(this has become more deep and meaningful than I thought it would be - feel free to leave this post at any time :D)
I have just come back from ULearn13 in Hamilton, and I am still buzzing. Why? What is it that makes me want to go back next year?
I had never been to ULearn before - money, time, so much of an effort to get there and to sort out kids & hubby in the meantime. Living up in the Far North I have settled nicely in my little hermit cave, waiting for people to come to me, to bring opportunities to me. Doesn't happen very often... This year 'the boss' offered the opportunity to apply for PD funding for ULearn to those on the team that were accepted as presenters. So I submitted a proposal to present and - it did get accepted. No way out now (life in the hermit cave is so much easier when we either have people not come to us, people not bring opportunities to us or people turning us down when we for once offer to go out).
So there I was, I had to go - it felt like one of the occassions when your girlfriends ask you to go out with them and on the one hand you do want to go, but on the other hand you also enjoy just sitting in your pjs on the sofa and watching telly - it's a great effort to get ready, but once you are there, you really enjoy yourself! Choosing the breakouts to attend was fun and daunting - is this session interesting, relevant??? More so than the next one at the same time slot??? I was happy with the sessions I had chosen, Te Karaka School talking about their inquiry approach across the whole school incl. secondary was very enlightening, it went a long way to overcome my frustration with my secondary colleagues (I am secondary trained myself). N4L was very interesting, none of my schools managed to get into the first round of rollouts, now I am hoping that some of them will be in the second. Stephen Knightley talking about Gaming in the NZ Curriculum was right up my alley :) Manaiakalani Teacher Academy had lots of interesting projects, I am especially intrigued with the one engaging reluctant boys into writing. Diana Wilkes, from my BeL team, gave a very interesting session on using the SAMR model in teacher inquiries, lots to think about for me in there.
My own session was on Connecting with my learners and their whānau / family. I had felt the need to delve into the theory and offer a range of practical tools for teachers to take away with them. I knew it was a push to get both of this into the 75min, and tech issues slowed us down. I really hope the participants have taken something useful away with them. This is a topic I will definitely work on some more in the future, and I am hoping I will have the opportunity to repeat it some time in the future with some more time.
So what was it at ULearn that makes me want to come back - in fact proposing to present again at Learning as School in January 2014?
Firstly, it's the face-to-face contact, the connecting with people I had met in real life previously and those I hadn't met f2f before like my tweacher PLN. This sentiment has been repeated in many conversations I overheard - real life and on twitter:
-> Despite all the virtual connecting, we are still human creatures that crave f2f contact :-)
It's secondly the opportunity to pop into a different session on offer, or to stay for something that is going on, has taken your fancy etc. simply because it is all at one place. F2f this is very simple, you get to talk to someone, you hear, see something, and you go off in that different direction. In the virtual world we are ultimately by ourselves (in our hermit cave) unless we choose to connect :)
Thirdly, it has given me the opportunity to reflect on my ' living in the hermit cave'. Yes, it is unfair that few opportunities come to the Far North. Yes, it sucks to drive for 5h one way to get to Hamilton. But guess what, it's time to suck it up, put on my big girls' knickers. Other people have different problems, yet they go out of their way, too, to connect, to learn, to present. Life will not hand us everything on the golden platter, so it's about me - us all - to make it happen. Do we want to improve education for our learners? Then let's do something about it wherever our hermit caves might be. We all make choices in life, and need to learn to live with them - for our sake and for the sake of our learners.
So where to from here?
I have always said I want to win lotto and retire to full-time quilting (in my hermit cave) - I am kidding myself. Even if I was handed a lotto win (on the golden platter), would I really retire from the education world?? That doesn't mean that I won't continue crafting, most certainly it's going to remain my sanity saver from the busy day-to-day life.
Neither will I completely abandon my hermit cave just yet, though I am seriously contemplating whether the location of it is giving back enough to me and my family to make the hardships worthwhile (long drive, lack of access etc.).
I need to start creating my own opportunities; my location might mean I am out of sight, but my staying in the hermit cave too much means I most certainly am out of mind. While it is a matter of balancing commitments, with a group of tweacher friends I will put in a proposal for Learning at Schools (sucker for punishment, I know). I will also put my hand up more often when asked for contributing to hui planning etc. My biggest issue will be time management, so probably this will be the first issue I have to tackle. My learners will benefit more if I leave my cave more often.
As I said above, a post that is deep and meaningful to me; feel free to leave a comment if this resonates with you, too.