I asked my students to explain this quote as our warm-up and discussion into the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. One student’s words stuck with me – “Learning is the most important thing we can do to achieve our dreams – if I learn, it’s going to help my dreams come true. If my dreams come true, I’m going to be helping our country and the world be a better place. The cool thing is Mr. Storm, we may not even know how we are affecting the other people around us and making it better.” Isn’t that the truth?
Ever since I can remember I have loved to learn. As a small child it was a sense of curiosity and yearning to know as much as I could. I would read anything I could get my hands on, and I remember at the age of 8 going on weekly trips to the grocery store with my grandmother convincing her to stop at the local five and dime and purchase a book for me. Often these books were in the clearance or discount section, but it didn’t matter – I knew I was going to find something new out.
The other part of learning that I loved was hearing from other people – I loved hearing their stories. It always fascinated me that people had these amazing experiences, and thinking back now, I believe that all of these stories, more importantly listening to all of these stories has helped to define (and continue to define) me as the teacher I am in my classroom today.
On a brisk Saturday in November, I had the opportunity to get some learning a majorly discounted price – FREE and even more importantly, I had the opportunity to experience, share, and listen to stories from amazing educators. I attended Edcamp New Jersey 2013 alongside 296 other educators – including superintendents, principals, teachers, and even students. The people that I interacted and shared with exhibited passion, enthusiasm, and excitement for learning.
This was my first experience with an edcamp and I didn’t know what to expect. Believe it or not, I was a bit nervous and was up before my alarm to read over my Twitter feed and read blogs about other’s experiences with edcamps. I was not disappointed. Even twenty-four hours later the passion for learning I felt from others is still reverberating around inside of me. I’m re-energized to head back to my classroom on Monday.
Many of the pressures of education these days, has taken a toll on some amazing teachers and created a major tone and sense of negativity. Roughly 46% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, but what happens to those teachers who can’t or don’t leave? Negativity, pessimism, low morale, disinterest, not wanting to try “new” things, complaining –these things begin to permeate the “veteran” teacher’s life. Two years ago I was one of those teachers. Despite my passion for learning and teaching my students, I was feeling isolated and alone and beginning to think of alternatives to teaching – despite the numerous kudos from parents and students.
Then I became re-engaged on Twitter and met teachers just like me – passionate, but dealing with almost all of the same concerns and issues I was. Through “edchats” and conversation in 140 characters, I was able to feel energized again and refocused on what really matters…my students. I came back to school with the attitude that my decisions were always going to be made, not for me, not for a new “initiative”, but for those smiling faces sitting in front of me on that first day of school. Those kids who were starting school with dreams and hopes, just like I was, only my hopes and dreams were for them to achieve theirs.
I shared my experiences throughout the day via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and I am excited to share with my students that I spent a whole Saturday learning in a middle school with 296 other people. And when they ask, “Why?” – my answer will be the response,which, knowing my students will lead to amazing discussion. I will share with them the words President Kennedy's brother, Robert, often used to end many of his speeches (based on the words of the author Shaw) “Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”