Finding Something 'Different'

When I resigned from my current position back in December, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. All that I knew was that I wanted to do something ‘different’.

Defining what ‘different’ was took time and reflection. I don’t think I can recall all the different things I thought about doing (although I now own 3 more domain names). It was a month and a half of highs and lows, of considering different opportunities and talking through what it was I really wanted to do.

The experience itself was life changing. To quit your job not knowing what you want to do, where you want to go and allowing yourself time to figure it out. It is about taking risks and stretching yourself to the limits. On bad days I thought “What the heck did I just do?” and on good days the sky was full of possibilities.

It came down to this: I quit for a reason.

I took time to find out what that reason was for myself and then went about trying to find a way to make that ‘something different’ materialize.

There is a growing need in the Asia region for consultants and presenters around how technology is changing education. A niche if you will is starting to form. I have been privileged enough to watch it start to bloom over the past few years. With the success of the Learning 2.0 conference in September, I have seen the start of important conversations at schools in the region. I then had the opportunity to present at the EARCOS Administrators conference in November. There I had further conversations with administrators in the region as they struggle with the change, and try and define for their own schools what this new learning landscape looks like.

I found myself wanting to be involved in helping schools define their future. I have a passion for sharing and teaching others and love to watch teachers and students alike get excited and hear that passion spark in them around new ideas they can use in their schools and classrooms. That was ‘different’, that was exciting.

The only issue then was how do you continue to affect change in a school and have time to explore a niche that is just starting to emerge (or that you hope emerges)?

You need time, time to explore, to think, to reflect. That time can not be added onto what you already do, it has to be part of what you do. It should be part of what we do in education. So I set out to explore schools that would challenge me professionally within the system and at the same time allow me to explore options and learning outside the system. This explore time would come to be known as “Google Time.” As I talked to schools, I pitched the idea of allowing me 20% of my time to explore other options outside of my regular duties. My thinking was twofold, not only did I want 20% time, but I also wanted to be a part of a school that I felt was heading in a positive direction, and that I was excited about. After all, 80% of my time is still working within the system affecting change in that organization and with students and teachers. That school, then, needed to understand who I was and what I could offer.

Google Time
How do you sell Google Time to a school? How do you help administrators understand that this time would not only benefit oneself as an educator but would then also benefit the school?

Google Time allows an employee time to explore, take risks, learn, network, and create opportunities. Some, if not most of these opportunities, will affect the employee in deep and meaningful ways. Whether it is taking time to create networks, write, play with new software, read about new theories, or just explore the world around them, this time adds value to employees and the time they spend on the other 80% of their job. Add to that the opportunity for those employees to build a social presence within networks on the web, this also brings something back to the school (think free marketing, too).

So that was the pitch. Some administrators I talked to struggled to wrap their heads around how this might work. Others were open to it, trying to understand the changing world we live in and how technology is affecting our society. Not only did they have to wrap their heads around a new way of thinking, but I also had to have that feeling of “the fit.” That feeling you get in your heart and soul when you know that this administrator, this school, this job is where you are suppose to be (if you do not feel that…I encourage you to look deeply within yourself and find out what it is you really want to do).

Of course on top of all this is where do you want to live? The world is our playground and my wife and I spent time thinking about where did we want to go. Did we want to stay in Shanghai? South America? Asia? North America? Europe? When you really allow yourself to think, to allow the possibilities to be endless, it is amazing the ideas and opportunities that come your way.

So after weeks of soul searching, researching, and conversing I am excited to announce that my wife and I next year will be moving to Bangkok, Thailand where I will be the Elementary Technology Coordinator at the International School of Bangkok.

My wife does not have a job at this point and is starting to go through the same process that I have been going through this last month of looking deep within and finding out what it is she truly wants to do. She loves working with kids and knowing Bangkok I am certain that she will find an opportunity there that will be a fit for her if she so chooses. My wife has the gift of understanding, the gift of love, and I am excited to support her as she finds what is next in life for her.

When I quit my job and posted about it here, I knew it would be my network that would help me to find that perfect fit and I wasn’t mistaken. Justin Medved, Kim Cofino, and Dennis Harter, who are at ISB already, I know played a large role in my hiring. I cannot thank you guys enough and I know how lucky I am to be joining such a dynamic team!

I will be taking Justin’s position as he and his wife find out what is next for them in life. I am disappointed that I won’t get to work with Justin (although we know the network well) and at the same time a bit worried about trying to fill his very large shoes. When it comes to a school that is truly understanding the shift that is happening, I think you have to put ISB as a front runner in the Asia region. Justin has been a driving force behind many of the things happening there, including getting both the elementary principal and the vice-principal to start blogging. They both have RSS readers and have been collaborating on some amazing documents that can be found here and here. I encourage you to also listen to a podcast we did last week where Justin goes into even more detail of what is happening at ISB. Wherever Justin goes, I know that he will continue to have an incredible impact on education.

It does not get much better than this. I have the opportunity to work at a school
that is looking at deep change within the system and having time to explore other opportunities as well. That is what ‘different’ became for me and I am excited that I found it at ISB and in Asia where things are going to continue to be ‘interesting’.

Thank you to everyone in my personal learning networks, be it this blog, twitter, social networks, or just Skype and e-mail. So many opportunities presented themselves because of the collective you. Your support and words of encouragement will not be forgotten!

And to my wife who quit her job with people she loved so that I could find my ‘different’. Your constant encouragement, reflection, and level headedness is why I love you (everyone should have their own personal counselor!).

May your job be the ‘different’ you need and if not I encourage you to take that risk and go out and find it for yourself. The process of deep reflection is very powerful. We learn nothing by playing it safe, we only learn when we take risks, push ourselves, and take time to learn. That is what our classrooms should be about, and so should our jobs.


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