Can you hear it?!? Listen…

symphonyCommunity is like a glorious symphony.

There are moments in your life when you look back, you realize were the beginnings of your song. You couldn’t hear it, but your instrument was being tuned. Each of us face struggles, that in time perfect our practice and path.

There are two distinct conversations I remember having early in my career as an educator.

I had only been teaching two years when one of my mentors asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Umm… that’s an interesting question. I had never even imagined myself outside the classroom. “Here” was the only response I could conjure up. Six months later, after working on a project that broke down the walls of my classroom, someone said, “You won’t be here much longer.”  I was puzzled by her statement, but deep down I started to hear something I hadn’t before. I knew she was right.

In a moment of exasperation, from my detour from the “curriculum” to engage in a project based learning opportunity, someone reminded me that I taught in a fishbowl, that I needed to be careful, other teachers were watching. Apparently, this was not a good thing.  My response, “They should come in and take a swim.” Asked if I would do it again, and in my brave untenured voice replied “Absolutely!”  Though that conversation ended, an internal one began. I realized, I didn’t want to be confined to fishbowl and I needed others to swim along side me. I found the few on campus who would and together we built engaging learning experiences. Thank you CarolAnne, Kathleen, and Ami for your patience, tolerance, acceptance, and willingness to participate in my ‘crazy’ ideas! I could hear the rhythm begin to build.

Then it happened.  The opportunity of a lifetime to help build a community of educators who could connect, communicate, and share ideas. Who did not say “don’t use my ideas, unless you ask permission first and I’ll likely say no because I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel” or “don’t ever try to be as good me…” (and yes I was told both of these things by a mentor teacher) A whole new world was about to open up.

Recently, I heard Lindsay Foster’s DEN story (if you haven’t seen it yet, seriously stop and watch it now!) and how she described her first institute experience that first had her feeling like “Jack on an island of giants.” That was my first year at Discovery.  I had been the ‘big fish’ trying to new things, living on what I thought was the edge of innovation and then I met Lance. I suddenly felt like the guppy swimming in an ocean. What did I have to offer? That’s not always a comfortable feeling, but that’s where the journey of learning begins. That’s when you start to hear the beginning of your song. Though sometimes it sounds off key, keep playing. You’ll settle into your rhythm. You’ll find your note.

Lindsay continues her story by sharing that at one point, “everyone had become ‘Jacks’ or she had become a giant”  This took Lindsay a few days (she’s good like that!).  It took me a year and if I’m being honest, I’d admit I’m continually learning. During this time, I spent a lot of time watching and trying to keep up. If you have had the privilege of meeting them, you’ll know this is not an easy task. It was as if I were listening other instruments, wishing I could play those sounds.

Like Lindsay, I’m not sure when it happened, but suddenly it wasn’t about about them or me. We each had a part in the song. It was about what we sounded like together.  I didn’t need to know how to play every note, I needed to surround myself with other talented players and listen to the music we created together.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 11.17.32 AMThe first time I really heard the music come together was at the  Summer Institute, held at Sea World in 2006. 50 educators came in as strangers and left as family. I’ll never forget the husband of community member Linda Foote, coming up to me and asking “What happened here and why are they all crying?” Many times I am asked to describe what happens at our community events. Try as I may, the DEN is best experienced, not described. How do you describe the sound of hearing a glorious symphony for the first time? Why were they crying? As Dave Tchozewski shared with us last year, we had found our tribe. We knew we left different than we came, not because of what we learned about ‘technology’ or ‘digital media’ but because of what we learned from and about each other. We left inspired with ideas and strategies that would transform teaching and learning.

Fast forward 10 DENtastic years. I have heard it again and again. It makes my heart smile. It never gets old.  I love to wait and watch as others hear it for the first time too. I know they hear it because of each of you shelter, foster, support, and encourage them to play louder and right when they hit their rhythm you come in with a harmonizing melody. It is glorious! That’s what makes this community the best.

Last week, I asked our community members to send me pictures that captured their moments where everything falls in line, fills their soul, and makes their hearts smile. Not only was my inbox overwhelmed, they came with the most incredible stories, some that brought laughter and others tears. So here’s a montage of our collective symphonies!  Thank you for being part of mine!

The magic behind Discovery is YOU! Our community! #BeDiscovery


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  1. Deb Thonus said:

    Oh,my! Why am I crying? Because you said this so beautifully! There is such a feeling of acceptance and support in the DEN. It is as unconditional as the support of a biological family. That is why the DEN is a family, the best kind of family, a family that only wants the best for each of its members. The DEN is my TRIBE! Thank you for sharing, Jannita!

  2. Karen Zilhaver said:

    Thank you for creating such a wonderful movie of memories!

  3. Karen Seddon said:

    That is one beautiful reflection from one beautiful lady. Your impact is far greater than you can imagine.

  4. Paula Naugle said:

    DEN is my tribe and I love each and every one of you. Together we make beautiful music indeed!

  5. Katie Warren said:

    Oh, my, Jannita, this is a beautiful post and should be at the top of the DEN page forever! Thank you for bringing tears of joy and remembrance of ten wonderful years.

  6. Tracie Belt said:

    This video brought back memories, made me miss all of my “DEN Tribe”. The pictures made me happy and sad at the same time. Thank you so much for the morale boost and the beautiful photos! Well done! Thank you for your effort and time. Now I feel super guilty for not sharing when I knew I had heard the music. My first Institute was at Valley Forge. Lance picked me up from the airport. The Institute was a small one, but a fantastic one. I was a tech novice, but no one cared. They showed me the ropes and welcomed me to learn alongside of them. I was hooked and I still am!

  7. Tally Burkhart said:

    Awesome! I loved every second. So nice seeing my DEN family’s precious memories! The music was perfect!

  8. Sonja Fehlmann said:

    Amazing Jannita. The song is just perfect. It is so awesome to see the joy radiating from the students, teachers and DEN member’s faces. Love my tribe!!!

  9. Wendy Norton said:

    This captures the true DEN spirit. Your reflection expresses many of the emotions I too have felt becoming a part of this tribe. It is such a privilege to know so many magnificent educators, that make such a difference in so many children’s lives. This makes my heart smile when needed most. Thank you, you are a wonderful person, blessed to know you.

  10. book report writers said:

    Such pleasant feelings, Jannita! You do have much to share. When I experience the feelings of awe and gratefulness, I often think about the people who helped me out: my friends and relatives. Especially when I had to write much and in the shortest period of time.
    Greetings from all our book report writers!
    All the best!

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