Imagine you are at a college football game. You pull into your tailgating spot, right next to the people you tailgate with each weekend – they aren’t people you know outside of the tailgating world, but in that moment, you are best friends. Maybe you do send a few emails or texts throughout the year, but the true relationship has formed around the Saturdays you spend together in that lot, playing bags, grilling burgers, and dressing in your school colors. You are high five-ing everyone who passes by, singing the fight song as you walk down the sidewalk, and hugging the guy behind you when your team makes the big play.
Think about that energy – feel that energy – these are your EdCamp friends. Your state conference friends. They are largely local, maybe regional, and you get a chance to interact with them at regular events throughout the year, although maybe not as consistently as you would like.
Now your team has made it to a bowl game. Maybe your team has made it to the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. You’re traveling to the game, fans from all across the country are gathering in one city for the main event – some are even coming from overseas. It’s a week of that same tailgating energy. Fans pour into the city, you’re getting selfies with former and current team rockstars, and you have built an entire community around your team in a strange city for the week of the game. More high fives, more meals shared, more shared experiences. While you’re there you meet some new friends to connect with and cheer with throughout the year, most of whom you won’t see again until the following year’s bowl game. The laughing, hugging, crying, cheering, and emotional “I love you, man!”s are flowing freely, and it’s exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. Then suddenly it’s over, and with a few phone number exchanges and email addresses shared, you go back home to your regular Saturday tailgating.
That is as close as I can come to describing the energy and bonds and relationships that you see at ISTE each year. When you gather thousands of like-minded, excited, innovative, incredibly passionate educators in one city for 4-6 days, the atmosphere is indescribable. It’s almost hard for me to even come home and talk about, because other people just don’t get it. If you don’t live the life of a passionate, connected educator, it’s hard to understand the passion and enthusiasm that feed into the energy at ISTE. The learning and the connections and the excitement refuel you for a whole year of doing awesome work for kids, before you finally get to come back to ISTE and re-charge that passion again the next year.
The on-site learning is amazing, don’t get me wrong. I fit in way more sessions this year than I did last year, and have several great takeaways that will come in posts to follow. But the real value of ISTE to me is the community and the energy. The connections you make at an event like this are what keep the learning going on all year long. I can’t wait to continue to continue sharing and working with new friends like @wkrakower, @jd_rincker, @librarymall, and @darinswenson. I got to re-connect with and learn from people I met last year – like @anibalpachecoIT, @smartinez, and @adambellow. Of course, it’s also fun to travel half-way across the country in order to find time to meet up with rockstar people from your own state like @ColinWikan, @casas_jimmy, and @donovanscience.
There is something about the relationships that form around something like college football tailgating or ISTE that others just don’t understand unless they have felt the static energy in the air that comes from so many thousands of people being passionate about the same thing in the same place. Those are the people that carry you through the bumps in the road when your team isn’t doing so well, who lift you up on their shoulders to help you celebrate a success, and who cheer wildly with you when the team is doing well. The people who don’t understand the magic of those Saturdays in the fall when an entire state becomes a community at the game, are the same people who don’t understand how I can get to ISTE and instantly hug a member of my PLN that I’ve never met in person before. Unless you’re part of the community, it’s just hard to understand, and it’s even harder to explain.
I can’t wait to share more of my #ISTE2014 take-aways and look forward to all the exciting learning opportunities that will be offered to kids because of the new connections I’ve made and relationships I’ve formed. Stay tuned everyone, August learning days with teachers are the training camps of my world – it won’t be long before the season opener (first day of school), and then before you know it we’ll be in Philly!
See my post, “6 Days of Highlights at ISTE2014” for more of my #iste2014 experiences!