What makes a great educator? Is it passion? pedagogy? adaptability? Is being forward thinking and a risk taker the yardstick of a quality educator? When I arrived at the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute in Miami I was told,
You are all here for a purpose, and you all deserve to be here.
This statement has still yet to be digested as I try to piece together amazing, meaningful moments together on my journey as an educator and a lover of technology, and I do love technology. I find technology empowers its users with an uncanny ability to create and explore hidden talents, skills, and ideas that without it would lie dormant, and hidden away.
When I applied to the ADE program this year, I was
nervous anxious totally freaked out. I saw amazing educators who are doing amazing things in their classroom with amazing students. Then I saw me, the bearded Chassidic Rabbi trying to "change the world", and then it hit me, April 22nd, 8:00pm.
The following are 4 take aways that made this experience powerful in the moment, and priceless in where it will take me.
This Isn't Just A Conference:
As an avid cliché user, and life long learner, I am always trying to find new things to learn, and new ways to learn them. When I attend conferences I am usually caught up in the hustle and bustle of presenting and finding worthwhile sessions to attend. At the ADE Institute, something was different. During the opening keynote, it was said that
if all we did at the institute, was bring you all together, we are certain that amazing things would happen.
The Institute hosted without questions some amazing presenters. Outside of the unbelievable work that fellow ADEs presented at the showcases, we also heard from the developers of Garageband and iMovie who shared with us not just how to "use" the apps, but how to "think" while using them. Our surprise keynote, Jason Hall of Chicago's "Slow Roll Bicycle Movement" show us how passion and activism can unite a community, a city, and the world. Still, my biggest take home without question was those impromptu conversations with fellow ADEers whether over an iPad, a Beer, or both. These colleagues and friends will definitely be part of my continue journey as a professional educator.
Learning Is A Journey:
One of the biggest challenges as a learner is to make time to reflect, redo, and reread pieces that make an impact on us. In our educational journeys, many times we are simply pushed forward in an effort to "learn more". The process of going back to something that seems old, and discovering something new is a tenant of the Jewish faith. Every year, we reread the Torah anew, and every year I discover something completely amazing, something that is as relevant today in 2015 as it was 2,000 years ago. With this outlook I try to impress on my students, and anyone who will listen, how critical review and reflection are. One of the amazing experiences of the Institute was to see so many amazing educators on very unique journeys. Still, no matter how unique we are, there was always something to learn from one another. Some of the best discoveries I had at the Institute were in conversation with a kindergarten teacher and a university professor. In the end we all shared the same focus on not just where we are, but where we are going.
We Are In This Together:
"Let me know how I can help." This was a mantra at the institute, and everyone was serious about it. It seemed that every time I shared a story, a struggle, a dream, there was someone at the ADE Institute who could help me. It really felt like a great big family of educators and this is something that I know will keep going throughout the year and beyond. It was humbling, inspiring, and outright exciting to interact with so many talented and creative experts who want to share more than just ideas, but their time and effort to help me grow as well as my students.
We are Advocates:
The four pillars of being an Apple Distinguished Educator is that we are Authors, Advisors, Ambassadors, and Advocates. For me, it was the idea of advocacy that hit home. As a Chassidic Orthodox Rabbi, I must admit that I was very nervous about attending the Institute for a number of reasons. The challenges of the Sabbath, access to Kosher food, and some of the cultural differences made me unsure if I would "fit in". After speaking with Matt Baier on the phone prior to the Institute, these worries simply melted away. Not only did I feel welcomed and supported, I felt integral. I felt that the diverse and unique educators at the Institute is what makes the Apple Distinguished Educator community so great.
The Apple Distinguished Educator Institute was unlike anything I have every experienced. I know that it is the spring board for amazing friendships, collaboration, and a driving force that will make a difference for the teachers and students that I support.
Now the next stage in this journey...
My One Best Thing
Interactive Book titled, "Students Teaching Students Is Totally Awesome".