“It’s like planning a wedding!” “It’s like having a baby!” It is and it isn’t.
“It” was planning and executing the plan of running an ECET2 Regional Convening. Along with four other talented, dedicated, and otherworldly educators, I was lucky enough to be involved with a project that was almost 10 months in the making.
This weekend, over 120 educators and partners from across the state made an early Saturday morning trip into the Microsoft space in Cambridge, eager to share with, and learn from, other driven members of their profession. And for the first time in my career, I was not there to take part in the sessions. I was the Event Manager, in charge of all game-day operations.
I’m not going to describe the events of the day. Maureen Devlin, probably the most essential member of our planning committee, is probably typing up a much better summary as we speak. I’m not even going to try and compete. Instead, I’m going to give a little different perspective on how transformational this whole experience has been, and it’s my hope that others will take on the same challenge.
The journey begins in the summer of 2015, when I was selected to be a part of the Teacher Advisory Cabinet, created by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This in and of itself was a leap for me, but I felt like I needed to leave the comfort of my own district, and see what’s out there. I’m currently pursuing a doctorate to move into educator prep, and I felt that in order to be effective in that field, I needed to know what else teachers should be prepared for as a profession, not just in the classroom. Through the Cabinet, I was selected to go to the ECET2 (Elevation and Celebration of Effective Teaching and Teachers) National Convening in San Diego, CA. I was honored, and terrified.
When I told my wife I was going, her first question to me was, “What are you going to do? You don’t talk to anyone!” And she was right, I don’t. I don’t like small talk. I hate parties. I can’t network. This may be a problem. But something about that weekend didn’t just take me out of my comfort zone, it shoved me out and slammed the door. It was the greatest experience of my professional life, and I was hooked. I wanted more. And one of those opportunities for more was to host a regional convening.
I could not have done this, at all, without the amazing educators who made up the planning committee with me. They were amazing, and no one will ever fully appreciate what went on in the meetings, video conferences, and emails that took place over eight months. And, despite all that, it was still a whole new level of discomfort yesterday. I had a nice suit on, put on my best welcoming smile, and tried to do everything I could to bring the best possible experience to those people in the room, because I knew they deserved it. Even if they didn’t fully know what was supposed to happen, I wanted them all to feel like it was worth their time and effort to come and be with their like-minded colleagues, and go back to their schools and their students with new focus and a sense of purpose.
Of course, as a planner, you see the faults. Technology issues popped up too often for my liking, but teachers are understanding creatures, and our guests were very patient and accommodating. We had welcomed some teachers to a Friday night reception, and then a Saturday night post-reception, and I talked to the same teachers both nights to get a sense of their expectations, and if they had been met. We got largely positive feedback, which was nice to hear, but naturally I’m waiting for the results of the survey to see what they *really* thought.
I’m certain that I’ll have to do this again in my career. I already know it won’t be as rewarding as this first one, simply because of the amazing people I was working with, and the mission behind the work. My ultimate satisfaction would be if a handful of people liked our results so much, that they applied for their own grant and moved the work forward, like we did after San Diego.
More than anything else, I feel stretched out as an educator now. I have this experience under my belt, and my comfort zone is that much bigger. More challenges await - not only for myself, but the talented and driven group who planned it. Audrey Jackson, Lisa Simon, Sean Brooks, and the irreplaceable Maureen Devlin are worthy of the highest praise. It is my sincere hope that we can work on something else in the future.
But now, I need to sleep.