Somewhere in a swanky, glossy penthouse just off Canal St. last night, a group of educator bloggers, think-tankers, writers, politicians, activist, and this guy named Klein c0nvened at the behest of GothamSchools.org, a blog formed under the premise of bringing all these types into one virtual room to have these difficult but promising conversations. Upon receiving my invitation, I already concocted double double, toil and trouble brewing at the chance I might meet the chancellor, who I have nothing against personally, but I’ve disagreed with on a number of moves he’s made (most recently amongst them, closing a little more than 20 schools). I even posted on my Twitter the following:
This is gonna be funny. Going to the Gotham Schools get-together. I promise not to make too much trouble :-).
Naturally, the people at the blog had a small reason to rescind my invitation.
But they didn’t.
Cojones, my friends. With the hors d’oeuvres coming once every 3 minutes, and great personal conversations with the likes of Diane Ravitch, Patrick Sullivan, Robert Pondiscio, Leo Casey, Leonie Haimson, and Jennifer Jennings (of EduWonkette fame), I found myself in a quite comfortable circle. As many can attest to, even with the divergent opinions and personalities in that room, the whole place had a feel like the host’s blog does: disagreement without discourtesy.
I suppose it’s also why I consider myself most fortunate when I consider my choice of profession and vocation. Every opportunity I’ve had to discuss things with fellow educators has offered me a chance to grow. From the ubiquitous NYC Educator and EdNotesOnline to JD2718 and Miss Incognegro, I’m almost stunned at the rapidity of establishing a good model for professional learning communities right here online. Even when these educators don’t discuss education, people like SpeaksBeliefs, Fred Klonsky, and Jovan Miles have a way of keeping my thoughts grounded but uplifted, and that’s important. The list of people I’m indebted to for my sanity spirals around this blog.
Naturally, that’s translated to the life I lead offline. If it’s possible for complete one’s PLN with complete strangers with varying opinions, writing skills, and technological capabilities, it’s quite possible within the people we meet everyday. While most of my friends aren’t educators, most of my closest friends either work in education or work with children, so they understand. Plus, my work with adults has certainly connected me with my manager friends, who’ve probably shaken their head at my stories more than anyone else.
I can’t tell whether it’s because education already has drama interwoven into all aspects of its umbrella or because we all have some crazy mission we’re trying to fulfill for the betterment of our society, but the drama amongst educators in my circle reaches sub-zero levels. I really appreciate that. Very few people in any propitious field have people they can constantly turn to for help or growth of some level, nevermind in many dimensions of their job. I’ve sought to make that a constant reality throughout my professional career.
It’s like drawing a circle on Photoshop or Geometer’s Sketchpad: the closer one zooms into its edge, the easier it is to see the alignment of these unique and connected points (imagine drawing all the tangents to said circle. That’d be pretty). While at times in that gathering, while chewing on some wonderful chocolate chip cookies, I mulled over whether a Black / Latino man severely outnumbered ethnically and culturally in the many educational arenas I’m involved in even really belonged in this set, I couldn’t help but feel like part of a community genuinely interested in bringing positive change to life through this relatively new media. Unlike other places, I didn’t feel like a token or a placeholder, but a vested member, imperative for bloggers who constantly feel marginalized by people who can’t move fast enough in setting real agendas in this new world.
Last night, as I was ready to exit, I saw Kelly Vaughan, the first person to introduce me to GothamSchools. When we discussed my quasi-popularity, she said, “Well, Jose, you run in many circles.”
“This best amongst them,” I said.
Mr. Vilson, who told Pedro Noguera I’d have notes typed up from his conference a few weeks ago, but needed to write this post. It just took priority, man.
p.s. – There are many more to mention. Soon come.
p.p.s. – There’s a poem on the horizon. I know at least one person misses them.