Summer Institute 2015: Design – Create – Inspire!

Catherine Hart, NC New Schools Instructional Coach
Catherine Hart, NC New Schools Instructional Coach

Design – Create – Inspire! And inspire is just what Summer Institute 2015 was designed to do!

After my first experience at Summer Institute, I am not only inspired to continue supporting educators as they change lives, but I am also proud to be a part of an organization that designs such an engaging and inspirational experience. From my first morning run – trying to keep up with Reed from Neal – to my Crossfit workout with De and my friend Michelle from Vernon Malone – to Yoga with Loretta and my friend Anne from Hertford County High School, I began each day by engaging my body and connecting with friends old and new. I pushed my limits, I walked-it-out, I engaged my core, I stretched, and I prepared for my day.

My morning workouts were followed each day with intense learning, designed to provide opportunities for me and for other educators to learn from one another and designed by passionate presenters ready to share their experiences with their colleagues.  These sessions engaged educators in re-thinking what they are doing in their districts, their schools, and their classrooms and encouraged them to “sample and flip,” to consider new ways of looking at challenges, and to design risks during team time to write into their Impact Plans for maximum growth.

And, speaking of design, there’s an app for that! I found myself using the notes section in the conference app to record resources to follow up on after the institute, and now I will always know where to find them! No more searching through notebooks or post-its for me!
The design of the program each day provided opportunities not only to be inspired by peers but also to be inspired by student speakers, student rappers, and student poets. Their stories of loss, of struggle, of hope, and of inspiration brought tears to my eyes each and every day, and I’m sure these tears were all a part of the master design – the part that made us educators remember why we had chosen these careers.

And finally, who can forget the fun? After long days of back-to-back sessions, sometimes facilitating, sometimes learning, it was time to let loose. I was inspired to learn line dances and to clog, and I appreciated the many brave souls who were inspired to Karaoke! Each night I thought: I should go to bed early. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow (reminder: I got up each morning for the 6:30 workout!), and each night, I was having too much fun to go to bed. Even this seems to have been part of the design because each night, as I was having too much fun to go to bed, I was also creating connections. I created connections with our new out-of-state partners, comparing notes on Illinois where I grew up, and I created deeper connections with educators I had met before. I engaged with teachers I have been working with for two years – teachers from Hertford County High School, North Surry, and Wallace-Rose Hill – but I engaged with them outside of the classroom in a setting that stretched our relationships. I connected teachers I knew from working in schools and teachers I knew from facilitating Creating Transformational Learning Communities training and Content Networking – teachers that I knew had something to offer one another.

While I certainly learned a lot – about using Skype in the classroom, about murder mysteries in history class, and about movement and interactive lessons in math and science – I got so much more. Summer Institute is designed not only to be a learning experience but also to be an opportunity for creating friendships, networks, and support systems in a profession that is all too often isolated and isolating. All in all, I got about five and a half hours of sleep each night and came home exhausted, but I felt great. . . inspired, actually.

So, how do you design Summer Institute? One part healthy living, two parts fun and games, and three parts learning, networking, reflecting and planning! Now the only question is: How do I design a plan to get back to Summer Institute next year? I don’t ever want to miss it again!