Friday, August 8, 2014

REMINDing Me What's Important

Sometimes a small reminder goes a long way.

For example, a simple text message sent from one caring college friend to remind him to get to class can spur a startup company. Called, Remind.

Brett Kopf, the co-founder of Remind, has dyslexia and ADHD. He benefited from a routine schedule in high school. However, when he got to college, the staggered class times, the infrequency in attending class, the transition from high school to college, all of this was too much. Brett needed someone to help him. By having a friend text him to remind him of due dates, Brett was able to graduate college and start his own company. Remind, a free mobile messaging service that teachers around the world use to connect to students and parents, currently has 10 million users. These 10 million users get reminders of due dates daily because of an idea based off one text message with a singular goal in mind -- let me help someone who needs it.

As Brett did, it’s important to remind ourselves of what we really need from other human beings. Whether it be text, tweet, email, or phone, we need someone to support us and who we can be open, honest, vulnerable, and trusting with. Who won’t expect anything in return for their help, because their validation is knowing they helped someone else be in a better place.  

Clara Galan did that for me today. She works at Remind with Brett. We met through a mutual friend. I shared with her my dilemma: some of the funding for a free, overnight professional development event  I’m working with 14 educators from New Jersey and Pennsylvania on fell through. Our goal is to provide a forum for 125 selected teachers and teacher leaders from our two states to have good educational conversations, share best practices, empower each other, and turnkey new learnings when we return to our home base. Food and lodging (and even some swag) will be taken care of by sponsors, everyone builds their PLN base, students benefit, and everybody wins.

But, no one wins if we can’t make up the funding difference. “You need to call Clara,” my friend, Nick Ferroni, said. “She’s great. She’ll help you.”

When Nick told me Clara was great, he didn’t define in how many ways: she listened to our situation, offered advice, promised to provide introductions to potentially interested sponsors, and didn’t want anything in return. When I asked her what I could do to support her, or Remind, she said, “We all want the same thing. We just want to help kids. That’s all that matters.”

I thanked her, not for her knowledge of how to help my team and I as we search to recoup our missed funding, but for the positive place she put me in. Her energy, enthusiasm, and selfless nature made me feel better -- not just about the project, but about the good within people. With all the hard work my passionate teammates put into securing sponsorships, finding a location, selecting lodging, and creating the right atmosphere for learning, I felt like I’d let them down as I told them we could do it.

Clara’s genuine kindness reminded me of what was truly important: that whether we pulled this event off was unimportant compared to the shared vision my teammates and I had, and the singular focus we had to create an event that would help our peers improve their practice to be more successful. I think Brett Kopf, and his friend from college, would approve.