The other day, in the lobby of our hotel, I stood beside a teacher from another country as he was requesting a folder from the hotel desk. I started a conversation with him and he told me that he wanted a folder for his certificate that he earned that day so that he could show his family. This certificate, the same one that is still currently crumbled in my backpack, meant the world to him. It was as if he had never earned one before. It occurred to me that maybe this was the case. He’ll now have a nice folio for his certificate and I shall un-crumble mine.
Hours later, I sat in a room surrounded by teachers from all over the world as we engaged in a conversation while having our #smartee chat online. Together with Boris, from The Netherlands, we wrote 5 questions and with 10 minutes left…I was out of questions. So, I improvised and made question 6 this…
If you could make one request for your classroom, what would it be?
I asked teachers to think big! What would be the greatest wish for your classroom? I expected the answers to range from ipads to chromebooks and even smartboards since we were here for a SMART conference. As I checked the timeline of tweets, one teacher from South Africa said…Wifi. (I take this access for granted often)
The biggest wish that she had for her students was for wifi. I repeated it out loud and pressed her further for response. She went on to say that each teacher there had to purchase their own “internet box” which gave teachers some form of internet connection. It was spotty at best but students had zero access. While she was speaking through tears, Warren Barkley, the CTO of SMART, leaned down and told her that SMART would make sure that her school had wifi. The entire room erupted in cheers because we all understood the difference that this gift would make for her students.
The next morning, she stopped me to tell me that she sent messages to the students to tell them this amazing news. One student responded, “will this wifi only be for teachers?”
We have many schools in the US without wifi but be also have a movement to provide access to our schools over the next several years. There is no movement such as this where this teacher teaches. This moment…this chat…THAT question… was critical for her and her students. I still get chills thinking about it.
Last night, as I was moping around in despair over so many things, I sat to speak to another teacher from The Middle East. He reminded me of how significant it was to be there in that moment. He spoke about his duty to be a present leader for his family and how they depended on his success. It reminded me of my own and their pride in me.
Today, I will smile because I am surrounded by people who connect me to what is important. Through the simplest of moments…the simplest of things…I am witnessing lives change and people connect.
I am witnessing growth. Luckily, this includes my own growth too.