I loved everything about last week. I traveled to Chicago, one of my favorite cities, for a conference.
1. Coming home. As much as I love getting to travel, I love coming home. Most of my cats were indifferent (though Fergus was very excited to see the suitcase returning–he and Abby spent the evening fighting over who would get to nap on it), but my people and my dog were glad to see me. I won’t forget the look of pure joy on my son’s face when I walked in the door. He then tried to shrug it off: “You can kiss me. You’ve been gone all week, so you deserve it.” But I know how he really felt.
2. So many pretty cups of coffee! I live in a town with no coffee shop. Actually that’s not true. There is a coffee shop, but they make espresso with an automated machine, so what comes out tastes like something you would buy at a convenience store. Coffee in local coffee shops is a big part of traveling pleasure for me. In three days, I managed to visit six different coffee shops AND still sleep at night!
3. Exploring. The search for interesting bookstores, good Ethiopian food, and the best local coffee shops took me to Oak Park, Edgewater, and Wicker Park. I loved wandering the neighborhoods, taking photos of street art, and people-watching.
4. Culture. I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was a mixed bag. It’s a relatively small museum, which I happen to like, and also contained only themed exhibitions rather than a chronological survey of contemporary art, which I also happened to like. I was moved by the Unbound: Contemporary Art After Kahlo exhibit and fatigued by the Isa Genzken retrospective (both because I couldn’t imagine mastering so many different mediums and also because so much of what she creates is so deeply ugly). I always leave a contemporary art museum astounded that any human being survived the twentieth century with dignity, humanity, and hope intact. I also saw a play! I decided on Ike Holter’s Exit Strategy after reading several glowing reviews and discovering that it’s a play about public school closures in Chicago. It was blistering and fierce and funny and sad and exquisitely acted. I also loved the theater itself.
5. Learning. Although it probably sounds like I was too busy doing other things in Chicago to actually attend a conference, my very active Twitter feed shows otherwise. This was the first annual EdTech Teacher Summit, and I will be asking my institution to send me again next year, because it was an excellent conference. The two keynote speakers (Will Richardson and Jenny Magiera) were superb (and had very different narratives of public education to share); all but one of the sessions I attended was extremely valuable; and I have so many ideas to mull over. What I especially liked at this conference was its balance between the big picture thinking that drives a teacher’s philosophies and practices and the actual details of classroom life and work. The emphasis was on making and creating and connecting and the ways that technologies enable that. (All of the presentation slides are available on their website; some sessions were also live blogged; and check the #ettsummit hashtag for more.)