Understand this- I loved a lot of the sessions and I'll reflect about that later. I loved the #CAedChat meetup, the CUE Rockstar Manhattan Beach meetup, the breakfast with Vaudrey and Butler, the hallway conversations, and the fireside chats, but something else punched me square in the emotional face.
When I used to live in the Palm Springs area, Taqueria San Miguel was the place to go. Truly authentic and amazing Mexican food, ice cold frosty tantalizing salty crisp beverages, and a wait staff that'll rock your socks. Yeah, go there. You're welcome in advance. So I took my group of friends there, just like a good local should. The dinner was good; no, it was great. The conversation was solid. Then, just like it always seems to happen in that area, it happened - two former students walked in.
Both of these girls were in my classroom at important benchmarks of my life. Kayla, now a senior, was there when my oldest son was born. Julie, now a freshman, was there for my last full year of teaching. Their parents are phenomenal and should get interviewed on how to raise high quality people. The sisters have that personality that make you enjoy being a teacher. They have hilarious laughs, are obedient and intelligent, and genuinely care about their futures and the people around them, regardless of who it is.
Immediately after seeing them, I left the group of teachers to go say hello. We spend 180 hours with these kids and develop a relationship that will never go away. I will always want to follow up with my students to see how their lives are going. Kayla needs help with Calculus (who DOESN'T???) and Julie is going to the beach for the summer (woohoo!). I couldn't be more proud of these two young ladies. They weren't here to see me, so we ended the conversation and they went to dinner with their parents, but I didn't.
In my head, the decision of leaving the classroom rocked me.
Did I make the right decision to leave? After all, I was that excited to catch up with former students. I will never have that type of bond again as an ed tech coach. Was this a bad decision?
Holding back emotion, my former seat was calling me and I heeded, but it wasn't the same. The rest of the time there, it was an internal battle. Not just Julie and Kayla, but so many young men and women who I had the honor of calling my student flashed through my head like an Animoto movie in fast forward.
Before we left, I had to get a picture. This was probably a TERRIBLE idea, although I wouldn't have traded it for the world, because of what Julie said- "Mr Stevens, you shouldn't have left teaching; you were our best math teacher. I loved math because of your class". Ouch. Even typing this out sucks. Well, we got our picture, I shook the hands of their parents and thanked them for being great people, and left. Couldn't take this any longer.
If we go to a conference to find ways to improve the educational experience of our students, wouldn't it be nice to hear how we can do that from the students themselves?
Seriously though, think about it. Three adults who aren't sitting in desks and aren't thinking about what their future will hold after the next grade humbly stood in front of 5,000 educators and shared anecdotes, statistics, and ideas about what we can do to improve education. Not only that, but they (more than likely) made almost as much as I make in an entire month during their one hour speech. To me, this is absurd. A guy like Jon Corippo would do a fantastic job and be able to share stories from "the trenches", and he should be speaking nationally about the work he has done, but I've got something else in mind...
Linda Yollis, the queen of elementary student blogging in my opinion, has her students create blog posts and share out their learning with the world. How cool would it be to have them share about how Mrs. Yollis' class is what every elementary room should look like? Bring the kleenex and your friends, folks.
David Theriault, the master of high school student blogs in my opinion, has his students create their own blogs and share their learning out with the world. How powerful would it be for a student in one of his classes to stand before 5,000+ and reflect on the previous years of schooling and offer up ideas to remedy some of our gaps in education.
I get what Sal is doing, but check out Club Academia, a website started by students, for students, for free. Wow, the power of having Shilpa get up and talk about how she and her classmates started this site to support each other and their classmates would inspire anyone, let alone computer-using educators attending a conference.
Maybe it is Julie and Isaiah getting up and talking about the power that a good (and not-so-good) teacher has on defining the educational future of our students. Julie would make you laugh hysterically as she giggles, snorts, and stomps, while Isaiah has a cool and calm demeanor when speaking to a crowd (not sure about 5,000+, but I'm sure he'd do fine).
This list could go on for quite some time and I'm certain that I'm missing out on some epic mentions of students doing incredible work, but that's the point. There are students out there that we don't even know about, positively affecting his/her community in a way that we should be hearing about. We need to hear about this. Instead of paying a king's ransom for a keynote speaker, have a student do it and offer them a scholarship in lieu of payment. For one, you look like one heck of a philanthropist and two, you're digging deep into the educational system and going after what really matters - the relationship that we have with our students. With that, students, please stand up: your voice needs to be heard.