“Find Your Tribe, Love Them Hard.” ~Danielle LaPorte

October 24, 2018 by

Brenda Vogds

In 2009, I attended my first iNACOL conference. It was in Austin, Texas and at the time, I was serving in a K-12 Technology Coordinator role. I was working in the Kettle Moraine School District in Wales, WI, where we were working on our first charter grant that would allow us to offer some online course components in relation to a Global Learning experience. I remember walking into the iNACOL opening reception and immediately knowing I was in the right place. The room buzzed with conversations that spoke of the day when learners would be the focus. Lots of “imagine if’s” were spoken.  Imagine if we didn’t have to track learners by grade. Imagine if learners could get credit for what they knew. Imagine if we didn’t have to teach chapter by chapter. Imagine if. The words imagine if were not passive, dreamer’s terms, they were an active engagement into a greater conversation about how we will change this world for every learner.

As I walked the halls of the convention center, listening to faint old country tunes, I remembered those early years where the pressures of more accountability were weighing on us while the dreams of a better tomorrow for all learners kept us hopeful. Just nine years later, I sat through presentation after presentation where I listened to stories told by learners, educators, parents, and administrators. I heard questions about, “How does your budgeting have to change in order to support his work? What data are you collecting to show the success? Where do you start? What keeps you going?” These journeys spoke of failures, successes, lessons learned, research, and scalability models where personalized, competency based education is no longer a “Imagine If” but a real reality that is causing the hopefuls all over the world to have these deep inquiries.

The next iteration of this work brings a deeper, more connected education charge by challenging the new norms of the system. What does equity look like in this newly defined personalized, competency-based system? How will we make this a right of EVERY child we serve? We may not have all the answers right now, but we sure do have the best of the best working to find them. (See Getting Smart’s Show What You Know: A Landscape Analysis of Competency-Based Education.)

Ironically, as I write this the words of John Michael Montgomery popped into my head:

Life’s a Dance

When I was fourteen I was falling fast

For a blue eyed girl in my homeroom class

Trying to find the courage to ask her out

Was like trying to get oil from a waterspout

What she would have said I can’t say

I never did ask and she moved away

But I learned something from my blue eyed girl

Sink or swim you gotta give it a whirl

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

The longer I live the more I believe

You do have to give if you want to receive

There’s a time to listen, a time to talk

And you might have to crawl even after you walk

Had sure things blow up in my face

Seen the longshot, win the race

Been knocked down by the slamming door

Picked myself up and came back for more

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

I’ve already cleared my calendar for October 2019; I’ve begun thinking about presentations and ways I can give back to all of you, my tribe. I can’t wait to hear the stories of your journeys, failures, successes, scalability, and clearer pathways to educational equity. Let’s keep picking ourselves up, as our learners deserve us to come back for more.

See also:

About the Author

Brenda Vogds has 18 years of experiences in educational roles in both Wisconsin and Minnesota; including beginning her career as a Business and Marketing Educator, an Instructor in the College of Education at UW-Whitewater, K-12 Technology Coordinator, an Elementary School Principal and the Leader of Personalized Learning and Innovation for the Secondary Schools. She was a key leader in the beginning phases of Competency Based Education in the Kettle Moraine School District, worked directly with learners and educators in the Eastern Carver County School District where the district is working to make personalized learning a reality for all students. Brenda is currently serving as the Director of the Institute for Personalized Learning. Twitter: @teachinb

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