Sunday, July 19, 2015

FlipCon15 Family Reunion

I just got back from FlipCon15 in Michigan (after taking a few extra days to visit family before coming home) and the biggest thing I am struck by is how my #flipclass colleagues are not just "colleagues" or even simply "friends", but truly "family".  As I sat in the Flint airport getting ready to fly back on Thursday, I had a similar feeling to that when I said goodbye to my husband and 2 year old for the week... it's hard to say goodbye to those who you are so close to and who truly understand you!

How did this happen?  How do people who I only see once or twice a year become the ones who truly are my second family?

I started reading other teachers' blogs when I started teaching in 2007.  I (for some reason) was always afraid to comment on them or to join in the conversations.  I enjoyed gleaning some ideas but also staying somewhat far away from the action.  I attempted to start a blog myself, but didn't really know what to write about (now I realize I was trying to start a blog to write for others, instead of simply writing for myself)...

Fast forward 4 years to when I started flipping my class.  I hit a point after a couple of months where I was committed to it - and I needed / wanted to document my journey so I could look back and effectively evaluate the shift in teaching I was exploring.  I'm really not sure when I finally decided to hop on Twitter - I had an account but had tweeted once in 2-3 years.  I do remember tweeting out my first blog post called "My Favorite WSQ" and having Jon Bergmann retweet it.  My husband got woken up early that day with shrieks of excitement!  I can only laugh at that now...

Through the #flipclass chat, Twitter and Blogging in general, I was able to meet so many people who were trying out similar shifts in their classroom.  We were able to share ideas, struggles and successes, and build a community.  I was able to go to ISTE2012 in San Diego with a few other teachers from my district, and I was so excited to meet some of these "famous" people that I had met on Twitter over the last 5-6 months.  To say I was starstruck would be putting it lightly.  However, meeting these rockstars in person developed those connections and relationships further.  We weren't just "tweeps" who knew each other online - we were becoming friends. The "Cheesebucket Posse" was formed.

I joined in FlipCon12 virtually and connected with several other teachers through the Twitter backchannel.  It was a few weeks later that I was at home alone (the husband was out on a guys' camping trip) and started chatting with Cheryl, Andrew, and Karl on Twitter and GHO.  Little did I know that that week was the foundation for the most supportive group of teachers I would ever meet.  As the school year started and I encountered some tough situations with nasty people online, they were there to support me, encourage me, and speak up for me when I had no words.  As I stepped out of the blogging world for a while in dealing with the joys of being pregnant, I remained connected to the community through their friendship.

The "circle" has continued to expand, and it was so exciting planning for FlipCon14 in person (Post 1, 2, 3, 4).  It was my first "real" presentation (I had done webinars, workshops at my site, and a few other much smaller things), so I was nervous about that.  However, the excitement that stemmed from anticipating finally meeting so many more of my #flipclass PLN overpowered any nervousness that existed.  It was a whirlwind, exciting time connecting with people face to face and solidifying relationships that had been formed online.

After FlipCon14 I took my new position out of the classroom and stepped away from the #flipclass chat (mainly due to the timing of it - it's hard to cook dinner for a one year old and participate in a twitter chat at the same time).   However, I found other ways to stay connected through random Twitter conversations, Voxer groups, and sporadic blogging.  There was no way I was missing out on FlipCon15 and another chance to connect in person with my #flipclass friends.

As the day drew closer to fly out to Michigan, I'll be honest that I wasn't quite feeling it. I worked an extra week the first week of summer, flew out to ISTE2015 and was away from my husband and Grayson for a week, and was only home for a week before knowing I'd have to leave again.  I was excited to see everyone, but kind of feeling blah about spending so much time away from my "real" family.   There is something strange that happens when I see my #flipclass friends in person though... it's like all of that goes to the wayside and I'm just so excited to be there.

FlipCon15 was a whirlwind... from arriving late on Sunday night and going to the "boys" side of the dorm, only to have someone open up "my" room and then say, "Hey, I know you, I follow you on Twitter!" to having someone walk me back from the parking lot who had absolutely no idea who I was or anything about my experience with #flipclass (I'll admit, that's kind of nice sometimes...).

I tried to sleep in Monday and adjust to the time change but it was not to be. I got up and went to help out with the Boot Camp sessions that were going on.  Monday night we got to drift down the river (thankfully the rain passed us by!).  It was great to have conversations with people who I hadn't really talked to much before.  The conference itself flew by - I got to present twice (WSQ chats, Formative Assessment) and attend some great sessions.  I'll blog about my takeaways in another post :)

Wednesday night several of us that were still around went out to dinner and then to Starbucks to hang out.  Did you know that it's still light outside in Michigan at 9:30pm?  It was so weird.  It was Wednesday night as I was preparing to say goodbye (or "see you later") to my #flipclass friends that I realized we are so much more than friends.  These people are my second family.  They somehow understand me, constantly encourage and challenge me, and are just fabulous people to be around.

FlipCon is so much different than the other conferences (ISTE and CUE) I've attended.  It being a smaller conference obviously helps - but it's also about the people.  Attending "virtually" is great for the learning and online connections you can make.  But, once you make those connections in person, it's just different. It's more than "my online Twitter friends".  It's family.  A lot of people don't understand it - how can you spend so much time and money to connect and share with these people you just met online?  It's because they have become my family, and FlipCon is a chance for a once-a-year family reunion.

I didn't take that many pics (I left that up to others and then saved their pics), but here are a few from my camera...
Meals in the MSU Cafeteria... who knew they could be so good? ;)
Friends on the Bus - Ken & Lindsay
Friends on the Boat - Kate & Ken
Dedication. 5:30 am "before" the insanity workout with Lindsay - Roomies Rock!
We know Brian Bennett... do you?
I roped two of them into it... this is the "after" with Delia.

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