Routes to Roots

The nature of my job has me working with many different people in the Eastern part of the province.  I am incredibly privileged to do the work I am able to do. The job, right now, has parameters placed on it that are a result of a government in transition and therefore the #sitbeside has limits…for now.

I had the incredible fortune to attend BIT18, for the first time, with three of my dearest and closest colleagues.  I would not necessarily represent myself as someone who is incredibly savvy in the realm of technology. I would say easily that I love to learn, but in a room full of coders when they start the backsy forthsy I have little understanding of what is being thrown around.  

However, Bringing it Together meant more to me after my second session on day 1.  I was in a room with a group of people. None of whom I had ever met before personally – some I knew from Twitter but had never been with them in a room.  I heard a woman answer, after being asked, if coming to this conference really pushed her thinking and her practice after she had been away for a couple of years?  She pondered the question and frankly said, “no.” It was not about new and shiny things – Pinterest is full of those. She thoughtfully put forth, that she came to the conference to be with people who would “get her.”  That much of the time, the people with whom she works, may not get her and what she is trying to do in her classroom at all and it becomes about ideologies.  I wrote it down immediately.  I also reached out to Doug Peterson @Dougpete last week to ask her name as I did not hear it at the time. It is Danika Tipping @DanikaTipping. Coming to BIT was coming and being with your people. I thought about who I had ridden in the car with to Niagara Falls – 3 elementary educators – 2 of them primary, the three of them tech super comfortable and often speaking in languages like math, primary literacy and the arts.  But, these humans are learners, and riskers and generous in the messy of learning. They were still my people through and through. Perhaps BIT18 had a secondary “together” that Danika brought to my attention that Andrea and I have explored before in The Beast when we thought about filling it to the rim.

We are alone in our classrooms and in many of the jobs we do.  It is the nature of education. Twitter provides threads, VoiceEd radio provides threads but time to unravel and pull the threads together that matter to each one of us have to be sought out.  We also know that there are times when people do not “get us.” It happens with The Beast – our itchy sweater wondering is not anyone else’s and other times – many people have been wondering the same thing. I also know Andrea has moments when she speaks to people, in her “whole other plane” of thinking and she sees and hears them not get her at all.  I have Andrea and I have colleagues who let me Beast and learn and figure it out. I also have a new job that does not have me beside Andrea or Amber @missaclarke or anyone else who make space for me to figure it out anytime I want as I have in the past. Geography and time feel more elusive than before. I, in turn, have felt stalled some days, stuck some days and even in little pockets of doubt about my learning and my day to day.

Danika stopped me cold. BIT18 was a place for people to come and be themselves in the learning with people willing to be beside them in the learning.  I needed BIT18 for the learning the conference provided without question, but, I needed the people and the time just as critically. The four hours in the car, there and back were like a day at the spa.  We arrived rested and full at both destinations, different from having been in the car together. They felt like home. The ease of the routine of the conference, the cooking and sharing of meals, the beautiful dinners out for 2 nights and the frenzy to pack it all back up again was simply perfect.  We knew the end result was back to work – much of it alone in the busy of the day. I would not be starting the next day quite alone as their presence in my mind was inspiration and the inclination to get at it.

I was also bringing Lisa Noble @nobleknits2 and her breakout session on Bias with me to my work. The humans in that circle changed me forever and it was only 50 minutes.  The fullness and depth of that time will come with me always.

I push myself to learn.  Like Danika, I need to learn.  It was why I signed up and paid the money.  But I also need to be heard, understood and nurtured in the messiness of the work and the doing.  We need people willing to do it with us and for us. Andrea texted last night asking when were we going to meet at 5 am to write the conversation for our blog… she needed “some Beast.”  Yes she does. We all do… a time and space real life reminder that we have people. Thank you Danika and thank you BIT18.

4:56 am, it’s dark and it’s cold and we wish we were in the same room having this conversation because we feel like it…

A: I think about this so often.  Am I polarizing my own damn self?  Am I leaning far to one side because that’s “my side”?  Is it because it just feels good to confirm?

K: I love that we profess wiiiiidddde open and not knowing – and we do.  In the classroom we live, breathe and die by it. We believe deeply in knowledge building with the educators we work with.  But, the minute we are not at the front, or we we are in a room where all of a sudden, we have to fight for who we are and what we believe, we do not.  We tell ourselves not to bother, do not push back and somehow cannot muster the strength to rip a seam down the centre and make space for who we are what we are trying to figure out.  We step back off of the line and concede.  We confirm nothing.  Polarization is a learning killer.

