Take Aways and Reflection from #CELI15

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Dr. Bill Brennan shared this poem as he opened CELI15. Immediately this poem resonated with me, I looked around the auditorium and I could feel the energy, passion and dedication to students and learning. Sure, I have seen this in other educational gatherings, but CELI15 was different, these educators were all connected educators gathering on Long Island. I could feel the future so close in front of us and immediately I felt assured that we are in fact in good hands. These innovative educators had energy and clarity and I was joining in and sitting at the table with them to engage in forward thinking and innovation in the spirit of increasing student engagement and achievement. Connect. Share. Learn. These three words on listed on the website for Long Island Connected Educators Summit, this promise was one that was more than fulfilled on this day. This learning experience was so different from anything I have experienced in my professional development so far. I left with so many ideas about how I can grow in my own professional development as well as the professional development that I facilitate.

“In writing and speaking, three is more satisfying than any other number.”

-Carmine Gallo Talk Like TED

As I have been reflecting on this day and attempting to formulate some clarity in written expression I came across this quote from Carmine Gallo and then it occurred to me – Connect. Share. Learn. Three words.The rule of three can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece where three words were used to convey an idea. Carmine Gallo points out in his book numerous examples of how the rule of three is ever present in our world throughout history ranging from life liberty and happiness to the Three Little Pigs, three primary colors and Newton’s three laws. In fact there are so many threes in nature and in literature this could go on for a while and I might never get to my three take aways from CELI15.

The number three is all around us and so in the spirit of three I will name my three take-aways from CELI15 – which is long overdue since this was on March 28th! Better late than never, and truthfully it was challenging to only name three takeaways from such an inspiring day.


Just as teachers are guides on the side, Dr. Bill Brennan and Tony Sinanis did an amazing job of facilitating the conversations throughout the day from the opening to the closing. These two individuals are authentic leaders, who spoke honestly and inspired the Long Island educators who gathered on this last Saturday in March. Impressive to say the least!


Professional development does not have to cost a lot in order for you to learn a lot. In fact it can be FREE!  Each session I attended was created by an educator or educators who cared enough to share their ideas. There were two morning sessions and one afternoon session. As I was presenting at the first session that narrowed my choices and I found myself wishing each session was recorded and blasted out on YouTube so I could watch and learn later, in a way that I can check out Storify after a chat that I cannot attend. I do admit it is not the same as interacting in the discussion live, but it could help to share ideas further. I greatly appreciated reading the #CELI15 Tweets that came out of the day. The sessions I did attend were conversations that inspired and gave me cause to reflect.

 I attended Tony Sinasis‘ session, “Transparency: Keys to Building Trust and Social Capital.” I had to admit to him that I was in fact stalking his Twitter #Catiague and working at my school to tell our story. In truth, I learned so much more from him in this session because he was friendly and so willing to share how he told the story of his school and built trust among his community through using social media. Ideas that Tony shared I know will serve me well as I engage in leadership roles in education. It is no surprise that Tony received the honor of being designated as 2014 Principal of the Year in NY.  Quite an amazing leader to learn from.

The next session I attended was part of the “unconference” developed during lunch on a whiteboard, it started blank and soon filled up with many more sessions to attend. Again, difficult choices to make. The literacy based topics really were pulling me, “Reflective Writing” and “Literacy Lovers,” how could I choose?  In the end, I opted to go outside of my literacy comfort zone and attended “Making Thinking Visible” presented by Louisa Cataldo and Tina Guarnashelli. They shared with us Peardeck as well as a learning experience from attending  Project Zero Summer Institute at Harvard. I purchased the book they recommended, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart. I started reading the book and so my learning that began at this session continues. I am grateful to Louisa and Tina as they have sent me on a continued learning journey. This brings me joy.


I can push myself out of my comfort zone and share good ideas. At first I heard about this event through Carol Varsolona– a year earlier in fact. I was not able to attend CELI14 due to another commitment, however when I saw CELI15 being shared on Twitter and I realized many educators I follow on Twitter and chat with on Voxer (Talks with Teachers)  were going, I signed up right away. I learned so much from them in the connected sense through social media, I couldn’t wait to meet them and learn from them in person.

