(Before I let you know what I wrote about I think it's important for you to know why I had to write in the first place. One of the goals of Unplug'd is to end the weekend with a collaborative piece of writing.)
I had so many issues running through my head but in the end the story I wanted to share most was about how important it is to become a connected educator and that even though you may feel alone in your school ( a black sheep perhaps?), being connected allows you to realize that you are not alone at all. My letter was addressed to a black sheep, someone just like me. My oral story was inspired by one of my students. Because I became a connected educator this past year I learned about blogging with students, which in turn allowed one of my students to finally have a place that was comfortable and safe enough for her to share her voice. Without going into details blogging was transformational for this particular student. I would never have known about blogging with grade one students if I hadn't connected on line with like minded teachers.
|My Amazing Nieces|
While in the lobby Kathy Cassidy noticed me. What a surreal moment. Here was a lady I highly respected and learned from that I really wanted to meet face to face. I must say I was very nervous at this point although in hindsight it makes me giggle that I was so nervous. We chatted for a bit and then met up with some others. It was great to talk and get to know these complete strangers. I can only assume that most were feeling the same way that I was excited to be there but a bit afraid of the unknown.
|Kathy Cassidy, Karen Lirenman, Angie Harrison|
Lucky for me Angie Harrison along with several other people I follow on Twitter attended this tweet up. Unfortunately Aviva Dunsiger , an educator I highly admire and chat with regularly, was very ill and not able to attend. I did get the chance to meet Royan Lee which was pretty cool too however there were a lot of people I did not know. At this point I was feeling very overwhelmed being in the same room with people I highly admire, yet knowing very few others. I was most definitely out of my comfort zone.
Joix's presentation was fantastic. He shared stories of the many different pieces that made up the special guitar. These pieces came from all across Canada. When he was finished Bryan Jackson, an Unplugd participant was given the honour of playing the special guitar. It was a very moving moment.
The train ride was about four hours long and during that time we were encouraged to change up our seats and talk with as many people as possible. One of the first people I met was Iain , a new teacher graduate. He was awesome as he spent some time showing me how to use my LiveScribe pen. I loved his enthusiasm for teaching and I feel confident that he will be an awesome educator.
As we travelled through Ontario countryside I had many conversations. I must admit I was surprised by how easy I felt moving from seat to seat learning a little bit about the other participants one conversation at a time. I took in some quiet time too to just soak in the experience.
|The Edge by aforgrave|
|Sharing our Rocks|
|The Connections Map|
|Greg the Nourisher by Guilia.Forsyth|
|My Group - Rod, Kelly, Me, Erin, and Alan by mrmuzzdog|
The next morning I was up early for a morning paddle board followed by a swim with Aerin. It was great to be out on and in the water. After an another incredible breakfast we met as a whole group again before splitting off into our small groups. It is here that we shared our letters.
|Peer Editing by lisaneale cc|
After that we peer edited the others. We had a break mid morning and while Kelly our fearless facilitator had a facilitator's meeting Alan, Erin, Rod and I went off on a hike. After having such an intense morning peer editing it was so nice to be in nature with these incredible people. The lake at the end of the trail didn't hurt either.
|My black sheep shirt at the lake by cogdogblog|
With lunch in our bellies and our final story edited we set down to make the official changes to our letters. This was harder for me than I imagined it would be because with the edits came changes I hadn't thought about making. But I struggled through, and with the support of my peers got it done. Thank goodness.
|Final Editing by Kelly-Ann's Pic!|
From the swim it was dinner (more awesome food prepared by Greg), followed by another whole group meeting. This time we shared a small synapses of our letters. Alan represented our group and did a fantastic job relaying our messages. We then found out about a secret activity. All we were told was that we would be canoeing and we were highly encouraged to bring our bathing suits. If any one has been counting this would be the THIRD time I was putting that silly suit on.
Anyhow the secret paddle (at dusk) ended up being to a large sauna and a wonderful bonfire. For some of the night the sky was clear and we could see a sky filled with stars. Here I listened in on conversations, and spent a fair bit of time chatting with Heidi. In the end Heidi and I were the last boat to paddle back to the Edge in the pitch black. It's too bad the clouds had come back again.
When we returned to the Edge, after a delicious dessert, there was talk that the clouds had blown off again and that the sky was clear. A small bunch of us headed to the dock to watch the meteor shower. Giggles were shared along with a lot of excitement over what we were seeing in the sky. It was a fantastic way to end an incredible day.
On the final day we had morning activity time followed by breakfast and the final closing meeting. The final closing meeting was a sad one. Here we all shared a little something about the weekend and we were encouraged to write a post card to ourselves which would be sent by the organizers once we headed home. Many tears were shed and the poor tissue box was passed around the room. Even though I had know many of these people for a little over three days the connections we made were strong and real.
The last thing we did before we headed home was Minga Time. The philosophy behind Minga is giving back to the community. We all took part in doing one thing for the community. I was involved with a group that was building a trail, and once the dirt was in place we planted seeds. If I am able to return for Unplug'd next year there will be a part of the property that I helped cultivate. If I can't there will be a spot for others to enjoy.
As you can imagine the bus ride back to the airport was exciting but sad. Many were involved with a live broadcast on public radio network (which I later found out is where many of them connected) . If you're curious you can find this radio network at bit.ly/ds106radio4life . Google ds106 Radio if you're curious to find out more about it. I'm still trying to figure it out myself but I loved hearing Andrew, GNA, Guilia, and Jesse on it last night.
So if you've read this far you're probably wondering what I took away from the weekend. In no particular order I learned:
- There are incredible people doing incredible things for completely passionate reasons
- Being vulnerable in an environment that is supportive and caring is a powerful way to make changes within yourself
- Listen. Really listen. We all have something important to share.
- Your stories matter and not just the happy ones the tough difficult stories too.
- The on-line connections I have made are real and true, and have only gotten stronger because of these face to face connections
- And most of all we are not alone in our struggles and our successes. Being a connected educator is a powerful support network.
The Incredible Unplug'd 2012 Crew
|Photo by benhazzard |
*If you look closely you can see Giulia and I with our hands in the air on the island with the special tree.