Thursday, January 14, 2016

Unexpected Gifts

Let the fun begin!
For about a year now, Bill Selak and I have been talking about him coming to visit Penngrove. I LOVE having visitors on campus. There is just something incredibly meaningful about connecting the numerous conversations that take place via Twitter, Voxer, etc., with a good old fashion visit. I’ve had the opportunity for some of the educators whom I admire the most to visit my campus over the past couple of years. Whether it’s a quick check-in, or an all day adventure, there is just something about my friends being at Penn that is extremely humbling, exciting, and encouraging. Last week, having Bill at Penngrove was absolutely full of unexpected gifts.

While I was busy doing the morning assembly, meeting with our amazing PTA President, and prepping for the Penn News, Bill was en route in the pouring rain for what would be a three-hour drive for him. Yikes. I had the Panther VP (Video Production) Crew in my office when Bill arrived and they had been anticipating his arrival maybe more so than I had!



As we toured around campus, I told Bill from the get go, “If you see anything that needs immediate fixing, or that I’m doing that could be done in a more efficient, better way, please tell me immediately so you don’t forget!” And there began a day of learning, ideas, dreaming, and sharing. After being on campus only two hours, walking and talking as we were in and out of 14 classrooms, Bill gave me a bazillion unexpected gifts. I’ll share just a few that stuck out to me.

Mr. Selak teaches 5th graders about www.photosforclass.com
  • The Boomerang App which takes awesome video
  • A shortcut in Gmail to compose an email (I still haven’t finished this one)
  • The chance to watch him teach students about www.photosforclass.com and then, a student he was working with taught the entire class about it!
  • A brand new theme song for our PennNews recorded via Garage Band on my laptop (which I didn’t even have installed on my Mac prior to Bill’s arrival)
  • A lighting lesson in our green room
  • Tons of advice and thoughts about EdCamp and Unconferences
  • Coffee tips (milk goes first people)
  • A reminder about all the loose hanging cords that need to be tidied up all over campus
  • A thought-provoking conversation about computer labs
  • An addition to my Amazon shopping cart with a new mic
  • Raspberry STEM knowledge
  • One of my fav Selak fun fact: he doesn’t like pickles (which came with his roast beef sandwich), which totally rocked for me because it was all I ate for lunch!
  • Encouragement that spray painted sidewalks are awesome!
  • Being able to observe a student who has been having a really difficult year, tour Bill around his 1st grade classroom like he was the king of the school.
  • Silly banter in the hallway as students approached Bill asking, “Are you really famous?” (the answer we gave them: “Heck yah! EduFamous!”)
  • A Google Hangout with Amber Teamann who I have wanted to “meet” FOREVER!
  • Tons of support and encouragement as we hosted our first ever unconference with teachers from 5 different elementary schools in our district
  • A little periscope action during a random dance party in the middle of the raffle at our afternoon PD.
Mr. Selak gets a tour from a 1st grader

Multi-tasking! Bill gives Amber Teamann a tour of my office
via GHO while I schedule rainy day recess and chat w/ Mrs. Olufs!
A special interview after a lighting lesson.
Right?!?!?! Our education community is just so incredibly giving. Giving of their time, resources, energy, ideas, and sacrifices for the benefit of our students. I would have LOVED to have had Bill at Penngrove for an entire school day so we could really dive deeper. We didn't get to quite a few “big topics” I had been looking forward to talking about. However, in just a few short hours, Bill left me with so many unexpected gifts that I wasn’t expecting in the first place and that I will definitely cherish.

Joe doing his thing: telling stories.
I know this blog post is about Bill’s visit last week and the specifics that took place but really, I think that his visit was a culmination of the gratitude that I’ve felt for so long towards those who have come to Penngrove and given a piece of themselves to our students and staff. One of my favorite days last school year was when I sat on the carpet in Room 3 watching my favorite Superintendent in the whole world, share a story with a group of six year olds. To be given the gift of watching a friend whom I look up to in so many ways interact with the students I do life with every day…was absolutely life changing. Thanks Sanfelippo.


As educators, we invest our lives in our students at our own schools, in our own cities, in our own districts, in our own counties and in our own states. But when we take the time to visit other schools, to discover what others are doing, to provide feedback and suggestions along the way, we have the power to leave unexpected gifts everywhere we go. And that my friends, is a gift you can’t wrap, ship, buy, or earn. It’s the gift of time. The gift of friendship. The gift of belief in one another. It’s exactly what we all need a little more of these days. Give. Risk. Learn. Trust.


Jen and Joe came to hang out during the first few days of school this year. So meaningful.

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