“Just” #ISTE in Philly
Everything happens for a reason, right? I loved how my Uber driver reminded me of this when he was bringing my best friend Nycol Didcote and me back to the airport last week. I’m not an Uber expert, we actually don’t even have Uber where I live, so when I requested our ride that morning, I forgot to click that we were going to be two passengers. On our way, we picked up someone else, and then I saw our driver cancel another pick up because we ran out of space. I apologized saying that it was my fault for not having specified that we were a party of two. He replied “That’s okay, everything happens for a reason. Maybe Chris (whose ride he had cancelled) was bad news!” (Okay, I changed that quote slightly because this is an education blog, but he made me laugh that morning, despite it being 3:30am!)
So why share that little story? Because everything DOES happen for a reason. I had applied to go to Cue earlier this year, and when my proposal to get funding from my division got denied, I was crushed. Now though, I understand that it happened for a reason… cue #ISTE19 instead (see what I did there?)
Once again, I was super blessed to travel, bunk, and conference with my bestie Nycol, with whom I am also super grateful to work every single day. Taking risks (and, who am I kidding, navigating new places) is always easier with her by my side! We had super high hopes for this conference and were not disappointed!
I could go on and on and tell you about some of the amazing sessions and ignites we attended by incredibly inspiring educators or how special it was to finally meet and hug people that I’ve grown so close to over the years. Shout out to these amazing people: Jennifer Casa-Todd, Tamara Letter, Katie Martin, Tisha Richmond, Matt Miller, Tara Martin, Elisabeth Bostwick, Mike Mohammad, Mandy Froehlich, Rachelle Dene Poth, Brian Aspinall, Kristen Nan, and Lance McClard (who even had his kids there for a poster session by the way – amazing!). But amazing sessions are to be expected at conferences (or at least I would hope), and it’s no surprise that relationships are key, so I’ve decided to write about a bit of a discovery, if you will.
Just like Nycol and I had written after attending #CanConnectEd, “Although we were attending a technology conference, we noticed that our greatest takeaways were all based on passion, people and relationships.” This is just as much true today as it was two years ago when we originally wrote it.
What struck me even more this time though, as I was surrounded by a group of power-house women, was how supportive, encouraging, and real they were with one another. Never once did I feel inferior to them as they chatted about their challenges, strengths, and next goals when it came to speaking and presenting. This moment in time reminded me that we are all where we are, and that’s okay, so long as we’re moving forward. I feel like, although I admire them and look up to them beyond measure, they can empathize with me because they were in my shoes at one point in time.
As Nycol and I explained that we were “just doing a playground session and weren’t really presenting”, Tara stopped us and said that we were presenting and to stop downplaying it. This reminded me of a quote by Rachel Hollis in Girl, Stop Apologizing:
“I downplayed it all. I waved the truth away like I was batting at a fly. Oh, it’s just this little thing I do. I buried every accomplishment and didn’t admit my biggest dreams even to myself.”
So yes, it’s true. Nycol and I didn’t just give a playground session. We gave a playground session. Period. We went to our very first #ISTE conference and submitted a proposal to present at the Global Collaboration Playground on our Growth Mindset Read Aloud, got accepted, made some cute slides and handouts, bought some candy, and shared this fun project with attendees, in hopes that some would join us next year. And you know what else happened? Our amazing PLN came to support us… you know, those same people who were out there doing the big presentations. How encouraged, supported, and loved did we feel? I can’t even begin to put it into words.
Teachers are kind of pros at downplaying what they do. Why do we do this? Is it because we’re afraid of looking like we’re bragging? Do we feel as though we’ll intimidate others? Are we afraid of being judged? For me, it’s usually because I believe that what I’m doing isn’t all that special, I’m just doing what all educators do… We do what we have to do to create meaningful learning experiences for our students, who we care so deeply for. We will jump through hoops to do what is best for kids, but then act like it was no big deal. Maybe that’s why we get comments like “you have it easy, you get summers off”.
During ISTE, I was reminded that we all have a story. We all have a voice worth sharing, no matter where we are in our learning. Your normal might be someone else’s new and amazing. What you share might just be the spark that someone else needs to take that leap and try something new. And another thing, those big names that you admire and who intimidate you just slightly (or maybe a lot), are just real people who continue to strive to be better every single day, just like you and me.
So, let’s stop using the word “just” in order to downplay our accomplishments. Let’s own what we’re doing and where we are. Let’s find comfort in the fact that we are all at different places, and that’s not only okay, but it’s necessary. Let’s keep sharing, no matter where we are on our individual journeys, because together, we are better.
A very special thank you to all of those who made #ISTE19 such a memorable conference! I am blessed to have met so many of you face to face, finally, even though it feels like I’ve known you for ages! I am so grateful to call you friends and look forward to the day that our paths cross again!