Teachers generally spend very little time with other adults. I spend less than most teachers.
In my school, when a teacher wants to talk to a colleague he or she can just walk out of the classroom and into a colleague’s next door. When I want to talk to a colleague I have to go down a hallway and up a staircase to get to anyone’s classroom.
Or I can just wait for someone to come into the library to make copies and hope I’m not busy with students at that time.
When I want to talk to another librarian face-to-face I have to leave the building.
That is why this weekend is so important to me.I’m spending this weekend in Philadelphia at the Science Leadership Academy, a fantastic high school, where Educon takes place the last weekend of January.
Educon is a different kind of conference. It is not free, like one-day EdCamps, but it is not expensive like the multi-day extravaganzas like the ISTE, ALA, or AASL conferences. But that is not what makes it special.
At Educon there are sessions but they’re conversations not presentations. I’ll be with about 400 other educators of all kinds: classroom teachers at every level, music teachers, art teachers, special education teachers, professors, theorists, advocates and even a few librarians in this school all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday.
I can walk into one session and, if it doesn’t captivate me I can walk down the hall a few steps and go into a different session. I hardly ever do that. Oh, I’ve walked out of a session or two but I never seem to make it to the next one without getting caught up in an interesting discussion in the hallway.
There are times when Educon feels like a reunion. I see people there that I usually see only on Twitter or Facebook. Many of these people have been going to Educon since it started four or five years ago. This will be my third. I’ll also be meeting face-to-face for the first time some people I’ve known online for a few years.
I learn a lot in Educon sessions. I’ve become a more thoughtful teacher, a better teacher because of things I’ve learned there. Last year Educon came six weeks after I suddenly became a school librarian. What a joy it was to meet Joyce Valenza and Shannon McClintock Miller and to be able to converse with them one-on-one and have them to help me put my feet back on the ground and get my head above water (to mix metaphors). I was so needy that Shannon even gave me a big hug.
Odd, isn’t it? I’m willing to drive two hours or more to go to Educon but not to take the time to walk upstairs to visit with my colleagues at my school.
I’m not saying anything against my colleagues, many of whom are wonderful, warm, intelligent hard-working professionals, it is just that Educon is so much better. Instead of a five minute conversation between periods or over the copying machine, I get to spend hours and hours, breakfasts, sessions, lunches, dinners and even time having a few drinks with 400+ of others who, just like me, can’t think of a better way or a better place to spend a weekend.
I might even see the Liberty Bell.