What a whirlwind of a week… or three! As I write today, I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport, buzzin’ like a bee from an AMAZING four days at the 2023 Open Up Resources HIVE conference! There is so much learning to process; I’m thankful for several hours in the airport to do just that.
This is what I know, what has been deeply confirmed over the last four days: Open Up Resources is a top-notch organization. They do more than possess a hefty mission statement, they live and breathe it.
With every speaker, with every story told by facilitators and participants at the conference, it is crystal clear that Open Up Resources is deeply committed to their mission. And WOW am I so very thankful that Fort Madison Community School District utilizes the EL Education curriculum supported by Open Up Resources. AND I’m so, so very thankful to be part of the Open Up Resources family.
I was fortunate enough to be a co-presenter for four sessions at the HIVE conference with my friend and former colleague, Julie Eckhardt. Julie carried a heavy load on this one: she created three of our presentations; I created one. In addition, Julie is detail-oriented, a perfectionist in every way. Our slides were stellar (if I don’t say so myself!), and our presentations were a hit, as evidenced by the reactions and conversations of the participants. As I mentioned in my last post, those four sessions included:
- Climbing the Ladder to Success (linking EL Education’s 8 High-Leverage practices to John Hattie’s Effect Sizes)
- The Story of the Three Bees (digging into the importance of using complex text and how to make the most of it during instruction)
- “Upside Down”: Backward Design Planning for Effective Lessons (understanding the importance of using backward design for implementing high-quality curriculum)
- “How Can I Fit it All In?” Dancing Your Way to Successful Lesson Planning (using tips and tricks to best utilize comprehensive lessons)
What an absolute honor to be asked to present and to be able to do so with Julie. Looking over the list of presenters makes my heart swell with pride. To think that my name was squeezed in amongst such extraordinary people is humbling, to say the least. It meant the world to make deeper connections on both a personal and a professional level, with some of the best from the Open Up Resources family: Morgan Stipe & Brooke Powers (who get huge props for their organization of the event), Cathy Dickson, Cassie Leiby, Justin Payne, Justin Endicott, and Esmeralda Rivera.
In addition, five amazing educators from our district attended HIVE. The conversations with Corrine, Sarah, Lisa, Carmen, and Mary confirmed that they recognize the power of the EL Education curriculum, that they are committed to equity and excellence, and that the students in Fort Madison Community School District are lucky to have them. Conversations included all that we continued to learn about this high quality curriculum that aligns with evidence-based practices, the Science of Reading, equity, excellence, and access for ALL students.
Those in attendance at HIVE were treated to a keynote address by Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, who reminded us of the importance of cultivating genius in our students. Dr. Muhammad also reminded us of the importance of seeing the strengths in our students first. When you start with genius, genius will be cultivated. She reminded us that literacy = education = JOY. When we give students the access to literacy that they deserve, they have access to knowledge, and it is through knowledge that they can access true joy.
Our conference ended with a tug on our emotions from the phenomenal Dr. Manny Scott, “one of the original Freedom Writers.” Dr. Scott’s story is unbelievable. It includes growing up with a father who was incarcerated, witnessing the near-murder of his mother at the hands of his stepfather, the loss of his best friend to murder, and the decision to give up. It was the kindness and interest of a stranger and some key educators that helped change the trajectory of his life. In Dr. Scott’s words, “Ordinary people with extraordinary hearts…” were responsible for his changed path.
His truly riveting 50-minute talk left me wondering (among a million other things!) what kind of impact I have had on my students and all others that I am connected to. His words were yet another reminder that we have a choice in how we treat others, and as educators, we are in a powerful position to make a positive impact on those students in our charge.
I can think of too many examples of times in my 27 year career when I have had far less than a positive impact, and I have a deep fear that I have unknowingly caused (emotional) harm to some. At the same time, I know that when I was a classroom teacher I reveled in my students’ individual strengths and successes. I promoted authenticity, hard work, and kindness. I greeted my students at the door at the beginning of every class, and bid them goodbye at the end of each.
I know that I truly enjoyed getting to know them and their families. I know that nothing makes me feel better than when I hear from former students. Recently, one of my toughest students from my early teaching days reached out on social media. He asked about me and my family, and updated me on his many successes. I never would have dreamed that this student would reach out to me – our school year together was a tough year for both of us!
I don’t mean to sound cliché , but we truly do hold the power to change lives. When we have high quality curricular materials on hand and commit to being master implementers of them, when we lean into vulnerability and are willing to make mistakes, when we recognize the genius in our students, and when we take the time to get to know them deeply, we are on the path to provide equity and excellence for all. Certainly reason to buzz like a bee.