Breaking At #BIT16: My Self-Regulated Conference Experience

This post by Aviva Dunsiger originally appeared on her blog on November 12th, 2017.

Last night, I returned home from the Bring I.T. Together Conference. This was the first conference that I’ve attended since finishing the Foundations 1 course through The MEHRIT Centre. I didn’t realize that this course would have such a huge impact on my conference experience, but it did.

I started to realize this on Wednesday night when the Mega Minds on Media sessionended. I was not as busy as I’ve been in past years — with visits at the table going in ebbs and flows — but by the time that the last person arrived to talk about Explain Everything, it took every bit of mental energy in me to find the words to engage in a conversation about this app. I knew then that I was drained, and I needed a chance to relax my body and mind. I quickly packed up and headed to my hotel across the street, and spent some quiet time unpacking and watching video recordings from my teaching partner and supply teacher, highlighting the learning that happened in class that day. These videos made me happy and excited about some new possibilities. That’s when I checked my tweets about meeting up with Adele to finalize our presentation for the next day. We decided to meet over in her hotel room. Little did I know that making it to this hotel room would be a 40 minute quest full of many stressors.

It all started when Adele mentioned that if I happened to have “crackers,” I could bring them over. I didn’t, but I hate to go anywhere empty-handed, so I decided that there must be a place to buy some. I called down to the front desk, and found out that there’s a convenience store a block away. I started heading there, but then wasn’t sure which direction to take, so thought that I could find something in the lobby of the hotel to buy. I found a Starbucks at the Marriott, and thought that nuts and bagels are kind of like crackers: they at least belong to the same family of foods. I bought them and headed upstairs to Adele’s room. I knocked … three times, no answer. Did I have the room number wrong? I decided to check my iPad, but realized that I forgot it back over at my hotel. No problem. I’d ask at the desk. The problem was that Adele wasn’t registered there, and I couldn’t remember the last name of her roommate. Aargh! It was time to haul all of the goodies back to my hotel and check. When I got there — of which, now it was 25 minutes past when I should have been in Adele’s room — I decided to take the elevator that I thought was closer to my room to save some time. It turns out though that this elevator went to the same floor as mine, but somehow, the hotel rooms on this side of the building didn’t connect with the ones on the other size … and I was now in a maze of hotel rooms, searching to find my way back to the elevator. When I managed to do that, I went down, walked across the lobby, and took the other elevator up to the floor. Then I found my hotel room, and thankfully, my iPad. Now I had a new problem: the room number that I went to at the Marriott was the same as the one that Adele messaged me, so why didn’t she answer the door? Thirty-five minutes into this hotel adventure, I write Adele again, and she says that she’ll meet me in the lobby of her hotel. That’s when I think back to a couple of years ago, and vaguely remember that there are two Marriott hotels right near each other. Did I go to the wrong one? I look back on the name of the one that she sent me, and I realize that it’s similar to — but not exactly the same — as the one that I see outside of my hotel room window. I get downstairs and ask the parking attendants where I can find the right Marriott. Their response: “turn the corner.” I do … and about 40 steps from where I’m standing is the hotel that I tried to find 40 minutes ago. ? Can you feel my stress? 

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While this story provided many laughs throughout the conference, that night, I realized how draining it can be to get lost in so many different ways. By the time that I went through the presentation with Adele and enjoyed dinner out with her and some other conference goers, I was exhausted. Dinner ended around 8:30, and I was invited back to the room with the others, but I knew that I needed a chance to unwind. In previous years, I would have socialized anyway, but on Wednesday night, I thanked everyone for a wonderful time, and headed back to my hotel (thankfully without getting lost).

Then comes Thursday: the day that I have two presentationsWhile both presentations seemed to go quite well, it was definitely a non-stop day full of way more talking than I’m used to doing in a day. Plus, the Bring I.T. Together Conference is full of many opportunities to socialize and meet new people in-person that you may have only connected with online. As I mentioned in a recent post on The MEHRIT Centre blog, all of this small talk can be a social stressor for me, so while I loved the opportunity to connect, I was definitely feeling it at the end of the day. That night, I was supposed to go to two different social events, but instead, I went back to the hotel room, watched some more video uploads from my teaching partner, and took a nap. I then went out for a quick and quiet dinner with some friends, and happily went back to the hotel room early to go to bed. I needed this low-key evening to help self-regulate after a very up-regulating day. 

Early the next morning, I caught a tweet from Jonathan So about his Ignite presentation that I missed the night before. That’s when I engaged in this Twitter conversation with him.

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screenshot-2016-11-12-at-15-13-50I realized that in past years, I would have forced myself to go out. I would have come back exhausted, and I probably would have struggled with learning anything the next day. By thinking about what I needed first, and giving myself permission to take the time for me, I was able to go into the final day of the conference ready to learn.

It was on this final day, that I realized that I’m not the only one finding ways to self-regulate. The second session that I attended on Friday was about tech-enabled teacher leadership. As the presenter, Camille, had us orally share some ideas with the group, I looked up and noticed a fellow educator, Kristy, crocheting. Watching her crochet throughout the session, I realized that this was helping her stay calm, stay focused, and stay engaged in the learning. I later had lunch with Kristy, and she let me take this photograph and share it with others.

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Our conversation with her over lunch made me even more aware that as adults, we all find ways to calm down during “stressful times.”

  • We may choose to crochet.
  • We may choose to doodle.
  • We may choose to tweet (something that many people at this conference chose to do).
  • We may choose to catch Pokemon … of which, apparently, Niagara Falls is full of them. 
  • We may choose to journal or blog.
  • We may choose to fidget with our own adult fidget toys … which, as Kristy pointed out to me at lunch, was the toothpick that I broke apart in so many different ways.
  • We may choose to hum, to tap our foot or fingers, or to move back or forth in our seat.
  • We may also choose to take a break or create our own mini-sessions, where we can enjoy some quiet conversation and maybe a little less cognitive strain.

Thinking back to previous years at this conference and other ones, I wonder how many times I was in a state of high energy and high tension, and if I ever tried to get myself back down again. Last night, I saw one of my favourite vlogs from Susan Hopkins at The MEHRIT Centre, and I realized how much I could relate to her thinking.

When you’re on this Self-Reg journey, it’s so hard not to see everything through a Self-Reg lens, and constantly reflect on how much more learning you have to do. As challenging as it can be at times, this conference was a good reminder for me, that to be at my best, I need to find some alone time. How do you take this time for you? What might be the benefits in doing so? May we all have those wonderful opportunities to learn, to engage, to socialize, and to take a break and self-regulate.

Aviva