At some point I came across the call for proposals and suggested to my in district colleague Jeanne-Marie Mazzaferro that we submit a proposal. We just wrote and were facilitating an in district collegial circle titled “Making Social Studies “Social” for the 21st Century Student.” We were using technology and social media such as Twitter, Voxer, and Google Apps, to share all that we learned through the process with other educators seemed like a next step. We submitted our proposal and were more than excited when it was accepted.  We were going to be sitting at the table with these innovative, connected educators on Long Island and we could not wait to learn and share our story of learning. Here is the link to the description of our session. The QR below or this link will provide you with a view of our presentation as well as the participant folder we shared with the educators who joined us as we shared how our waves of learning spread.

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Connect. Learn. Share. The three words I first saw on the website for Long Island Connected Educators’ Summit (#CELI14, #CELI15), now there was a fourth word, ACT. Now is the time to ACT.  Once we have connected, we are always learning and sharing, but we need to also act. In reflecting on my experience this day, that was my first call to “ACT.” I believe that it is worthy to spend time sharing and spreading what you are passionate about, especially in learning when it can help others. This post is yet another “ACT” and although it took long for me to publish it, it is finally published. I could have continued to deliberate my reflections and revise and revise for several more weeks.  I could probably revise until CELI16, but I will take the advice of Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook, “Done is better than perfect.” I thought by tying in the idea of the rule of three I could somehow keep my reflection short, things don’t always go as planned.  We are all works in progress and while I continue to connect, learn, share and act I will no doubt continue to revise. For now, this post is done and that is better than perfect.


March 21, 2015 Day 21 Slice of Life Challenge

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday as I write for day 21 of the Slice of Life March challenge, I find myself struggling with coming up with an idea that I am ready to write.  I went through my drafts, then got distracted on another project that is very pressing, then sidetracked on Twitter and finally sidetracked on Voxer.

“I don’t know what to blog about today, and today is almost over.” I whined to my husband who just got home from work and is catching up on sports on the DVR.

“Write about paintball today, why can’t you do that?” he said.

“No, what would I write about? Oh wait, yeah I can do that!”

For Christmas this year, I was getting tired of just giving my nephews money or gift cards.  Last year I even dressed their money up in silly crafty gift ideas I found on Pinterest out of desperation for something more thoughtful or creative than money.  I was trying to think of something, when it occurred to me that we don’t make enough time to do things together anymore.  Schedules are busy for the group of 6 cousins, and while my brother and his family live close to me, my sister and her family live a little further away.  I decided I was going to give them a memory.

Rather than money for Christmas gifts the gift would be to go to Cousins Paintball, with one condition that we would all do this together.  The only part that was not great was that the youngest of the cousins was not old enough. He got a season pass to the close by water park Splish Splash.

Our original plan was all the cousins and the parents would go and we would make a day of it.  Well, turns out due schedules and work, only my brother and I ended up doing this with all the cousins.

When we all got there, my brother had a trunk full of cold weather gear that he used for work.  We were prepared with our snow pants, snow boots (yes it snowed on the first day of spring in NY) but of course we forgot a couple of things.  My brother kept pulling things out of his trunk, my daughter called compared his trunk to Mary Poppin’s bag and that was pretty accurate.  I am pretty sure he had enough of everything that if we all showed up in shorts and t-shirts he could have had all 8 of us dressed for paintball in the snow!

Luckily my brother was there, because I am not sure I would have even known what to do and even as they gave directions it still was not within my comfort zone and much of the vocabulary the instructors used was not in my background knowledge. Brothers really are the best, they always seem to save your day!

As I look back over the day I think it accomplished what I had hoped it would.  A day for all the cousins to get together and do something out of the ordinary and make a memory.

As an aside the day provided another example to me of how sometimes if we move outside of our comfort zones and take risks great things can happen. While the experience was a bit intimidating for me I realized that unless you step out from behind what is protecting you, you will not enjoy the game!  Yes, there is some risk, but in order to grow sometimes you just have to run out to get better aim at your target.