This article was written by Tracy Van der Schyff, a Business Applications and Office Apps & Services MVP, from South Africa. She shares her personal journey to support educators and teachers globally through community efforts.
To identify and celebrate success, we need to have empathy and compassion for the challenges that our fellow #HumansofIT experience. Low self esteems can make us wonder if we add any value, and this cannot be further from the truth. Never forget that an extended hand lifts someone up, and that together we can make a difference and overcome the greatest of challenges life presents us with.
To understand why this success story is so important to me, I must first share a glimpse into my colourful life with you. We all have a purpose of being (even multiples), some have figured it out, some of us are creating it for ourselves, and others are still searching.
I spent many years searching and at 40, I had an epiphany with relation to my “purpose”. It all started with an image. The image was of the Ikigai Venn Diagram. Although this is the “western interpretation” and more accurately represents a Purpose Venn Diagram. Still, it had a profound impact on my life.
My most important realisation was that I had never given myself enough credit to say that I was good at something, which meant that I felt unbalanced and that I had no purpose. As soon as I gained awareness of this “self-abuse” I was subjecting myself to, I focused even more on enabling others, especially when they do not have the means to do so themselves. It became clear as daylight that millions of others were doing the same, not believing in themselves and due to this, not achieving what they are capable of.
Over the next couple of years I wrote / created nearly a thousand blogs & videos (see more about my crazy personal challenge here) and joined various social media groups across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to help support the incredible #HumansofIT out there.
I came across the Microsoft Teams for Education Group on Facebook and got involved.
Of course, 2020 delivered a curve ball and I saw the group rapidly grow from 10,000 members to 60,000. Most of those being teachers in desperate need of support. I saw something in this group during the year which both scared me and inspired me. The emotions in the group went through the typical stages of the Kubler Ross Change Model Curve: Shock, denial, frustration, depression, experiment, decision and eventually integration.
It broke my heart as I could see that many of these teachers did not have the internal IT support in their companies / institutions they needed. I was also overwhelmed with gratitude towards the thousands who were helping (Microsoft employees, MVP’s, and community members) by answering questions and making suggestions to help these educational superheroes navigate these incredibly difficult times. Also, never losing sight, that by helping, we were all having a positive impact on our future (learners / students).
Towards the end of 2020 I noticed a change in the group. The teachers started supporting each other, sharing tips and tricks, cool new features and in general being more positive. This of course being the “experiment, decision and eventually integration” phase. I was overjoyed. A self-sustaining ecosystem of community support and love had evolved, right in front of our eyes.
Although not my success story to tell, it is a success story that needs to be highlighted and from the bottom of my heart – thank you to everyone who was (and is) part of that process.
This brings me to the second success story. I have had the privilege to work with ADvTECH Group in South Africa, which consists of many schools and tertiary divisions. During 2020 I ‘nervously’ reached out to see how they were doing. I was pleasantly surprised when their overall experience had been positive, even though they had also moved completely to just using Microsoft Teams during this period. I was convinced that they must have done something different, which they had.
Soon Allie Thompson (Wieczorek) and I were “scheming ideas” on how to tell this story at Microsoft Ignite, which of course happened on the 4th of March, 2021. I was fortunate to be the moderator for this incredible panel which consisted of a EdTech Admin, Teacher & Student. I was so inspired by the passion, compassion, and empathy they share, and I am sure you will be as well.
So, block out 30 minutes in your calendar, go get a cup of coffee or tea and watch the video recording to see how they approached the most difficult “test” the education space has ever been challenged with and not only survived, but thrived.
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