When I teach the word “palpable,” I explain to my students that sometimes the energy is so strong in a room that you can feel it. Last month, after a long day of school, I walked into the ballroom at the Marriott Harborcenter in Buffalo, New York and there was an electricity that energized me immediately. We were gathered for the New York Summit on Teacher Leadership.
There was a buzz in the air, the aroma of yummy food, and a palpable excitement. This, in itself, is quite a feat. I’d only had a small commute over the Skyway, but when I sat down, the group was from Poughkeepsie. Later, I talked with National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) from Albany, and many who’d left school and driven hours, on a Friday, to be here. Next to me, a gentleman in a suit was scribbling on a legal pad. He paused to introduce himself, but in the hum of conversation, I didn’t quite catch his name. I could tell he was busy, so I didn’t really engage him, but I asked, politely, “Where are you from?”
“The Governor’s office,” he replied without a single note of pretension, and an honest and humble smile. I was sitting with Dr. Jere Hochman, Deputy Secretary of Education from the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Moments later, he was at the podium, setting the stage for what proved to be one of the most inspiring gatherings I’ve ever been privy to. A former middle school ELA teacher himself, it was evident immediately that he valued us–a collection of educators whose experiences he both understood and respected.
Kisha Davis-Caldwell, NBCT, from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Jennifer Locke, NBCT, from NEA both engaged a room of diverse educators, as well as Annette Romano, NBCT, Co-Director of NBNY and Co-Regional Coordinator of Eastern Upstate reminded us of the power to RISE, citing the theme of the convening.
On Saturday morning, as I wheeled my little leopard spotted suitcase of materials (I was selling my book and presenting) across the brick walkway, there was a chill in the air. I could tell you about every speaker, the amazing presentations, and the inspiration from the panel discussions focusing on schools with strong teacher leadership, as well as the side sessions with those who work in higher education. However, I’d argue that there is not a way to do that well. Instead, I’d like to share with you a smaller moment, one that might not seem significant, but is certainly the one that I’ll remember because it seems emblematic of the weekend.
After my session, “Do This, Not That: 5 Things to Stop Doing Right Now,” I was making my way across the wobbly path again. I was walking next to a woman, whose name I never got, and I stumbled on the bricks. I grabbed onto this perfect stranger, momentarily mortified. As I regained my composure, I thanked her for saving me. We both laughed, and she said, “That’s what teachers do for each other, right?” If you are reading this, and you think it sounds corny, in normal circumstances I’d agree with you. But here, in this inspirational setting, it simply seemed like the right thing to say.
To Board-certified teachers and other teacher leaders reading this, I encourage all of you to seek out those you can walk beside who you can count on, and encourage you when you stumble. It can be a lonely thing being a teacher who is always in the process of improvement when many people would rather stand still. We need to make sure that we are feeding our needs so that we can provide for others. Find a way to spend time in rooms with palpable energy, feed that desire to always improve so that we can continue to RISE.