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Fast Colours

Favourite Colours

“I like all colours – even girl colours!”

grandson Mr Four exclaimed. 
Tiny artist at work

The audio from the latest family video shocked me. In no way did it reflect the values of our young family. The scene was set outside their home where Miss Two and Mr Four were painting their posters and chatting about their artworks with their mum.

Mr Four had been a bundle of excitement that morning. His mum recalled how he leapt through the doorway to the shoe store to pick out his new sneakers. Shrieking with excitement, Mr Four pointed to the pair he wanted but the well meaning shop attendant shattered his enthusiasm and instead, brought him a pair of “sensible” black sneakers to inspect.

“Not those shoes dear, they are girl colours”.

helpful shop attendant

With one careless throwaway remark, the shop attendant had altered Mr Four’s perception and choice. Miss Two sat on a chair nearby swinging her legs and taking in the whole scene. It was a moment in time where a young impressionable audience had been introduced to stereotypical talk that could shape their future.

Standing alone and downcast, Mr Four looked miserable until his mum encouraged him to ask the attendant to bring out the shoes he liked the best so he could try them on for size and fit.

Apparently there was much glaring activity that literally went over the children’s heads.

Mr Four threw his shoulders back and stood tall in his new kicks while Miss Two squatted down to inspect the fit with an expertly aimed poke at the toe of each sneaker. When asked to walk to the end of the store and back, Mr Four crouched into a race start and exploded into a noisy blur around the fitting chairs. Leaping back into his mother’s arms he breathlessly announced that these sneakers were his favourite.

Mr Four wearing his ‘fast shoes’

When asked why, he gleefully responded: “because these ones are fast colours and will help me run my fastest”

Children are receptive to the influence of dated concepts from people they meet in their world and making it that much harder for parents to counteract.

By the time children start their formal schooling, they have been exposed to corrosive stereotypical conversations that can shape not only their behaviour but the lens through which they view their world.

As adults we have a powerful platform to help children view themselves, how they fit in their world and how they perceive others .

What language are you using to help your students develop mindfulness that challenge stereotypical views?

Post Academy BLUES

#SYD19 Cohort, Team Coaches & Program Managers

Today is October 4th 2019 and it is the 5th month anniversary of becoming a Google Innovator at #SYD19 – the very first academy of 2019. 

Soon to follow us were the London, Tokyo, Singapore Academies and now the New York cohort has become brand new Innovators. We are currently watching Twitter posts to welcome the Sweden and Brazil cohorts to the ever growing Innovator family.

Innovation noun, in·no·va·tion—the introduction of something new; a new idea, method, or device.

Webster’s dictionary

If you are a Google Innovator then you will clearly remember the build up to the Innovator Academy Event. Weeks of planning your submission, being accepted and then spending time becoming part of the cohort through  online meetings, discussions and of course getting to know your future colleagues via hangout and Twitter.

First time meeting old friends #SYD19

Meeting your cohort for the first time as old friends at the Academy Event is packed full of energy, PD, selfies, Innovator swag and creative brainstorming with like-minded people.

But then … just like that … it’s all over…

You are on a flight home to a community that may not fully grasp what you’ve experienced.

This emotional fallout after such an event is real. In fact, psychologist Eileen Kennedy refers to it as “Post-Adrenaline Blues”.

Innovators! Start innovating…

So what can Innovators do to get back on track after dedicating so much energy during the Academy days and hyper-focussing on every detail of the project.

Here are a few tips from my research and more from my Innovator buddies:

Be gentle with yourself

Remember you are AWESOME (still can’t say that without a Stuart Kelly NZ accent). You were chosen from applications around the world to join this elite community and you deserve a rest – just for a little while. Take in a few early nights or a quiet stroll to ponder this wonderful experience.

Be grateful

Be grateful for this incredible opportunity. Recap on those things that inspired you and thank those people who made it so successful for you. Create a few tweets or write a blog post to show your gratitude for the honour of attending your Google Academy. Adam Hill did just that after our Sydney Academy.

