I know what you’re thinking: Seriously, Angela, are you ever NOT at a conference? It’s true, conferences are one of my favorite things in the world and I go to as many as I can. I spend so much of my time connecting with people online that the chance to finally be in the same city as a “bloggy buddy” and sit down for a relaxed, one-on-one conversation is something I really look forward to.
BlogHer is very different from most conferences I attend, though, because it’s not an education conference. 5,000 female bloggers descended on the Hilton in Manhattan for a long weekend of talking, learning, and partying. In the past, education blogs were not even recognized as a genre at BlogHer. But this year, Tamara of Teaching With TLC spoke up, got our category listed, and about a dozen of us showed up to represent the teachers!
Getting cheesecake at Junior’s the first night
I doubt I would have gone if my edublogger friends hadn’t made the trip: I figured if they could fly in from all over the country, certainly I could go 6 stops on the subway to meet up with them. Connecting with these ladies was the highlight of the conference, of course.We bounced ideas of each other, commiserated over the issues we’re facing, celebrated one another’s successes, brainstormed future plans, and even met each other’s families. Talking with this group of ladies has left me feeling more inspired and motivated than ever.
Fellow Teaching Blog Addict authors! From left to right:
Leslie from KindergartenWorks
Erica from Erica Bohrer’s First Grade
Teri from A Cupcake for the Teacher
Hadar from Miss Kindergarten
Charity from The Organized Classroom Blog
Tamara from Teaching with TLC
Crystal from Kreative in Kinder
Julie from Little Literacy Learners
Mel from Suesstastic Classroom Inspirations
Meeting internet friends for the first time is like having the characters in your favorite books come alive and take you to dinner. There’s about 2 minutes of small talk, and then you’re laughing at inside jokes and smiling knowingly at shared references. The conversations pick up as though you’ve been hanging out your whole life: “Who’s watching your six year old this weekend? How’s the basement remodeling going? What do you REALLY think of your new principal? How was the birthday vacation? Did you hear that so and so is going to leave the classroom next year?”
Many of these ladies traveled with their families, and in the evenings, we’d meet up with the husbands and kids in Times Square and have dinner. My husband joined us both nights and as he listened to the depth of the conversations we had, it absolutely blew his mind that none of us had met in person before. If you didn’t know it, you would have thought we’d been best friends for years. It was a real testament to the power of social media and the way the internet can be used to develop strong relationships and affect positive change in the world.
The BlogHer keynote speakers were Martha Stewart, Katie Couric, and … drum roll … President Obama (who gave a live address from the White House.) I think that speaks volumes about the level of influence women have now in the media, and the respect that bloggers have earned for their role in sharing ideas and disseminating information. The conference registration fee included breakfast and lunch, and eating together each day while listening to the powerful keynote speakers was one of the highlights of the event for me.
I won’t bore you with details about the conference sessions as they weren’t really that mind-blowing (and that’s coming from someone who actually finds search engine optimization tips and discussions of blogging platforms really interesting. You’re welcome.) I also won’t make you jealous by talking too much about the “swag” attendees received: there were over a hundred generous companies raising awareness of their products/causes and giving away samples. I’m still kind of reeling from that, actually, because it’s tough to get much more than pens and bookmarks at education conferences, and NO ONE likes free stuff more than teachers.
Martha Stewart, Barack Obama, and Katie Couric giving the keynotes
There were a number of official BlogHer parties, but I ended up not going to any. That probably means I missed out on the full BlogHer experience, but I’m okay with that. A “party” at ed conferences usually means having a glass of wine at 7 pm while you talk about common core standard integration and debate the merits of iPad use in the classroom. A party at BlogHer is a for-real-for-real party with a DJ and full bar. Judging by the number of tweets about hangovers, I’d say that most attendees definitely took advantage of that.
So, would I go to another blogging conference? I doubt it. Next year, BlogHer is in Chicago, so I’d have to pay for a flight and hotel. Right now I feel like I’d rather spend the money attending ASCD and ISTE so I can talk with other educators about the issues we’re facing in schools. But I’m really glad that I had this opportunity. It was a fun weekend which left me feeling inspired and motivated to keep blogging and branching out my business in new directions. The conversations were powerful and the chance to connect with friends was priceless. Thank you, ladies, for a wonderful weekend!