head, I don’t honestly believe everyone was whispering about my failure–not then and not now.
As I drove home last night, my feelings of embarrassment and failure continuted to creep into my consciousness. It was very humbling.
Let’s face it though: if you are going to publicly fail, doing so at an Ed Tech Summit where every person there is taking time away from their life to learn on a weekend, is a good place to do it.
When I was chatting with my daughter about it, I told her that I had the most embarassing moment. Here’s how that conversation went (excuse the crudeness)
Me: Oh my gosh the most embarassing thing happened to me when I was presenting my Demo Slam.
Teen: Oh no! Nip Slip?
Me: Um, no.
Teen: You farted in front of everyone? You peed yourself?
Me: (laughing) No!
Teen: Then it wasn’t THE most embarassing thing, was it?
Gotta love that girl for throwing a bucket-full of perspective my way!
It really got me thinking about some of the students I have taught who have such high anxiety about presenting in front of others. And I wondered if I had created a safe environment for them. I also I strained to remember if many of their classmates reached out supportively and with encouragement. How could I foster those behaviours in a classroom? Did I reach out afterwards to ensure the student was feeling ok?
I wondered about whether or not many teachers who we call “resisters”, may be afraid of failure: in front of their students or their peers. Who to them, the idea of sharing on Google Drive puts them completely out of their comfort zone. Do we treat them with empathy or with disdain?
I also began to think about the fact that maybe my public failure was a good thing; you see in my sessions, I think I am perceived sometimes as an “accomplished expert”. In fact, when I shared what I called my epic fail, people said, ‘Oh, I’m sure to you it wasn’t good but to everyone else, it was.” Maybe a teacher who is just learning needs to see someone they perceive to have all the answers, fall flat. Perhaps it should even be an administrator or District leader? It really happens to everyone, and before I became proficient, I worked really hard to learn what I know. There is still a whole lot I don’t know, and I continue to learn (and fail privately) every day.
I can’t say I want to repeat this situation, and truthfully I could have kept this blog in Draft rather than click Publish, but really I think reflecting on negative experiences is what helps us to grow and learn. I know this incident sure did that for me.
And so here it is. Publish.
Sylvia Duckworth shared this image during her keynote. I think it fits perfectly–except this time, my failure was pretty public!