It Happened for a Reason: Reflections on #GTAATX

IMG_4411I believe that things happen for a reason. The reason isn’t always clear to me at first, but as days progress and thoughts process, the reasons start to unravel and become revealed. Rewind to spring of this year— I was pretty disappointed when I didn’t get accepted into the Google Teacher Academy at Mountain View. The timing (summer) was perfect, and the location (California) even more-so. But I knew that there was a reason why I wasn’t accepted into that cohort, and I promised myself that I’d apply for the Austin, Texas cohort. Fail forward, right? So after learning I was accepted to Austin, I started looking for the reasons. Slowly but surely, I’m discovering the reasons why I believe I was meant to be a part of this particular group, and I’ll probably learn more reasons as relationships continue to develop.

Social Media as The Great Equalizer

From the moment we were accepted, we became a team. We connected through different social media channels, such as Google+, Twitter, and Voxer. I was a Voxer newbie, and frankly I still am to some degree, but that didn’t stop me. I wanted to be part of the conversation early on, and I’m so glad that we all dove in head-first. We talked about everything from gym habits to choice beverages to district technology practices. It made meeting face-to-face for the first time feel like a reunion with old camp friends that I hadn’t seen since the summer before. The feeling that we were a team, even though I didn’t know a single other person in the cohort before the academy, is just one reason why I believe I was put into the Austin cohort.

Tools and Problem Solving

Interestingly, I didn’t have too many expectations about what would happen going into the GTA. I figured we’d learn some cool and different ways to use Google tools, get to know one another a little, make a plan to do something upon our return, and have a good time. I knew it would be awesome and I’d feel mind-blown the whole time, and it was and I did, but not in the way that I thought I would. We spent a lot of time identifying a problem that is important to us in our roles within our districts or schools, and we used the design thinking method to come up with a statement of purpose for a project we want to tackle.

Photo: Danny Silva

Working hard to consider the issues I face. Photo: Danny Silva

We collaborated for feedback on our ideas and we helped each other work through that process. We walked away with the beginnings of a plan. I had already started a project in my district that was the beginning of this plan, but now I am better equipped to consider everything I want to do with my plan to move it forward, and I have people I can call on for feedback and conversation surrounding my plan, because so many of us are taking on the same issues. There’s some comfort in that, and those connections are another reason why I believe I was put together with this group of educators.

Effective Feedback Makes Things Happen

Effective Feedback allows for a creator to iterate. When feedback is, “this is good,” it doesn’t give the creator anywhere to go. When feedback is more like, “Have you considered doing this?” or “Think about this from a different perspective…”, well, now we’re talking. During the GTA, I put my big idea out to a group of like-minded educators with similar passions and the desire to make similar changes in the world.

Photo: Amy Mayer

Look at all that collaboration! Photo: Amy Mayer

Even though I have a start at my moonshot idea, there are perspectives that I hadn’t considered, and there are aspects of my project that could use some improvement. I am not sure where in my plan the improvements will happen quite yet, but I have a better understanding about where my project is going thanks to the effective feedback and thoughtful questions that I got from my peers at the GTA. Yet another reason.

We’re All in This Together (sing it with me!)

There have been numerous times over the past few years when I have listened to or participated in conversations with other teachers that have left me feeling… unsettled. I didn’t like what I was hearing, but I didn’t contribute my own ideas because they were so far outside of the reality of the conversation that I just didn’t want to have to explain my thinking or be looked upon as crazy, jaded, and idealistic.  I have always know that there are others nearby and far away who are just like I am—idealistic (and maybe a little crazy). They are willing to speak up and stand up for what they believe in order to turn our ideals into reality. I know now for certain that I am not alone and that like-minded educators are just a few clicks away. This is probably the most important thing that I learned at the Google Teacher Academy.

Photo: Amy Mayer

Team #FancyFruit! Photo: Amy Mayer

In the End, It’s All About…

… the connections. It’s always been about the connections for me. I’m so fortunate to have spent time in Austin, Texas, with my cohort and new friends. It was fun, and it was crazy, and it was difficult, and it was challenging, but most of all, it was inspiring. I can’t wait to see where we all go with our moonshot ideas and I hope we’ll be able to work toward them together!

Photo: Danny Silva

Photo: Danny Silva


  1. Suzie Wilburn says:

    Amazing! Team #FancyFruit forever. I am so glad we were able to work (& sing) together. Keep up the great work!

  2. Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson) says:

    Go Team #FancyFruit – so great to share this experience with you, Jody! Here’s to many more!! :)

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