This weekend, I attended Fall CUE at American Canyon High School. My journey started 18 months ago when I attended my first EdTechTeam Google Summit. It was at this summit that I became a Connected Educator. Since that time I have connected with several communities through Twitter and Voxer. The two I feel the most connected with are TOSAchat and ConnectedTL both groups have a large connection with CUE and the CUE affiliates. I followed along on Twitter as my PLN went to Fall and Spring CUE and I picked up tidbits here and there.
This year I made a point to go to Fall CUE. I scheduled it. I registered. Then on October 8th the #SonomaFires swept through my community. As the fires raged all of my students, many colleagues and friends were evacuated from their homes. Some have no home to return to. As of now the best count for my district is that we lost one school site and 38 teachers, 50+ classified, and 900+ students lost their homes in the last three weeks. The entire district has been closed for three weeks as we waited for the fires to be under control, the schools to be professionally assessed and cleaned, and there to be enough staff available to reopen the schools.
As this calamity beat up my community my attendance at Fall CUE became uncertain. I simply did not know when school would reopen, when we would be able to bring a little more stability back into our students’ lives. As it happens our first day back and the first day of Fall CUE were the same day. I was disappointed to miss the sessions I was looking forward to on Friday but totally jazzed to see all of my students again for the first time in three weeks. It was very much like the first day of class all over again, except they knew the procedures and I knew everyone’s name.
Shortly after school let out I headed out to CUE hoping to be able to attend the last session of the day. Three traffic incidents and an extra hour of driving later I pulled up to the school just after registration closed and within minutes everyone was leaving their sessions. I felt horribly disconnected and lonely as hundreds of people streamed out to their cars. I knew there were people I knew in the crowd but I didn’t see any of them.
This year Cate Tolnai (@CateTolnai) and CUE Member Engagement scheduled evening socials in nearby Napa (BEST. IDEA. EVER.). My first stop was to attempt to meet up with North Bay CUE (@NorthBayCUE) folks at Norman Rose Tavern (@NormanRoseNapa). It was my local affiliate but I hadn’t met any of them before. Unfortunately, when I got there CUE had stuffed the place to the gills. Every seat was filled with 25+ waiting by the bar. With no familiar faces in sight I headed out and went to Napkins Bar & Grill (@NapkinsNapa) to attempt to meet up with the Hyperdocs Crew. It was slightly less packed and as I walked in I saw Lisa, Sarah, and Kelly right away. Immediately I felt reconnected, their authentic, happy greetings as soon as they saw me was exactly what I needed. Though I hadn’t seen any of them in quite a while it felt as though it was no time at all. They quickly drew me into the group and introduced me to those who I didn’t know.
Over the next five hours I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and finally met face to face with people that I have been connecting with online for the last year. I had finally arrived.