It was my birthday. November 7, 2014 and I was spending it alone (so I thought) in Miami, Florida at a conference called Miami Device (rebranded as, Shift in EDU). I was on the brink of walking away from education. Only four short months prior I was ready to throw in the towel. I was tired, burnt out, and frustrated. At the height of my despair, I was awarded a grant for a classroom set of ipads and some professional development to go along with it. What some may have considered a reason for celebration, I felt trepidation. I had never used ipads in my class before, and I had no idea where to start. However, a series of serendipitous encounters including ipadpalooza in Austin, Texas (now rebranded as LearnFest) and this “Twitter EDUworld” I had discovered, began to shift my "Eeyore" mentality from one of gloom to hope.
This was only the 2nd edtech conference I had been to, and I really was in a state of shock. I hadn’t ever experienced education like this before. So many amazing sessions, presenters, and hello...it was Miami! I remember I had just begun to listen to a podcast series called EDUallstars on my morning runs when I spotted one of the show hosts’, Todd Nesloney, at the conference and I was a bit starstruck. I remember feeling in awe of the experience, but alone. All of these amazing educators in one place, where did I fit into this mix of EDUawesomeness?
An introvert by nature, I am not one that is super comfortable mingling or striking up conversations with people I don’t know so I stood on the sidelines taking it all in, wondering if I looked as awkward as I felt. I must have looked like a fish out of water, because just as I was ready to retreat back to my hotel room to hide, someone I had met the previous day came up to me and said, “What are you doing standing there by yourself? Come with me, I have some people for you to meet?” He whisked me off to be introduced to person after person making me feel like I truly belonged there. If it hadn’t been for that act of intentional kindness, I may have gone home from that conference feeling as disconnected as I did when I came. Instead, I ended up spending my birthday with an amazing group of educators that I now call friends. Most of us have stayed connected via Voxer and Twitter, and the kind man, Rodney Turner, is part of a Voxer group that I am in conversation with daily. We share our ups, downs, triumphs, and challenges. We’ve cried and laughed and encouraged each other through many of life’s obstacles. These people that I very rarely have a chance to see face to face, I consider some of dearest friends.
I’ve shared the “Rodney” story frequently over the years in various forms, because it was pivotal for me as an educator. I left the palm trees, balmy air, and Key Lime pie knowing that my life as an educator had changed. My days of despair were over and I was beginning to feel less like Eeyore, and a bit more like Tigger. I’ve pondered many times where I would be if it hadn’t been for that intentional act of kindness by someone who understood the power of being connected and have made it my mission to pass on this kindness by reaching out and helping others get connected too. Thank you, Rodney, for making a difference in my EDUjourney!
This past week I attended the ACTE Careertech Vision conference in San Antonio. It was amazing, and I will share more in another post. However, it was a new conference for me with educators that I was not connected with and those feelings of awkwardness that I had felt 4 years ago at Miami Device came flooding back. I looked in on groups of educators walking to sessions, sharing, and laughing and wished I was connected too. Fortunately I am in a different place now and am much more courageous than I used to be, pushing myself out of my comfort zone to connect with new people. I left San Antonio, with an expanded PLN of amazing Career and Technical and Family and Consumer educators, but also keenly aware of how important it is to not only be connected, but to be a connector.
In this season of giving and gratitude, give a shout-out to those who have been pivotal in your EDUjourney. I would also encourage you to pay attention to those around you who are on the fringes, longing to be connected. If you are at a conference and see someone standing alone, introduce yourself and to others in your group. Help them feel a sense of belonging and show them how valuable it is to be connected. If you are in a Twitter chat and realize someone is just joining in for the first time, help them feel welcome.
If you are not connected and feel like a fish out of water in this connected EDUworld, reach out! I will introduce you to some amazing peeps and communities! We need each other!
Check out Twitter 101 for EDUs by @TaraMartinEDU to learn Twitter essentials and get connected! It's an incredible resource!
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.