My [Bumpy] Road to #COL16

I think it was almost three years that I discovered that you could become a Google Certified Teacher, an educator that got prestigious training at Google Headquarters and got to collaborate with some of the most innovator educators in the world. Even though I was still in my first year of teaching and was just learning the potential that Google and edtech had in my classroom, I knew that one day I wanted to become a Google Certified Teacher.

Flash forward to January 2016: Google had revamped its Training Center and "Google Certified Teachers" were now Google Certified Innovators. I was eagerly awaiting my email from Google about whether I had been accepted into #MTV16, the first cohort for the new program to meet in Mountain View. Even though I knew that getting accepted into the prestigious Google program typically required multiple applications, I still hoped that maybe I would somehow get in on the first try.

When it came to the application, I had trouble coming up with choosing a problem to focus on; my head was still spinning from adjusting to life at Minarets high School, which differed so much from my two years at Woodlake High School. Some of my colleagues and myself were having an issue with communicating with students who were outside working on projects so I based on my innovative project on that. I was never totally in love with my vision for the Project Passes because it had a lot of weaknesses; I knew that many schools were not PBL-based like my own and that it wasn't totally 'Google' but I still ran with it.

Here's the presentation of the project. The video is at the end. *Cringe*

Well, it turned out that #MTV16 was not in the cards for me. I was really disappointed in myself that I didn't get in. I was kicking myself because I knew my project wasn't my greatest idea, my video was not as professional and polished as I hoped, and my answers on the application could have been stronger. The failure definitely stung.

I'm always telling my students that failure is the first attempt in learning and that its ok to fail. I myself still have trouble dealing with failure, hence the name of my blog. I knew that this failure was my first attempt in learning to become a Google Innovator and that I needed to reflect on my mistakes to correct them for next time. I decided to take a week or two to clear my mind of Google Innovator so I would be fresh and ready for the next time.

After my very short mental break [I was itching to fix my mistakes], I did a somewhat creepy thing and watched all of the applicants' videos that were accepted into #MTV16. It only took about three videos for me to realize my biggest, most glaring mistake: my project wasn't truly focused on helping students, teachers, or even education as a whole. Instead it dealt more with a minor annoyance and it  wouldn't alter education for anyone in a positive way. This was the classic 'aha' moment when suddenly everything clicked together and made sense; it was the lesson that I needed to learn from my failure.

As I reflected on the new information I gained and my experiences in teaching, I began to think about meaningful problem that I wanted to fix in education. It was during this time that I noticed that at both Minarets High School and Woodlake High School most parents had little to no understanding of technology. When I started at Minarets, I assumed that parents wouldn't have problems with technology but I quickly discovered that they had more problems because EVERYTHING that related to their student's education was reliant on technology that they didn't have training in. That was when my innovative project was born:

With my new vision, I began to work on my second application to become a Google Innovator - even though the application for the second cohort hadn't been announced. Looking back on my first application, I realized that many of my responses to the questions were general, which isn't great when you only have 500 characters to impress the readers. I rewrote my responses to make them specific and concise; thankfully the questions the second time around didn't differ too much from the first time. 

Once my application was ready, I submitted it and I felt significantly more confident about my application responses, my vision deck, and even my innovation video. I think it also helped my nerves that I submitted everything early rather than rushing the night before like I did before.

Flash forward again to last Friday when the announcement for #COL16 (the second Google Innovator cohort that's to be in Colorado) was announced. The announcement for #MTV16 was made in the afternoon so I trying to mentally prepare myself to have a few more hours of patience. I definitely DID NOT *sarcasm*  keep obsessively checking my email every few minutes from the time I woke up. Then I heard the whistle of my phone and glanced to see that I got an email. My heart rate increased significantly as I opened the email. I knew that if I was accepted I would get the pretty colorful email rather than the plain one that I got last time. Of course, I was going through an area with poor reception (no I wasn't driving....that would be a terrible example to set...) so it took forever to load. Then I saw it: the colorful banner.

I frantically called my boyfriend and my family to share the news. I literally ran into the office and my colleagues there cheered and hugged me. For the rest of the day, I was pretty much dizzy from excitement and adrenaline. Need me to cover that class? Sure, no problem. Need to pay $200 to change my flight from Denver? You got, Delta Airlines. Haven't listened to any instructions I've given about your final project? Sure, I'll re-explain it.  
But the absolute BEST part of being accepted into #COL16 is all of the awesome educators that I get to collaborate with at the Google Headquarters in Boulder, Colorado this June. Even though its only been two days since our acceptance, we have already started bonding, collaborating, and creating awesome t-shirts and stickers. 

Looking back, I'm so thankful that I wasn't accepted with my first application. I know how easy that is to say when the sting of failure has faded and it has been cancelled out with my now acceptance, but its true. For starters, there were lessons that I needed to learn in order to discover an innovative project that I was truly passionate about. The failure also made my eventual success so much more rewarding and powerful.  Of course, this isn't to say that I now love failure, but my road to #COL16 reminded me how valuable failure is in learning. 

37 Days until #COL16


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