My Ignite Talk — Before, During and After
A couple of months ago, I received an email from Brian Aspinall inviting me to do an Ignite Talk with Fair Chance Learning as part of an evening activity tied to an EdTech conference in Niagara Falls. An Ignite Talk has parameters around it. The presenter has 5 minutes, 20 slides and 15 seconds per slide to share an idea. The prompt for the talk was to talk about something you are passionate about in education
There were about 15 speakers from across Ontario (two amazing educators from my board, Jennifer Giffen and Joanna Bull) who were invited because we are all making a positive difference in education because of our passion, convictions and commitment to what we believe is important in education.
When I was invited, I didn’t hesitate. The first idea, and the one that I stuck with me, was EMPATHY. I struggled at first knowing the constraints the Ingnite talk has and at the advice of a colleague, Jennifer, who was also doing aIso doing an Ignite talk, I wrote it out first and then added photos and my artwork to the slides to compliment the story.
Here is my talk:
Debbie Donsky Ignite at Connect 2017 https://t.co/U7LOQl2fha
— Kim Pollishuke (@KimPollishuke) April 27, 2017
I stepped off the stage and saw my friends and colleagues smiling at me, commending me for my work, showing love and support and everything one would hope for in a work environment. I thanked Kim for filming it and I put my cue cards down, got my wallet and decided to have a glass of wine. Before I could pay, a friend and colleague, spicylearning (Royan Lee) was there with his credit card and a hug and got me my glass of wine. He had coached me and encouraged me to go this route and to apply to other opportunities like this one. My friend, Paulla, was there, front and centre, to give me the warmest smile you could ever imagine. Janani was there to cheer us all on even though she had hours of work ahead of her that night. And my friend, Rick, was there, as he always is, to say a kind word, encourage me and to pat me on the back.
— Tanya Matsuoka (@mstmatsuoka) April 28, 2017
I took some time to calm down after the talk and enjoy the amazing insights, talent and passion from the educators who shared of themselves that evening. About halfway into the evening, spicylearning comes over to me and says that I have to come talk to these teachers who drove to Niagara just for the event after work and are going to drive back right after and that apparently, they are all avid readers of my blog. I was completely overwhelmed. They all wanted to take pictures with me. I know that sounds weird to say but it is true and this is not the first time this has happened to me since I started sharing my thinking and art online. I started to back away a bit saying my usual, “It’s just me! Don’t be silly! Oh my goodness, I don’t know what to say!” and spicylearning learning whispers in my ear and says, “Embrace it.” So I did. I had the best time listening to them. They told me about their teaching, their school, their children, even which blogs of mine they loved and which ones brought them to tears. One of the teachers even started crying when she shared the impact my work had had on her.
— Martha Jez (@marthajez) April 28, 2017
It was such a great night!
This morning I received a text from a new friend, Chris, asking me how I felt the moment I got off the stage and the only thing that came to mind was this…
Then, I came home. I wanted my husband, Jeff, to see the talk so I shared the link to the video that Kim Pollishuke recorded (Thanks Kim!). He noticed near the end of the talk that a comment came up. The comments only seem to come up when you watch it on a phone and I had watched it on my computer. I hadn’t seen the words… “Her feet look swollen.”
Can you imagine?
My husband, ever the protective partner says, “You should contact that guy. Why would someone be so cruel.”
Immediately, I start to feel that choking feeling I get when I feel ashamed. It literally comes up to my throat and I feel it tighten and my head starts to sink and I feel complete and utter shame.
Then, I checked his profile and I was not surprised by what I saw.
A description that certainly lacks in tact.
And I say to Jeff, “It’s okay. My feet were swollen. I had walked over 14000 steps that day in high heels. It was my second presentation of the day. It was 30 degrees celsius outside and the humidity was through the roof.” And then my next thought was, “It’s not the critic who counts…” and once again I am reminded of Brené. I share her video with Jeff where she tells her story of the moment her life shifted after receiving so many hurtful comments while at the same time, having a TED talk that went viral and she says three things she learns in that moment:
1. Vulnerability is not about winning and not about losing. It is about showing up and being seen.
2. This is who I want to be. I want to create. I want to make things that didn’t exist before I touched them. I want to show up and be seen in my work and in my life. If you are going to show up and be seen, there is only one guarantee and that is, you will get your ass kicked…if you are going to go in the arena and create, you will get your ass kicked. So you have to decide, in that moment, if courage is a value that we hold, this is a consequence.
3. If you’re not in the arena, also not getting your ass kicked, then I am not interested in your feedback…if you’re in the cheap seats, not putting yourself on the line and just talking about how I can do it better, I am in no way interested in your feedback. So I have decided to focus on the love that surrounds me, the encouragement of my colleagues, friends and family, and the three golden rules from Brené.
Don’t look at my feet. Don’t look at my body. Don’t decide that the most important thing about what I did yesterday is the imperfection of how my body works after surviving a life threatening surgery and illness and lifetime of body image struggle and shame.
Instead, listen to my words. Know the effort it takes to stand up and be seen, to create, and to see that what I share with you is my heart, in the hopes that my words will somehow, even in the smallest way, transform the world.
My feet have nothing to do with it.
What matters most is empathy…for the person on the stage, the students in our classrooms, the parents advocating for their children, for every person you meet and interact with every day. It’s not the critic who counts.