Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with ANGELA MAIERS

About ANGELA
Angela is the founder and President of Maiers Education Services, a consulting firm headquartered in Clive, Iowa. Her company provides just-in-time consultation services to schools, organizations, and individuals seeking to use technology and social media to leverage human capital and production goals.

Under Angela’s direction, schools and businesses within and outside the education industry are implementing the proven practices that accelerate their desired outcomes.

To her credit, Angela has been involved in several national and global initiatives centered on education. She is also a TED speaker ; and has also been a keynote speaker at several events across the globe.

Three of my favorite blogs of Angela are below:
12 Most Important Ways to Let People Know They Matter
12 Most Genius Questions in the world
12 Most Innovative, Inspiring and Unmissable TED Talks

The RENDEZVOUS
I was thrilled and honored that Angela agreed to do this rendezvous with me. Primarily because if there’s one TED Video which made a REAL DIFFERENCE in my life, it was Angela Maiers TED Video on YouMatter . And of course, the fact that she is probably one of the most respected educators across the globe…

As a part of the Education Special Series that I am running on my blog, I conducted this Rendezvous with Angela to get her insights and views on education, the evolving face of education and what it means to be an educator?

Nischala: Hi Angela.. Thank you so much for your time and agreeing to speak to me today in spite of your hectic travel schedule. Truly appreciate it! My first question is really around an observation that I’ve seen in your profile. You call yourself an “EDUCATOR”  and not really “TEACHER” as most people I know call themselves? What in your view is an educator?
Angela: Nischala – Thank you so much for reaching out to me. That’s a great question and the difference is really subtle. But educate really means “To change the mind”. And the reason why I call myself an educator is because my goal whenever I enter a classroom or interact with students is how I can elevate their thoughts and make a lifelong impact so that the minds of students are stretched.  And the fact is that once a mind is stretched, it never really goes back to its original state. It then grows evolves and stretches itself further!

And from my experience, most good teachers do just that! But many teachers deliver just what they know. So if you are in their classroom, you can sense that the message that they really relay is this “I know this… this and this.. And as I share that with you.. you listen and learn and of course do as I say”. And there is teaching here, but there is no LISTENING from the teacher.

And in my view, education is about teaching, listening and learning… So education is really about “WE”. You come into my classroom as ME , but really leave as WE.. So WE are smarter together.. And the focus of an educator is to enable empower and elevate each other.

Even if you look back in time at history and revolutions of the globe, most transformations have been due to the power of communities – people unite and learn together, thrive together and survive together!

The focus of education has to be on our ability to listen, learn, change yourself, change the community and change the world! And change really is a positive impact or difference that you or anyone can make

Nischala: That’s a really wonderful way to put it Angela. So can you elaborate a little on the many roles you played as a part of the Education System?
Angela: I’ve been part of the Education system in the USA for 14 years. And during this tenure, I have been in all parts of the system and played several roles. Right from a teacher for pre-schoolers, to 8th standard students to Under Graduation to Graduation to School Administration to Higher Education to eLearning. So I have a very good understanding of the many nuances of education system and I have learnt tremendously in each of these roles – By my experience and most importantly, from my students!

Nischala: That’s great to hear.. I think such a diversity of experiences makes you understand the system really well inside out… So moving on, there’s always a lot of discussion around the “literate mind” and “educated mind”. What in your view is the difference between an “Educated Mind” and a “Literate Mind”?
Angela: This is again a subtle difference.. But really you must have a Literate Mind to have an Educated Mind.. And by educated what I really mean is this:
One is an ability to understand the world around you.
Two is an ability to convey what you know, see, hear or read.
Three is the ability to rally around others towards a specific message or cause. And that’s where the real power of the web lies – To engage with people across the globe to take action.  So earlier, education was a power and privilege. But today with the power of the web and availability of free information to everyone it has become a human right!

Nischala: That’s a very interesting response! You’ve been associated with the education sector for more than two decades now? In your view, how has education really changed?
Angela:  The fact is that the world has changed in past few years in ways beyond imagination! But the reality is that the education system has not adapted in tune with this pace of change and this can prove detrimental to the system and society at large in the long run.

From my experiences what I observe is that the education system is really holding on to age old best practices than embracing the next practice – as relevant in today’s context! In fact, some of the best practices of 100 years ago can actually be classified as a malpractice today – Not just in the context of education but any discipline. For e.g: In Healthcare, the way you treated illnesses 100 years ago cannot be applied today!

And the fact is that many schools have virtually the same structure, systems and practices as they had 50 years ago. And that is not OK for the system and for society at large!

