At 7:45PM my brain officially turned OFF for the night. The first day of the ISTE conference in Philadelphia was an amazing day full of motivating talks and interactions with brilliant people.
It’s funny… my experience at ISTE so far has been a real-life manifestation of today’s #edchat on twitter. In honor of ISTE, #edchat moderators hosted a special chat to discuss the topic: How are education conferences to stay relevant in a free internet-driven PD atmosphere? My knee-jerk reaction to this question turned out to be the consensus: as influential as online personal learning networks can be, face-to-face interactions are invaluable. The synergy that develops at a conference like this is something that can fuel long-lasting motivation for innovation and change in the classroom (or whatever discipline/platform it may be!).
My involvement with the community of educators on twitter (found through the weekly #edchats) has been sporadic, at best. Over the past year, I’ve spent my time on the outskirts of the community I so admire. I have, however, participated in a handful of #edchats, synthesized information from some of them here on my blog, and even tried to connect with a local teacher with whom I’d talked about the potential use of Google Earth in her classroom. Unfortunately, my involvement with the community suffered, what with my pressing school schedule, trying to balance my online identities (personal vs. academic social media accounts), my part-time jobs at a retail store and a local middle school, and my desire to find the right life-path for myself.
As I approach my senior year of college, I’m faced with the daily struggle of WHAT-DO-I-DO-WITH-MY-LIFE?! My interests spread far and wide: from the highest end of the fashion world to the musical theater stage to online communities, environmental, ethical, and social issues, and educational uses of social media and modern technology. Although my interests have a common thread, I vacillate so easily. One day I want to be a citizen journalism advocate and write on environmental and social issues, and the next day I want to be a middle school math teacher or a curriculum developer for a school district or museum.
The reason, for me, to continue education conferences is to provide meaningful connections that open new doors and windows… and help people like me see the paths less traveled. Simply watching these influential innovators mill about, exuding energy and passion for what they do is inspiring for me to watch. It’s so important for me to meet people like this at conferences like ISTE’s. The interactions I’m having give me purpose.
A little self-disclosure: it’s been a rough semester.
As much as I’m enjoying my classes (particularly the Water: Science & Society and comparative religion courses), it’s been tough managing my time and my priorities, with various jobs, classes, school work, and thesis prep… and as a result, my emotions about being so busy/overwhelmed/CRAZY-STRESSED!
I know this happens to everyone at some point, whether it’s in college or not: what am I doing with my life? I need to soak everything up and do everything I can! I need to do my absolute best or else I’m going to disappoint not only myself, but others, too!
It’s tough going through these existential crises, especially if you think you’re alone. Communicating with my adviser has been paramount in getting through these tough times. Even though periods of discontent and frustration come in waves (and unfortunately affect my progress in school), it’s my determination that taps me on the shoulder every once in a while and says gently, “Hey Sar, you need a little extra help! You can do better than this!”
It’s these times when I’ve turned to my adviser and mentor for a little extra push. Not only that, but understanding too. A little aside: One of the students in our honors’ program is what we call an “adult learner.” She has a family of her own: two sons (who I believe have finished college?), and a daughter currently studying abroad in New Zealand. This is the first semester I’ve had classes with her. One morning, before diving into the deep meaning of cosmology and cosmetics (a story for another day!), she turned to me and said, “Sara, I don’t know how you all do this! I’m taking 15 credits and I can’t ever do this much again! It’s so much work… and you all manage jobs and social life, too? I can’t imagine!”
It’s true: college students are the ULTIMATE multi-taskers (albeit the ultimate procrastinators, too). Not only are we all juggling school, work, family and social life, but we’re going through an intense shift in power: we are now in control of our lives. As liberating as it is, it’s scary, too! And this is why college can be so hard if you don’t have someone to talk to, someone who understands what you, specifically, are going through. They can help tailor your college experience to fit your needs, your strengths, and your dreams!
So… this is a long-winded way of saying: GO FIND A FRIEND IN A FACULTY MEMBER. Find someone you trust, someone who is easy to talk to, someone you respect. Ideally, the trust and respect will be mutual, and can only help foster an amazing undergraduate learning experience.