As anyone in education knows, the end of a school year is always hectic. When your building has been under construction for a year with one to go, and a wing of teachers plus has to relocate, you have just redefined any notion of a busy wind down to the end. So, you might have noticed my absence from the PA DEN blog, but I’m back. To re-enter, I wanted to begin with a thank you long overdue.
Not quite a year ago, Discovery Communications launched Discovery International Student Adventures with pilot trips to Australia, South Africa, and China. Timing in my life made it possible for me to follow the entire China adventure virtually, along with Karen Wells, who had been a team leader for the South African Adventure. Together we followed all the bloggers. Considering the number of teachers (4) and students (14) on the trip, that was a lot of blog comments. But it was great fun, and we felt like Team China cheerleaders.
The DEN is really one big family with friendships stretching cross country, and I had met Karen several times at DEN summer institutes and events, so blogging with her was a conversation with a friend. Several of our friends were chosen for each trip, but I was really delighted when PA DENs own Adam Controy won a last-minute spot on the China trip in a passport-ready drawing at the 2009 DEN National Institute in CA. He instantly became a guest blogger for PA.
Despite our state loyalties in the DEN, our friendships and allegiances cross state borders, so I was also rooting for our near neighbor, Heather Sullivan, who anchors the NJ DEN Blog as Blog Chair. She was dreaming of China, so we promised to follow her travels since PA, until Adam, had no representative on the 3 premier trips. During her trip of a lifetime, Heather posted regularly to the trip blog, but her Journey to the Center of the Earth: Science Lesson, Quiz, and Prize from China blog was one of my favorites.
So, many months pass and Heather and I reunite at the DEN PETE&C PreCon at Hershey Lodge and Conference Center. Quietly, she presented me with a gift from the place on the trip I most wished I could have visited–the Shaolin Monastery–where the monks are Kung Fu masters. The bracelet is carved by the Shaolin monks, and I have worn Heather’s gift without fail every day. It reminds me of our friendship and the renewing and restorative power of the people who make the DEN the most wonderful and powerful PLN.
My thank you extends to Heather, Adam, Rita, Brett and 14 students. I think you all saved my life, quite literally. I had pneumonia in both lungs, but what I did not know at the time was that I also had cancer, which ultimately complicated and extended my overcoming illness. My journey to wellness was slow, but having bloggers to read, make comments, and then blog about kept me going. I waited, like Karen, for each post, sometimes syncing my lifestyle to China’s time. Unlike Karen, I suspect that each post was a link in a life line that somehow kept me moving forward. Mentally and emotionally, I was strong; it was overcoming the physical that nearly did me in.
At PETE&C, I told Heather how much her travels with her students meant to me, and she suggested I share my story. It has taken me almost a year to recognize publicly how much the trip meant to me as a virtual participant. One student blogger was, for me, exceptional. He was as good as any adult blogger I have read, and he made the China experience pop, making me feel I was more than a virtual traveler. Great blogging always does that. So to all of you, teachers, students, and Discovery Education, thank you for a trip of a lifetime!