Education should really focus on learning continuously – both students and teachers! And even though there are several passionate teachers and educators who are waging daily battles to ensure that they do the best possible for their students, the systemic problems are hard to work around!

And the reality is that education cannot anymore be about sharing and building a Body of Knowledge in individuals. It has to go beyond that as this knowledge is free and available for everyone to consume! It is no longer really about content – But the focus of education should really be on :
1) How to build and mold a CHARACTER?
2) How can you enable an individual to be CONTEXTUALLY relevant?
3) How to enable the BEST possible performance for an individual?

Nischala: That’s interesting.. So can elaborate a little more on the connection between the world of the web and the world of education?
Angela: The ecosystem of education is hierarchy driven. So the higher you go in this hierarchy, the more “elite” you are considered – and you are a member of “The CLUB”. And you earn a spot here for what you know or rather what you are known for.  So if you get an “A” in university, you keep an “A” for the rest of your life. And one is not honored adequately for your contributions back to the system, to your students and to society.

While the web is a completely different ecosystem – It transforms and challenges the fundamental premise of everything – including education. The world of the web really nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit – It really does not look at your degree, but values your pedigree. So as an educator, you need to be open-minded to get off your pedestal and embrace the web. And let me tell you that it’s not easy to get an “A” in the world of the web.. And if you do, you need to work hard to retain the “A” – It’s a continuous journey; not the end to the means!

Nischala: That was such an interesting and insightful answer. So moving on, what is the role of parents in EDUCATION?
Angela: Interestingly, the role of the parents has really not changed. All parents what the BEST for their children – And this has been constant 100 years back and will probably be the same 100 years from now.

But what one should recognize is that the reality which many parents fail to acknowledge, accept and adapt to is the mind-set that what worked for me will work for my children. And the answer to that is NO! So the traditional school of thought is that you need to study to be successful! The point is that the measure of success in today’s world is different from what it was 50 years back. And so it is a rude awakening for many parents when they see that their children successful very early in life (and also possibly with limited formal education in many cases) – Way beyond what the parents ever achieved for a lifetime! And the conduit of information on the internet makes it possible for kids of today to dream, conceptualize, create, build and also sell one / many products and services in the new economy.

I think the call of the time for parents is to constantly upgrade their own self-awareness on the changes happening around them and also support their children and the education system based on what is required to ensure growth and progress for their children

Nischala: Ok.. So I’ve been reading a lot about education for this series and have come across a lot of interest and acceptance of Home-schooling and its rapid adoption. So really what is home-schooling? What are the pros and cons of it?
Angela: Home-schooling is really customized personalized education. It really stems from a deep belief that the system of formal education available is broken or inadequate. So individuals / community provide the required education to children on their own. The underlying belief system is that education is really about experience.

Home-schooling has evolved to be a sophisticated network and with new technology it is becoming more feasible to home-school children. The earlier premise of the education system was that the teacher only knew and controlled the knowledge and its dissemination. But in the world of the web, information and knowledge is free and can be accessed anytime and anywhere. Also, the whole concept of just in time learning has disrupted the old premise of memory based learning.

In my view, it is a choice parents need to make. Data suggests that children who are home-schooled are as competitive in the world as those students who received formal education.

Home-schooling is evolving to an organized system and there is infrastructure to support it. It is definitely a huge responsibility on the parents and you need to be prepared for it – physically mentally emotionally and financially. Some children get home-schooled at the elementary school level, some at the mid school level and some at the high school level. For some it is a combination of home-schooling and formal school – So it is really blended learning!

I’m not advocating home schooling, but it is definitely becoming a serious contender to public school education. And philosophically, the premise here is that we are smarter together.

Nischala: That’s interesting to hear! So moving on, what are the 5 life lessons that every student should learn as a part of formal education?
Angela: Not five, but really 7. The real lessons are the lessons of character or Habitudes as I call them – And they are important for any learner, working professional, citizen or a global contributor.
1) Imagination is fundamental to learning and life. The world is built on dreams and has evolved based on collective dreams of those who dared to dream. All potential of world is due to dreams. And the web is the land of the dreamers!
2)  Curiosity is the most important attribute you need to keep alive. I have to quote Alert Einstein  here “ I’m not a genius, I am passionately curious” is what he said
3) It is critical to build and enhance your own self-discipline in life
4) Perseverance is critical – To succeed, you have to be tenacious to stick to your dreams and not take NO for an answer.  If you cannot dream, you dreams will never be a reality
5) Passion is really not about what you like or what is good.. But what you must do – And sometimes you may need to suffer for this.. But that’s what passion is all about
6) Adaptability – The world is changing at a rapid pace and in a blink of an eye, the context changes. You need to be inherently adaptable to survive and succeed in today’s world
7) Self Awareness is important – It is critical to learn with and for others. You need to ask yourself constantly “What is the value I bring to the table? What is my genius with respect to others? What are other’s perceptions of your role?” and the answers to these questions will show you the TRUE MIRROR, and several times burst your bubbles!

