Starting today I am hosting a bi-weekly guest post series from Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum alumni. The intent is to hear from educators who have experienced this unique professional learning forum and to share their experiences, reflections and practical tips for others who are considering applying to the 2012 US Forum. A special, sincere thank you to these contributors for taking time from their important day jobs to offer these thoughtful posts. The first post is from Doug Bergman, an energetic and innovative educator from Charleston, South Carolina.
I remember the day I first came across an advertisement for the Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovators Forum last year. I was on Facebook…it was one of those Facebook ads on the right side. It’s amazing how one click at 10:30 on a Tuesday evening could have altered my life so much.
The ad talked about innovation and teaching…which was in line with the things we had also been focusing on in my classes at our school. One of the classes I had really been working hard with seemed to be an especially good fit. So, I downloaded the application and looked at the questions. And those questions were the same questions I had been asking myself about my teaching and my classes.
So, I started responding to them, not necessarily with submitting as a goal, but more so just to start getting my thoughts and reflections down on paper. And so I started...and I spent the better part of a week updating, expanding, and modifying. Each night after getting home, I found myself really looking forward to sitting down and continuing. I was actually really enjoying the process of completing the interview. Not to scare anyone, but instead to spark your curiosity…. I spent many hours on the responses; I had the chance to spend many hours talking about what I love.
Why? What could possibly be engaging about filling out a several page application form? Well, could I even describe to other people what we were trying to do? I felt that what we were doing was really powerful and innovative, but could I prove it? I felt that what we were doing was valuable to the world, but could I prove it? I felt like I wanted to share what I’d done with others, but would others be interested? I felt like we had had some really interesting successes, but could I prove it and would others agree? I felt like what we were doing was different than what others were doing, but was I right?
And what a fun challenge to try to prove it! I found myself thoroughly enjoying going through all my pictures looking for images which communicated the spirit of the classes…the energy of the kids…and the things we were trying to accomplish. I also needed to show evidence of learning, so I was able to find documents, projects, communications, and code that could justify my suppositions and assumptions and claims.
And so every day became kind of like a scavenger hunt, both of physical evidence and also of words. What did I need to say and how did I need to say it in order to best communicate the spirit of what we were trying to do in Computer Science at Porter-Gaud?
Fast forward a week and I think I had about 4 pages completed. I read it, re-read it, and re-read it again. Who was I, some teacher working in a small independent school in a small city in Charleston, South Carolina and what chance would there be that anyone would even read my application. After all, last year, they had tens and tens of thousands of applications and it was Microsoft—a legendary company. There was an early submission deadline which I was anxious to beat and that was coming up really soon, so I fine-tuned my application and sent it off. And truthfully, I never imagined anything would ever come of it.
We remember certain moments in our lives. I can still picture myself sitting in my chair, it’s Saturday night about 8:00 or so my wife is reading a book in her chair, my son is sitting on the couch next to me watching Pawn Stars on the History Channel, and my daughter is upstairs rearranging her room(again). I was going through my email and there it was:
Dear 2011 US IEF applicant –
And so began one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I have grown in every way imaginable. I have met some of most innovative, energetic, intelligent, and committed teachers in the United States and in the world. I have seen a side of Microsoft that truly wants to support educators in every way they can.
If you feel like you are doing some things in your classroom that are innovative, truly engaging, and that others might love to hear about, then I encourage you to apply. Perhaps your story will be as incredible as mine.
Doug Bergman (@dougbergmanUSA)
Computer Science Teacher, Porter-Gaud High School, Charleston, South Carolina
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