Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Runs at #NPC17

I haven't been home for even 24 hours from the National Principals Conference in Philadelphia.  I'm tired and thinking too much, about everything, and what I should do next, so I'm writing a blog to reflect on my learning, my discussions with old friends and new friends, and the challenge that I put forth to our #principalsinaction group of finding that one thing to focus on.  But those reflections will come later.  This blog is about the 3 runs while I was in Philly and how they changed the way I think about attending conferences.

Day 1- Alone (and a bucket list check off)
At the top of the "Rocky steps"
Rocky statue selfie
On day 1 in Philadelphia, I ran, alone, to the "Rocky steps", a bucket list run and a total of 4 miles.  It's how I used to attend conferences, too.  Alone.  Interacting with few people.  Afraid to take a chance or move out of my comfort zone.  Hearing great ideas but never, or rarely, speaking with anyone about them, at least while I was at the conference.  But then something changed.  I connected with a couple of top of the line Wisconsin educators, Curt Rees and Jessica Johnson, on Twitter.  We talked about feeling alone on a desert island as principals and in need of support and encouragement.  We shared our message of being connected with anyone who would listen, informally as well as in sessions at our state conferences.  Now that I'm connected, I don't ever want to go back to attending conferences alone, quietly moving from session to session.
*Full disclosure- I presented at 7:30AM on Day 1 with Mark French (Minnesota) and Ryan Sheehy (California) and needed to clear my head as presenting at a national conference is also a bucket list item.  Check.

Day 2- Old friends and new friends
Ben, me, Eric, and JR
On day 2 in Philadelphia, I had the distinct pleasure of running with Ben Gilpin (Michigan), Eric Ewald (Iowa), and JR Raybold (Virginia).  We started out with an idea to run to the Liberty Bell, then added the Delaware River, and then added the "Rocky steps".  The plan was to run 4 miles but we just kept talking and laughing and enjoying the morning and 4 miles became 7 miles.  I've met Ben in person once before and ran with him at a conference in Chicago.  That run in Chicago was awesome.  I know Eric from our interactions on Voxer and Twitter as part of the #principalsinaction group.  I met JR on day 1 as he was introduced to me by Hamesh Brewer, a relentless educator and cheerleader for kids.  This run was how I now attempt to learn at conferences.  I meet up with old friends, catch up, and talk about our schools.  I meet people I've connected with on Twitter or Voxer and deepen our professional relationship.  I meet new people and start conversations.  The variety of connections stretches my thinking, challenges me, and supports me.  These three types of relationships will continue to grow and flourish and only get better with time, especially if we can, once again, meet face to face.

Day 3- Sharing your learning
Joe, Laura, and me
On day 3 in Philadelphia, I enjoyed a run with Laura Jennaro (Wisconsin principal) and Joe Schroeder (assistant director of our Wisconsin principal association).  We ran to the Liberty Bell, the Delaware River, and ended at City Hall, just over 4 miles.  It was an incredible run with a focus on our learning, how we can share our learning with others, and how we can get more connected as a state.  I'm sure that it's the first of many conversations that we'll have over the course of the year.  It was a great final run in Philadelphia.


This post was not meant to suggest that you run every morning at conferences that you attend.  It was meant to demonstrate a few of the ways that one can participate in a conference.  The total time of the three runs was less than 2 hours, but the conversations (I do talk to myself when I run alone) kept pushing my thinking.  I encourage you to have your future conference experiences be more like my Day 2 and 3 runs.  You'll get so much more out of your learning.