Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why I Love Summer Conferences

Yesterday, I spent seven hours at an education tech conference (@cuerockstar) with a cafeteria full of happy people. They were laughing, drinking coffee, smiling, chatting, eating, talking, working, and creating. Who were these “Pollyannas,” and why were they so damn content working their tails off all day?

They were the summertime.

The number one reason for the relaxation and pure engagement? No bells. No bells were ringing, no classes were starting, no students were popping through the door in tears due to a broken heart, no one threw up in the hallway. It was a room full of uninterrupted passionate adults excited about their own learning...because they were given the gift of time to do so.

Now, during the school year, it’s not as if we “turn it off.” I know many teachers who remain innovative, creative, and flexible in their classrooms. But these teachers are your workhorses, because they have had to do it while in the midst of the school year. They are pushing through the “tireds” after a vigorous day of teaching and spending hours researching and implementing for the following day or week, and not everyone can do that, especially if you have your own family at home that needs a wee bit of attention.

The school year can be likened to a favorite central valley pet: the pit bull.  It grabs you in fall, clenches its teeth, locks its jaw and keeps you captive until Spring. There. is. so. much. to. do. that sometimes that “creative and innovative” part can come across as almost frivolous.

Summertime is a different. Without the constraints of our tight knit schedule and the unpredictability of a classroom full of kids, we can focus on ourselves as scholars and life-long learners. I could just feel the buzz in the air yesterday: teachers in flip-flops and shorts and t-shirts, laptops in hand, talking about summer trips to Alaska, “Game of Thrones” finale, and the “Orange is the New Black” premiere.  

But, here is the psycho part...what were they talking about most of all? NEXT YEAR! Yep. We just closed out the school year and said goodbye to our kids and the majority of the day yesterday was spent talking about NEXT YEAR. How can I engage the unengaged? What will deepen learning? How can I get my kids to express from the heart and care about what we are learning?

That is some love and passion right there.

I met teachers who have swanky digs up in Clovis and met others who teach on an Indian Reservation where some of their poorest families have to burn tires in the winter to keep warm. The interesting dynamic: there is absolutely no difference in passion when it comes to what population you teach. All of these people want to be the best for their number one customer: their students.

Today, we continue collaborating, eating, and laughing as we work together to shape our classrooms into idealistic places of beauty, using each other as mentors, therapists, and comrades.

And next week, I will revisit all I’ve learned as the sand squishes through my toes in Huntington Beach.

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