Friday, July 3, 2015
I have spent the last 24 hours or so trying to digest the last week in Long Beach, CA with the NAESP15 crew. It is difficult to put into words just how important these conferences are, not just because of what you are learning but because of who you are meeting.
I do not enjoy meeting new people. I will just put that out there. I have a very high level of social anxiety, and meeting new people is a very, very difficult thing for me. Even being reunited with old friends can be very uncomfortable. Lucky for me, I've managed to find a great group of people in my learning network that make life just a little easier for me.
My husband and I arrived in California on Friday prior to the conference so we could enjoy some relaxing time in a state which I had never visited. We had a great time (received an immense sunburn!) and were easily on West Coast time when the conference came around.
Our small (but mighty!) group found a home on Voxer and in the Innovations Lab where the techies and want-to-be-techies were all made to feel at home. Dr. Joe Mazza and the MCDPEL staff have created an incredible place where conference attendees can network, learn, find help and find support. This group of people made the conference for me. It was an exciting subset of the conference and I am so proud to have been even a small part of it.
6 of us presented on a National Panel on Innovation and Connection. Ben Gilpin, Brad Gustafson, Amy Fadeji, Joe Mazza, Todd Nesloney and myself had over 100 educators in our room playing games and discussing some very deep concepts on getting ourselves and our students connected. Amy - and her mighty selfie stick - took a picture of the entire audience, and it was amazing. I am pretty sure they are still dusting off the peanut debris from the tablecloths.
I was able to meet in person some of the many people who have helped me on my journey. Melinda Miller, Lisa Dabbs, Adam Welcome, Joe Mazza, Rosa Isaiah, and so many more. Every one of them as beautiful in person as they are online, and I could not be more blessed to know them.
When I leave a conference, I find I need a "buffer" day. One in which everyone leaves in small bits as opposed to all at once. I feel that it makes the emotional part of leaving a large group you have spent every waking moment with *just* a little bit easier. This time was no exception. We had an extra day to say goodbye to our amazing group little by litte, and know that many of them we will see again in Chicago at EdCampLeader in just 10 days.
I cannot stress enough what I think many people miss about these large conferences. It IS important to attend the sessions, read the materials, visit the exhibit hall - take in everything that is being offered. But most importantly - create the relationships. These are the people who will continue the learning with you when you return home. Share ideas, share opinions, share the struggles. It is the easiest way to get through this job, and definitely the most enjoyable.
So, to Todd, Brad, Ben, Amy, Catina, Melinda, Kathy, Brandon, Adam, Jeremiah, Rosa, Lisa, Joe, Dan and everyone else I was fortunate enough to connect with....thank you. Thank you for helping me connect, keeping me connected, and giving me a LOT of laughs along the way.
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