What A Ride — How Being “Connected” Created Educational Travel Opportunities

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.” William Blake

As the sun set on June 30th, the 2015–2016 school year came to a close. While many were gearing up for the long holiday weekend, I took a moment to smile at my wife and son and reflected on the blessed year that had just ended.

Just several weeks prior, I started receiving various texts asking me: how did you afford it, what did it cost your district, how can I do it, what association do I need to join? The topic that the questions were focused on: Traveling to see schools, universities, and gaining a stronger understanding of how cultures look at schooling. They were all curious about my travels.

The answer, depending on your belief, is either simple or complicated: Social Media

Over the past several years, I spent enormous amounts of time in late evenings, and early mornings building up my professional learning community through Twitter. It allowed me to learn and share with so many amazing individuals from across the globe. It was/still is a place where I am not alone as a leader. There are others that share divergent ideologies and methodologies.

Ultimately, it became my access to professional development opportunities, to better my school, staff, students and myself. Yet, little did I realize it would provide me with enormous amounts of opportunities to see the world first hand, through the lenses of education.

Trips/Round Trip — Excluding food, driving mileage, time.

Fab Learn — Stanford University — 2,932 miles
Confucius/Rutgers University — China 13,824 miles
NASSP — Orlando — 2,070 miles
UPENNSV16 — San Francisco/Silicon Valley — 2,932 miles
ISTE — Denver — 3,572 miles

Presenting with students and staff throughout New Jersey for Ed Conferences (NJ School Boards Association, Gameacon, NJ Techspo), EdCamps (Multiple Locations/Weekends), EdCamp Organizers Summit in PA, Teachers Guild in DC , Thomas Jefferson University meetings, ECET2NJPA conference, the White House, and so many other events.

The answers to the questions that were presented to me:

  • It cost the district NO money, as it was financed through organizations, scholarships, and/or myself.
  • Traveling helps to develop a better understanding of the education system. Most adults only visit two schools: the one they work at and the one their kids go to.
  • There will be some years where opportunities are abundant and other years that are not. Decide what’s best for you and your school.
  • You need a loving and compassionate family that shares the same values that you do: Doing everything in your power to better the lives of children.
  • You need a superintendent that allows you to bring new ideas back. You also need an awesome team that’s eager to assist in your absence.
  • There are scholarships and numerous organizations to fund educational travel. Search and inquire on social media, and you never know what you might find. If you’re not able to find such funding, be willing to pay your own way. The price of learning something new to better others and yourself, is worth every penny.
  • Don’t be afraid to sign up for presentations. You never know if your story or school district can inspire others. Be proud to share your school’s story!
  • Life is about constantly learning, evolving, and growing to enhance the lives of others. “Once you stop learning, you start to die.” Albert Einstein
  • Put the time in. Do the work. Go outside your comfort zone.
  • Give, don’t just take. Share, collaborate, and be willing to offer assistance for others to travel, as good deeds do get rewarded.