Thursday, June 28, 2018

ISTE 2018: How's Your Fifth Day Going?

For those who do not know me well, I teach at a private, Catholic, all-boys high school in Baltimore, MD. An important part of our students' education is rooted in service learning and retreats are one focus of this service learning. In their junior year, all students participate in the Junior Retreat, a three-day experience where they get to know themselves and their classmates on a much deeper level. Students are removed from day-to-day school life and travel to the Monsignor O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, MD, to give them them focus and the peace they need to look within.

What does this have to do with ISTE, you may be asking? Great question, and I hope my answer is satisfying. You see, I attended the high school where I now teach, and I attended this same Junior Retreat in 1991 and again in 1992 as a Senior Leader. What I remember most about the experience is one of the last talks one of the speakers gave, which asked a simple question: "What are you going to do on the Fourth Day?"

The Fourth Day is an important concept. The 3-day retreat changes many students. They discover so much inside of themselves and their classmates. Epiphanies are achieved, tears are shed, bonds are strengthed. But we stress that everything gained and learned cannot be contained and limited to the three days in Sparks. The tough part is the transition back to the "real world," everything after the retreat. That is the Fourth Day. It is what students become, who they are, and how they change after they leave the retreat house.

ISTE begain in earnest on Sunday, June 24, and ended with Nadia Lopez's scintillating keynote Wednesday afternoon, four exhausting days of connecting, learning, and bonding. I heard wonderful speakers, pondered new concepts, connected with friends old and new, Periscoped and live tweeted sessions, and celebrated friends' book releases. I saw people moved to tears by students and educators speaking from the heart, and I found joy in failure. And last night, as I sat in Midway Airport and saw all the shirts from ISTE and continued connecting, I was filled with that form of joyful exhaustion that comes with doing a conference experience correctly. The four days of the main ISTE conference (and the unconference day on Saturday) were incredible. Whether you were in Chicago or particiapted through the hashtag #NotAtISTE18, you absorbed a wealth of information.

ISTE is insignificant, however, if your Fifth Day is not just as exciting and relevatory as the four days of the conference. Did you sit and listen and connect and share only to leave ISTE and change nothing about your practice and pedagogy? Were you excited and motivated as you listed to Luis Perez share his keynote about turning toward the light, but now that you're back in the "real world," you're sitting comfortably in the dark, unmotivated to grow? Day Five, which starts today and extends to June 23, 2019, the beginning of ISTE 2019, is what matters most. How will you change, grow, develop, and achieve as an educator now that ISTE is over? How will your students feel the effects of your growth, prompting them to reach new heights and achieve more than ever? How will the bonds you formed at ISTE be nurtured, blossoming into not only PLNs but friendships and families that will support and motivate you as you progress from what you were pre-ISTE to who you are today?

Now we all need and deserve a day or two to reflect, relax, and recover from the ISTE experience, but then we must act. In one of the sessions I attended at ISTE, Adam Bellow and Steve Dembo quoted Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, who said, "The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer." ISTE often felt like a dream to me, filling my mind with possibilities and hopes for the future. To make these dreams come true, however, the Fifth Day needs to be about doing and not simply hoping our dreams come true.

Welcome to the Fifth Day. Make it incredible, make it real, make it transformative. And keep asking yourself and your PLN, "How is your Fifth Day going?"

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh..."a doer, not a dreamer..." This REALLY resonates with me!