Wow what an incredible day and a truly inspirational experience at the Culture of Learning Chat to Action conference in Swartz Creek Michigan! I’m thrilled to have met and joined up with this incredible group of educational leaders, thinkers, and doers! From the first moments of this wonderful conference I was fired up! The information was great, but I have to report that the primary source of inspiration for me was the energy. It was awesome and true to form that the organizers, the speakers, the presenters, and the participants created and sustained a palpable culture of learning. There was singing, there was dancing, there was silliness, there was laughter, and there was fun. It was made clear that we would learn by taking risks, and that through those risks, laden as risks are with the potential for challenges and even failure, that we would continue to move forward in a positive direction no matter what…and we did!
First I went to Garnet Hillman’s session on Standards Based Learning. Talk about energized and informed! Garnet did an incredible job of bringing me up to speed on a concept that I knew very little about, and that I’m now inspired to explore further. By the way if you don’t follow Garnet on Twitter and read her blog you should start right away (@garnet_hillman & garnethillman.com). After the morning session I enjoyed further inspiration from the various chats, speakers, and interactions with many Twitter PLNpals who I rarely, or never get to see in person. It was great getting together with this group!
As lunch approach I began getting growing excited my session. I was on at 1:10pm. My topic was blogging through a framework of intentional reflection as a mechanism for ongoing learning and growth. I was psyched! It’s something that I’m passionate about. It’s something that I believe in. It’s something that I love to share with anyone who wants to share it! I set up my tech, I visualize, I ran through the slides and thought again about my content, and I waited with excited anticipation.
When the time came I stood at the door to greet people. One after the next they walked past. Many of them said hello, many of them made reference to my blog and told me how much they enjoy reading it. There was a tremendous amount of sincere enthusiasm over the work I’m doing. I was humbled, flattered, and thrilled to hear it. Sill, they continued walking. As the start time approached, I noticed that only about ten or so people had stopped. Not what I had visualized. My initial thought was, “it’s not going to be easy to fire up a large room filled with only ten or so people.” My second thought was, “What does easy have to do with learning and growth?” Nothing.
I did have to regroup though. I panicked a bit. When I present to lots of people there are always at least a few who absorb and appreiciate what I’m getting at, and even if it’s only a few, that “getting it” provides me with a workable energy. What if no one got it? What if I couldn’t fire them up? What if I bored them to death? Ironically one segment of my presentation today was about how life ain’t easy, and how through a commitment to intentional reflection we can face that lack of ease in ways that perpetuate learning and growth. I knew that regardless of numbers, we could enhance each other’s lives and drive positive progress over the course of the next hour. I knew it, and while this is slightly uncomfortable to admit, I was having trouble working with it at first. I was nervous. In those first few moments I couldn’t quite embrace the incredible opportunity I was facing (something I’m working on through a commitment to reflection as a mechanism for ongoing learning and growth:).
My thoughts uncontrollably turned again to, “How the heck am I going to fire up only ten or so people in this big room?” I’m sure it was written on my face, I’m sure it was evident in my voice, and I’m guessing that the beads of sweat rolling down my brow didn’t help. I didn’t recognize myself for a minute. Where was the passion? Where was the confidence? Where was the belief that every moment holds limitless opportunities for inspiration? I wasn’t going to inspire anyone gripped with nerves and distracted from my purpose.
But wait, here’s the rub, here’s the learning, and here’s the wonderful part of such experiences…I was being faced with a challenge, and I love challenges! Suddenly, I snapped out of it and realized that this was actually an opportunity for me to model exactly the concept that I was about to suggest to my ten or so colleagues. I turned to the nice folks sitting quietly at the big round tables in that gigantic room. While they didn’t physically fill the space quite like I might have hoped, they certainly filled it with a collective eagerness to learn! I knew for sure that someone would be inspired before the end of this hour, even if that someone was going to have to be me!
I’m happy to report that I was inspired! I was inspired by the enthusiastic and insightful participation of the incredible educators who shared their hour with me. One piece of my reflective process that I walk them through this afternoon is the importance I place on recognizing connections in each moment of my life, and then working hard to integrate those connections into my reflective practices through a lens of my priorities and core values (my reflective foundation). Today the ten or so of us brainstormed some connections to leadership and learning as related to some moments that I had captured. Below are some of the moments and inspired leadership and learning ideas that came out of that portion of today’s session.
BOY WITH A BUG WATCH:
Learning does not need to be boring.
Tools can make learning more interesting.
You can learn something by looking closely at anything.
We are each fascinated by things that interest us.
We should each take time to see things from multiple perspectives.
MARCHING IN THE RAIN:
There can be happiness even in the rain.
It’s fun to take a natural shower.
It doesn’t matter if you get wet.
Embrace your climate whatever it brings.
Not all days are sunny.
Not everyone will always approve of what you’re doing.
SLEEPING IN A SWING:
Kids can literally play themselves to exhaustion.
Sometimes we all need a break.
Being in a comfortable place is comfortable.
One reason that play can be so tiring is the growth it perpetuates.
HOT DOG CLIMBING STAIRS:
Sometimes role-playing can help kids take risks.
Pretending is fun and a good way to learn.
We don’t always mind when the attention is on us.
It’s okay to be very enthusiastic about something.
READING DURING RECESS:
Books are open doors to our imagination.
Following the crowd is not always the best thing.
Educators must make space/opportunity for introverts.
Our highest priorities are not going to be interrupted.
So there it is, just some of the inspiration that came out a situation that initially struck me as challenging almost beyond repair. In hindsight, it couldn’t have happened any other way, and I’m glad it didn’t. It reminds me that if only one person leaves any given experience inspired, that experience is well worth while…even if the only one is me! Later, after attending an inspiring session led by the incomparable teacher/writer/ed leader, Starr Sackstien (a must follow/read @mssackstein & starsackstein.com), Starr reminded me that if only ten or so students showed up on a snow day, we would still work to facilitate and engage in an inspirational day of learning. Indeed!
What a gift that I can follow today’s work with a connected reflection. I truly appreciate the opportunity have been involved in this incredible event, and I’m writing now as an extenuation of the culture of learning that we all worked hard to create today. As I focused on in my session, I am wholeheartedly committed to intentional reflection as a mechanism for learning and growth, and today’s experience is a real-time example of why. Looking forward to next year’s conference and many #COLchat sessions in between (Monday nights from 9-10pm eastern)!
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.