Not Just Any Room


Photo taken by Jon Harper

Much has been written recently about the importance of learning spaces and for good reason. A warm and inviting classroom can have much influence on student achievement and more importantly, student well-being. But this piece is not about the things in the classroom. It is about the people.

The photo above is of the room where I gave my presentation yesterday at the “Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today” conference in Philadelphia. To be fair, I did edit the photo for effect. But I think you get the point.

At 9:45 folks began entering the room. And while I had connected with some of them through social media, I had never met any face to face. I felt prepared for the presentation, but I was still a bit nervous.

Well I should not have been, because during the 50 or so minutes I presented, something wonderful happened. I probably spoke longer than I should have. But I truly wanted everyone to believe that each and every one of them had meaningful stories to share. So I took them on a journey. And they came willingly. Not only did they come willingly, but by the end of the journey they were the ones leading the way.

At one point I had groups brainstorm ideas for a crowdsourced piece that I hope to publish tomorrow. And the conversations were wonderful. I can not wait to share with you what this amazing group of individuals came up with. But this was just the spark. The room ignited during the last ten to fifteen minutes. Here is how it happened.

It all started when I asked for a few brave volunteers to share with the group a picture that held some special meaning for them. I asked them to email me the photos and I put them up on-screen. Next, I asked them to share why the photo was meaningful to them and how it might possibly connect to education.

Simply put, it was beautiful. The first person that shared spoke of her father and the role he played in her life. Unbeknownst to me, he was sitting right in front of her. He had never heard her speak of this photo before and I can’t imagine how touched he must have been at that moment.

Next, a father shared a photo of his daughter running in between swings. The meaning and impact of that photo and his sharing with the group actually inspired him to write a piece that he published today. I promise you that it will touch your heart.

The last person to share had to rush and for that I apologized because I know she had much to say. Her photo was taken in the sunlight and the way the rays shone down on she and her friend were prophetic. She was just starting to explain the meaning of the photo when time ran out and we had to stop.

I included one more photo of a father’s son playing golf. Oh how I wish I could have heard the story behind that one. I am sure it would have been as wonderful as the others.

Something special happened in that room during that hour that I will forever treasure. I truly believe we could have continued for hours just sharing our stories and connecting. What began as desks separated into rows, ended as hearts aligned.

When we share our stories it gives others the courage to do the same. And once the sharing starts it won’t ever stop. I am forever grateful to the folks that attended my session at “Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today” yesterday. They helped me grow in ways that can’t be measured. And if any of you are reading this I have one thing to say to you.

Thank You


“What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them…Happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “The Little Prince”

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