What I Was Doing When My Job Was Cut.

Something very interesting happened to me at our last School Board meeting and I’ve been contemplating how I was going to share this and with whom. Then I thought, why not find the learning opportunity in this event and share it with those in whom I have been learning the most in hopes that I could continue to learn.

First, by way of background it is important for readers to know that I work as both the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for SAU 16 in Exeter, NH (3+ days per week) and as an administrator at the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (2 days per week). At December’s Board meeting, my Asst. Superintendent’s position was officially reduced to part-time for 2010-2011 school year, meaning that there is no “full-time” position for me at the SAU next year. All of this was not unexpected and I am not sharing this story to stir debate about the merit of the full-time Asst. Superintendent position. More interesting to me is my role in that meeting (or lack there of) and an asynchronous conversation I had while attending the meeting.

Like most Board meetings, I was simply a bystander. As an Assistant Superintendent, I only speak when called upon at these meetings and, predictably I wasn’t called upon while the fate of my position was being discussed. Earlier in the meeting, however, while other business was being discussed, I read this post by David Warlick about backchannelling and wrote a comment about my experiences learning in the backchannel. The following day I received an email from “David” asking if he could use my comments in an upcoming book of his.

So, here’s the irony… As I sat in the same physical room with those discussing the future of my position without the option to comment, I participated in an asynchronous discussion with a leading thinker and driver of conversations in which he valued my comments so much that he is asking me for my permission to use them in his book. This was something that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing a year ago, after all, why would David Warlick be interesting in what I have to say? The idea of putting myself “out there” was so foreign for fear of being vulnerable to scrutiny and/or ridicule.

But, the real irony here is that in a face to face conversation, where I had no say and no vote, I learned little. In a virtual conversation, where I had all the say that I wanted, where there was no hierarchical structure to limit my voice or maintain order, where I had no “face” or personal connection with others participating, I learned more about the power of connective technologies and my voice in them. It only helped solidify in my mind the power of these technologies to reach beyond my physical limitations and be part of a much larger, and frankly more important conversation.

I’m wondering what experiences others have had in realizing the global connectivity of their PLN’s. Have others had a similar experience as I had, ones in which being a participant and being transparent has allowed you to grow beyond the fear of showing your vulnerabilities?  Please share.

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9 Responses to What I Was Doing When My Job Was Cut.

  1. Wow! While the basis of this post is a disappointing one, I was so engaged in your reflection. It speaks to the strength of our PLNs. I agree that it is often scary to put our thoughts out there but there are smart people out there reading/listening to what you and the rest of us have to say. The strength of those relationships is what will move us forward in our thinking and learning.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. November 2005. I had been commenting on blogs and doing a bit of it myself, but had never really “met” any of my online “friends” face-to-face. I had a huge hunch that this stuff was “something”, but it was still incredibly early in sorting out this “PLN” concept.

    I reached the end of my patience with my job as technology director in a school district of about 5,000. By all accounts I had reached the “peak” of my career. To say I was miserable was an understatement. I knew I had to pull the trigger and do something drastic.

    I quit. Went in the Monday after Thanksgiving and gave 2 weeks notice. Seriously.

    2 hours after giving notice I got a call from Steve Dembo wanting to know if I was interested in working for Discovery. Seriously. I was at rock bottom and I had folks watching my back.

    Interestingly, I was registered for a conference the next weekend. I chose to attend if, for no other reason, I could pass the news to a number of colleagues that I had learned from during the first 9 years.

    I met Tim Wilson for the first time at this conference and we shared lunch. Doug Johnson caught me before the conference and asked that I grab dinner with him that evening. The next day this Will Richardson guy called Tim to say that he’d be in the area over the holidays visiting family and that he’d like to catch dinner with Tim and I.

    Two weeks later we met for dinner. I had just quit my job. Tim (an Instructional Technology guy at the time) had just been given notice that his position would be gone in June. Will was thinking (and a month later announced) that he’d be leaving the system to go at this solo. Three guys, seemingly at the peaks of their careers, all giving it up with absolutely NOTHING but “blogs” and “ideas”.

