A Seat at the Table
We've had the opportunity to reflect with members of Design Team 1 at various stages of our process. This piece, by InspirED Fellow Dallas Johnston, was written after our initial community kick-off call in early September. This week we just completed a Process Talk with our community on how it's going; we thought it would be a good moment to reflect backwards as we prepare to also chart our next steps ahead.
A Seat at the Table
Dallas Johnston, Inspired Global Fellow
I have sat at many different tables. To some, I have been invited. To others, I have nonchalantly unpacked my folding chair and invited myself. Early in my career, I sat back quirty, accepting my position in whatever empty corner I could find. As my vision and philosophy evolved, my confidence grew. Slowly I inched myself nearer the tables, sometimes participation, sometimes observing. To this day, I still seem to be draggin that chair, so my voice can be heard.
As a veteran educator, I have had the opportunity to evolve and grow through some amazing professional learning experiences, from a circle of colleagues both in person and over social media, and by participating in a variety of fellowships and cohorts. I am thankful for every opportunity I have had. I never take for granted the conversations I have been part of, and the changes I have been able to contribute to, even in the smallest way.
The InspirED Global Fellowship has entered my professional life at the right time. I am hungry to be innovative without being jaded. Truthfully, I have exited past opportunities feeling like I was hollowed out instead of professionally nurtured. My desire to be innovative, to drive change, to advocate, and to grow as a professional leads me to seek out opportunities to do so. Although I have taken something positive from each experience, I am still here, pushing the same narrative, unfolding the same chair, just to new ears and new tables.
I was encouraged and inspired that our InspirED Community Kick-off call opened up a space for the fellows to not only learn from the participants, but to hear their messages of encouragement and support. Having educators and education advocates from all over the spectrum makes me hopeful. Hopeful that, we as fellows, will build out innovative prototypes and that the community will embrace, support, and even critique our ideas with the goal of moving forward together to make our system stronger and better.
It is not the books they have written, or the titles that they have that instills gratitude in me, it is the simple fact that when “experts” and leaders truly engage and truly listen, I am inspired to keep fighting the good fight.
As we move through the various inevitable iterations of design thinking, I am confident that if any team of educators can move the needle, it is this one. Not only are the fellows themselves motivated, smart, passionate, and forward thinking, the team at Nevada Succeeds and the other community members seem to genuinely accept that we have the potential to have an impact.
Above all else, this matters to me. I have no shame dragging my folding chair around, I’ve been doing it for quite some time. I will pop that chair up at any table that I can. My chair has seated me at a desk with multiple state superintendents. My chair has placed me directly across from two U.S. Secretaries of Education. I temporarily had a chair at a desk at the Nevada Dept. of Education. I will keep adding blocks to the building that is my professional life, and I will continue to pack my chair and show up at all the tables. I am proud to be sitting at this one at this time, and I hope that our community partners and advocates will continue to support our vision after the video conference ends, after the panel discussion is over. Here’s hoping that together we will all drag in chairs and collectively build a table that serves as a place to feast on a new and better way to serve children and improve our educational ecosystem.