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Building a Community of Educators

This week, I attended NCTies22 in Raleigh, North Carolina. This was not my first NCTies (I presented there virtually last year) and it will definitely not be my last. What an amazing experience it was- as I described to my husband what made it so unique- the first word that came to my mind was "community."

So many times while attending NCTies that feeling came to me. The organizers really went out of their way to create that feeling throughout the conference in every detail from the start of the day with a continental breakfast to snacks available in the afternoon and more. They even put out call outs to connect educators and add to our PLNs using their handle to build community. If you have never attended NCTies, you are truly missing out. What a wonderful event this was and here are just a few of the reasons why:

1.Find Someone Who Gets You...

The conference began with Gerry Brooks as the keynote. If you have ever seen a Gerry Brooks video, you can imagine the laughs that happened during his talk. As he began his keynote, he shared that people often ask him how he can speak to an audience that is so large and full of so many type of educators. He then shows a video where he isn't sure what a brown spot on his arm is. Everyone exploded into laughter, because we all have experiences that connect to this one. Other people do not get it, but educators have shared experiences that connect us. These experiences brought us together and unite us. Gerry challenged us as he made us laugh. "If you're the lone ranger in your building, the only one doing your job, #NCTIES22 is the perfect place to find someone to connect with." It was the perfect way to start this conference.

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2. Building a Community for Littles' Educators

Many conferences do not have sessions for educators who work with littles, but that was not the case here. There were definitely several options available for educators to not only learn about working with littles, but also to build a community.

To begin with, I was so honored to have over a packed house of over 200 educators join me for my 10 am session, Creating with Littles, this past Thursday morning. I loved sharing my favorite session with them and seeing their takeaways. In addition, there was also a poster session on Thursday in the Exhibit Hall featuring examples of best practices to use with littles.

Then, on Friday, Christine Pinto and Jessica Twomey shared two amazing sessions focused on ways that our littles can use Google Sheets and Slides and one session on designing with Google Slides. I attended the first two sessions and loved all the creative ways that they use Sheets and Slides to not only reinforce learning with their students, but also how they build connections between their classes across the country. I loved how intentional they are in how they introduce new skills and build on them. Definitely check out their website: https://www.innovatingplay.world/

3. Building a Community of Engineers

Thursday afternoon, I attended fellow Road to Awesome author, Kim Collazo's and Steve Johnson's session on Building Engineers in K-5 Classrooms. Since I also serve as part of my school's STEAM team, I was looking forward to learning alongside them. I loved how they began the session setting the stage for why STEAM and STEM is so important. They first focused us on our why. Then, they put us in the students' seats and engaged us in a real world example of how you can integrate STEM into everyday instruction. Far too often, schools relegate STEAM or STEM as a special area. I loved how they shared how you can integrate into instruction and its benefits. This is something that we don't hear enough! They also shared about a wonderful learning opportunity in April to continue building a community of engineers- The Building Engineering 2022 Conference! Check it out- I wish I could go...

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4. Building an Identity for your Educational Community

Another great session that I attended on Thursday was "BrandED with a Mission." This session led by Danae Acker and Ashley Pursley focused on how educators can use ideas from marketing and branding to share and promote your educational community. I loved how this session focused on telling your community's stories and gave practical tips and resources that educators could use right away. As both a school educator and as an edupreneur, this session really made me reflect on how the three business tenets, Image, Promise and Result, could help me to build and cultivate identities in both of my roles.

Better Together

The theme of this year's NCTies was "Better Together." We hear themes like this as the time, but how often do we truly live and embody them? As Gerry Brooks shared in his keynote, "We all need to be on the same page! The key to this is communication. We, as educators, can change the climate or culture of our buildings. " After attending NCTies, I feel empowered to see how I can continue to contribute and develop the various communities for which I serve. Yes, we are "better together," but after NCTIes, I urge all of us, like Gerry Brooks shared that we all need to participate in this process, and not be a bystander.