Tuesday, May 12, 2015

#beyouedu finding your niche

About two years ago, I had a discussion with a friend about  narrowing our focus. At the time, we were both excited about every education topic imaginable. Whether it was Google, Apple, Edmodo, 1:1 initiatives, Design Thinking, makerspaces, or another topic under the sun, we had our hands in it. It was exciting for a few months. Everything was awesome. Everything and everyone needed our input. Or, so we thought. However, that started to diminish when those became more than just exciting topics and morphed into real discussions. Discussions involve time and commitment. And, after a certain point, you start to lose the ability to stay current in all topics. You just don't have time for all topics as exciting as they may be and as passionate about them as you may be.

This was a hard reality for me. For a while, I though it was just a few of us "crazies" who struggled with this, but I realized I was not alone in this. So many of my teachers and students struggle with this. In some ways, finding your niche means letting go of control on other topics of interest. Sadly, you cannot be an expert in all things.

That's where your network comes into play. You can stay connected to all of those topics that interest you - to the people who have found that as their niche. You need to use your network. This is something I am still learning.

After that conversation my friend and I had two years ago, I hit near burn-out levels. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to be involved in everything and I couldn't maintain it.

Ladies and gentleman, I had FOMO, otherwise known as "fear of missing out." And, I was not alone. I was in a cohort of fellow FOMO-sufferers. I think many passionate educators deal with this at some point in their careers. Sadly, though, FOMO makes you miss out on the day-to-day things that you need to enjoy. I can't say I'm FOMO-free, but I'm working on it. It's a start.

So, when Dr. Will suggested "finding your niche" as the next topic, I had to jump on it.

As I move along my career, my niche becomes more defined. Sometimes, it even changes. When I first entered teaching, my passion was the oral tradition. What is that? It's storytelling. It's language. After I started teaching, that shifted into digital storytelling and eventually morphed into Google.

I think a niche is important, but it is also okay for it to change. It's about finding your passion. And, it's important to know that it's okay to change. And, it's okay to not know what your passion is right now.

My niche is a product of all of my experiences. Though my staff and students call me a Google Ninja or "ninja chick," my focus has always been on teachers and students. They are my niche. Throughout it all, those two variables have remained constant. So, when I get overwhelmed with FOMO, I focus on the two variables that matter to me: teachers and students. Some days, I get side-tracked into the edu-fame and plethora of ideas on social networks. On those days, I try to remember by goal, my niche: teachers and students.

Whether you're an educator or not, in order to "be you," you must find your niche and be okay with that niche changing. You also need to remember that you cannot be or know everyone/everything. Building a network is the key to success. It's the key to your sanity. Avoid the FOMO plague. You will always miss out on something. Don't let that something be the thing that matters. If I could give any piece of advice, it would be that: don't miss out on the important things in life; the teachable moments.

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