The following blog post was written slightly distractedly on the plane enroute to NYC. Apologies for any typos, grammatical errors, or strange formatting!
Today I am setting off on an adventure that has been in the making for the past 2 years. It will, I hope, be both invigorating and restorative in personal and professional ways.
Several years ago I learned about Educon and heard one amazing thing after another about this conversation-based conference of amazing educators that takes place at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, a school that many whom I respect for their interest in student agency had spoken highly of. I started scheming and making plans to attend Educon in January 2015, and in the fall of 2014 I found myself connected to a PLN in ways I had never experienced before. Through the immense kindness, enthusiasm, and positivity of a number of wonderful educators, and my newfound role as the organizer of the #BFC530 Mountain Time chat, I was creating friendships and collaborations that spanned the country and even the world. Many of these new acquantances hail from the east coast, and so we began talking about making plans for me to visit their schools and meet their kiddos and colleagues, learning from and meeting up with them not at a bustling conference but in their classrooms, their schools. By November I had my mind set on this whirlwind learning trip and PLN tour that would take me to NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, DC on the days before and after Educon in Philly. My heart started to sing at the sheer prospect and excitement this incredible experience had to offer.
And then, through a variety of life events and personal circumstances, my plans no longer seemed feasible. I wasn’t in the right headspace to make this trip, so I decided not to go. It was one more blow in a series of heartaches and disappointments, but I knew it just wasn’t the right time and wouldn’t be the same. I followed along with #Educon from my couch, watching videos (thank goodness for people’s enthusiasm for Periscope and the Educon Live Streams!) and reading the content and experiences shared across social media for the weekend. While I would have loved to be in Philadelphia with my friends and colleagues, the ability to partake in my own way from afar did not disappoint.
As many of you know from previous blog posts, 2015 was not my best nor favorite year. I honestly didn’t invest too much time or energy thinking about Educon and the trip that could have been. My energies and my focus were elsewhere. In the summer I went to Philadelphia for ISTE 2015 and had the amazing pleasure of meeting over 30 people from #BFC530 and my PLN for the first time. It brought me so much joy, a great deal of pride, and a big slice of beautiful, humble pie to learn and talk with my awesome education community. When I came home my bucket had been filled and somewhere along the way my new plan had been made to attend Educon in 2016 and spend time in schools with my PLN.
And so, that brings us to today. The plans have been made, the schedule has been set (mostly), and I am about to embark on 12 days full of learning, living, and enjoying time with some of my favorite people. With a trip this big that has been in the works and on my mind for so long I thought it was important to set some intentions and keep in mind how I hope to embrace this trip fully.
Intentions & Mindsets
- Be open to opportunities as they arise, be present in each moment, and really enjoy the big and little things going on around me.
- Take advantage of time with the people I care about and want to talk and learn with. (This also means not letting my nerves or social stresses take over in my brain, and not thinking too much before jumping in to a conversation.)
- Attend Educon sessions that are interesting, inspiring, and meaningful to me as an educator and a person.
- Document and share my trip in ways that feel right at the time so I have a “story” of my trip that captures not just what I did, but what it made me feel and think. I’ll likely use a combination of Instagram, my blog , Twitter, Persicope, and YouTube. I also want to document who I get to meet & what I walk away thinking and feeling because of our time together.
- Feed my artistic soul, letting my inner artist come out through theater, dance, and visual art experiences.
- Rekindle a positive relationship with my educator-self: tap into my passions and interests, share and consider the context of my experiences past/present/future, and let my love and care for learners of all ages be present in my heart and my mind.
- Mindfulness and being present: Make time and space for reflection, racharge and honor my introvert needs, explore my surroundings with others and alone, be observant and listen deeply. Feed my soul every day as an educator, artist, reader, writer, vlogger, documentarian, and tourist.
I’ve shared my itinerary below for anyone who may be interested, but mostly so I can have it documented somewhere for future reflection. Of course I hope to be doing lots of sharing on the Twitters, so I hope to see some of you there if not in person! (Toying with using #edutrip16 but very open to hashtag suggestions if you have any!)
Arrive in NYC around 4pm and meet my dad, who has driven down from Maine, at the airport. We’ll spend Friday through Sunday morning together in the city doing who knows what. (Between the number of things available in NYC, the impending east coast blizzard-snowpocalypse, and the fact that I haven’t seen him in 2 ½ years..it really doesn’t even matter as long as we’re doing it together.)
Drink Coffee Bean.
Try not to get blown away or buried in a snow mountain somewhere in Manhattan. Enjoy quality time with my dad, hopefully seeing a couple sights and eating tasty food.
Drink Coffee Bean.
Barring any snow-related issues my dad will drop me off at the #CoffeeEduNJ in Westwood, NJ on his way back up to Maine. I’ll FINALLY get to enjoy a #CoffeeEduNJ in person and not just coveting the awesome experience from afar through my Twitter feed. I’m especially psyched to see my pal Steve Isaacs, and he has generously offered to help me find my way back to the city on the train after the coffee and possibly lunch.
Since most theaters are dark on Mondays I hope to take in a show or 2 on Sunday afternoon and evening. I have my eye on Parsons Dance Company at the Joyce and An American in Paris, sotime permitting I’ll try to hit those both if I have the energy, interest.
Drink even more Coffee Bean.