Be connected

Abid Patel from #LON19 reminded me that to keep connected is key. Galen Rosenberg (#SYD19) says that a physical reminder is good – his RasperryPi smart screen rotates through all our pics from #SYD19. Like me, ѕteve sмιтн and Lance Key still have our hangout notifications turned on!

Regular interaction with your mentor, team and cohort via Twitter and Google Hangouts builds momentum for you and your project. Our #SYD19 hangout is a space where we run out our ideas and test our prototypes. Sometimes it feels like a marathon but your buddies are there like welcome drink stations!

For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.

Margaret Heffernan

Be rewarded

YES – you did it! You deserve to reward yourself with something that makes you happy.

Be a goal setter

Bring purpose back into this next phase of your Innovator journey. Your project may come to life very quickly or it may change course. That’s OK. Just draft out some goals in your planner or calendar to help motivate you to bring energy and inspiration into your project and work.

Innovation is the calling card of the future.

Anna Eshoo

If you are thinking about applying for the Google Innovator Program then check my recent blog post to give you some ideas and motivation. Find more information about the application process on Google’s Teacher Centre.

You won’t regret your decision to apply for the most incredible PD experiences of your career. Please email me if you need some inspiration ( Follow me on Twitter to see how #GoogleEI communicates and supports each other.

The Waiting Room

Strange things happen in a waiting room.

Recently I had an all day session in a waiting room at the Eye Clinic. Successful outcome but still a long day.

The staff were helpful and considerate and the venue was both comfortable and cheerful.

But there is nothing like a long day of medically induced blindness to open the mind to the possibility of what total dependence on others might feel like. 

Here’s what unfolded:

The first waiting room was the ‘people sorting room’. Clients were escorted by welcoming staff into a variety of secondary waiting rooms according to what specialist they were assigned or for scheduled treatment.

My ‘second’ waiting room offered comfortable chairs and a vantage point to watch staff scurrying purposefully between treatment rooms. I noticed they went about their routines without making eye contact and my only guess was that they were avoiding all our expectant ‘pick me next’ looks. 

The process required multiple rounds of eye drops, assessments and re-encounters with the waiting room. Our ‘client’ demeanour slowly changed into the appearance of ‘patients’ as shuffled back to our chairs to wait.

The realisation

Totally bored with my induced temporary blindness I peered around the waiting room and suddenly realised there was an abundance of reading material available!

How could any patient read the advertisement posters adorning the walls? The topics were unreadable, the images undetectable. The magazines remained untouched and neatly stacked on every table top.  Even the politely muted TV talk show offered stark white captioning for the patients in the waiting room. 

As the day progress the patients began to morph into ‘inmates’. Now imprisoned by temporary blindness and wild imagination of the diagnosis we now stared blankly at our shoes.

The escape plan

My first escape plan involved listening to my current audio book on my iPhone but that thought was dashed with the realisation that I had left my earphones in the car and had no idea where to locate my husband. Using the speaker was not an option because I feared the next chapter was the long awaited passionate event between the two lead characters. About time I thought – but not really the time or place.

My second escape plan from my confinement came in the guise of a tour of the toilets. The thought of testing the efficiency of the soap dispenser, experimenting with the flow of the automatic taps and making informed comparisons of the hand dryer seemed like a good idea for a while. However, it dawned on me that with my loss of independence, a cheery assistant would be employed to oversee my transit. My appeal for parole was temporarily shelved but I smirked a smile of satisfaction at the possibility of a brief opportunity to escape from the waiting room. 

The challenge
Purring crazy cat by @iMerinet
Purring crazy cat by @iMerinet

I thought of the crazy fabric creation fashioned by my friend Meridith Ebbs at #HopperDownUnder and knew it would have given me a welcomed distraction.

Imagine a rack of student created tactile books. Prototypes containing pages with lights, buzzers and vibrations intended for use in assistive technology for blind children.

Or a table with simple plug-n-play audio magazine devices. Students are always keen for a captive audience (using the term with vigour) to provide feedback on their design projects.

This could be a real problem scenario for your students to consider and put on their design thinking hats to identify the problem in a variety of “How might we …” statements.

What are your thoughts? Add them to the comments below and subscribe to keep up with more great ideas and think-alouds.

