The Beauty of The Storm (Reflecting on Austin, TX. ADE 2013)
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi
The question we all faced when we got home after our 5 day adventure in Austin, TX… How was it? This question poses a perplexing situation. How do I describe this adventure that I went through in a way that someone else can understand. The best way I could come up with is a metaphor.
Residing in Kansas, I know tornadoes and severe weather well. Often these phenomena of nature are looked at as negative, but their beauty and power are something to be admired. This was my week.
A day or two before leaving was the “calm before the storm”. This theory truly does exist. Before any big weather hits the plains the sky will get calm, sometimes even clear, and nature will give life a chance to prepare for what is about to hit. This happened upon packing and preparing everything I thought I would need physically and mentally for the week. Following the blogs, social networking sights, and my own type A inclinations I was ready. Traveling to Austin was the final tranquility. Not knowing what was to come, and how to prepare. I went into this full force with all my passion and dedication.
When storms build in the plains it is often sunny and humid. The heat of the day warms the earth, creating the perfect atmosphere for the activity to build. Stepping off the escalator I could tell the people I was about to encounter were like nobody I had experienced before. The energy and passion emerged more and more throughout the first two days. Charging the relationships and encounters among all of us. The many warm welcomes, energizing Hellos and instant bonds created an ambiance of enthusiasm and acceptance. We could all start to see within each other that we were in a special place, with special people. Understanding each other more than any other colleague had ever even come close. We could finally be ourselves, and share our passions, without ridicule or push-back. Something many of us had never experienced. I felt like I had finally found “my people”.
Right before a storm hits, the winds pick up. The force is strong and steady. A cool dry air can be felt across your face. The sudden onset can be alarming and brash, but leads to the marvel to come. Clouds build on the horizon, one out doing the next. This is where you get the first true beauty of a storm. The anticipation of what is to come can cause hesitation. The many people and experiences we went through in the early parts of the week were just getting us ready for what was to come. The amazing bonding experiences and teamwork activities pushed us to think in new ways. There was sometimes a content overload. The wind blew strong and furious. Especially within the presentation given by the Duarte Group on design and delivery. We knew something big was to come out of this, and how would we all keep up? We all came into this experience leaving our own realms as the “most knowledgeable and innovative” person on our team. Upon meeting and working with all the amazing people I met, I realized I have yet more to grow to achieve and prosper towards. An inspiring moment to build my own personal storm. Kicking into the body of the week the weather hit.
The first front of any storm starts out strong, and brings in a sense of urgency and alert. The wind will pick up, thrashing branches and leaves about. The noises around create panic. Rain can be petrifying and fierce, pelting all around with unrelenting force. Many times you do not know what to expect out of it next, will it get worse, or will it break. The whole time admiring it’s beauty, but proceeding with caution and angst. We turn to those we trust and relate to in these times, for strength and relief. The week built more and more upon finding our PLN teams. These people were passionate in the area of our drive and focus. We were able to connect and speak the same language. Many of us were not used to have this experience on such a level before. We were able to connect on our project with great depth and emotion. Providing each other with feedback and encouragement. The bonds in this group will forever drive my teaching and learning. The week would throw in fierce situations of exhaustion and feelings of humility, realizing how many great people were now in this team with each and every one of us, and how short of a time left we had to spend with them. We attended workshops lead by professionals and creatives on the front line of innovation and design. I was able to learn new ways to incorporate the programs and ideas I love in a meaningful way into my teaching. The tool set in Final Cut Pro X, Aperture, Keynote, photography on a budget, and publishing will be put into practice immediately. Alongside these sessions of authorship, collaboration, innovation, and discovery we also took time for relaxation and exploration. The beauty in the middle of turbulence.
Within the middle of a storm there are sometimes moments of quiet and peace. The sky can display some astonishing colors and views of the bulbous clouds and atmospheric formations, highlighted by lightning and power. This is the time we usually congregate and admire the beauty of the storm, together. Within the week we were able to bond and create lasting relationships. Heartfelt conversations table-side, adventures of bats and doughnuts, getting kicked out of a courtyard for playing a game of “Heads Up”, or taking the never ending trip for some Texas BBQ laughs and bonds were had to last a lifetime. I think I have made some of the best friends yet in this week experience. We were able to reflect back on the week, admire it’s beauty, and have people to confide in when the storm were to pick up again. This week I was able to meet the most true to life people around. The relationships I hold close to my heart. Thank you everyone for being my partner’s in the storm. You helped me marvel at the beauty of what you do, and push me to be better at what I do. I can’t wait to keep these relationships alive and growing. As the calm passes by the ferocity of the trailing edge of the storm approaches.
As the beauty passes, and the storm builds once again it is often stronger and more intense. This is often where you will find tornadoes. Right after the lull. At this time we build off of the relationships we have to gain the power and strength to make it. The last two days were just that. We gathered more time in our PLN groups to focus and thrive off one another. Gain support and feedback, as well as celebrate successes. We got to celebrate as a community the work and emotions of the week in a true Apple “Fond Farewell”! The emotions and relief on this night put into light the week we had experienced. Spending time with about 400 people who think and have drive like you was infectious and spectacular. Never have I felt as alive and comfortable in one place, with a group of people as I did in Austin that week. I look forward to the years to come with the adventure of being a now graduated Apple Distinguished Educator (class of 2013).
After the storm is a time to reflect and clean up. This started on Friday morning, after two hours of sleep, at 4:00 AM on a bus to the airport. As we pulled away from the conference center not only did I have a feeling of exhaustion, but a feeling of sorrow and loss. I was having to leave the presence of this place, these people, and this energy. Mournful that I did not get to say all the goodbyes that I would have hoped for, and apprehensive of what was to come upon returning to my own district. I needed time to cumulate my thoughts and emotions of the week to then move forward with more passion and vision than before. The last instance of this adventure that truly left an impression on me was as follows, the story I will end this reflection on….
Upon arriving into my connection in Houston, the whole 27 minute flight, I was running short on time. My flight was leaving in 23 minutes, and I had to take the tram two terminals away. Fighting through the airport, luggage flailing behind I was able to run up to my gate just in time before boarding proceeded. Making my way up to the counter to get a gate check tag for my luggage the woman behind the desk took note of my shirt. “Do you work for Apple?” was the question at hand. I politely said no, not really (aside from retail), and described my new place in the wonderful world of being an ADE, in 2 minutes even! She then began to describe how she was so proud of the work that I had done for my students, and how educators do not get enough credit for the work that we do. Telling me I should be proud of myself for the lives I help my students lead. She ended this with a statement to me, quite loud… “Thank you for what you do, you’re what makes this world continue along the path of greatness”. The first time as an educator I have been thanked, and for that I thank all of you. The people who continually push me forward and ask me to think different, support me in my crazy ways, laugh with me, and are there in all facets of life. Thank you.
I will end with the quote that leads my classroom. “Crazy Ones” by Steve Jobs. It hangs 8’ tall in my classroom. Thank you for being the “Crazy Ones” that I got to meet all week, and that support me.