I must start by saying I had a lot of fun being involved in the process. I think it's great the Academy of Education Arts & Sciences has taken it upon themselves to bring together an event like this. There are varying degrees of opinions for and against giving educators awards in a setting like this, but that's not where my head is at. I don't see a problem with giving the opportunity to stand out from time to time. Plus, politics are not really my thing...
The limo ride to the event was a bit of a "teacher prom" cliche but it was enjoyable. The line for the limo at the hotel was even better, got to hang out with Deven Black, Lisa Nielsen (fellow NYCDOE folks) and Angela Maiers. I also got to meet and speak with PBS education correspondent John Merrow and Zak Malamed, the founder of StudentVoice.org. It was a great way to spend the 30 or so minutes waiting for the ride to the event.
Today there was a lot of reflection on the event. Pernille Ripp has a great blog post summarizing what a lot of us in attendance were thinking. I'm not going to rehash what Pernille says; read her post. It is very thoughtful and spot on.
My reflections, above and beyond Pernille's, are those of someone who had a career broadcasting live events prior to teaching. I've live streamed (via ISDN - hey, it was the 90s) Devo concerts and President Clinton and Bill Gates keynotes; produced portions of technology trade shows; worked in FM radio; and done quite a few other live events during my career in the radio/dotcom/journalist/tradeshow worlds. I look back on last night from an event perspective as much as anything and here is where I'm at...
- prioritize your schedule - You don't present some awards live? Fine. There's a time issue, I get it. However, it's an event "honoring what's right in education" and three of the awards you don't do live are Elementary School Teacher, Middle School Teacher, and High School Teacher? Really? Trim somewhere else and announce all the categories.
- proofread your slides - the visuals were, essentially, a PowerPoint. One slide of nominees had the wrong category on it and I heard at least three people around me say "What? didn't they do that already?"
- standardize your slides - Ok, admittedly this is a real nitpick, but I'm a firm believer in centering all titles, standardizing slide designs & animations. There were a lot of slides with off-center names, and a few slides with varying animation & timing orders. Again, I realize it's a bit nitpicky, but it really stood out to me. As an educator at an event honoring educators I was a bit bemused to see so many errors in the visuals.
- consider your seating arrangement - After the third award was announced I turned to my wife and said, "I didn't win." She looked at me confused. I said, "All the winners are in the first three rows, and we're in row G." And guess what -- I was right. Not only that, since I've seen pictures of most of the nominees, I was able to look at the rows in front of me and basically pick out all the winners. I understand the concept behind quick and easy stage access, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who realized they didn't win well before their category was called. How about spreading the winners around the room, close to aisles if you want quick access. I love that I was nominated and I enjoyed myself, but if I'm fortunate enough to get nominated again next year and my tickets arrive and are higher than Row C, I'll have a good feeling I'm not the winner before I even leave the house.
- have some tact - When we arrived, we got in the "red carpet" line. I had to use the restroom so I stepped aside and my wife waited. A woman with a clipboard approached her and said, "We have to get started, what's your name?" My wife said "I'm just a guest, my husband is in the restroom." The woman asked my name and upon hearing it, looked at her clipboard and said to my wife, "Oh, never mind, he's not someone I need a picture of, you can just go straight to your seats," and then walked away. My wife was a bit taken aback to say the least.
- make it less "like the Oscars and Emmys" and more like the Golden Globes - the Bammy site talks about the event as the "Oscars for Educators" and the event was in a theatre, orchestra and all. The limo line started at 6:30, the event at 7:30. It ended after 10 pm. There was a bar available afterward to mix and mingle, but most people made hasty exits. I say set it up like the Golden Globes. All category nominees at tables, able to connect in person throughout. Forget the Oscars, the theater, the orchestra. Shoot for the Golden Globes. Let us sit with each other, not just next to each other, and give us the opportunity to put the time and tuxedos to good use in an active way, not just passively watching the stage.
Don't get me wrong. I had a lot of fun. It was nice to be nominated and it was great to become a finalist. The voting that got me to DC was colleagues and parents of my students supporting me. That means the world. I think it's great there is an organization trying to give recognition to educators. Just think through the actual award ceremony process a bit more so it makes everyone feel as important as you say we are.