A: We have to bother.  That’s the reason for being in a room together.  The seam should not feel like a battle or a compromise. I find that folks are very good at persuasion. Here is the book I read, the research that proves my ideologies, the data that we need this…but the four of us in that car will always be open to each other.  Who we are, our families and our experience is enough.

It must be so painful to watch me type sooo slow.  I haven’t had coffee yet!! Sorry!

I just had a thing and it’s gone – let me reread – and i have had coffee LOL

K: I had 3 thoughts barge into my head as I reread when you were typing… 1. our identities as humans and learners in the room with the people with whom we work – do we really care what they think and feel and do we care to knowledge build with them? 2. Lucy West’s Listening Stumbling Blocks that help us define who we are as listeners (because clearly, when we step off of the line and lean away from the polarization, we have hit a block and 3. When did the book outweigh the beauty of the room…the sheer experience, wisdom and identities in the room – unless we do not care about the room and the book is like proof in a court of law – irrefutable and we then must… not thinking like you is the very best part of what we do…why the hell are we in the same room if we think the same?

A:  To confirm, judge, nitpick, etc.  It’s not exactly innovative and we won’t grow and learn without listening.  This is why I was also struck by Danika’s words – the word “ideologies” in particular.  But I want to check myself. Should I be concerned that I want to move toward humans that have the same ideologies?  Is that an attempt to confirm, just a relief from the struggle, or are they better listeners?

K:  “Because they get me…”  Getting someone does not have to mean confirmation nor does it mean “same.”  I think the relief is the no struggle and no prove…I am right here beside you #sitbeside and we are not the same – at all.  I am trying stuff over here, you are trying stuff over there – not the same stuff and maybe we talk about it and maybe live in the messy of the stuff but we do not judge or ram – we listen and we dive in – curious as hell because it is not the same.  I just heard something I did not know and my first inclination was not to dismiss it and tell you why my stuff is better. We are better together. The default should not be to be left alone in our classrooms and to not be judged and nor should it be to run towards people who are the same.  The agenda may want to read “What’s your Stuff About?” or maybe we put the goal up and make a big fat mess on the way to meeting adjourned.

A: I need to go and sit beside that guy with the book.

K: The book is the line.  If you step off of the line, the book wins.  And then because I know you, the room loses. The good fight should not be the actual fight.  Our students, our educators, the people you are beside are real. The book is a Theory of Action – someone else’s research, and words that can also be a #sitbeside but if the book is the wisdom and no one in that room has actually run to the children and made it an action – then…the smartest person in the room is still the room – the book is a prop…and refutable.  There is calm in being at that table, with the book – it is home…you will outlive the book as will the people you actually #sitbeside. Finding people who believe this – are us in the car – the reprieve from the #sitbeside that feels like the line is why BIT18 moments matter.

A:  The action – actual experience living your ideologies with and for students – you once referred to as currency.  It can be just another form of proof. But I’m thinking about that presenter of Experiential Opportunities in Indigenous Education at BIT18 that took her students to Nunavut and then… they took her.  She changed so deeply because of it that her voice quivered and then she moved us with her words. The action was founded in her beliefs about children and who they are. Another presenter @zbpipe shared with us her struggle to innovate.  Everytime she wanted to pursue a new technology like Google before it was a thing or sewing machines or flexible seating, she was met with barriers. I’m still thinking about what she said: I just did it anyway.  She believed.  And that brings me back to your words above who make space for me to figure it out anytime I want as I have in the past.  Geography and time feel more elusive than before. I, in turn, have felt stalled some days, stuck some days and even in little pockets of doubt about my learning and my day to day.  Pockets of doubt.

K: I had the spiral moment when you typed the bold above…why I bring my sketchbook when I listen to other people speak.  I wonder how many times we use the word “words”… when we write The Beast. I walk into a session with a presenter, I take out my computer, type in the bit.ly and get the slides and close my computer.  In my sketchbook I have their words… circled and starred and arrowed. I have them. They have cool stuff, absolutely, but they have the story and experience they are about to share with me. The stuff is not going to change me…ever.  We sat with Lisa Noble as she knitted. The 8 or 9 of us had zero stuff. You and I know – as surely as we have ever known, that in that nook, something happened to all of us. No book, no theories, no slides. I have them and I have their words.  I was changed for simply having sat down. We actually cannot remember what people taught or what their favourite resource is…so what… maybe the line is reserved for this and not the book. Maybe, because we are looking for them and the words, when the book comes we lean back because we know it’s going to be empty.  I want struggles, barriers, pockets of doubt, I want the nook at BIT, I crave the humans and their words. They are where the learning lives.

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