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ISTE 2017 - Growing the Cilantro, Part 1

I recently returned from a five-day conference in San Antonio, TX. It is the five days that shape the other 360 days of my year. The five days of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference are powerful, to say the least. Over 20,000 people arrive from over 70 countries to geek out and, more importantly, gain inspiration for future goals. We learn from each other, build relationships, and find ways to nurture the areas in which we need growth.

Learning from each other is an enormous part of ISTE. Whether we're chatting at a poster session, figuring out a new tool in a playground, listening to a keynote, or in a workshop, we are learning every single second of the day. And most days are about 12 hours long during the conference. It is this crucial learning that sparks ideas to bring back to our communities throughout the year.

Building relationships is my favorite part of ISTE. I learn a great deal during my time at ISTE and the people I meet there keep that learning alive. Those relationships are what keep the spirit of the conference going year-round because we continue learning from one another. I see the value in taking the time to learn a new tool, but once I have learned it, my real work has begun because then it's time to learn how to use it in the classroom. That's where my relationships come in. Those brilliant educators who have become part of my professional learning network (PLN) are excellent collaborators and I am able to share their collaborations with the teachers and students in my community. My friend, Sarah Thomas, calls it her PLF - professional learning family. And I think she's right. We are a family of educators who focus on kids and keep them at the center of what we do, every single day.

Goal setting is something I do every year in July. I take time to reflect upon the year that has just ended and I determine the areas in which I need to grow. My first step is to identify the outcomes I hope to see then I plan the goals that will help me reach those outcomes. My PLN is in every step of that goal setting process because, as mentioned before, they teach me all year long. As I type this, I am still reflecting and considering my outcomes and goals. It's taking me a long time because the impact of this year's ISTE conference is still sinking in.

This year I was asked to do the Ignite presentation before Jennie Magiera's moving and inspirational keynote speech on the Tuesday morning of ISTE. My awesome coworker, Fern Johnson, set up a YouTube Live and you can view the recording here. I focused my speech on advocacy, equity, and growth. I used the story of my parents' backyard garden as an analogy. Their garden has led to cilantro plants popping up in different parts of their yard, outside of the garden. My parents allow the surprising cilantro plants to blossom because the plants may not be in the garden, but they're still growth.

In my speech, I mentioned my school district's favorite program, CLICK, which was founded by my other awesome coworker, Nancy Watson, and it was her Google Innovator project. What I love about CLICK is that the teachers who have participated are collaborating with and advocating for all their learners. This student-centered learning experience is empowering and beneficial. I grin every time I watch one of the student created videos. I'm so proud of the students and inspired by their teachers for growing that cilantro.

On that Tuesday morning, when my Ignite speech and the keynote speech ended, I saw my friend, Rafranz Davis. The moment we saw one another, we embraced and wept in each other's arms. Soon, five other friends joined us. Without me having to say one word, my PLF knew that I told the story about the cilantro because my parents were my advocates. They knew that me standing up on that stage was something my ancestors could only envision in their wildest dreams, and my growth toward that moment was possible because of the way my parents advocated for me. They knew the impact this ISTE conference was having on me and I did not have to say one word. That is why relationship building is an important and necessary part of being an educator; we understand and support each other all year long.

I will continue reflecting upon the conference and considering my goals. This is just part 1 of my reflection and I do not yet know how many parts it will take to encapsulate all that occurred at ISTE 2017. Until next time, keep growing that cilantro and celebrate that growth!

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