This past weekend (Aug 5-7), an amazing event happened; thirty-seven Canadian educators came together in an idyllic, off-the-grid location to share thoughts about what really matters in education.
Canadian Education Summit was a ‘conference’ like no other: no hotel conference halls, plastic nametags
or workshop schedules here; just nature in all her summer splendor and intelligent,
caring educators with important things to say about education in Canada. Each participant came with a short essay
(that will be available as an e-book shortly so stay tuned) and a personal
story that explained the “________” in our prompt, “Why __________ matters in
education”. For many, these essays were torturous to write. How can I express what matters most to me in
250 words? How can the ‘guts’ of an
entire teaching career fit on one page? The
secret was in the story and the conversations that ensued from our shared
|from Cleversheep's flickr stream|
It makes complete sense when you think about it. Our stories communicate the essence of who we are, what we have lived and our most cherished values. They are tiny vessels of highly concentrated meaning packaged in metaphor, drama and emotions. A good story is like a strong farm horse; it goes a long way and gets the job done. So as I reflect on this past weekend, their stories will resonate for me well into this upcoming school year. I learned so much but I will remember one story especially.
Rob Fisher shared this as we wrapped up the weekend Sunday morning. He reflected on his wife’s parting words to him as she dropped him at the airport; “Have fun with your geeky friends!” How was he going to describe to her exactly who we really were? These people were much more than techno geeks! I listened to his words and answered his wife with my own thoughts; “I met incredible educators with huge hearts!” Rob paused a second, put his hand to his head and said, “I met people who care so much about education that it hurts.” How did he do that? How did he reach inside my head and pull those words right out of my thoughts? I felt exposed; I hid my face in my hands and (uncharacteristically) released the tears that had been hiding all weekend long; tears of frustration and hurt from years of feeling disconnected; tears of joy at having found my small place in an amazing community of real people who care, just like me. In one second, in a flash, Rob’s story encapsulated not only the entire weekend but also the ‘guts’ of Unplug’d. Thirty-seven educators came together, investing considerable resources to talk about what matters in education. We spoke about curriculum, parents, power, politics, successes, failures and especially students learning. We spoke about our hopes for the future and how we might ‘carry this forward’ (Darren Kuropatwa's words)so others could benefit from the tremendous community we began building.
Dean Shareski spoke about joy. Learning is, after all, an experience of joy. (I wonder about the neuroscience of this and the neurotransmitters responsible for this feeling of joy when we connect ideas and experience.) When we learn, we instantly feel ‘bigger’ than whom we were one second ago. Educators have a privileged position of vicariously participating in that joy; and that brings us our own special joy. So Monday morning, feeling a bit sad at the sudden disconnect from the intensity of these new connections, I found myself re-reading students’ letters of gratitude and love from years gone by. I reached for that green folder because I remembered Dean’s message about honouring joy. Their letters reminded me of how one caring educator can make all the difference in a child’s life. All I did was listen. All they wanted was for someone to care. Years later, their gratitude still morphs into my joy and reminds me that I am exactly where I want to be in my life, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing but now, my community of caring educators has grown considerably.
If these words have resonated with you, please leave me a comment and please visit Unplug’d so that you may see for yourself the faces of educators who care and listen to our stories when the book is published. You can participate in this community of educators and help us to bring JOY forward this year. In a short time we will be back at school. If this fills you with dread or sadness, go find your 'green folder' and remember how important you are to somebody who needs to see you light up with joy because learning is better than drugs, because growing is cool and especially because it forges a lifetime of irreplaceable and priceless meaning.