As our plane gained altitude and ascended above the clouds this morning, a beautiful sunrise emerged that was not visible from the clouds below. By rising above them I gained a new perspective as sunlight and beautiful colors filled the sky. As I took in the breathtaking scene, I began to reflect on my last three years as an educator. Prior to November 6, 2014 I was in the clouds unable to see how truly beautiful education could be. Why is this date so impactful? Today I am headed to Miami to attend Shift in EDU formally known as Miami Device. It was exactly 3 years ago that I flew in for this very same conference held in Coconut Grove, Miami. My life as an educator has forever been changed since that balmy weekend in November and I can attribute it to these three factors: bold risk taking, finding my tribe, and global connections.
Bold Risk Taking
Prior to 2014, I would not have considered myself a risk taker. I played it safe most of the time in life as well as education. I was scared of flying, scared of speaking in front of adults, and I shied away from leadership roles. Though I was continually trying new things in my classroom, they were well thought out and carefully executed to prevent embarrassment.
My first “big” risk happened the Summer prior to Miami Device. New to Twitter at the time, I decided on a whim I would submit an entry to a contest to win free hotel and registration to a new conference called Miami Device. At the time the idea seemed crazy. I was new to edtech, new to sharing globally, and new to this connected world called Twitter. However, I was inspired by my recent trip to Ipadpalooza in Austin, TX and decided I would take a risk and be innovative. I created an entry explaining why I wanted to attend using the apps: Tellagami, Thinglink, and Paper 53 and smashed them together. I then spent an evening mustering up enough courage to attach it to a tweet. With bated breath, I closed my eyes and launched it into the Twittersphere. I really did not think I had any chance of winning this contest, but what did I have to lose? Few really knew me in this world and I’d only risk slight embarrassment if someone of those people happened to see it. As weeks passed, I almost forgot I had submitted it. Then, the announcement came….I had won! I was going to Miami! Though this may not seem like a big risk to some, for me it was huge. I ventured out to learn something new, created something all my own, and shared it with the universe. I was empowered and with each risk since then, the fear diminishes and the courage grows. It is also safe to say that I have (almost) conquered my fear of flying and I absolutely love to share my passion publically (with adults)!
The "winning" entry...
Finding my Tribe
When I attended Miami Device in 2014, I traveled solo. I didn’t realize what it meant to have a tribe or to be connected as an educator. I am a fairly introverted person and am not usually one for mingling with groups of people that I don’t know. As I stood on the fringes of the Miami Device social the first day, an educator that I just had met grabbed me by the arm and said, “come with me, I want to introduce you to some of my friends.” That simple, kind gesture to make me feel included has stuck with me. Many of the connections that I made that day have been transformational and because of them I've grown exponentially. I am no longer that timid educator standing on the fringes at conferences. I’ve found my tribe and there is rarely a conference I go to where there is someone I don’t know. Would I be in that same place as an educator if, my now dear friend, Rodney Turner, hadn’t given me a gentle push out of my comfort zone? I have no idea but, I always keep that small, yet powerful act of kindness in my mind. Who is on the fringes and how can I help them find their tribe?
As amazing as it was to meet my tribe at Miami Device, what if we all left without any way of staying connected? Voxer and Twitter has allowed me to not only stay connected, but expand my PLN beyond what I ever would have imagined. My PLN has become my source of inspiration, encouragement, and support when I can’t seem to rise above the clouds of my current situation. They help me gain a fresh perspective by gazing down from a higher vantage point so I can see the bigger picture. The opportunities, the courage, and the mind-shift I have experienced from this community of educators that I call friends is indescribable. My heart is full of gratitude for how so many have helped shape me into the educator I am today.
Shift in EDU
In a few hours I will be landing in sunny Miami, FL to attend the conference that has made such an incredible impact on my life. I have no doubt that I will have many stories and experiences to share. Prior to 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing those experiences with the world. But now, I can’t imagine keeping them in. I know that my story needs to be shared, because maybe through my experiences somebody else’s life will be impacted too. It's worth the risk. Stay tuned….
Make sure to follow my #MD14 tribe, they are all phenomenal educators!
Rodney Turner, Craig Badura, Michael Matera, Jenny Ash, Brent Catlett, Katherine Burdick
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.