Celebration of Learning

Fountain of Color by sunsurfr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  Photo by sunsurfr 

A week ago today was our final class of EC&I 831 and it was our second night of sharing our summaries of learning. Once again it was a joyful and powerful experience listening to all the learning that took place over the past three months. As Alec mentioned on several occasions: you could hear the confidence in peoples’ voices. Everyone took such risks and ventured far beyond their comfort zones, and we all “survived” to tell fantastic stories of growth and change. We pushed the boundaries in ourselves and others. We became advocates for change and exploration. We came to appreciate and embrace what were once mysteries. The summaries of learning were truly celebrations of journeys.

I knew I would struggle as the class wound down and it was time to sign off for the final time. I am an emotional girl and goodbyes  get me every time. I admit I felt sad and I had a little cry. Pretty silly, I know. But I know I felt this way because it is difficult to see a great experience end. And yet I know it hasn’t really ended. Yes, the structured time and place for meeting my classmates has ended, but the connections and sense of community will continue to exist and grow in the very social media we came to value through this course.

I created my summary of learning using Glogster, a tool I explored early on in the course. I fell in love with Glogster and its potential for self-expression. The audio links I embedded into the Glog pages I recorded in Audacity. Glogster has an audio recording tool but I was unhappy with the sound quality. Audacity is a free, open source software for recording and editing audio. If you have not tried it before I highly recommend it. We use Audacity with our students in Grades 2 to 6 with excellent results in many different projects. I designed a series of interlinked Glogs to capture the various themes from my wonderful EC&I 831 experiences. To explore my summary of learning please click the image below. Maybe Santa will bring me a WordPress.org blog so I can embed more into my blog posts!

My Summary of Learning for EC&I 831

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This is Not Goodbye

goodbye by woodleywonderworks, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Photo by woodleywonderworks 

I hate good-byes.  I know what I need.  I need more hellos.

~Charles M. Schulz

Saying “goodbye” is so hard. I am a sensitive gal at the best of times but coupled with a farewell, I usually become a teary mess. After 13 years of teaching I still cry every June as my students leave for the summer and move on to the next grade. I once asked my principal, “When will this get easier? When will I get through the end of the school year without crying?” Her response, “I hope you never do. It is you. You build the relationships and you feel so connected. That is never a bad thing.” I have drawn on her words many times as it reframed what I saw as a silly, weak, overly emotional response into an appreciation of the power, value and depth of connections. As crummy as the goodbye is, the journey and time together is always worth it.

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

~Theodor Seuss Geisel, attributed

I have long felt the journey of learning with others is a strong bonding force. Every June when I reflect on the past 10 months with my students I am amazed at all we have experienced. As we navigate learning together as a group we see each other in many different lights. We join hands through the struggles, questions, mysteries and frustrations. We celebrate the victories, discoveries and break-throughs. In 10 months we have created a shared story of learning that connects us in a special way. Through my tears in June I always try to remind myself that this amazing story doesn’t disappear once we say goodbye. It doesn’t fail to exist anymore when we move on. It indeed happened, we lived it, and we are fortunate to add it to our personal collections of stories. Years later when I run into former students they remind me of the pieces of the story they still hold close. Even though the physical structure of an experience is over, the impact of it still remains. And in some cases so do the connections.

Why am I talking about June goodbyes at the end of November? This post emerges as I sift through my emotions from last night’s EC&I 831 class. Alec summarized and reflected on our three months of learning together. Although we have two classes remaining they are dedicated to sharing student summaries so last night was a course wrap up. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone and I am not at all ready for it to end. Our journey has just started! We are picking up steam and now we have to say goodbye? I was, in my usual farewell state, tearing up as the class wound down. I have never met any of my classmates face to face and yet I feel connected to them. We have created a story of learning that is rich with risks, inspiration, enthusiasm and growth. The energy has been contagious and buoyant. The experiences and people in this course have opened my eyes, pushed my thinking, exposed me to a new world, and truly changed me. It cannot be over!

In the midst of a quasi pity party I had a moment of clarity—this course may be ending but it’s role was to be the vehicle to this moment. It was the catalyst that helped form the networks and helped demonstrate the possibilities. It was essentially the matchmaker between my PLN and me. I know a matchmaker doesn’t need to stick around once the connection has formed, their job is done. The course is not the network nor the learning. As Alec said last night, “The community is the curriculum. It is a living curriculum.” In this I understand the separation between the course and the content. I must say goodbye to the course and its defined structure. I will indeed miss Tuesday evenings with Alec, our guests, our mentors and my classmates. But the goodbyes stop there. I am leaving the structure of the course with an amazing story of learning but it is just at the beginning, there are countless more pages to fill. The connections, the networks, and the opportunities for learning are all still here and will continue to grow and evolve.

This is not a traditional blog post for me. I have no hyperlinks, no embedded videos and I suppose I defied all that I know is best practice. But today I needed to lean on my blog to process the perceived goodbye and the perceived end of something so magical and awesome. I must say I still feel slightly melancholy even though my mind logically knows the above understandings to be true. I think the feeling will subside on December 7, the morning after our last class and the official end of the course, when I see a tweet with #eci831. A little reminder that all is well. We know where to find each other—online and close by as we have been all along. Thank you, friends.