French Lick Teacher Blogger Meet-up
One of my goals this year is to push myself to network more. For those who don’t know me, I’m an introvert in every sense of the word and socializing isn’t one of my strengths. I’m great with others one on one or in small groups, but navigating a room full of people tops my list of things I avoid at all costs.
Several months ago I decided to attend at least two meet-ups before the big TPT conference. My thought was these would be great opportunities not only to meet new people, but also become a little more comfortable networking in a smaller setting before the massive conference in Orlando. The first of my events this year was the 2016 Teacher Blogger Meet-up held in French Lick, Indiana.
Perhaps you've been on the fence about attending. You've seen pictures on social media and it sounds like a good itme, but your'e just not sure if you should attend. Well, here are my top six reasons why you should.
1. Make a New Friend
Have you ever met someone and just instantly clicked with them? That’s the way it’s been with my "new" friend, Beth. We connected through Instagram over a year ago and met for the first time in person last summer. When I found out she was going to the Teacher Retreat, I asked if she wanted to carpool since we both live in Ohio.
The trip was a perfect time to disconnect from everyday responsibilities and spend time connecting with others face to face. You'll meet other teachers in your grade, content, or area and create relationships that will last far beyond the two-day event. Beth and I still laugh about a few shenanigans that happened while we were there. (What happens in French Lick stays in French Lick.)
1. The Accommodations are Gorgeous
The event was held at the French Lick Resort and Spa in French Lick, Indiana. If you haven’t been there before, it’s a must see. Set in a small, historic community, the resort is a beautifully restored showpiece. Perfect for those looking for something a little different in an off the beaten path location.
My room was amazing. I think I was treated to a bit of an upgrade, because it wasn’t the typical single room. (Thank you, French Lick.) And I have to say, I was impressed with all of the goodies waiting for me there. I’ve stayed in my fair share of nice hotels and never have I seen so many complimentary products. I don’t usually snag them to take home, but I grabbed every. single. one of these lovelies.
2. You'll Feel Appreciated
Holly Ehle, of Mrs. Ehle’s Kindergarten Connections, started the meet-up three years ago as a way to give back to teachers. Still in the classroom, she understands well the demands of teaching and how easily it is for teachers to lose their passion and fire for education. Her hope was to create an event that gives back while inspiring teachers to keep going.
And did she ever.
I truly am amazed at all she was able to do – while still teaching. The thought and hours of labor that went into planning this event were evident from the moment you checked into the gorgeous resort to our last breakfast together as a group. She truly thought of it all. And many thanks are due to her planning partner, Brittany Banister, and the small army of helpers she had with her.
Holly and her team had the meeting space thoughtfully planned. Each table was arranged so that no one had the dreaded back-to-the-speaker chairs. The flower arrangements were lovely, but not so large that they impeded anyone’s view. And the table signs were adorable.
To break the ice and get to know each other better, we worked on a joint activity where each table decorated a letter with our names and our passions. Once completed, the letters were arranged to spell out the mission for the weekend:
Chad, from Male Kindergarten Teacher put together several inspiring videos for us, that you must watch as well. Here's the first - notice whose lovely face is right up front??
If you'd like to see the others, you can find them here.
In the afternoon, we broke into grade level/content area groups and exchanged teacher tools. We each brought one of our favorite teacher tools ($10 or less) to give to someone else in the group. It was a great way to meet other people in our area as well as learn about new tools that make our teachers' lives easier. My gift bag was full of notepads and cute pencils from Target. I’m always making notes of things to do and remember and can never have enough notepads or pencils and pencils to write with. I received the favorite tool of Alexandria’s, from Classroom Action with Ms. Jackson:
Afterwards, we participated in four round-table discussions on various topics. My first table meeting was with Amy and Nicole of Team Tpt, who discussed some exciting changes and answered our burning questions. I’ve been trying to meet Amy for the past two years during the Vegas conferences and finally got to snag a picture with her during this trip. She came with Nicole, who I’ve also wanted to meet for some time now. I appreciate both of these women and all that they do to support TPT sellers every day. (As a side, how amazing is it that Nicole spent her birthday with us?)
During the next three roundtable discussions, I picked up Pinterest pointers from Mel D of Seusstastic, learned how to gain new followers on TPT from Latoya Reed of Flying into First Grade, and listened to great suggestions of how to balance it all in the classroom from Greg of The Kindergarten Smorgasboard. After seeing each of them on TPT and on social media, it was great to finally meet them in person.
Before heading to dinner, we collected a massive bag of swag. I was floored by all of the goodies that had been donated by such incredible sponsors. I’m so touched with companies go out of their way to support teachers. Here’s a list of the amazing sponsors and their donations to our swag bags:
- Astrobrights – A paper pack
- Better Life Bags – tassel clip
- Creative Clips – Note cards and free graphics
- Creative Teaching Press – Calendar cut outs and sticker packs
- Digi by Amy – Digital elements and sampler pack
- Erin Condren – Compliment cards
- ESGI – Stress star and a pass for a free 60 day trial
- Kwik Stix – A box of solid tempera paints
- Go Noodle - Lanyard
- Teachers Pay Teachers – Massive magnetic clip
- The Pencil Grip, Inc. – Pens and grips
- Udderly Smooth – Smoothing cream
- Vera Bradley – Resuable bag
Most of these amazing sponsors (and several others) also donated prizes for the door prize giveaway. We each were given five raffle tickets and placed them in the bags of the prizes we wanted to win. Here’s a look at the incredible amount of prizes that participants went home with:
Isn’t that amazing?
Usually I don’t win anything. Honestly. However, I actually won something during this event- and it was an incredible prize! Staff Development for Educators donated a 2-day conference and I won one! I get to choose any of their one or two-day conferences and attend for free! Which one should I choose?
The big event of the weekend was the epic 80’s party on Saturday night. It was hilarious to say the least. More than half of the girls who attended were in neon, leggings, mesh gloves, leg warmers, or some combination of the above. A few of us (like me) went the preppy route (I don’t do neon or spandex) while others were even more creative. A couple of them, like Axl Rose and Richard Simmons were beyond amazing:
On Sunday morning, we all gathered for one last group photo and then had breakfast together in the resort. It was a sweet time to spend the last few minutes with new friends and say our goodbyes.
If you’re on the fence about going next year – just do it. Especially if you are a teacher. It is a wonderful time to relax, recharge, and be inspired when you head back into the classroom the following Monday.
The best part of the trip – and this TPT journey as a whole – is the connection created with other teachers, bloggers, and sellers. Becoming friends with this amazing lady made all of the awkwardness of networking as an introvert more than worth it. It’s a friendship I know will last much longer than any conference and for which I am so grateful.
Even if you didn't attend, you can still enter to win! Our fabulous sponsors have donated additional prizes for our readers - enter below to win:
Want to read about the weekend from other attendees? Click below to follow the linky:
Did you attend the meet-up? If so, what were you takeaways? What did you enjoy most?