We are a Microsoft tools for teachers and Google Apps For Education tools for both staff and students in our district. There was a day when I was very vested in the MS Office Suite of tools. Then comes Google Drive, making document collaboration a much more user-friendly experience. Yet, teachers transitioned from MS Outlook client to the full Office 365 experience and that’s where we are at today.
I’ve heard so many great things about Microsoft Teams for teaching groups and PLC collaboration. I am part of a 3 teacher advisory team overseeing an 8th-grade leadership group of students. We created a group chat via SMS, which was OK. However, our conversations blended professional topics along with personal events. The combination made it difficult to find school business entries in a long SMS message thread.
While listening to Windows Weekly podcast on the TWIT network, they mentioned at various levels how great Microsoft Teams was and growing in popularity. It was already in our Office 365 tools, so we decided to take it for a test drive. It makes for a safe way to continue our school group chat conversations, with end-to-end encrypstion. Secure chat should be at the top of any school’s list as educators communicate sensitive student information on a regular basis.
After I created our team, we all downloaded the Microsoft Teams app for our phones. Two Android phones and one iPhone, we connected with ease. The chat feature was super user-friendly and we were all in right away. Then we created a Word document with our key Google Drive shared document links, for easy access. All seemed good, but not great yet.
Then I stumbled on a link to add Google Drive to our team. Super easy and now our journey took on a productive path. We were already using our Outlook Calendar for planning advisory events and school business. Our calendar planning was integrated with ease.
Yes, it's still early using this Microsoft tool and a new adventure for professional connected technology. Early reviews are very good for our small team. The Microsoft Teams usability is much easier than creating a new habit. I have to say I’m so fortunate to work with two very forward thinking educators, who were open to trying it. More to come later.
While traveling in Arizona my wife needed to visit the craft section of Walmart. Though I appreciate her skill and creative projects, this part of the store doesn't give me much energy or interests. I usually hit the entertainment area, then move to groceries. This is where my visit became interesting and nothing short of amazing.
This was a very large Walmart and a good long walk from 4K televisions to the grocery area. Since I was really wasn't shopping, I was walking and just taking it all in. People watching definitely is part of my walk. Often wondering what people do or where are they going as I observe. I'm sure they are thinking the same of me.
That is when I saw a young lady walking towards me way down the aisle. She caught my eye by how she was carrying herself while walking towards me, with a gate of confidence and very carefree. A huge smile on her face, with eyes that lit up along the way. I would guess she was in her low to mid 20's.
I'm always envious of people with those natural smiles, which includes their eyes. I was raised to be stoic and not to let people read me. Thus, the natural smile thing kind of passed me up. She was one of those people that would seem to give positive energy, carrying herself with humble confidence.
Meanwhile, I was having one of my conversations with myself of; what does she do? I bet she is one of those people who gives energy to those in her presence. Are you still in college? Were you born this way or is it part of how you were raised? There had to be a reason and I ran those options through my head. Her energy and upbeat style never came down.
Then we were getting closer together, making eye contact. I could never have the same smile, yet I grinned and said "hi". She returned the gesture and word, stopping in front of me. Then reached in her back pocket, returning with a playing card face down. Handed it to me and walked away. I paused, only looking at the back of the card, thinking how strange.
When I turned the card over, a little bit of me was changed forever. Initially, I saw the queen of diamonds. Then in written black marker "Thx 4 being you", with a smiley face at the bottom. I was astonished as I spun around, looking at her walk quickly away. I had so many questions, yet she was out the door and gone like that.
This person took a "Lo Tech" playing card and made a real "Hi Impact" on me. Passing on a small gesture of kindness, while I was asking myself, "Why Me". I had to find my wife to share my experience, to which she got choked up. Then telling my friends and later, my students. Her kindness has gained even more momentum and strength as I returned home, over 1,700 miles from that Walmart.
You guessed it, I have taken a black marker to an old deck of playing cards. My initial goal is to distribute the cards to those students and staff that are sharing kindness in the hallways. The responses have been that of puzzled at first, then a huge smile and a gracious “Thank You”.
I am so lucky to have interacted with that random lady from Arizona who shared the card with me. More important the reminder to raise my awareness of kindness that is present daily. There is so much good in everyday!