BLC Conference Experience, Part 2

BLC Conference Attendees

Tracy Sockalosky, Craig Juelis, Rayna Freedman, Alan November, Isa Kaftal Zimmerman

November Learning’s Building Learning Communities Conference was abuzz with education’s greatest challenge: the need to shift its course to meet the needs of an innovation driven society instead of the agrarian era on which the system was built. The focus of the conference was our collective goal of bringing educational practice forward, not on tools, technology or any particular pedagogical trend. Alan November is dedicated each year to gathering innovative thinkers who are dedicated in promoting positive educational environments and outcomes for students. The 2018 BLC Conference was no different. This four part blog post brings the themes of the conference together in an EPIC way. Engagement, Passion, Inquiry, and Connection encompassed those in attendance all week. Each OnCUE post will feature one of the four themes that tugged at our heart strings and our educator mindsets, and are themes that we are confident will be evident at the MassCue Annual Conference in October.

Passion by Rayna Freedman & Tracy Sockalosky

As the summer winds to a close and we ready ourselves for the year to come, we are once again filled with that same excitement and anticipation we feel every August: a new group of kids, new curriculum ideas, and motivation to employ strategies and ideas shared by other amazing educators. Hours spent chatting with educators on Twitter, days spent in professional development events, more hours working with colleagues on best placements for our kids and goals to meet the needs of every students, and of course, our annual pilgrimage to BLC in July filled our minds since we left school in June. This excitement and passion is the same emotion that fires us up through the stress and long hours of the back to school chaos, keeps us churning through the aftermath of Halloween and the build up to holiday break, grants us the resolve to survive the winter and the inevitable cold/flu our students so kindly share, and then enables us to summon up the creativity and compassion to make the last weeks of school productive and compelling for our students. We are teachers and proud of it. This is why Joy Kirr’s statement in her keynote about being “just a teacher” struck home.

In a few weeks we will be surrounded by a new group of students and will begin our next journey and although some of us may appreciate a couple more weeks of relaxation and mental preparation, the excitement is brewing. It is a new group so a new beginning. Every year we strive to be better educators than we were before. Yet we will still likely confront the same question this year as we have in years past – why are we still “just a teacher?” Sitting and listening to Joy Kirr, Pana Asavavatana and Aaron Polansky we were able to contemplate this very question and articulate our response. We are “just a teacher” because every year is a new beginning and we have more do to be better – there is more to learn and more to explore. The students we will meet in a few weeks have never sat in our classrooms before. Will we be the person that reaches a student that has never been reached before? Will we find a way to encourage a student to learn a new perspective about the world? Will we be the teacher that supports a student to dig deeper and ask more questions? Will we be the teacher that helps to inspire colleagues to be this teacher for students in their room? There is so much possibility and our passion to be not “just a teacher” for our students, but THE teacher for our students has us ready for the start of school. As Aaron Polansky said to close his keynote, “Competent, PASSIONATE, educators who connect with students transform lives.”


Rayna Freedman is a fifth-grade teacher at the Jordan/Jackson Elementary School in Mansfield, Mass. She has taught grades 3-5 and is an ITS. She is president elect of MassCUE and has been presenting at annual conferences since 2010. She is a BrainPOP certified educator, Flipgrid Ambassador, Fablevision Ambassador, and advocate for teaching digital citizenship in the classroom. Rayna is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator. She serves on the Massachusetts DESE Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards Panel. She can be found on Twitter @rlfreedm.

Tracy Sockalosky is 7th Grade Social Teacher and Social Studies Curriculum Leader at Wilson Middle School in Natick, MA. She is a member of the MassCUE Board of Directors and has been presenting at the annual conference since 2012. In her 18th year in education, Tracy has served as a classroom teacher and as an instructional technology specialist. She is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow and USC Shoah Foundation Teacher Innovator. She has been a member of the EdCamp Boston organizing team since 2011 and is a huge proponent of unconferences and social media as a means of professional development for teachers. She can be found on Twitter @tsocko.


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