So last week I attended my fourth consecutive yearbook camp. If you’re unaware of what I’m talking about, yearbook camp is a summer workshop held in various places by various publishers (Jostens, Herff Jones, Walsworth, etc.) where advisers and students spend a few days learning about what makes a good yearbook and taking the steps toward putting together their next book. It is one of those extremely valuable experiences because not only do you get to “talk shop” with other students and be taught by experts on topics from writing to photography to design, it really gets the creativity going and those schools who leave camp leave with a serious head start on what should be a great book.
I wasn’t able to take students with me this year (funds and my editors’ schedule prevented this, but we are doing a fall workshop), but I did walk away energized and ready to get back to work on the yearbook. You know, just like those colleagues, friends, and people on Twitter (Twits?) I know who attend conferences and workshops feel. Not a year goes by when someone has attended a conference held by ASCD, NCTE, or some other national organization and tweets or posts about how awesome an experience it was and how many new connections they made and how many ideas they walked away with. I get a little jealous because I never get to go to those conferences–I’m broke and my district won’t pay for my membership in NCTE, much less my attending a confrence–but it is both cool and amusing to see all of the tweets and posts that come out after the conferences conclude. Cool, because those who attended always have great stuff to share; amusing because all of them have conference high.
Yes, conference high: the feeling of elation when you’ve spent three or four days in an isolated environment discussing your work and sharing ideas. I’ve experienced it more than once in more than one profession and it never really changes. In fact, it’s such a consistent phenomenon that I’ve been able to break it down into five stages …
Stage One–Denial: “This is great! I’m so inspired! I’m going to try all of this! My students will want to buy in to all of it and will get everything done no problem! I’ll be able to share it with the world!”
Stage Two–Anger: “Are you kidding me?! You are telling me that you got your students to watch, ask questions, and help guide a doctor through open-heart surgery on Skype? You asshole, mine don’t even know how to turn a computer on! That’s if the network isn’t down! It must be really nice to have so much money to do all of those things. Call me back when you have 20 teachers fighting over a projector and the one working photocopier in the building has become self-aware and spends the day vomiting toner on anyone who looks at it funny.”
Stage Three–Bargaining: “Okay, so maybe I won’t be able to do everything, but I can do some things. And I know that they won’t buy into it at first, but I’ll trick them into doing it. Yeah. You know, like, we’ll give out candy because they managed to do a blog post. Or I’ll tell them that if they are able to do this the way I want them to, I’ll give them loads of extra credit.”
Stage Four–Depression: “I am not an innovative educator. I am THAT teacher. Look at all of these people. They are going to save the world through education, and I’m going to rot. They are building bonds that will last a lifetime; I’m committing suicide in 45-minute increments. All I have to look forward to is the reception tomorrow night because there’s an open bar.”
Stage Five–Acceptance: “You know, taking a look at what I’ve seen here and the reality of my situation, I see how I can make it work. I just have to keep reminding myself of the number of missteps and failures I’m going to have before I find success; and even then, that success will be followed by more failure. I know everyone else seems to be soaring, but I need to forget that and focus on what I need to do. This will happen and when it will do it will be awesome, but even more than that, it’ll be my brand of awesome.”
So there you go. Enjoy it while it lasts, continue to chase the dragon with another conference, and hopefully in the meantime you will find that what you bring to your classroom afterwards is ultimately rewarding.