"Here" Is More Than a Physical Space

As I navigated day three of the #naesp14 conference and traveled back to Illinois, I knew this experience would take more than one post to wrap up. Here’s the first one!

Throughout the conference, we saw the tagline, “It only happens here” on signage and programs, stressing the value of time together. Friday night, a few of us ventured into downtown Nashville via the hotel shuttle. Our driver’s name was Al, and it was evident that he was proud of his work, enjoyed himself, and valued a good sense of humor. On Saturday, I walked to the airport shuttle to discover that Al and I would be spending that ride together, too. I couldn’t help but think of this post by Jimmy Casas as I chatted with Al. As we waited for other passengers, Al asked about my visit and showed me a few video clips and photos of sights I hadn’t had the opportunity to see, and told stories of the Gaylord Hotel’s expansion over time. When it was time for the shuttle to depart (Al is very punctual; we almost learned that the hard way coming back on Friday!), I was the only passenger. We tuned in to the Grand Ole Opry and chatted about that for the short ride.

When I arrived at the airport, I was rather surprised at the quiet. (I’m starting to learn that all airports seem a bit quiet when you’re from Chicago.) I walked right up to security, where a friendly man checked my ID and my boarding pass, and asked how my visit had been. When he found out I was a school principal, he laughed about his own school experience and said he’d taken some swats back in his old school days. I laughed with him and reminded him that some things in schools have changed. As he returned my ID, he said, “Kathleen, be unstoppable.”

I couldn’t help but walk away with a smile, feeling empowered from that brief, simple interaction. I asked the ladies who scanned the bags what his name was. They laughed and said, “Oh, that’s Charles.” I assured them I didn’t have a complaint, and they said, “Oh, we know. If you write to the airport to share a good experience and just write ‘Charles,’ and they’ll know who you mean.” I thought about how many people he likely has the chance to impact each day (both passengers and coworkers) in such a positive way. As I continued through the airport, I heard a page for “passenger who lost his Star Wars journal.” How great for that child! (And how great for his or her parents to have a treasure recovered before their flight.)

Eventually, I got to my gate (after a sandwich stop where I ran into an old high school friend!), knowing my flight was delayed. A group of women complained about service they’d received. Shortly before boarding, a couple complained about their restaurant service. Another couple empathized with them; the complaining continued.

I thought about the contrast of those last few minutes compared to my trip from the hotel and through the airport. I thought about the contrast of those minutes from the last three days with the Social Media Ambassador team at the conference.

I boarded my plane with these thoughts about how “here” is more than a physical space. “Here” is where we can have valuable, meaningful, face-to-face interactions with members of our PLN (Personal Learning Network) and brand-new faces alike. But “here” is also a metaphorical sweet spot, a zone where positivity spreads and we lift each other up. Some lessons are indeed learned “here,” but they can and must be practiced everywhere. They reach into our own communities and through our social media streams, too. These lessons include:

  • Positivity is contagious. From my experience being Al’s passenger, to chatting with Charles’s TSA team, to working with amazing leaders in the Social Media Lounge, I saw that we can choose to model positivity. On the other hand, negativity can also spread. Choose to be positive.
  • Connectivity elevates all of us. The spirit of sharing elevates us. Giving others credit for their hard work and great ideas—that elevates us, too. Bringing the best to your students, pitching in, and working hard makes us better. Not in a “more for me” kind of way, but in a, “Hey, I sure wish I could be more like him or her. I want to give back” way.
  • Take time to notice. Notice names; listen to stories; and acknowledge others. Personally, I wonder if would have observed so much in the airport if I hadn’t been traveling alone. I need to be especially careful of not overlooking others when I’m with people I already know.
  • Return the Star Wars journal. Sometimes, there are small steps we can take that seem inconsequential or even inconvenient. But to someone else, our choices in those moments can mean a lot. Take the extra minute to do the right thing and to make someone else’s day.

Read other great thoughts on connectivity and the value of the PLN from the Social Media crew as you think about your own brand of “here.”

Kathy Melton

Melton is blogging from the 2014 Annual Conference in Nashville. Read her other posts, and see updates from Nashville, on 2014 Conference News.