Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Google Innovator Ride

I am sitting at the airport waiting for the flight that will take me to Toronto to the Google Innovator Academy. It is hard to believe that just one month ago I was biting my nails and wondering whether I would be accepted. Some people from past cohorts have said that becoming a Google Certified Innovator is the ride of your life. That picture fits my journey so far.

The first part of getting on a ride is to stand next to the marker that lets you know if you are tall enough. Like a kid who can't wait to grow, I have been applying to academies since 2012. Before 2015, they were called the Google Teacher Academy. The application process is rigorous and involves the creation of a video as well as some reflection pieces. I put together an application for the Mountainview academy in 2012, and application for Atlanta or Mountainveiw (one application for two cohorts) in 2014, and an application for the Texas cohort in 2014 as well. some of these applications were completed quickly at the deadline, others were the result of some significant thought and effort. None were accepted. I wasn't tall enough for the ride....yet!

The yet is important, I wasn't giving up. I spent time becoming a Google for Education Trainer in the hopes that this would help. I have no idea whether it does, but it was certainly a great learning process. I watched and waiting for the new Google Innovator Academy model. I completed my Level 1 and Level 2 Educator certificates in the summer of 2015. By the time the application for the first cohort came around in December, I was ready! I spent weeks trying to get everything just right. I was sure that I had it this time, only to find out in January that I still didn't make the cut. By May, I had decided that I would just keep applying forever if I needed to, until they had to accept me. My project proposal for that application was the best yet. The day of the announcements, I was able to spend with Sandra Chow, a Google Innovator whom I admire. I thought it was a great omen. When I finally heard that I still had some growing to do, I was pretty crushed. I think this was the first time I cried at being refused. I was so frustrated at having given it my all and having no idea which piece needed improvement anymore. 

But, if we are willing, we can keep growing, even in adulthood. This summer, I put together yet another application (number 6 for those keeping count - the 7th academy I was applying to), this time for Toronto.  Surely in my home country I stood a chance of being accepted. I listened to the advice from other Innovators in a Google Hangout. I showed pieces to colleagues and asked for feedback and advice. I also made an effort to change the style of video to something very different than what I had done previously and to draw connections between the various reflection pieces. I don't know if my project idea was judged to be more innovative, or whether it was one of these other changes, but this one was accepted! Finally, I would be allowed to ride the ride

Looking back over my applications (and yes, I've kept many of them), I can see the growth in my thinking over time. It is the documenting of this growth, like marking a child's growth on the door frame, that has caused me to leave all the videos from all my applications on my YouTube channel. We don't erase the marks from last year because a child is taller, and the child is not embarrassed by having been smaller. So to with my videos.

So, at the beginning of September, I got in line with the other members of my cohort. Like a really great ride, though we can see glimpses from the line, it is mostly hidden from sight as we wait. Have you ever been on a really great ride with a line filled with stuff to look at, things to think about, and even activities that get you chatting with the people waiting around you? That's what the past month has been like. We have connected together as a cohort and also as a team in solving a Breakout activity together.  We have given each other feedback on our projects, laughed and joked together, and even made T-Shirts!

Finally, today, we reach the front of the line. It is our turn to ride. In about an hour, I will board the ride and buckle up. I believe that the best ride experience is when you go all in. It doesn't matter much where you sit, but you need to give yourself over to the ride and experience it fully. So here is me, letting go and holding my hands way up in the air, getting ready for the ride.


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