Be Personal, Be Passionate, Dare Greatly: 3 Themes from the 2013 Analyst Fellowship National Convening

This November, I attended the Analyst Fellowship National Convening in San Francisco, along with 84 of my peers, Education Pioneers staff, and guest speakers. The event included three days of enlightening keynote addresses, opportunities for networking and professional development, informal interactions between Fellows, and even an improv session – but more on that later. I took away so much from this experience, but three main themes emerged for me throughout: working in education is personal; passion is palpable; and “daring greatly” is welcome.

1. Working in Education is Personal

Everyone in education has a personal story that moves them to do this work. For me it was growing up in a financially unstable, single-parent household, where none of my three older siblings attended college. As I listened to Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust, quote statistics, I choked back tears numerous times. My emotion could be a result of my nerdy disposition and affinity for numbers, but I don’t think so. It’s because when I hear that, “Of children growing up in families making $80K or more, 79% will receive at least a bachelor’s degree, but only 11% in families making $30K or less will do the same,” I think of my siblings, and how this statistic played out in my own family.

2. Passion is Palpable

Dr. Howard Fuller, Director of the Institute for Transformational Learning at Marquette University, delivered a keynote address on the last day of the Convening, and his passion for education reform was palpable. Among other things, he spoke about the difference between a job – what pays the bills – and work – your life’s mission, and encouraged us to try our best to merge the two. I also felt passion from my peers, as they snapped with agreement at others’ comments, and grappled with real issues like meeting the demand of funders while at the same time measuring what they consider to be meaningful outcomes.  It was clear to me that nobody in the room was there merely to pay the bills.

3. “Daring Greatly” is Welcome

I recently read the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and, during the Convening, I couldn’t help but think that my peers were consistently putting themselves out there, and “daring greatly.” This was especially evident when we broke up into our regional cohorts and discussed the way our race influenced our educational experience growing up. In a room of racially and socio-economically diverse individuals, it felt like we were able to speak freely about our personal experiences, and that our peers were truly listening, not judging. And going back to that improv session I spoke about earlier, imagine the terror when I learned we would be doing improv for the next 90 minutes. In the end though, it was a highlight for me, and my group even elected to do an improvised dance routine on stage in front of the entire Convening. Now that was truly daring greatly.