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If you read the blogs of educators, you can’t miss them.

They’re displayed proudly, so you can’t miss them.

For the individual displaying them, they represent accomplishment, a very visible digital signpost that says: stop and look, I am a qualified educator, a connected educator, someone to be taken seriously.

Back in 1996, I was awarded a fellowship by Genentech, Inc. to their Access Excellence program. The company, over a three year period, selected 100 educators from across the United States, and flew them to San Francisco for a week to learn, to connect, and form one of the first online educator communities. It was a good program; I got a free laptop (albeit a Macintosh), learned some things, and met some great people. What did I have to do to gain admission into this community? The answer: write a really good lesson plan.

The program lacked one thing. A badge for me to display my accomplishment.

There are numerous programs in place now for educators, similar to the one I was part of. You apply, submit some credentials, a video perhaps, and the great race for inclusion takes place.

If you are fortunate to become part of the experience, you often have the opportunity to participate in events and exclusive ones at that. You might get to go to a day-long program or perhaps a special event at a conference, get some bad hotel chicken wings and a few beers, and get to talk and mingle with your hosts, and your fellow program colleagues. You might even get to go on a cruise.

And you get the badge.

I’m talking about the digital icons of programs that are sponsored by commercial companies that provide experiences like I have described above. Badges that can be displayed on blogs, or other digital spaces, that signify the inclusion and participation of the individual displaying the badge in the program that the badge represents.

These companies are smart. They recognize that teachers are generally not recognized for their efforts, either by their own organizations or the communities they serve. They recognize that teachers are generally not recognized for their efforts; efforts that range from the mundane and necessary to those that are above and beyond, and are heroic. The companies recognize that the thirst for this recognition can be quenched with a program that provides that recognition.

And the participants also get a badge.

I generally think that these programs are good. Not as good as most of the participants think they are, not as good as their tweets say, but for the most part the programs are ok. They don’t do much to change education as a whole, but that’s not really the point, is it?

The thing that bothers me about these programs is the badge you get to display. The have-have not mentality that they promote….and perhaps the false sense of accomplishment that goes along with their display.

A serious question. How much of an accomplishment is it to be a part of these programs? How much better was I than the next biology teacher just because I wrote a more creative lesson plan? They didn’t see me teach. They didn’t ask my kids about me. They didn’t look at a portfolio of accumulated work over many years, they looked at a single lesson plan. Yet I was an Access Excellence Fellow-something to be proud of, but something to examine critically, and take it for what it was worth.

So, if you are a member of these programs, be proud of your accomplishment, but get rid of the badge. Revel in the good things you do every single day for kids. Be proud of that. You don’t need a badge for that; you only need to be recognized by the smiles on your kids’ faces, and on the faces of their parents for a job well done. Ultimately, a career, and a lifetime in the service of others will not be measured by an accumulation of badges, but by those that you have served over those years, and their accomplishments.

So be part of the program but get rid of the badge, it sends a bad message. It doesn’t represent who or what you really are.

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