1) People matter.
One of my favorite things about the DEN is that it's truly more than a digitally connected group of educators. It's a family. It's a tribe.
I know that if I'm stuck on a concept or just need a little inspiration (DENspiration) after a tough day, they will be there. One of our tribe members, Lindsay Foster, has a daily twitter image or message to inspire creativity and spread the love. She challenged herself to spread positive vibes and I whole heartily embrace this. In education, it's ridiculously easy to fall into a negative attitude because there's so much that is out of our control. So I'd rather surround myself with happy vibes and that love for teaching was overwhelmingly evident at DENSI.
I can reach out on Edmodo, twitter, facebook, or texting when I need advice from my tribe. This doesn't mean my work family isn't amazing (because they are) but sometimes it's nice to get other perspectives. My tribe offers that. From the first moment I walked on campus, I started to recognize people from DENSI 2013 or from the facebook group. Everyone is welcoming, everyone is positive, everyone genuinely operates with the mindset that everyone should be successful.
I met people that recognized me from my TpT store picture and had previously purchased products, which was a surreal experience. We ended up discovering this over the less-than-appetizing cafeteria breakfasts. The friend requests are still coming in and my PLN (professional learning network) is ever-expanding. It's nice to know I've got people in my corner.
2) Work-Life Balance.
If there's one thing to know about DENSI events, it's the importance of #napchat. Nap chats fit perfectly with my love of naps. Sleep is valued. Taking care of yourself is encouraged.
DENSI focused on putting fun and joy back into the classroom. Our jobs matter. But home life and social life matters too. There was time for learning at DENSI, but there was also lots of time for connecting to others. I don't think Kate and I got to bed before midnight any day of the week because we were up chatting with others...oops! Again, people matter.
Last night, while B had softball, I went over to a friend's for dinner. Several of my pals inquired as to where he was, which was appreciated. He was not only missed by me, but my friends as well. I ended up staying for many hours after because I was having such rich, meaningful conversations with others. The evening did include Cards against Humanity, at which point those meaningful conversations fizzled into ridiculously inappropriate ones.
This year, one of my personal goals is to be better at the work-life balance. I've already shared with two of my lovely grade level ladies that I need to leave by 4. Most of this is to get home to let Waffles out, but I want to make sure I have my evenings for me. I'll set aside one night to work late from home (whichever night B has class) but I want my nights free for our family time.
3) Leadership matters.
I'm fortunate enough to work for two amazing administrators who aren't afraid to get a little bit silly when leading by example.
Beyond my admin, the leadership of the DEN is awesome. The DEN (Discovery Educator Network) isn't as strong in my district as I'd like, so I'm excited to be in conversations about strengthening it to build community. When educators in my district hear "Discovery Education", they tend to think of the benchmark assessments and the frustration that usually accompanies standardized testing. I'm hoping to help change that conversation.
4) Have fun and be yourself.
I'm a creative person. I like having my classroom be a slightly loud, slightly messy, melting pot of learning. I take risks and sometimes lessons flop. That's okay. I learn from them and move on. I have fun in my classroom and that's okay.
My classroom is a reflection of me. My classroom is a reflection of my students. My classroom is a reflection of our learning journey.
When you're excited about what you're doing, that enthusiasm rubs off on your students. That's a good thing.
Often times, we get so wrapped up within the walls of our own classroom that we forget to connect with others. We forget to share the great things that are happening. We don't recognize the greatness in ourselves and feel inadequate when compared to others.
This has to stop. There are exciting things happening in classrooms and they need to be shared and celebrated.
We need to share with each other and learn from each other. Part of my hesitation with sharing is that I don't want to feel like I'm doing someone else's work for them. Truth be told, I've worked with some lazy educators over the years. My definition of lazy has shifted because I acknowledge the importance of a work-life balance. I didn't always appreciate that in my early years and would be unfairly critical to others who left on time to see their families. I didn't think they put enough effort into their classrooms, but looking back, that wasn't my place to judge.
Luckily, my tribe is filled with hard working educators who want to share their ideas with others.
6) Take the time to laugh.
Not everything at DENSI went perfectly. It rained when we saw the monuments. I went eight straight days without soda. I survived on grilled cheese and omelets. There was ridiculous jack hammering during our trainings (not to worry, it was dealt with). Worst of all? The sheets. I had two flat sheets that did not fit the dorm bed. I ended up in a cocoon-like ball each night and just slept on the slippery, rubber mattress.
Could I control any of this? No.
So I chose laughter and rolled with it.
7) Don't stop learning.
I haven't dived into my pages of notes yet, but I'm so excited to try new things in my classroom. I obviously need to buy a green table cloth to try greenscreening and videos in my classroom. I'm excited to incorporate mystery Skype into our geography lessons. Doodling with note taking will be a new adventure this year.
If I expect my students to be life-long learners, I should model that myself.
Thank you, DENSI and my tribe, for helping me feel excited about this upcoming year.