This weekend was an amazing experience in many ways! I was in Washington, D.C. for the BAMMY Awards with some truly remarkable educators, people who are deeply passionate about students and their learning. Anytime that I get to spend time with teachers and administrators who love their work, I benefit! It nourishes me to listen and learn from every one with whom I have time.
Saturday afternoon, I organized a time for teachers to get together to talk about the benefits and challenges of being a connected educator. The Library of Congress generously offered us a room in which to meet. Special thanks to Vivian Awumey for giving up her Saturday afternoon to share and spend time with us. The educators who came, making it past the possible bomb scare outside, enacted in person what we often participate in online. We brainstormed and developed our ideas together. We listened carefully and asked questions to clarify our thinking. We built new ideas together. We sought to identify why we want to spend the time that we do together, in person and digitally.
One of the main takeaways for me was that being connected is about being on a journey, and while it is a person journey, it is not a solitary one. The growth and development that has come to each one of us has come from the community with whom we are journeying. Each step that we take, we move together. We challenge each other to keep going, speaking words of encouragement and support. The wonder of the journey for me is the lack of judgment that other teachers give to each other. We all know that it is hard! Each and every day, there are mountains to be climbed. It takes effort to change our practice, to understand and support each student, to accomplish all of the big and little jobs that need to be done. The educators on the Connected Journey know that and are walking the challenging road together. It is a journey that is long, full of moments of joy and moments of exhaustion. It was great fun to talk about the process with a group of committed educators.
And then came the BAMMYs! What a contrast in so many way! While I support the idea of honoring teachers, I find myself after two years, realizing that I don’t believe in competition between teachers. That is for the movie stars, and I don’t want to be a movie star. I want to walk side by side with my colleagues, not push my way to the front. The educators in the hall actually love the “Jonathans,” the comedian’s name the that difficult child. We lay awake at night trying to figure out the ways that we can help him become an engaged learner. We open the door to the parent who is early and stressed. We always are trying to make our classrooms places where all students and parents are safe. That is what makes a great teacher! Being connected means opening the doors to my classroom, sharing my ideas – the good ones and the disasters. I no longer have the closed file cabinet that no one else gets to see. My door is open and anyone is welcome to take whatever will help them make learning happen in their classroom. I don’t want to be “better” than another teacher; I want us together to make learning better across the school and around the world! Awards do not enhance connections; they break them down.
That being said, I am incredibly proud of the award that was given to edcamp. The best part about it was that it was in its own category. We didn’t beat anyone; we simply were recognized for the power of the movement! All of us, however, would say that the true power comes not from us; it comes from educators all around the world who are willing to work to enhance their practice, to share and learn together. We are the cheerleaders from the sidelines, but the growth and power of the edcamp model isn’t us. It is the teachers and administrators who care about kids! It is the power of being connected!