The plan was to sneak out and sneak back in. That was the plan...and I almost got away with it.
Before I get to that, I should start at the beginning.
Back in February 2014, I was invited to participate in the BrandED Podcast with +Joe Sanfelippo and +Tony Sinanis. This was quite a thrill. In the days leading up to the podcast I listened to all the previous shows and I tried my best to just relax and be myself. The day finally arrived and Joe & Tony really made life easy. I thought the podcast went really well...feel free to check it out: Identifying the Best School Stories from Best School Storytellers
At the tail end of the podcast @TonySinanis had some very kind words for me and he also mentioned he would be nominating me for Elementary Principal of the Year. I was honored, I'll admit, I was flattered. At the time I didn't give it much thought, shoot how could I? I was in the day-to-day grind mode and everything else was secondary. A few months passed and I noticed the Bammy Nominations were up. I made a point of nominating a few very deserving people, but I did not lobby for any nominations. In fact I downplayed the entire process. Some may ask why. It goes back to the 2013 Bammy's. I read a post by +Pernille Ripp titled: Dear Bammys, Where Did It Go Wrong? After I read this I reached out to some of my closest EDU friends. I did not attend the 2013 Bammy's and I was sad to hear what had occurred. After speaking to a few people I made up my mind. I decided three things:
1) I was going to give the Bammy's another chance. I thought the intentions were good, and we all learn from mistakes. I was confident the Bammy's would be a great event in the future.
2) I was not going to promote myself, I was going to promote Warner Elementary! I viewed the Bammy's as everything that is good in education. Everyday I see great things at Warner. My focus was on our school, not on me.
3) If I had the chance to attend the Bammy's at any point, I had a tough decision to make. Do I attend or not? I was officially torn.
Towards the end of the school year I received notice that I was one of five finalists in the Elementary Principal category. It's important to note that I didn't share this information with anyone. I didn't tell a soul at school, I didn't even tell my wife. I don't exactly know why. I believe it was the fact that I didn't know if I would attend and the simple fact that I don't view myself as the best principal. I see my flaws and I see what areas I need to improve. I admittedly am my own toughest critic. Maybe this is why I didn't share.
After a few weeks, I received an email from the Bammy's. I inadvertently left the email open and my wife happened to see it. It's safe to say she was more excited about the recognition than I was. I couldn't help smiling when I saw her pride and enthusiasm.
In was now mid-summer, we had to finally decide whether or not to attend the 2014 Bammy's. I didn't want to spend a lot, but fortunately my wife found amazingly affordable plane tickets. Once this occurred I figured it was a sign. How many times in your life is this opportunity going to be there? I reserved two tickets to the Bammy's and Amy organized the rest of the trip.
The Friday before we left I had a few people ask me about my weekend plans. I simply told them that Amy and I were going to get away for a quick trip. I was intentionally vague. The next morning we sat waiting out a delay at Detroit Metro. As I killed time I received a handful of texts. Most were from my teachers. The cat was out of the bag. My assumption was Amy shared the details with @PowerofPE and it turns out I was correct. The well wishes were very kind.
Our plane touched down at Dulles International and the day was filled with family and fun. Amy's aunt and uncle picked us up and took us through DC and to lunch. The day was flying by. After they left us for the day I decided to reach out to a few friends that I knew were in DC for the event. Most of my friends were busy in one way or another, but my good friend +Todd Nesloney was available. Todd and I vox often along with +Brad Gustafson. I was really looking forward to seeing Todd face to face. We met in the lobby and chatted for about 45 minutes. I always enjoy spending time with positive people. Todd is easily one of the most positive people you will ever meet!
The event finally arrived. Amy and I walked across the street to wait for the limousine. While waiting several people congregated around each other and began snapping photos and chit chatting. I took my fair share of pics, but I'll admit, I posted nothing. Some may ask why? I didn't want it to be, "Look at me!" I wanted to celebrate all that was great in education.
We finally arrived and walked out onto the red carpet. I got to meet +Rae Pica and +Holly Elissa Bruno. This was very cool! I enjoy their Bam Radio shows and now I got to meet them in person. After about thirty minutes of mingling we finally went in and found our seats.
The event was wonderful. +Kristen Swanson & +Eric Sheninger were witty, funny and professional hosts. The Junior Orchestra really impressed me and I felt truly uplifted. This was exactly what I hoped it would be...Everything that is great in education!
My favorite part of the night had to be the 3i Talks. Each one of these talks inspired, motivated and lifted me up. The 2014 Bammy's got it right! As I sat there I simply thought, if everyone got to see this, they would feel good about the place education is in.
As the event came to a close we all shuffled out into the main hall. It was there that I got to have some of the best conversations. I talked with +Victoria Day, +Tom Murray, +Salome Thomas-EL, +Jeff Zoul, +Joe Sanfelippo, +Tony Sinanis, +Billy Krakower +Jason Markey, +Erin Klein, +Laura Gilchrist, +Amanda Dykes, +Todd Nesloney and others. To meet and talk with so many inspiring people really motivated me. I constantly empower educators to "Be The Change!" Now it was on me...
Just before I was getting ready to leave I made a point to find Errol St. Clair Smith
( @BamRadioNetwork ). For those of you that don't know, Errol is really the brains behind the Bammy's. He's the one that took an idea, a vision and created a reality. I found Errol and told him that the 2014 Bammy's got it right. I was so uplifted and inspired by the 3i Talks, the Junior Orchestra, the speeches and the atmosphere. I told Errol that I wasn't sure what to expect and that I didn't share my nomination with anyone other than my wife. I told him that I came because everyone deserves a second chance. I ended the conversation by thanking Errol for celebrating the great things in education.
I was wrong to not share this with my staff. My intention was to not focus on myself, but in hindsight Warner is my family. I should have allowed them to know that they were being represented at the Bammy's. It wasn't about me, it was about the greatness that we all have achieved. Just like the Bammy's I continue to learn, grow and improve. If you ever have the opportunity to attend I encourage you to go. I bet you'll leave feeling good about what is happening in education.
The story ends with my attempt to sneak back into Warner Monday morning. It was approximately 9:30am and I was hoping to pull in, get out and begin to assist teachers with our NWEA assessments. But that's not what happened. As I turned the corner I saw the entire school lining the driveway. They were waiting for me. I was shocked, surprised and blown away. I got out of my car and walked towards the school. The cheers, hugs, high fives and fist bumps will forever be a memory in my mind. The entire school was decorated with banners and music was playing. I didn't return with a Bammy award, but that didn't matter. I was proud to represent Warner Elementary, I was proud to represent The Western School District and I was proud to be an educator. As I look back, the Bammy's were about much more than me. It was about our staff, students, community and my supportive family. All of these pieces help make me who I am.
Articles Worth Reading:
My Take On The 2014 #Bammy Awards @TechNinjaTodd
Celebration and Compassion in Education @amandacdykes