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Welcome to Your Blank Canvas – #ECET2KY

My #ECET2KY experience began with the trip to the Red Mile in snow and treacherous driving conditions.  I rarely made it above 40MPH and a normally benign drive took 2.5 hours.  By the time Taylor Haydock (@MrsTCH – Kennedy Montessori Elementary) arrived, it felt like I’d been in the Iditarod Race.  I had packed rations in case I ended up stranded, but thankfully, they were not used.  I did, however, keep my snow boots on as I trudged into the event.

Once we got in and found our table (and sweet swag bag), it wasn’t long before the magic began.  MC Mickey Campbell introduced the day’s events and changes that needed to be made due to the inclement weather (no Google apps session), and then Barbara Bellissimo (@bbellissimo – Fund for Transforming Education in KY gave a welcome, explanation of @thefundKY and introduction to Irvin Scott (@iscott4 –  Gates Foundation).  We sang – yes, sang – to a version of the Black Eyed Peas and gave a rousing “SHOUT OUT” until we had enough spunk.  I must say that by this time, I was captivated.  The #tag #ECET2KY was probably trending by this time!

Sherri McPherson (@SherriRMc – Fayette County) was the first speaker and posed a question that many of us may have been asking, “Why am I here?”  She spoke with passion of her ECET experiences and spoke of rejuvenation for our profession.  To remember WHY we teach and what drew us to teaching.  She encouraged us to be a voice for our profession; to work together to forward education.  With all the hoops we as educators must jump through today, it’s easy to lose sight of those.  As she spoke, thoughts of special moments with students popped into my head.  I love my job.  I get to “play” and form the foundation of what it means to be “healthy” with my students.  I am truly blessed!

My first breakout session was with Robin Reid and Brison Harvey of Lafayette HS – “Learning and Improving Practice through Collaboration.  Taylor and I were teamed with Brian McDowell and Renee Boss (@renee_boss – KDE) and collaborated to build a 28.5 inch house of cards and a structure made from 18 pieces of raw spaghetti, string, masking tape, a rubber band and a marshmallow which nearly stood on it’s own:)  We looked at the Tom Wujec: Build a Tower, Build a Team TED talk and spoke about how collaboration is imperative for the educational process.

We came back for the first of two colleague circles where we shared our leadership “super power” and discussed what leadership meant to us.  My circle included Brian McDowell (Mason County), Mickey Campbell (Fayette County), Paradise Forbes (@pforbes81 – Williamstown), Ali Wright (@alicrowley – Fayette County) and Anna Shultz (@aetps13 of the Gates Foundation).  As I listened to Anna explain her work at the Gates Foundation and the exciting things planned for #ECET2, I felt an overwhelming desire to get even more involved with being a teacher leader.

Our second breakout session was with Ali Wright and the Center for Teaching Quality (#CTQ) team.  We were posed a quote from Barnett Berry (who was in attendance), “It’s time to blur the lines between those who teach in schools and those who lead them.”  We were asked to compare our version of what leadership is to what we had heard so far.  I must say that my views on leadership were being challenged by the company that I was in. This was not just any group of educators.  There were teachers of the year at either side of me. There were nationally recognized leaders and innovators.  I felt motivated to be more of a leader in my school, district, state and beyond. We were asked to create a professional action plan and were given an amazing template to use.  I made it a point to ask for additional copies so I could share with my colleagues.

During lunch, our keynote speaker, Megan Allen (@redhdteacher – Florida, Mt. Holyoke College), delivered a passionate talk.  She showed a street sign from New Orleans that says, “Welcome to Your Blank Canvas” and asked what we would put on our canvas.  She shared stories of students.  Her “Grip of Trust” story hit close to home, reminding me of my son, William, an Aspie.  It was so uplifting to see her passion that she fills towards her work.  I later attended Megan’s breakout session called Fireside Chat, without a doubt my favorite session.  We worked in groups to list celebrations and challenges after we watched a Tosh 2.0 clip on Jessica’s Affirmations The statement “We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges” really made an impression on the group.  Megan talked about Imposter Syndrome and having faith in your abilities, believing that we do have a voice and we are the experts in our field, so we must have a voice.  We are all leaders our own way.  My new friend Kelly Stidham (@kastidham – KDE) posed the question that seemed to sum up our challenges.  Her post it read, “Have we clearly defined what our work is as a profession?”  We were taxed to think about what leadership looked like at our schools, which tied in with something said at my colleague circle that stuck with me, “Is everyone in my building ready to be a leader?”  As I drove home, those two questions took up most of my time.

We met back in our colleague circles again to discuss what work needs to be done in our profession, what the role of the teacher leader looks like, next steps for ECET2, and how we can network.  Josh Roberson (Robertson County) was our closing speaker, addressing “How did I get here?” “Why YES is so Important” and “Are We Professionaly Fit.”

The day was so empowering.  From the speakers to the people at each table to the questioning and challenges, I left feeling like I had a more defined idea of what I wanted my teaching and leadership to look like.  New goals were realized, new friendships were made, and most importantly, I realized how much more there was that Kentucky had to offer it’s students.  We are at the front of the educational movement in this state.  We must not rest on our laurels and continue to push forward with innovative new ideas and fresh thinking.  I’m so honored to be part of that movement.

On a #physed note, I met two amazing physical educators from Central Kentucky.  Melody Hamilton (@WoodfordcntyPE – Woodford County) and Emily Coleman (Fayette County).  Melody will be a presenter at next month’s SDAAPHERD Conference on Teacher Effectiveness.  Meeting other physical and health educators is always so exciting!Image


Connecting the educators in JCPS in positive, solutions-oriented conversations.

Coach Ratliff #physed

Trying to physically educate the world, one person at a time...


A discussion of best practices in the modern Physical Education classroom