The key to genius is consciousness and conscientiousness.
You need to practice these habitudes and understand that in the long term these will define your success.

Nischala: That’s been a great learning for me Angela! And so very profound! So how do you bring in so much passion energy and excitement to your work and life?
Angela:  That’s a very good question! I am passionate about learning and am constantly in a state to embrace being an amateur. I am never worried about being an expert. And the distinguishing mark of an amateur is that he / she is in love with the discipline and with studying and learning..

And I don’t think I will ever reach the stage in life when I can say “I’m DONE”. And even though I’ve been in the education sector for 2 decades, I find myself saying everyday Oh my God! I know nothing about X, Y and Z… And I love the process of discovery, learning, asking questions, observing others, listening, growing and being part of others growth.. And the truth is that The more you know, you realize how much you don’t know

Nischala: But does this not put undue stress on yourself if you keep saying I know NOTHING!
Angela: You know that it such a profound and wise question. And I’d love to answer it with all honesty. Looking back, it was the most freeing feeling when I figured out that I don’t know everything there is to know and that I don’t have to know everything. And it was only at that moment that I finally accepted and embraced WEness instead of MEness.

So I stopped going into class as the teacher, but really entered as the lead learner. Also, I don’t call myself CEO of the company, but the Chief Learning Officer – So everyday my focus is on learning. And it’s not really about what I know, But how I came to know it which is important to me

Nischala: Thanks Angela for this honest answer. So my BEST QUESTION (in my view) of the Rendezvous is how can anyone be a life-long learner?
Angela: I think as an individual you should focus on problem solving and problem learning. And this evolves along the way. The TRUTH of the WORLD as I discovered in my journey as an educator is that there is genius in everyone and the power of the world is in the collective genius.

The trend that I see around me is it’s become fashionable for everyone to be an expert or guru; and that’s great! But the minute you / others call you a Guru, the learning usually ceases or reduces significantly.

So you should be committed to learning and be really transparent in What I know and What I don’t know. And if you don’t know, try to figure out the answers. And the better smarter and more efficient process should be embraced for anything in life. You don’t have to be perfect, but try to be the BEST you can in a given context!

Nischala: So Angela.. What has been the BEST moment in your life as an educator?
Angela: Being around young kids (say 4 year olds) where every experience is new. And to watch the amazement and wonder in their eyes when they experience something for the first time. And I get to watch and witness the genius of the world every single day through their eyes, questions, thoughts, ideas, laughs.. What is more amazing and wonderful than these precious moments with the genius of the world! Trust me – They are the BEST, most SATISYING and WONDERFUL moments of my day and my life – The moments which give me the passion, drive, zest and joy to contribute and do my bit and the best I can!

So what I do is that I invite students daily to join me on a roller-coaster ride where I watch their breath being taken away.

Nischala: That’s so beautiful Angela. You know I would love to sit through a class of yours to be a student and have you take my breath away :).. So any other message that you’d like to share as a part of this Rendezvous?
Angela:  :). You are welcome to join my class anytime you are here.  So as we conclude, a couple of key messages I’d like to end with are:
1) It is important to live life like a child. And the reality is that children have so much to teach us.. If only we are open to learning! Simply because children are the embodiment of learning. Every single thing a child does is learning. And if you closely observe children, you will understand what I mean!
2) Ask brilliant questions.. See the wonder and genius in yourself and the world around you!
3) The most powerful words at work, at home or in life are You Matter
4) Practice the Habitudes
5) Live life in awe – Every moment is unique precious and wonderful!
6) Adaptability should be your second nature
7) Self-discipline in mind-set and disposition leads to constant improvement
8) Encourage everyone to be a TRUE EDUCATOR

Education has to be 360 degrees. Education is not about entertainment, but it is about engaging minds in conversations. And really, learning has to be mutual between the student and the teacher

Nischala: Thank you so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure and I have enjoyed this learning experience. Best wishes for your continued efforts and contributions in the
education sector. The world definitely needs more educators like YOU! You Matter!
Angela: Thank You

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Posted on June 26, 2012, in Blog-o-Rendezvous, Blog-o-Series, Education, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Leadership, Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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