Thinking of Applying for Google Innovator?

……. Just Do It!

Back in January 2019 I quietly set myself a personal goal to apply for the for Education Google Trainer Badge. In March my boss phoned me to say that there was an ‘interesting’ event at Sydney’s Google Headquarters in May and asked me if I would like to attend. His email came through while we were still on the phone and one quick glance stopped me mid sentence.  “Starve the lizards!” This ‘event’ was the #SYD19 Google Innovator Academy which is a globally BIG event!

Currently there are just over 1700 Innovators around the world who advocate for innovative technologies and drive school transformation.

After several days of the predictable downward spiral of self doubt, fear and anxiety, I saw that the application process was an excellent learning curve and at the very least, a fantastic opportunity to fine tune my yearly goal. I realised that I was wasting energy into fretting instead of being proactive and just get on with the application. Why do we do this to ourselves? Honestly: don’t fall for the imposter syndrome! If you have read up to this point then you are interested in applying for the next Google Innovator Program. 

Beginning the application can be a little daunting but once you start, the momentum can lift you and take you through to the finish. Doubts, fear, and uncertainty will always be present but don’t let it undermine your attempt to join inspiring educators from around the world. Brene Brown perfectly outlines this in her book ‘Dare to Lead’ when she writes: “You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Embrace the suck.” During the ‘rumbling with vulnerability’ stages I have found that my new favourite phrase is: ‘Just Do It’. This has helped me when I lack the courage to take that first step. 

Here are a few ‘Just Do It’ tips and I hope it helps you to fine tune your Google Innovators application. 

DO complete your Level 2 Google for Education … 

It is an essential requirement so it is a good idea to get that task done and dusted before you really get underway with your application.

The real bonus is that you always learn new content each time you achieve these certificates. 

DO read the requirements carefully …

The application process is thorough and requires the applicant to reflect on past innovative practices and outline them in blocks of text with a strict word limit of 150 to 200 words. 

Being clear and concise in your responses is a little intimidating at first as each section has a word limit. I had to apply the ‘Kondo Maree’ method and focus purely on the essentials that ‘sparked joy’ in my response to each question and then kiss the rest good-bye! You will find that cutting down the volume of words is really quite liberating. A secret little tip if you are stuck with 103 words for a 100 word limit – see which words you can legitimately hyphenate.  EG: these two words: ‘good bye’ could become one word:‘good-bye’. Don’t go over board but this tip could come in handy when backed into a corner.

DO watch your video length … 

The 60 second video needs to be just that. Check other videos from recent Google Innovators #SYD19. If you are not a confident videographer then look at a simple tutorial outlining Screencastify Chrome Extension. DO show your face at times in your video so your personality can shine through. DO smile during the video clip because you love what you are doing and your energy should be visible. 

DO check your online presence

You will be asked to provide your professional social media link if you have one already. It’s not just a question of how many followers you have, it is more about the educational value you provide to your audience. Look at your Twitter or LinkedIn or Google + feed to see if you merely watch, like or retweet the content.  Start finding interesting content and retweet with your own comment then start sharing content from your school activities.

DO keep an open mind

Give yourself permission to work through your challenge (or problem) without any considering solutions because any hint of a possible solution will affect your application. This journey changes you and your challenge or problem focus may change during your application process. The Academy week is the place to work with your cohort on a variety of solutions.

Keep an open mind

DO reach out 

Your staff colleagues and Innovators on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are there to support you during your preparation. One thing you learn at the Innovator Academy is that your challenge or problem is not yours alone but shared amongst Innovators. The application link will also give you ways to connect with other Innovators as you prepare your application:

DO pace yourself

Be sure to give yourself a few weeks or even months to work on your application so you can check it after a break with fresh eyes. You can always hit  ‘save for later’ at the bottom of the page.

In fact it is a good idea to copy out the application form onto a Google Doc to fill in and edit in a draft environment. The interview process can take time because schedules clash and then your reflection on the material gathered may take a little time as well. 

DO you

Be your uniquely #GoogleEI self! Try to be original. If that is putting pressure on yourself then DO simply ‘you’. 