Today is my day to venture into the city solo and do whatever my heart desires. I haven’t picked any classes out yet, but I hope to attend at least 1 tap class and a modern class while in NYC and ideally this is the day to make it happen. Growing up in Maine I spent summers in NYC dancing and have seen most of the city’s attractions, but one tourist site I do want to see this trip is the 9/11 Memorial and Observation Deck in Tower 1. I was inside the WTC not 2 months before 9/11/2011 but I have not been back to the city since and I would very much like to see the memorial and how they have rebuilt the area while honoring those who were affected by the events of that day.
On Monday night there is a free Movement Lab at Judson Church, and I’d really like to attend a performance there since I’ve actually never been to this venue that has such a rich and important history in dance, particularly how it fed the evolution of modern dance.
Coffee Bean. Yes again, maybe twice if I’m lucky.
I have the morning to myself to do whatever I like. Maybe take a dance class. Definitely drink Coffee Bean one last time *tear*
In the afternoon I am meeting my friend Cathy Isaacs (awesome wife to the previously acclaimed Steve Isaacs) at her school in Manhattan. I am really intrigued to see what teaching and learning looks like at a private, lower school in the city. I hear I also get to hang out after school for her STEM club, which sounds absolutely awesome. After work I will accompany Cathy home on the train and stay with the Isaacs Tuesday night in New Jersey.
Spend the day at Slackwood Elementary with Jay Billy. I am SO stoked to experience firthand the culture of his school and the enthusiastic learning that takes place in classrooms around Slackwood. He has also promised to “put me to work”, and I fully intend to hold him to that.
Another awesome school visit, this time over to Collingswood High School with Eric Fieldman and Dan Whalen. Dan and Eric both have unique roles in their school as intructional tech coach and Twilight Special Ed program teacher respectively, which will be really neat to experience for the day. Lunch with the AP and a Twitter PD session with staff is also on the docket, both of which I am looking forward to a lot.
Thursday night I will head into Philadelphia and get checked in at my hotel for the weekend. If the weather is nice enough I’ll probably do a little touristing to a few historic sights and to the LOVE statue, which I didn’t get a chance to see on my past visits.
EDUCON!!!!!! Oh, sorry. I might be a little excited.
I’ll start the day with a Filmmaking for Teachers workshop at SLA: Work with students and faculty of SLA’s Rough Cut Productions to learn the technical and artistic techniques of communicating through video. This three-hour interactive workshop has a limit of 30 participants. I’m looking forward to learning from SLA students and staff and immersing myself in this topic with likeminded educators since so much of my day job is focused around the use of video as a personalized professional learning experience for educators in our district to capture, reflect on, and share their practice. I believe Dan will be joining me, which will also be awesome to have a fellow PLN pal to learn with and keep the learning going via Voxer and Twitter in the coming months.
Later that day we’ll have the great pleasure of touring SLA and learning more about what school looks like for their learners. It will be awesome to build my own understanding and experiences after reading and hearing so much about their culture and school model. We also might have time to enjoy the Franklin Institute.
Friday night is the Empowerment panel and reception at the Franklin Institute. I’ve heard wonderful things about the panels at Educon, so this will be a great way to kick off a weekend of learning and connecting!
Educon sessions begin!! I’ll spend the day in Conversations, which is both the name and format of the sessions at the conference. I’m going to try my best to both capture my learning through Twitter, collaborative notes, photos, video and be present within the conversations I attend.
Either today or Sunday we will have a Coffee EDU meetup before Educon starts.
Saturday night is the “Philly Classic” dinner and netoworking social at City Tap House. I’m hoping some of our #BFC530 friends will be able to make it to Philly for a meetup as well.
Start the day with either Coffee EDU or a Philly photo walk around the SLA neighborhood. Educon starts with a panel discussion, What Conditions are Necessary for Empowerment in Schools? before 3 more conversations throughout the day.
I’ll probably head over to the Philadelphia airport after the conference to rent a car for a couple days since my plans are flexible and somewhat more spread out for the next couple days. I may head back to the Isaacs’ Sunday night so I can visit Steve’s rockin’ classroom on Monday morning.
Likely visit Steve’s class in the morning, then head down to Delaware and spend time with Rosy Burke’s awesome kiddos in the afternoon. I learn so much from Rosy and her students on Twitter, and have had the great pleasure of beautiful Voxer conversations with Rosy when she was teaching in MO and through her transition to a new state and school. The integrity, care, and passion she invests as an educator is inspiring. I admire her greatly and will be so stoked to see where the magic happens up close and to enjoy some time with Rosy Monday night as she has graciously offered her home to me.
Head down to DC and have lunch with Sarah Thomas. Sarah and I first connected a bit before the first edcamp Denver in 2014, which she attended all the way from DC! We have had the great pleasure of spending time together in Denver for edcamp, Copper Mountain, CO for InnEdCO, Atlanta and Philadelphia for ISTE, and Portland, OR for iPDx – this will be my first chance to visit Sarah in HER home space and I am looking forward to that a lot. She also recently transitioned into a new role, and will have just returned home from a very exciting edu-trip to the UK, so it’ll be awesome timing to catch up on her whirlwind adventures.
Tuesday afternoon I’ll head back up to Philadelphia to return my car and head home to Denver around 6pm. I am sure by this time I will be very ready to seee my husband, cuddle my Yorkie, and sleep in my own bed – but I will likely have some bittersweet feelings as well. With any luck my bucket will be full, my heart will be overjoyed, and my mind will be filled with great thoughts and ideas – all of which I look forward to sharing with my friends and colleagues back home. I’m also hoping to find ways to share and build upon the ideas and learnings from the trip with my awesome team, as I think we are all craving a reboot and seeking a chance to recommit to the things we believe so wholeheartedly in.