Superintendents Fail Too

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So I have to tell you, I hate the word “epic”.  I hate that everybody and anybody just throws the word epic around with every association.  But I have to admit, this past weekend was an EPIC FAIL. Yes, I typically am very hard on myself, but this weekend, I’m still scratching my head. How can this be so bad?

Just what could be so bad?  This past weekend, I presented at a Superintendent’s Summit in the midwest. I consult form time to time (don’t worry, I won’t plug my book every 3 seconds or tell you to register for a conference every 3 tweets) and was contacted by a  buddy from college who said “the group is in need a of crash course to get them to today’s times / 2.0”.  I surveyed the group and got a myriad of results to form a light agenda. I created it, and took on a whole new approach.

I used the app TOUT to get the message out. I used google docs for the agenda; I placed everything and anything on there. The response seemed excited, and then Friday at 8:30 came.

Within 15 minutes, I knew is was in trouble.  Do you remember a lesson that you did and about ten minutes into it you realized you need to completely change course? That was this; but a different vibe all together.  Conferences and traveling workshops are suppose to be full of excitement; this was like a bingo hall with nobody winning bingo, just calling number after number with no results.

I encountered anger, frustration, and a negative tidal wave.  Amongst other comments (within the first hour) include:

  • What is a PLN?
  • What is Twitter and really, who cares about it?
  • Common Core is a waste
  • All of this will pass
  • When is lunch?  How long is lunch?
  • Do we have to do all of this?

My agenda was aggressive to say the least.  I honestly got about ten percent done after seven hours of extensive, exhaustive dialogue.  I was so wiped out that I did’t even venture out to really take in Denver or even meet up with members of my PLN (or the #NJED folks that were there at another conference).

Forget about Days 2 & 3 of the agenda; I was still trying to get maybe 30% of Day 1 completed.

I got back to my room Friday night and was completely baffled, angry, and felt like a complete failure.  My presentation bombed.  Big time.  How could I be in this spot?  Then I started thinking ….


I tell my students and teachers all of the time:  FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.


Instead of beating myself up, I started to re-assess and create a new battle plan. I dug, messaged, voxed, and dug deep to find the arsenal of resources to use with this seasoned crowd.  To be honest, I leaned a lot on being a Superintendent and that I can just relate.  Not so much.  Not even close.

I went back in Saturday morning, supercharged and super fierce.  They saw me, and I saw them – – it at first it looked like a wild west stare-down (cue tumbleweed and this music:).

I guess the old boys club thought they scared me off.  Little did they know that I’m a Jersey Boy… it takes a lot more than them to scare me off.

We went at it again. I weaved in take-aways, I demonstrated live chats, I even reached a consensus and gave them paper copies of some stuff.

The highlight of the day, that afternoon, a few quietly approached me and said thank you.  They felt the actual papers in hand was something tangible they can bring back.

In all, it was no where near what I wanted it to be, but I have to realize that we are all different learners (something that I preach) and that some of us learn the crockpot way (low-n-slow).  I guess I need to read (and follow) my own stuff more often!


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