It was the hottest of times... it was the coolest of times (thanks to the air conditioning); it was the busiest of times... it was the quietest of times (thanks to the end of the school year); it was the most connected of times... it was the most disconnected of times! Over a three day period at the end of June I had the opportunity to experience two amazing conferences - Model Schools in Atlanta and ISTE in Philly. The experiences were vastly different yet the end result was quite similar... I had social interactions with people that resonated with me on a personal level and will potentially impact my professional practices moving forward.
In some basic ways these conferences could not be more different... one was full of connected educators while the other featured very few connected educators... one featured a heavy focus on technology while the other featured some technology but by no means did it have a strong presence... but in the most important way, these conferences were exactly the same because they were both filled with thousands of educators who were giving up their "free" time during the summer to enhance their craft in the hopes of meeting the needs of children (at least that was my goal).
With that being said, the experiences were incredibly different for me but equally as important for my personal and professional development (I see the two as interconnected and intertwined). While I was in Atlanta at the Model Schools conference, the conversations were mostly focused on professional practices and pedagogy where the majority of the people I was connecting with were new to me - they weren't part of my PLN and I had never been to Model Schools before. I have to say that I LOVED every minute of it because it helped push my thinking in the professional realm and it gave me a space to discuss the things that I am most passionate about as it relates to leadership, learning and teaching. It was awesome and there was something liberating about being in a space where most people didn't know me and thus didn't necessarily "expect" anything of me.
That all changed when I got to Philly. You see, ISTE was full of connected educators and many of them were my friends as a result of being part of my PLN. I was excited but nervous at the same time... would I see everyone I wanted to see? Would I get to meet some of the people I have never met face to face? Would I be able to steal a few quiet moments with a couple of special people? What were people expecting from me if we did have a chance to speak? I was totally stressed about it even though I knew I was going to be seeing dozens of my friends. Well, after presenting on a panel with some of the amazing authors from the Corwin Connected Educators Series, I ended up hanging out in various small groups throughout the day with some great friends. There was food, laughter and some powerful conversations with people I consider some of my dearest friends. The discussions and interactions weren't necessarily about the same types of professional practices that I had the chance to discuss at Model Schools but they were equally as important because they met some personal needs. I was able to talk about balancing life and work; I was able to pick someone's brain about how they manage the whole presenting thing with their real life; and I was able to get a hug from a friend just at the right time. You see, for me, ISTE was filled with the emotional deposits that I needed on a personal level in order to sustain myself and maintain a positive frame of mind at a moment when I was feeling quite overwhelmed. Now, was I able to spend time with everyone I was hoping to see (no #educelebrities in my world - just friends but that is a whole other post)? No. Was I able to meet everyone I hoped to meet? No. But, I was able to engage in those important personal interactions that would be the catalyst for growth in my professional world. I needed ISTE in the worst way but not because I was going to learn about the newest tech tool or website but because I needed to be surrounded by friends who could relate to my professional world but could appreciate me on a personal level at the same time.
My experiences at ISTE were the perfect compliment to my time at Model Schools because the personal and professional development happened almost simultaneously (the Perfect Storm if you will) and when I came back home to NY, I was ready to tackle both my professional and personal challenges. You see, based on my experiences and research, professional development doesn't happen in isolation and it is very much dependent or connected to personal development and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by educators who helped me develop in both areas and that was my tale of two conferences!