Virtual Appreciation Note: SLA

I haven’t written one of these in a while and that feels wrong because my appreciation for a wide range of educators has only grown in the past few months. Watching others navigate online schooling or hybrid schooling or in person schooling with all the pandemic fears has increased my appreciation for educators in general and specific ones.

For the past decade, at this moment in time I would be prepping to head to Philly for Educon. The first year I went was the second year of the conference and I was beyond excited. Until I actually got to Philly and then I had serious imposter syndrome and asked myself what I thought I was doing there. When I finally psyched myself up enough to leave the hotel and head over to SLA it was so worth it. The students, the families, the conference sessions, the attendees, everything far exceeded my expectations. At the time, all of the students wore lab coats that said SLA on them as their school uniform. Lots of them were decorated in fabulous ways. I loved them. I will never forget summoning up the courage to go into Chris Lehmann‘s office and ask if I could buy a lab coat instead of an Educon t-shirt. I’m sure he found it somewhat odd, but he immediately made it happen. I also vividly remember Zac Chase being in the office and saying to me, with a knowing nod, “Nerd chic.”

The next year, my husband insisted on going with me to Educon and for the past decade it has been a joint venture. Our kids were quite young when we began going and it was like a special weekend away for the two of us. Educon has been a gift, both professionally and personally.

I am an elementary school teacher. I have never taught high schoolers and I don’t ever plan to do so. However, I have learned so much for time spent at SLA and from the teachers who work there. The way students are truly at the heart of everything, every decision, every change, is amazing. Many schools say, and I think, truly believe, that students are at the heart. But it’s rare to see it in action the way it is at SLA.

So many SLAers are people I call friends now. Which never ceases to amaze me. Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase co-authored a phenomenal book, one I love to pick up again and again when I need reminders of what we can do and should be in education. Each of them blogs (sometimes more often than other times) and being able to read their words and thoughts continues to inspire me to ask more questions, not accept the status quo, look more deeply, and push back. Diana Laufenberg hasn’t blogged in a while and I miss her voice there. It’s all good though because she has given me enough to last a lifetime through her tweets, her work in history and government education, and how much I’ve learned about life on a farm. Oh, and the travel tips! Diana is brilliant. And she makes sure it all gets done. With the focus where it needs to be. It’s really quite impressive but sometimes that’s hard to remember because she makes it all look so easy.

Educon isn’t happening this year and I truly think that’s the right call. A virtual conference would be a ton of work (not that an in person one isn’t but they’ve got a lot of practice with that) and it couldn’t really measure up to what we’ve known. Even as I know, intellectually, that I support the decision not to have Educon this year, it breaks my heart a bit. Not getting a weekend with the myriad educators that make their way to Philly, not being inspired and challenged to think more deeply and differently, not grabbing quick conversations with some of my favorite people in the world, I will deeply miss that. I am more grateful than I can say to everyone at SLA, not just the few named here, for all they do to improve education everyday. It is awe inspiring.

One reply

  1. David Jakes says:

    Thanks for the great post, I’ll miss it as well. And..will miss seeing you and Jeff!

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