This post will be a story from STANYS that lends itself to what I believe to be the most important part of a conference. The “C” session I originally registered for I was unable to get into, so when I arrived to the conference I had to choose a new session. I hemmed and hawed for a bit, unable to choose and decided to go with a Forest Ecology session, for two reasons. I had done a year long forest ecology project with my Biology students two years ago and I was curious about what this procedure would be and it was a program developed by the Carey Institute, an organization I was a research fellow for when I first moved to Maryland. I was curious if any of my old colleagues would be there. So I arrived at the session, and a man says, “Patrick Bond?”
Two years ago during the beginning of my second year as a full faculty member at Barrie I found an amazing professional development opportunity. It was a competitive fellowship program that would pay for me to participate in a marine invertebrate survey in the Sea of Cortez, Baja, with Ecology Project International (a remarkable organization by its own right). Long story short, I won the fellowship, Barrie paid for the majority of my plane ticket (convinced in part by the support of my Middle/Upper School Head), and found myself camping on a beach of Isla Espiritu Santo, just north of La Paz, Mexico.
During this P.D. I learned about: marine communities in the Sea of Cortez, the endemic populations, unique terrestrial communities, and all about marine field research and how E.P.I. brings students into the field. It was amazing. I spent a week there with about a dozen other people that included teachers from all over the U.S., and E.P.I. staff. Flash back to the conference.
“Patrick Bond?” The man in front of me had a Carey Institute t-shirt on, was one of the session leaders, and his face was immediately one I recognized. I can remember faces pretty well, but names and how I know the person I forget. He quickly reminded me though, it was Sam the gentleman I shared a tent with during my week on Isla Espiritu Santo. Crazy.
This though, is what I find so enjoyable and important about conferences. Yes we can learn a lot from the different sessions, get inspired by workshops, and get some cool ideas from exhibitors, but developing and maintaining relationships is the most important part. These are colleagues and friends that will help us the most by being sounding boards, sources of inspiration and critique, and the folks that help us get our feet into doors when we need too. It was great to spend even a short time catching up with Sam, and sharing in the strange coincidences that led to us meeting again. It was also great to see him in a different role, since when we were in Mexico together we were both very much the students. So the big take away from STANYS for me, make new friends and keep the old.