    Despite Will’s constant “angst”, Tim’s near-dead blog (http://technosavvy.org/), and me resorting to stupid bacon jokes and cat movies, all three of us made it out alive. We often overestimate the amount of change that can happen in 1 year and underestimate what we are capable of in 5 years.

    You have connections. More importantly, you have a good sense and a taste of what this is all about. Keep it up! :o)

    • tbaldasaro says:

      John, thanks for sharing your story. I truly look at this as more of an opportunity than a tragedy. The opportunity, of course, is to achieve some level of discomfort from which I can grow and I look forward connecting more deeply with my PLN.

  3. Derek says:

    Tony,
    Thank you for sharing such a personal matter but important topic via your blog. Can’t help but think about the name of your blog, be it transformative or transparent. You introduced me to twitter 2 1/2 years ago and it never really took hold. I recently updated my digital world with a Droid smartphone. I can’t put into words how this has change my perception of PLNs. I’m now more connected and eager to dive into this digital world. Why is that a. 3.7 inch screen has pulled me into a world I only dabbled in before? Is it the versatility of the phone? Is it a novelty that will pass with time? How do I leverage this initial euphoria of twittering, devouring my Google reader feeds and responding to blog entries into a PLN? By their very nature online PLNs are quite fluid; whereas f2f plns can become stagnant over time. Perhaps what you experienced at the school board was just that: stagnant, archaic bureaucracy.

    • tbaldasaro says:

      Derek,

      I appreciate your comments and letting me know what impact a conversation that we had two+ years ago has had in your professional life.

  4. Tony thanks for sharing this post. I think it speaks clearly to the changing world of education. Imagine a school committee meeting with back-channeling?

    I think my first aha moment re: global connectivity came when I wrote a blog post about Curtis Bonk’s The World Is Open and then received an e-mail the next morning. Since then, I have connected with so many phenomenal educators (like you) who have helped me realize that it is not only OK, but it is essential that we share our struggles and our successes publicly. In the end, this is the only way we can continue to change our schools for the better (for our children)!

  5. monika hardy says:

    Wow. Nice post man.

    Very happy for you – because you’re celebrating things that seem to be much more important in the scheme of things. (I know a job is important, not ignoring that loss.) – or is it a loss? I remember a while back you were looking for a bigger audience… now Dave Warlick is approaching you.. something’s working…

    Anyway.. have to add just a bit here.

    I totally agree with you on the value of virtual conversations. These pln’s allow us to connect via passion – rather than just geography – and there really is no way to even quantify the possibilities there.

    2010 – what a great start for you .. for all of us.

  6. Rob Batchelder says:

    Welcome to the world of most educators. For many years I have been present in department, school board, and various other important meetings while decisions about curriculum, teaching pedagogy, and my goals were discussed and decided without any input from me. It is unfortunate that this is still happening and I agree that sometimes virtual conversations help eliminate the hierarchy of a formal meeting. However, the bigger picture is not eliminating the face to face interaction but learning to actually entertain opposing ideas…something sorely lacking in SAU16. We need to teach students and ourselves to interact properly and professionally in person before we can accomplish anything meaningful via a virtual world. I am sorry to hear about the way you were informed of the loss of at least part of your job but some things never change…good luck in the future.

  7. RjWassink says:

    I’m in a similar (yet very different) position right now. I’ve been unsatisfied with my job for the past few years and have actively been seeking something else local. However, due to some recent changes in my life I’ve broadened my scope to include anywhere in any country that speaks English. Every year I say that I’m going to “just quit”, but I haven’t yet.

    Anyhow, to make a long story short… I’ve recently applied for a 1-year leave of absence (which is really just a security blanket in case everything else goes wrong). I’ve got so many Ed Tech ideas, PLN contacts, and friends (some of which are in my PLN) that I feel comfortable leaving my job of 7 years to do my own thing. Last year I never would’ve felt secure leaving my job…

    PLNs are empowering. I hope this works out the best for both of us!
    -Ryan

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