Favorite movie! Favorite week of the year! It just makes sense :D
I'm back in Texas after an amazing 8 days in Nashville, TN living? surviving? growing? through (not sure of the right word) #DENSI2014. That's the hashtag we used for the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute. Comparing it to any other PD or conference just doesn't seem possible. It is truly unlike anything else an educator will ever experience. It isn't "a conference". It isn't "PD". It's a week long personal development opportunity that will forever change your professional and personal life.
I've admitted to being a conference junkie. I enjoy them... ALOT! There is freedom is choosing my own learning opportunities. I enjoy the after hours networking and using five forms of social media to decide where we will eat at night. Faces come and go through the halls rushing from one session to the next. Most of those faces will become avatars in one of my social media channels. Another conference, another time, our paths may again cross.
Professional Development is kind of my thing. I've been a PD facilitator almost as long as I've been in education. I ENJOY it. I get it. There are few things as exciting as watching light bulbs turn on for educators. All too often, it is a "thing" that is done or taught and hopefully learned but then it too comes to an end.
#DENSI2014 was neither of these. Yes we had badges and sessions for attending during the day. Yes we all wanted the coveted "conference shirt" and we all followed the hashtag. But the faces I passed in those hallways were also in my dorm at night. Those faces weren't connecting on social media to figure out dinner because we were all in the dining hall. Those faces are forever in my memory and family. We have already connected and will continue to do so, many of us daily.
Yes I learned. I'm still going through session notes, tweets, posts, and random pieces of paper trying to piece it all together. I have SO MUCH to bring back to my own district and the twitterverse. Friendships are made. Specifically, bonded ones that will continue on for eternity. Thoughts, ideas, and learning styles are challenged. New ideas and connections are made and explored. Light years beyond the superficial exchange of business cards and pleasantries, the connections made at DENSI are permanent. They aren't colleagueas and friends. They are family. PERIOD.
Every day held a new surprise and adventure. From the outings at the Ryman Auditorium to the conversations that carried on into the wee hours of the morning, each moment felt special. Daily I woke up singing "This is gonna be the best day of my life"! Now that the time has come to an end, we go out into the world and share our new knowledge. Until next spring when applications open, we change the trajectory of students as we build upon the connections we have made.