I am not an introvert. I don’t just go up to random strangers and start conversations, but I am definitely no introvert. I love hanging out with my family and friends, but I’m mostly energized by spending time with other educators who “get it”. I love meeting someone new who is excited about where education is heading and is actively doing something to impact it in a positive way. I meet awesome people every day through Twitter and LinkedIn. I can’t say enough about these two platforms for building an effective professional learning network. Anytime I travel for work, I get to meet new amazing teachers, administrators, and other ed leaders. Often times, these people don’t see themselves as doing anything noteworthy. They definitely don’t sing their own praises. The best leaders are humble leaders. Adding to that, the best leaders are team players.
This teamwork was clearly evident when I was recently fortunate enough to get to present at Googlefest in Eureka, MT. It was the best conference I’ve ever presented at for a couple of reasons. The #1 reason is the people (and it always should be). Rob Reynolds, the organizer of the event and Technology and Learning Coach for Eureka public schools, quickly gave credit to the entire team that made the conference happen. He had support staff, teachers, administrators, and even students (culinary arts provided all of the food for the day!) pulling together to make their third Googlefest a huge success. The presenters are all top-notch educators from three different states who come together for this event. I had packed sessions with eager-to-learn participants which made facilitating, even more, fun. I had two colleagues from Affton Schools, Valerie Brinkman and Chris Peters, Google Hangout with my sessions on Genius Hour to talk about how they have implemented it at their middle school. They made time in their own work days to share incredible insight into personalized learning with teachers hundreds of miles away. Why? Because the get it. They love what they are doing and want to share it with others. All I did was ask them (the power of a great PLN at work).
The #2 great reason that this was the best conference I’ve ever been a part of is the people (no it’s not a typo). More specifically, it’s the social time I got to spend with the other presenters outside of the conference. While I love the relationships I get to form and foster via social media, nothing compares to real-life face time. These teachers, administrators, tech coordinators, and consultants were highly professional, and tons of fun. What a great combination?! These are colleagues that I can discuss work ideas, session topics, education policies, and more with any of them on a regular basis.
All of this to say, good professional development is a team effort. I can’t “develop” myself alone. Even if I am doing learning on my own time from home, I’m accessing the work of others (typically via Twitter and LinkedIn). Great conferences aren’t produced by the work of one person. Good trainings don’t happen without a willing audience. All of us in education today should be willing (and wanting!) to continue to grow in our field. We can’t positively impact students unless we are always learning ourselves. And the best way to do that is to surround yourself with quality people working toward the same goal.