Sunday, November 22, 2015

Heart of a Keynote

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to travel around the country and attend several conferences, workshops and EdCamps. Most of the travel has involved some speaking and presenting opportunities. In fact, I have even had the opportunity to keynote a few times with my coauthor (and brother from another mother) Joe Sanfelippo and the experience has been AWESOME! Unfortunately, the one downside to being the keynote or speaking at a conference is that I don't actually get to attend too many other sessions or actually hear someone else speak or present because I am consumed with my own work. That means that I don't always have a chance to learn from other speakers and presenters to enhance my craft moving forward. Well, that all changed for me when I recently attended Miami Device and had a chance to hear several awesome keynotes that forced me to pause and think about the things that I would do differently as a speaker moving forward. 

Even though all the keynotes were impressive (thank you Adam, Derek, George and Angela) for different reasons, one of them really resonated with me and left me thinking for days. The thing about George Couros' keynote that forced me to pause was that during that one hour keynote I experienced every emotion possible. I cried, I laughed, I danced, I smiled, I shook my head in agreement, I tweeted out nuggets of brilliance to remember moving forward and in the end, I was impacted on both a personal and professional level. That was the game changer for me... George's keynote touched my heart and mind and because of that, the message resonated deeply and kept me thinking way beyond the end of the keynote.

Don't get me wrong - there were parts of George's keynote that were similar to many others I have seen in the past. There were awesome videos, powerful images, thought provoking quotes and everything in between. The keynote had an overarching theme, in this case the Innovator's Mindset, which George hit home consistently and thoughtfully. George made us think about our own mindset, practices and beliefs. George challenged us to reflect on our daily work as educators and pushed us to consider how we could do differently moving forward to embrace an innovator's mindset, especially for the purposes of doing what is best for children. I have seen other keynotes, with a different focal point, that achieved similar accomplishments but for most other keynotes, when the speaker was done, the message was done too. This was not the case with George - the end of his keynote was just the beginning.

You see, at no point did George tell us that what we were doing was wrong. At no point did George tell us that we had to go back to our schools the next day and do things his way. At no point did George make us feel badly about our current practices. What George did, for me at least, was connect with my heart and mind. He gave me an entry point - both on an emotional level and intellectual level - so that I could see that his message mattered to me - Tony the person; Tony the dad; and Tony the educator. In the end, the message resonated with me on a personal level first and then on a professional level, which is why I think it impacted me so much after it was over. What I know from my own dissertation research is that any type of development, in order for it to be truly sustainable, must impact a person on both a personal and professional level. We can no longer just refer to professional development when we use the acronym PD - we must think about personal development too! If an idea is going to go beyond a conference or workshop, it has to be valuable to the participant; it has to mean something; and it has to leave a mark on the person's heart and soul so they see the value in pushing forward. 

That is what George's keynote did for me. I left his keynote wanting to make schools better for Paul. I left his keynote feeling good about the direction we have taken at #Cantiague. I left his keynote thinking about what I wanted to do next. I left his keynote thinking about what we haven't done YET! The truth is, I left his keynote in a happy place - trust me, I cried several times but they were all good tears - because I left with hope, anticipation and enthusiasm. I was excited about embracing the Innovator's Mindset even more in my daily personal and professional work. I left there understanding that innovation is about an opportunity to make things better, even if they make people uncomfortable sometimes. I left that keynote even prouder to be an educator and excited about the possibilities of the future.

In the end, I thought a lot about the heart at the center of George's keynote and I understood why it impacted me so much and on so many levels. Now, my only goal is to ensure that people walk out of any keynote, presentation or workshop I facilitate feeling the same way - ready to change the world and make it better for kids! 


  1. Tony...what you have written means so much to me. I want people to feel empowered after they leave my talks. Not only do I want to push their thinking, but I want them to feel that what I share is achievable. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Wonderful post and really making me wish I would have been there too!! All REAL change happens from within, so we need to make sure it's meaningful to us and to our students. PD as Personal Development...I like it!!