While driving to Howitt Middle School on Saturday, March 28th, my phone kept beeping that sound that delightfully reminds me of my passion for learning…the Twitter notification. Trying not to tweet and drive (it was tough that morning), I glanced down at my phone whenever possible to check out the anticipation for CELI15 led by Dr. Bill Brennan. It was my Christmas morning for professional development. I couldn’t wait to get there and open the present of learning. Check out the room where I would lead a conversation on growth mindset and instructional technology with three amazing colleagues and friends. Eat a bagel (of course) and gulp down some coffee. Get my Chromebook ready so I could tweet to the conference’s hashtag. Find a spot in the cafeteria for the nearly twenty Massapequa colleagues who were joining me on this learning venture. Meet up with educators and friends from former districts. Check in with my EdCampLI all-stars. Engage in a conversation with the student who welcomed me. And focus on the dynamics of learning. Just learning.
Seeing the smiles, hearing the laughter, and witnessing the hugs/kisses/handshakes/awkward hellos, I reflected on two questions: What does it mean to be a learner in 2015? What does a learner really look like?
- The students who gave up their Saturdays to open doors, work the registration table, escort participants to the various rooms, and make us feel at home? I can see their excitement–almost as if they knew our learning would impact their educations. Their futures. We are their heroes and they are our inspiration.
- Dr. Bill Brennan who worked tirelessly to put together another amazing free conference to impact leadership and learning on Long Island? His passion saturated the building and will have an everlasting effect on teaching and learning across the island.
- Dr. Joan Ripley, assistant superintendent from Farmingdale, who took the time to welcome and introduce herself to participants over lunch?
- JoEllen McCarthy whose book love and passion for reading and writing always seems to push our thinking?
- The Gatelys and the EdCampLI planning team wearing stickers with a QR code linked to a Google form so educators could sign up for EdCampLI in October to continue the conversation of connected learning?
- The custodial staff keeping the building in shape while getting the chance to listen in on conversations on pedagogy?
- The group of Massapequa teacher assistants, teachers (and spouses), building and district leaders who truly enjoyed learning together? I witnessed their excitement through their questions, their own presentations, and of course, their tweets.
- Tom Whitby in his Hawaiian shirt inspiring the audience to question the power of being connected?
- The #nyedchat geniuses who engaged those in attendance and those online in a discussion of best practices?
- Tony Sinanis who always finds a way to get the conversation started?
- The participant who got on Twitter for the first time and felt very connected…with only two followers?
- Bonnie McClelland whose dedication pushes kindergarten students to learn at the highest level?
- The hundreds of other teachers, administrators, parents, school board members, student teachers, students, and support staff who all learned on the same playing field?
CELI15 reminded me of the power of learning and connecting in an effort to ensure students in all spaces become champions of their own paths. The learner was all of us. No race. No social class. No gender. No orientation. No first language. No title. No score. On a snowy Saturday in March.