A Commitment to “Newbies”

I met so many interesting and inspirational people recently at EdCamp Leader (#edcampldr) in Chicago, IL and FlipCon 2015 (#flipcon15) in East Lansing, MI. And I have so many blog posts to write that are now waiting in line inside my mind. I’m writing blog posts again because Jimmy Cassas and Jeff Zoul told me to (and a packed room of other educators too). I’ve decided that pretty much when they say something I should do it. Yep, they’re that good.

The thing that needs my attention first is something that keeps coming back to my mind in one form or another. It’s the conversation I had with Kristin Daniels and Christina Roy as everyone was preparing to leave at the end of FlipCon15. Kristin said that as she talked with some of the participants, they were saying that it’s a bit of challenge to participate fully in the conference experience when you’re a “newbie.” (I don’t really like the term, but it’s what people say). There seem to be some cliques and friendships that have already formed, and it might be hard to break into a group that already feels pretty comfortable with the people they already know.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying anyone was doing anything wrong. It just got me thinking about my involvement. I’ve been thinking about what I’d want someone to do for me if I were new at any conference or event. I feel like I’d want to meet somebody new, and then have them introduce me to everyone they know.

I saw a picture from FlipCon of remarkably smart and experienced friends, and I thought two things: 1. “Your tweet is right on, it does look like a scene from a John Hughes movie.” and 2. “I wonder where all the new people are?”


“Remarkably smart and experienced people” (photo by Kate Baker)

By the number who raised their hands at the first keynote, I’d estimate about 75% of the attendees were new to FlipCon. Maybe Kristin and Christina had a good idea when they suggested there should be “Newbie Lounges.” Maybe we could use one of those “hook up” apps for positive purposes like connecting nearby educators who want to talk about science or math together. Maybe we should ask the new people what they need or want. Maybe there are other options out there to connect in-person participants to those who have been down this road before.

Again, I’m not saying anyone in the picture here is doing anything wrong (these are spectacular human beings that I want everyone to know!). I’m saying I didn’t even think about how I could do more to help until we had the conversation at the end of FlipCon. There are a lot of incredibly talented people standing and sitting there (I’m there too, but I’m mostly talking about the other folks. They are awesome). And others who are equally as impressive who are not pictured.

But back to me. Instead of sitting there, what if I got up and met somebody new, and then introduced them to one of these important people. What if I were the bridge between somebody new, and every one of these experienced practitioners? And don’t get me wrong, all of these people met new people, and were gracious and accepting and inclusive. But what if I got more active and intentional in pursuit of helping others connect in-person (we do it on social media, right? #FF and all that) What if every time I met somebody new I asked them who they wanted to meet, and then helped make it happen? I’m guessing that would be a positive thing in the world.

I’m not saying everyone should do this, or anyone is doing it wrong if they don’t. But below is what I’m going to try to do at every conference or event I attend in the future for as long as I can do it.

  1. When I meet someone new, I’m going to ask them some form of the question, “Is there anybody here that you want to meet?” And then help them meet that person or those people.
  1. When I meet someone new, I’m going to ask what is the focus of their role in education, and then I’m going to try to connect them with people who I think they might benefit from knowing.

I think that’s a good start. Let’s see what happens. Who knows. Maybe I can help make the cast size less like The Breakfast Club and more like High School Musical.