Let me start off by saying I am incredibly blessed with an amazing PLN. They helped me create the video that got me to this amazing conference. (See the video.) They are always here to help whenever I need them. Everything they say about me is equally true about each of them. Because of their support, I had confidence to share with the team from Miami Device. They saw something in me that I didn’t. They took a chance and I earned a scholarship to this conference. Making that video, earning the scholarship and actually attending Miami Device has changed my perspective. For that, I am grateful.
As time for this conference approached, my excitement grew. As my excitement grew, I felt more and more like the kid on Christmas Eve. I only hoped I wasn’t psyching myself up to be let down. I’d been to many conferences over the 24 years of being an educator. It is easy to promote a conference as the next big thing. It is something else to make it true.
Even though the conference began on Thursday (11/6/2014), I would be driving on Wednesday. I live about 6 hours north of Miami. I am not a straight through driver. I like to take breaks and enjoy the ride. The drive itself was routine. Drive for a while, stop and stretch, drive some more. This trip was made more enjoyable by an app called Voxer, a Bluetooth headset, and an incredible group of educators on the BFCLounge (part of the BFC530.com community). On going conversation kept me from feeling alone. Six or so hours after I started, I arrived in Miami.
Wednesday, there was a meet and greet dinner. It started at the rooftop pool of the Mayfair hotel. It was beautifully lit. It had a feel of true Miami with bungalow spaces. As I reached the pool level, I immediately saw Anibal Pacheco (@AnibalPachecoIT). He instantly made me feel at home. There is never an awkward silence around him. He has a way of making you feel like a long lost friend. Listening to his amazing journey captures anyone within earshot. I am grateful for his friendship and support. As the evening came to a close, I knew Miami Device would be everything I was expecting it to be.
Thursday, I was so excited that I was awake before the sun rose. Today was day one of this two day conference. I was met by a group of excited educators from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. There was a great breakfast which was followed by our Welcome session. Felix Jacimino (@felixjacomino) was full of energy. His excitement was contagious. Daniel Kim (@canadankim) pumped us up even further with his musical mash-ups. An amazing keynote by Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt) was the cap of the wave. When he said, “School is not a rehearsal.” My mind was totally blown. School is the real world. Then he went on to encourage us to stop hiding under a bushel. Educators everywhere should be sharing everything. Showing the world how amazing we are. He went on to remind us that as long as a student is in front of us, then we haven’t lost that student. Don’t give up. Encouragement — Keep it going.
As soon as Kevin finished speaking, I had another phenomenal moment. I looked up and there was Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur). Sarah and I had connected on Twitter several months earlier. She and I have done Google Hangouts together. We also talk almost daily on Voxer. She and Ashley Hurley (@ashleyhhurley) were the two friends that encouraged me to apply for the Miami Device scholarship. Their ongoing support has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and take a chance on myself. Now Sarah and I were in the same room! It truly was a moment that should have had background music. As soon as we saw each other, we knew what we always thought was true. A friendship that had been created online was now solid. Sarah and I spent as much time together today as we possibly could. She had obligations the next day. We definitely made the most of our time that included a trip to Sweet Tomatoes and Sarah’s first trip to a Publix supermarket.
As you can tell from the length of this post so far, this was already an amazing experience for me. I haven’t even begun to talk about the sessions. I’ll talk about them in my next post. The connections made during this two day conference will be with me forever. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly and supportive. Everyone listened attentively, asked questions, shared ideas and information. But there was something missing. Something that made this conference different from every other conference I had attended. Not once did I hear anyone mention raising test scores as a reason for any of this. It was clear to me that these astounding educators were here to support the entire student. It was an eye opening experience.
Great teaching leads to great learning. Great learning leads to successful students.
As the conference came to an end on Friday night, I was able to join these awe-inspiring educators for dinner. All night the conversation focused on various topics ranging from our families to our educational backgrounds, to when we first discovered the internet. (Yes, a few of us were in the classroom as teachers when we discovered the internet became available.) We talked for hours about education and what we want for our students. Our hopes and dreams for the future were also a part of the conversation. I didn’t want to pull myself away from the conversations. I am grateful to be able to continue these conversations through social media. My PLN exploded while I was in Miami and I couldn’t be happier.
Here are some pictures of the amazing memories that were made at Miami Device: