Last spring when I agreed to do an Ignite session with a group of ASCD Emerging Leaders at Empower 19 I didn’t exactly know what I was getting into. I love to present at conferences. I have done it a lot. But, when February rolled around this year and I realized I had a little over a month to craft five minutes an Ignite presentation with only 20 slides I encountered some major writer’s block.
Last weekend after hours of writing and rewriting, timing my slides down to the second, and practicing on Screencastify, I presented my five minutes on Leading for the Whole Child. I had dreaded the day for weeks but when I was done I couldn’t wait to do another.
Turns out I learned a few things I didn’t expect.
- Procrastination isn’t so bad and I firmly believe it made my presentation better. I procrastinated. I wrote and rewrote a few presentation scripts. I toyed with different ideas and formats. I ripped up and deleted a few versions of my Ignite. Then, I procrastinated some more. All the while, with the foundation of Adam Grant and Originals in my head. After all, if I procrastinated, my presentation was bound to be better in the end. Turns out it worked, I think. All this procrastination helped me to solidify my thoughts and distill my ideas down into only five minutes.
- Summarizing is an underrated skill and quite beautiful when accomplished proficiently. I can’t remember the number of summarizing lessons I have done with my students over the years. But, when it came to summarizing my ideas in my Ignite, all those lessons flew out the window. It’s hard. Really hard. Especially when you have a lot to share. But, by the end of my writing, I was actually enjoying all the cuts and snips I was making. I loved the challenge of keeping the most important elements of my story using only a few short words. For a southern girl who likes to talk a lot, I found beauty in the constraints of the time limit and how that impacted my word choice.
- We often need a catalyst to force us to see what we can’t see. I chose to tell a story with my Ignite. The story of our school’s Teach to Lead project that started a year and a half ago. We called our project Planting Seeds, Growing Leaders and it was meant to do just what it says, plant seeds of innovation to spurn organic change in our school. We started off strong last year. We had checkpoints on our plan. We communicated often. We were energized. We planted seeds. We created a buzz. Then a new school year rolled around, a new organizational chart emerged, and new demands were placed on us. I thought about our plan, but not as much as I should have and I began to get frustrated with the pace of change. In the bog of my day-to-day responsibilities, I had failed to see how much change was really happening and continuing to happen. Writing my Ignite forced me to see this. It helped me see the seeds that had sprouted and the seeds that had blown across the school and taken root in unexpected places.
- Being vulnerable is actually a good thing. When I was stuck, really stuck, I reached out to a teacher colleague to help me process my Ignite plans. I was pretty vulnerable at that moment, admitting I had no idea what I was doing. In just a few minutes with her, I was on a real path. And her support didn’t stop there. In the days leading up to my Ignite, she texted me. She cheered me on and encouraged me. When it was over she reminded me to celebrate. My entire presentation was about supporting teacher leaders so they can support teachers. But for me, this Ignite was an example of supporting teacher leaders so they can support their school leaders. That was pretty amazing too!
- When in doubt, pay attention to the wisdom of children. I ended up using a precept my son wrote, “Be the pebble that moves, not the rock that stays” as the focus of my Ignite. I wrote about it here and used my Ignite to elaborate on my ideas and share examples of the ripples that come from pebbles in school, the ripples that have the capacity to change the culture of a school. From now on, I am calling on my son every time I prepare a presentation. He is way smarter than me!
Now that my Ignite is over I am not sure what I will do with all my free time. No more listening and watching my presentation over and over again. No more highlighting scripts or practicing timings.
I’m kind of thinking I may start working on another Ignite for next year. I can’t wait to do another!