Sunday, September 29, 2013

A few of my favorite things about the #BammyAwards & a wish list too

The #BammyAwards brings folks together once a year to celebrate and recognize that which is good about education.  This awards show honors educators like celebrities honored on other shows, shedding a much-needed positive light on the profession.

There were some unexpected delights and even some disappointments (like those Pernille Ripp addresses here) at this year's fledgling celebration. That is no surprise as this program finds its legs, develops, and grows. Because the program is built on a foundation of great intentions, I have no doubt that it will continue to blossom into a beautiful celebration and recognition of all that is good about education. Those great intentions are to give educators both recognition and a voice in the conversations that matter around learning. Rae Pica and Errol St. Clair Smith have done a wonderful job of this with the BAM Radio Network which gives educators willing to share their ideas a platform to do so.

One of the criticisms of the #BammyAwards is that it was a popularity contest for connected educators. The thing about being a connected educator is this. It is open to anyone. There is no gate keeping anyone away. It takes courage, bravery and a fair amount of work to publicly share your thoughts and ideas with others. We need educators taking the helm of this type of sharing and that should be recognized and celebrated as it was. The event was not overrun by connected educators, not that, that would be a bad thing. Instead, there was a mix of those who feel comfortable being connected and those who have only started to consider doing so.

Another criticism was expressed by middle school teacher Kris Nielsen who said, "I think that calling on an individual educator from a small pool that represents a very large population is trivial, at best.

He missed the point and so did others.

The Bammys are not about ONE educator. They are an opportunity for educators across the country to be recognized for the great work they are doing. It is a chance for those taking the time to nominate others, to step back and do something we often don't make the time to do. That is to take a moment to do what Principal Eric Shenninger recommends and tell the stories of our fellow pedagogues, letting them know that "I appreciate you and I want the world to know how awesome you are."

Those accepting awards know that it is not about an individual educator. They know they accept this on behalf of all the great work all educators do. Instead, it is about every educator having the opportunity to be recognized. It is about the conversations around the great stories of educators.  It is about treating educators as special people and recognizing those who are brave enough to put their ideas out there publicly.  This is NOT an easy task. It is shameful to accuse those who are honored of not being humble or bragging (Tom Whitby shares why here (my favorite), here and here.). Many educators put their livelihood on the line to share the stories of the great work in which they are involved. The Bammys salute those people.

There are few organizations like BAM with a mission of providing educators with a voice and a platform. Doing that, and also providing an opportunity for those of us in education to acknowledge and honor educators who are doing inspiring work is a cause that makes sense for educators to spend more time building up rather than tearing down.

So, while I respect, and even agree, with some of the criticism, it's time to move up and away from criticism and toward solutions for an organization willing to spend time and money to lift us up.  With that, I'd like to share a few of my favorite things about the #BammyAwards and my wish list for future events.

These are a few of my favorite things at the #BammyAwards

Recognizing great projects
What I loved most about this year's #BammyAwards was the recognition of some amazing projects and activism that included #EdChat, #EdCamp, #Choose2Matter and the Garfield High School educators who stood up to protect their students from subpar assessments.  This allowed the work that these people put so much time into behind the scenes to be brought to the forefront. Highlighting the type of work that these folks do, and its impact, is powerful, informative, and sheds a spotlight on wonderful projects in which we can all be involved.

Recognizing great educators
It is wonderful to see educators recognized because they have fought hard on behalf of children. It was great to see lifetime achievement honorees, Sandy Hook teachers who were honored, and my very favorite was honoring Jesse Hagopian for his leadership as an educator in the Garfield High School walkouts.  He did this with courage and dignity with students as his focus. Follow him on Twitter at  

Recognizing students
I contacted the #BammyAwards organizers directly to voice my concern over the absence of students being recognized at last year’s event. They agreed and were on it. They worked with Angela Maiers to honor student initiative via the #Choose2Matter project.  Mallory is an amazing young lady and shared exactly how important this award was to her. You can read that letter here.

Recognizing educator voice
#BammyAwards organizers asked those who RSVP'd to make a video sharing how being a connected educator mattered to them.  It was great to hear from those who work so hard to get out, share, and spread ideas about all the great ways we are working to serve children.  You can see what Tom Whitby shared here. You can see what I shared here. If they haven't already, I hope the #BammyAwards organizers will share a link to the powerful video compilation.  

And here are a few things I wish for at future awards

Student voice!
I loved that a student closed the ceremony by being acknowledged for her part of the #Choose2Matter work.  I also think that like educator voice and connected educators, there should be a recognition for student voice. This is different than students doing great projects. This is about students who are taking ownership of their education and having a voice in the conversations that matter. The #BammyAwards should work with The Student Voice organization, which is run by students, to determine a way to recognize those students who are having a tremendous impact on the education conversation.

A cocktail party!
The awards show is great, but I want a formal opportunity to mix and mingle with the organizers and attendees before the event.  A cocktail party the evening prior would be a great way to do this.  I’m thinking something like what Chris Lehmann does at Educon but have it take place at the main hotel. There could be some light horsderves and a cash bar.  It’s a great way to kick things off and allow folks to connect in a more formal fashion.

Bammy Brunch!
We have had an informal brunch after the first and second annual Bammy Awards. It would be great to make this a formal event! The Bammy coordinators can work with a location to reserve lots of seats for a formal brunch. The place we went is $25 for brunch and bottomless mimosas and bloody marys.  Anyone up for it, could perhaps purchase tickets in advance and show up on Sunday.  An early start at around 11 would make it the perfect time for those who need to catch a plane, train, or automobile out of town.

Capture acceptance speeches!
Ask all finalists to record acceptance speeches and be as creative as they’d like. Set up a place for the speeches to be submitted and published. Everyone who is a finalist has achieved a great recognition. While the winners are honored on the stage, it would be great to be able to hear everyone’s two cents errr sentences ;)

Here is mine:
I’m thrilled to be here among so many of those I consider family, not because we are connected by blood, but rather because we are connected by ideas.  
There is nothing I could imagine that would bring more pleasure to me, than sharing this great experience with my BAMMily.  

Every winner honored!
I know there is a time constraint, but it is very important to allow every winner to share their two sentences of glory. If we implement the advance recording suggestion, then the fun, creative, two-sentences could be played as the winner makes their way to the stage and collects their award.  That would save time, provide some great entertainment directly from those being honored, and give those who couldn’t be there a chance to be heard.

More educator input
I imagine the #BammyAwards have some sort of planning committee, but I haven’t heard of educators I know of being on it.  I suggest asking educators if they would like to be involved in some parts of event planning. This would enable the Bammys to run ideas by educators in advance and have a heads up for that which may be an issue for some.  They need to go to those who are currently working in the school system to get the best read on sensitive issues.  Unless you are doing this work in and with the schools, it could be quite difficult to be aware of that which some may find offensive. The comedian this year and the spoken word artist last year are both individuals that discuss topics that educators know are problematic for many. While they were appreciated and enjoyed by some, it brings an unnecessary dark cloud to others, during what is designed to be a positive experience.

I have had the pleasure to work with Errol St. Claire Smith and Rae Pica and though we have not personally debriefed on this, I know them to be responsive, professional, and deeply caring about education and celebrating the wonderful work happening with students and staff. I believe they are hearing, and processing, important insights from people like Pernille Ripp, Chris Casal (some great ideas in his post), Scott McLeod (and more) and also taking note of the feedback around what we absolutely loved.

I am more than excited that there is a group taking the time to recognize educators. It is my hope and belief that these conversations will make this work even stronger.

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