This past week was Discovery Education‘s annual summer institute affectionately known as DENSI. 150 educators from all over the world spend 5 days together at what really can’t be described as a conference or professional development. It’s something different. The affection I feel for the people I just spent the last number of days with is hard to articulate. Just watching people learn and play and laugh is intoxicating. It’s particularly amazing to see folks from other countries cross-cultural barriers to simply connect as educators and humans.
The theme for this year’s event was joy. In education words like “joy” and “love” are often reluctantly used. We have historically left those ideas for other institutions to manage. Learning can happen without them but when you include them, the idea of “community” takes on a whole new meaning and learning goes to another level.
Yesterday for our final celebration event folks came dressed in whatever outfit/costume brought them joy. A group of community members decided to dress in colored pants and a Canadian t-shirt as a tribute to me. I was humbled and slightly embarrassed at this gesture. Sheila organized it all and represents the quality of people in our community.
I have been blessed to work with some of the most caring, loving, smart and funny people on the planet. Unknown to me, they too dressed as me. Each one representing one of my many odd quirks or expressions.
Part of me was really hoping they were just mocking me. Sometimes that’s easier to deal with than reality that they actually love me enough to make fun of me and with me. My own family takes great pleasure in mocking me and I love it. While yesterday was a little bit about me, the truth is my team does this kind of thing for each other and our community all the time.
This is a special group. I keep thinking, imagine if everyone felt as loved and valued as I do in their school, classroom or place of work. Let me just quote one of our Egyptian attendees who said:
“Everyone around the world who looks for the meaning of joy, stop searching, come to Discovery Education.”
Update: My friend and former colleague Chad Lehman did a great job in creating this memory. I don’t know if this translates to those not in attendance or not a part of our community but I want to share it anyway because it makes me smile.