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Honoring the occasion

[NOTE: it may ultimately be that the subtitle of this post is “…or how I am justifying my attendance at the Bammys.” If this post sounds defensive, maybe that’s where it’s coming from. I don’t know; you make the call.]

One of my mentors once taught me about “honoring the occasion.” I think it was in response to a question about what I was supposed to wear for a meeting, but he told me that it’s important to “honor the occasion” by dressing in a way that’s “expected” even if it wasn’t consistent with how I preferred to dress. I was young.1

When I first got an email invitation to the Bammy Awards, I laughed. My gut reaction was that there was no way that I was going to some award ceremony based on engagement with social media. I didn’t fully understand what the Bammy Awards were, but I was so humored by it that I forwarded the emails to a couple of people I respect and consider friends to tell them that I had been invited to this ridiculous thing and that there was no way I could possibly go.2

Well, one of the people I forwarded the email to said that he was going because he saw that people like Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond were being honored and that this could very possibly be a good professional networking event. I was intrigued. Then, I learned that Dr. Pam Moran, a woman I consider a friend and a dear colleague, was a finalist for an award for superintendents. I contacted Pam and learned that she planned to attend. Finally, I tried to learn as much about the event as possible. At the core, this was the Academy of Arts and Education starting an event to honor excellence in education. I’m down with that premise. So, I decided to go, mostly to honor the occasion.

Some other notes and an effort to clear up some confusion:

*I don’t know how I got invited and others didn’t. As best I can tell, some folks asked Eric Sheninger to invite 100 or so educators who are active on social media, the so-called “education Twitterati.” That’s a ridiculous title. But, I don’t think Eric did anything wrong. He was put (or put himself, I don’t know) in a tough spot to have to invite a finite number of educators. Quite honestly, some of the anti-Bammy banter on Twitter sounds like a lot of jealous whining. Remember when I wrote this post a hundred years ago?3 We’re humans; we get jealous when we’re excluded from social events.

*Ah, the social… I don’t pretend that my attendance at the Bammys was anything more than a professional networking trip and a chance to see some good friends. I didn’t learn a whole lot like others claim to have done. Also, my wife has a good friend from college who lives in the DC area and by traveling up there as a family, she was able to spend some time with her friend as well.

*Money: the event itself was free for us. But, we had to pay for travel and lodging. If DC weren’t 100 miles away and an easy shot up I-95 (as easy as traveling through Northern VA can be), I probably would not have gone. I would not (and probably could not) have used university travel funds for this event.

*Money (part two, the corporate kind): the event was sponsored by Bam! Radio and there were a few other corporate donors.4 Their presence was limited to a little signage and a shoutout by one of the hosts. I have all kinds of reservations about corporate involvement in education, but I’m also a realist. Another of my mentors once told me that no funding is clean; it could all be traced to something or someone unsavory. And, in public education we rely on lots of funding sources. So, as long as we’re transparent about it, that’s all I can hope for.5.

*Awards: yeah, yeah, I’m generally opposed to awards, too. But, if you were there and saw and heard the guy who won the award for school maintenance manager look and speak so proudly about his job, you’d have been hard-pressed to deny him that recognition. Also, I have no problem with awarding lifetime achievement awards, especially to folks like Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Merrow. Most of the other awards were silly; the nominating/voting process was never made clear. If they do this again, I’d suggest some major revisions.6

So, yeah, maybe I’m feeling a little defensive as folks I respect are taking to Twitter to mock the Bammys and those that attended. But, honestly, in the end, I think it’s important to honor the occasion, and friends7

  1. I’m old now. []
  2. If you don’t believe me, I can produce those emails for you. []
  3. That’s still one of my most commented upon posts []
  4. Including some outfit called ZipSlip that I’d never heard of that paid for drinks after the event; I could have done without that little corporate interlude []
  5. This from a guy who once worked on a huge evaluation research project of a life skills curriculum that was funded by… Phillip Morris []
  6. Takes off professor hat… []
  7. Pam was robbed; she shoulda won the award for best superintendent. []

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