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Ignite, Inspire and Innovate at the Future Ready Institute in Philadelphia


I recently attended the Future Ready Conference in Philadelphia and I can not say enough about what a powerful experience it was.  If you have the opportunity to attend a Future Ready Conference, take it! The two days were filled with learning, growing, and collaborating with amazing educators that all had the same goal of preparing our students for success. One of the most valuable parts of the conference was the time for collaboration. There was a blend of time to meet with your district team and time to connect with other educators in similar roles.  I left with new knowledge, ideas that I can put into practice, and many new connections. After reflecting on the learning over the two days, I continued to come back to 3 questions.

Am I modeling excellence?

Jimmy Casas was the keynote speaker at the end of the first day, and while I was quite familiar with his work, this was the first time I had the opportunity to hear him speak. Talk about energy! His message sparked many emotions. Jimmy was honest and real.  His words caused me to really reflect on my day to day actions and reminded me how impactful a simple comment can be. He spoke a lot about the importance of modeling, and while this isn’t a new concept, he challenged us to think about it in a more specific way.   When providing professional learning, we try and model choice.  When sharing information, we model personalization and use many platforms.  Jimmy had us thinking about our day to day comments and the comments that are occurring around us. Are we unintentionally saying comments that could be perceived as negative? I know I have made and heard quick comments in the past that fall into this category.  It isn’t just about what we say but also what we allow because if we allow it, we are sending a message that says we are okay with the behavior. It isn’t always easy to question the negative person in the group, especially if everyone else is quiet. However, we must remind the “awfulizers,” as Jimmy called them,  that negativity won’t move us forward and isn’t accepted.

Who have I thanked today?

Abbey Futrell was the facilitator of the instructional coaches strand and her energy and passion for education were clear the second I met her. Within minutes, people in the room were laughing, comfortable sharing, and excited to start learning. I left with many tools, ideas, and strategies that I know I will use. However, one of the most important things I left with was the reminder of how much a simple thank you can mean to someone. Educators work hard. They put in countless hours of time and energy to ensure they are offering their students their very best. They don’t do it for the recognition but it is nice to hear that your efforts are noticed and appreciated.  At the end of day one, Abbey asked us to write a thank you note to someone in the room. This simple act took less than a couple of minutes, but the impact lasted much longer. I received a note from someone that thanked me for the energy I brought to the table. This meant so much to me. It is funny how much two sentences on a post-it note can mean to someone. Jotting a quick thank you to someone can turn their whole day around and remind them that they are valued.

What is my commitment in one week, two months, three months? 

As we gathered back together to debrief about the two days, Tom Murray posed a question. He asked us what were we going to do when we left. So often we share what we learned or something new that we are walking away with.  This question wasn’t about what we learned but about the action we were going to take when we left. It was about the commitment we were making to ourselves and the people we serve. He encouraged us to write it down and add it to our calendars. Both short-term and long-term goals are necessary as we think about where we are headed. The act of writing them down and sharing them with others helps us to hold ourselves accountable. I want to make this question one that I ask myself after all future learning experiences.

These three questions are ones I will be posting to ensure I hold myself accountable.  I am sending out a huge thank you to everyone involved at Future Ready for their work, all of the educators I met that were so willing to share, and to my colleagues for the great conversations!

This blog is reposted from Ignite, Inspire and Innovate.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are three institutes remaining this Fall so be sure to register today.

About  Kheila Dunkerly

Khelia believes that all of us can ignite a passion for learning, inspire change, and find innovative ways to reach students. She is currently a K-12 Innovation Specialist for. She also taught elementary school in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania for 13 years.