In January, I had the privilege of escorting 5 amazing young people and 2 other adults to the Florida Senior Beta State Convention in Orlando. It was held at the Florida Hotel attached to the Florida Mall.
I will be honest. I didn’t want to make this trip. I had just returned from a fantastic time at FETC (the Future of Education Technology Conference), also in Orlando, the previous week and I was very tired. I desperately needed time to refocus on my classroom. I also was very caught up in the spotlight I felt while at FETC. Being the lead moderator for #FLedChat has its perks. One of them is that lots of people know me through the weekly Twitter chats. Conferences are a good place to make those connections stronger through face to face contact. There were lots of people wanting to make our connections stronger. I was blessed to connect with so many.
But, I was drained. I needed rest. I wanted to focus on me. I also wanted to focus on the connections made at the conference. There were also other factors. A family friend (that I considered my big brother) had passed away while I was at FETC. I was feeling particularly vulnerable and self-centered. It was an unsettling time for me emotionally.
It was a quick trip. We had decided to only stay one night. We wanted to save as much money as possible. That meant that we would not be returning home until very early in the morning on Sunday (another idea I wasn’t relishing).
I am so glad we went. The students were so excited. We hadn’t gone the year before. None of the students that accompanied me had been to the state convention. It would be their first time. The ride down was full of questions. One student confided that she had never stayed in a hotel. Others spoke of their apprehension to the competitions that were about to take place. Their energy fed my spirit.
By the time we arrived at our destination, I was as excited as the students. Yes, I was exhausted but the two chaperons(see the picture above) stepped up and helped me so much more than they even know. As the competitions began, the students realized that I was proud of them no matter how they did as long as they felt good about what they did.
At some point during the 40 hour trip, I woke up. I realized that my students were having a blast. They were making connections with other Beta club members from around the state. They were making memories that they would tell their children and grandchildren about. I was watching their lives change right before my eyes.
I remembered my purpose. It is to provide my students with experiences that prepare them for their future. This trip did that. Two of them placed for their creative projects. They earned rights to compete at the National Beta Conference in New Orleans in June. It is occurring the same time as another conference that means a lot to me, ISTE. But you know what? I am so excited to accompany these kids to New Orleans, that missing ISTE is small in comparison.
It will be the first time some of these kids have gone outside the state of Florida. It will definitely be their first trip to New Orleans. I am so blessed to be able to provide them this opportunity. I am so glad I went on this trip.