Sunday, July 19, 2015

Soaring High: My ECET2 Seattle Experience

Soaring high!

Physically, that is where I am as I write this: 30,000 feet in the air.

Emotionally, that is how I feel after leaving Seattle.

You see, I just experienced another mind blowing Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers convening, or ECET2 as we like to call it. It is described as a convening instead of a conference because it is like no other professional learning experience you have ever had.

I've previously blogged about my ECET2 experiences in New Orleans and in Kentucky; however this time I am soaring higher than I ever have before. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation attempts to raise the bar each time they plan an ECET2, and this one was no exception. There were surprises everywhere. The Seattle All-Star marching band performed for us. We had a reception at the Seattle Aquarium that was reserved just for us; those otters and harbor seals were so cute! MELINDA GATES spent one hour talking to us not only about the foundation's work but about herself, her family, and her values. We were given t-shirts and booklets. We had the opportunity to share #WhyITeach at a photo booth. We were inspired by the power of teacher stories by listening to keynote presentations. We learned how to elevate our voice and improve our practice through various breakout sessions. We addressed and developed solutions to issues through Colleagues Circles and Problems of Practice. A special SHOUTOUT to the fabulous new members of my PLN from Table 47!!!

I was fortunate to participate in a post ECET2 session on social media learning how to increase our presence. I received many ideas on how I can strengthen the #DeafEd Twitter chat and to increase the traffic to my blog. I received so many suggestions on how to use visual storytelling to advocate for my students. These ideas are running around in my mind, just waiting for me to get started.

Yes, this ECET2 was the best I have ever experienced, but it was not only because of everything I listed above. There was a special teacher who was given the chance to tell her story and the story of a people. Lauren Maucere (@LaurenMaucere), a teacher from Los Angeles, stood on stage and told the story of the Deaf. As a Deaf woman, she shared the history of the oppression of Deaf people in education to 450 attendees. She shared the struggle that Deaf children face as they navigate school. She told about the case of Jose Garcia who was denied an appropriate education for 14 years; that didn't happened decades ago, the ruling was handed down last week! Lauren shared how her students have the right to learn about Shakespeare just as all students do; however, they just have to access it differently. She let every teacher in the audience know Deaf can and will!

As I watched Lauren give her keynote, I kept thinking "YES! YES! She is sharing the story of my students. She is giving a first hand account of everything I write about and for which I advocate!" Teachers and Foundation staff that I know and respect experienced first hand what I ramble on about whenever I get the chance.

I knew ahead of time that Lauren would be a keynote presenter, and I reached out to her before the convening to introduce myself. We spent time getting to know each other Friday evening and instantly connected. The entire 3 days I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could; we were kindred spirits; she was my new west coast sister! I am excited about our new found friendship and where it will lead. Who knows, you may see us present together at a future ECET2 or even co-write a book!

As you can tell, this ECET2 experience meant so much more to me on so many levels. There was FINALLY someone there speaking my teacher language, someone who teaches in the same field as I do. Someone who cares as much as (or even more) than I do about Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. Connections are a key ingredient to ECET2, and I have made many in my ECET2 experiences. However, I made the most powerful connection to date with Lauren!

If you want to view the keynote address by Lauren Maucere, you can view it here!