Just DO it – you won’t regret the effort and experiences that await you at the next Google Innovator Academy.

Good Luck and be awesome!


What is ‘grit’?

How do we develop it?

Why do we need it?

As a mother and a teacher it has been important for me learn how to build perseverance, resilience, self-control, and stamina in our tomorrow leaders. Setting and reaching long term goals is an important part of growing up into adulthood.

So this ‘Think Out Loud’ post is about ‘Grit’

What it is, how we get it and why we need it.

Taking Risks

I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘Grit’ demands perseverance and risk taking. 

Angela Duckworth, the psychologist and researcher who coined the term “grit”, defines it as the “passion and perseverance for long term and meaningful goals”.

To become successful in reaching our long term goals we need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and take risks. Successful people just don’t give up – they become ‘gritty people’.

Failure Is Not the End

I think the first lesson to learn when seeking grit, is that failure is not the end. As our sons grew up they shared their dream goals with us: our eldest son wanted to explore the musical industry , our second son wanted to play cricket for Australia and our third son wanted to swim for Australian.

None of their goals quite turned out the way they planned and yet none were seen as failures – only adjustments to the journey towards reaching their goals.

James Dyson failed 5127 times before he succeeded in creating the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner that made him a billionaire.

Gritty People

We encouraged our sons to develop grit in order to gain traction to reach the goals they had set for themselves. The needed to become ‘gritty people’ and become independent beyond the natural talents and skills with which they were blessed.

Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential”. (Duckworth 2016)

Setting and reaching goals is an important part of growing up and we are proud of the adults they have become today. Truth, honour, integrity and stick-at-it-ness were specific goals we wanted to incorporate into our ‘family curriculum’.  Whether they worked to improve their school grades, excel in sports or to learn a musical instrument, we could see the passion each one possessed to maintain the discipline and focus to preserve to achieve their goals.

We offered support in the form of praise and encouragement, transportation, time and of course financial contributions for event registrations, coaching, equipment as well! But true grit became apparent when they became adults and needed to invest their own time, finances and transportation to achieve their goals.

Gritty people keep going despite adversity.

#1 SonDidn’t get to pursue a musical career: At the end of 2016 our eldest son gave up his job and his accomodation to follow his girlfriend back to Sweden to start a new life together. However, by the end of 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees and migrants reached European shores and visa applications were brought to a standstill. Homeless, jobless and without the love of his life he returned home with us and waited for 13 months before his visa was approved. Not one to let the grass grow under his feet he injected his passion for guitars into a now thriving business. Our home became a venue for guitar restoration. He now lives in Sweden with his girlfriend and has completed two University language courses and is now undertaking a guitar making course at Uppsala University.

#2 Son: Didn’t get to play for Australia. As an unorthodox left arm spinner, he was often chosen to provide net practice for visiting teams from around the world. He got to bowl against players from South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and of course the Australian team in the nets too. He filled a spot on the English summer cricket seasons. On these journeys he met new friends and planned a trek to the Mt Everest Base Camp in 2014. It was his grit and determination that drove him to complete the more difficult 20 day blood thickening trek to 5564m above sea level sometimes on his hands and knees through Death Valley and Chola Pass. Feeling much improved after a night’s sleep at the Base Camp he joined his team to trek up to Kala Pata to view the sunrise over Mt Everest. Sadly they witnessed the 1500 year old ice sheet sheer off, killing 16 climbers preparing to complete the assault. No time to rest up – all able bodied trekkers became part of the emergency rescue team.

#3 Son – Nearly missed the Sydney 2000 Paralympics: He joined the Paralympic Squad to train for the Sydney 2000 Paralympics however an unexpected life threatening spinal surgery put a stop to that as well as he underwent a very long and painful recovery where he had to learn to sit, walk and breath again. Swimming was off the bucket list. However through sheer grit and determination he was asked to join the team three years to the day he was put on life support and the rest is history…

Surround yourself with gritty people.

One of the best tips to grow your grit is to surround yourself with gritty people whose values and goal setting influence your values and goals. Its a kind of positive peer pressure – especially if they are your own sons!