Exemplary is extraordinary… my learning’s at ISTE 2012
By Sarah Lorntson
So I’ve been told to sum up the ISTE conference experience for all of you fabulous readers, and I could probably go on for hours about all the inspiring conversations that I had with educators at the SMART booth. I could also tell you about the presentations that I saw by my SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) colleagues that got me thinking about SMART products in a totally new way. I could also tell you how much fun I had getting to know the product managers, developers and other SMARTians from Calgary, Alberta, in western Canada. But I’d rather talk about a conversation I had at dinner last night with my fellow SEEs who were also at ISTE with SMART – Allen Brooks, Dan Bohn, Dave Effron and Heather Sloan
That dinner lasted for over four hours, and while we don’t always like to “talk shop” after hours, when else do you get to bring together SEE’s from across the country for a teacher-led, personal discussion about education? These types of authentic conversations are rare in our profession. The freedom to speak our minds openly about our joys and frustrations is hard to find in a world filled with mandatory staff meetings in which teachers rarely set the agenda, or PLC meetings in which you have to finish the conversation before it’s time to pick up the kids at day care. So last night was a rare gift for five teachers who love their jobs and crave a meaningful connection with other educators.
We talked about little things like tech support in our districts or which SMART products we use the most, as well as the big issues we face in our schools or with education in general. Of course, we kept it light with plenty of jokes (often at my expense) that made us laugh until we cried.
But the biggest takeaway I had was our shared insecurity and fear that we didn’t always live up to the “Exemplary” title as a SEE. None of us could believe that the others felt this way, too. “What are you talking about? You are an amazing teacher!” we told each other. And then I realized that as soon as I have decided that I’m amazing, exemplary, at the top of my game, I will stop improving. I won’t care anymore about bettering myself or contributing something meaningful to my profession. I will become complacent. I will stop learning.
It’s that desire to strive for something greater as a professional that keeps me hungry for new learning experiences, whether that is at the ISTE conference or just in a casual conversation with other professionals. And we can’t achieve that alone. We need each other as educators to challenge us, praise us, and sometimes keep our egos in check.
While many of us are used to forging these connections with teachers who are down the hall, I want to encourage all of you out there to connect with teachers outside your bubble. Get involved in the SEE community, follow #edchat on Twitter, connect at places like ISTE, or whatever it takes to find like-minded educators. And after I come down from the ISTE high (as Allen put it), I hope that I can continue the conversation with these truly amazing, Exemplary educators.
About the author
For the last 10 years, Sarah Lorntson has been an English Language Arts teacher at Mahtomedi High School, in Mahtomedi, MN, one of Newsweek’s top high schools in America. She has been an avid user of SMART Products ever since she got her first SMART Board interactive whiteboard in 2006. She became a SMART Exemplary Educator soon after, and she participated in the first SEE Summit at SMART’s headquarters in Calgary, Canada, in 2009. Since then, Lorntson has tried to find every opportunity to share her SMART story with teachers and administrators throughout the American Midwest. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Sarah conducts SMART training sessions across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, including demonstrations at the TIES Educational Technology Conference. She also has a passion for Open Source Curriculum and was featured in the Japanese Public Television documentary Education 2.0 for her work with Curriki.org.