Relinquish – Revisiting That One Word from New Years

I’m not sure when in history this word took on negative connotations but in selecting relinquish as my One Word, I have realized that the idea of abandoning or turning something over to another is not generally perceived as what winners do. And when it really comes down to it, who doesn’t want to be a winner? I certainly do. In fact, there are things I’m willing to do battle for in order to make sure what I think is right wins over. One might ask how can I afford to be focusing on relinquish when there are so many fights to be won in the name of educational technology, student voice, digital citizenship, professional learning and the list goes on. What struck me was what it cost not to relinquish a few things in my personal and professional life.

So what have I been focusing on these last few month in terms of relinquish? A number of things really. Some have been purely incidental while others are a conscious effort. Here are two of the biggies:

In the Merriam-Webster definition of relinquish there is an example, “few leaders willing relinquish power.”  I unwittingly set out to do this with one of my favorite work projects, the #INeLearn Twitter chat. I’d been the main moderator of the chat since my office introduced the hashtag. While we’d had a series of guest moderators lead conversations, just that label implied there was an owner, that the chat belonged to someone. From the outset, I felt strongly that the chat was about the network, that it needed to be self-sustaining beyond any DOE voice. My position gave me a platform for introducing the chat, but it belongs to its members. I’ve put a lot into this network and have sacrificed countless hours of “Big Bang Theory” for the love of #INeLearn, but relinquishing or giving up the title of moderator has freed me up to interact with members in new ways and to engage with other leaders who are experts in their areas. The moderator team is growing and so am I.

The process has led me to think our connotation of what a leader is needs to be refined a bit too. If you agree with the Tweet below, then you may agree that leaders do a lot of relinquishing.


My real challenge with relinquish has been putting aside negative thinking; namely self-doubt. This personal goal is not new. I actually starting writing this post a few days ago when I found myself needing to really focus on relinquish more than usual.

This month I had put in my second application to the Google Teacher Academy and it was getting near the end of the waiting period. While I knew I had done my best and felt good when I hit submit on the application, I had also set up a Google Alert so that I could see other people’s videos, a major part of the application, as they were uploaded to YouTube. The first time I applied, I had tried a new tool, so new that I got the invitation to join the week the applications were due. I was proud of my Powtoon and was certain it would set me apart, but it didn’t. This time around I had a pretty awesome idea for sharing my message. It was one that proved impossible for me to execute after several pitiful attempts. So, in the end I did what many do–I narrated a slide show of sorts. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t impressive either. But as I watched video after video, my own work slid closer down the scale toward horrible and I began to wonder if I was crazy to think I could compete for a spot among such talent.

Now I wish I could say that I had the strength to finish this post when I started it on Monday night, but I didn’t. I tucked this away with plans to come back to it. (I’m not going to beat myself up about it–a small victory in the relinquish challenge.) Had I finished this post before yesterday afternoon, I would have said that I had reconciled myself to being prepared for not getting in. That I recognized the value of having reflected on my work with such intensity. That I resolved to learn more about video making. And that I relinquished the anxiety of being of accepted; even though I hadn’t surrendered hope that the impossible would be possible. And all of those things are true. Only, yesterday the email notifications came out and mine started with “Congratulations!” (My head still buzzes a bit at the thought.)

I’ve already got my next relinquish challenge in front of me. There are a number of people who’s work I follow and a couple whom I consider close members of my PLN who did not make this spring’s GTA. It is easy to feel intimated by that–I mean these folks are inspiring, talented educators and I learn from them on a regular basis. And I get to attend. It really doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t to them either. I’m going to work at coming to peace with this…I need to in order to be able to share my excitement.