Sue is my administrative assistant. Her daughter Chelsea will be graduating from Highpoint (NC) University next week.
This morning Sue and I were talking about Chelsea’s graduation and my son Isaac, who spent last night in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University with 500+ other prospective freshmen. I showed her a few pictures the Syracuse admissions office tweeted out showing all of the kids having a great time at “Own the Dome,” Syracuse’s orientation program for admitted students.
Sue said something profound: “You know what’s crazy? Right now he‘s hanging out with a bunch of kids who he has never met, and in four years they will be best friends. He will be in the weddings of some people he just met last night.”
People come into our lives without warning. A week ago, none of us had ever heard of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Today, none of us will ever forget that name.
More commonly, though, as we wade through life we meet fascinating people. Smart people. Good people. People we learn and laugh with. People whose weddings we end up being in.
For a lot of educators, Twitter is that world. We build professional learning networks—PLNs—that challenge our ways of thinking and open our eyes to new perspectives. If you told me a year ago that I would meet people from Iowa and San Diego and Philadelphia and Wisconsin and Maryland and South Africa over the next twelve months, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I did.
It goes beyond the Twitterverse, though. We are social beings. In our daily lives we constantly meet new people, people from different backgrounds and different cultures. We need to take advantage of those opportunities. We need to engage in conversations with others; we need to ask questions; we need to show a little vulnerability and share about ourselves.
This is where learning happens, when people from different perspectives have the opportunity to talk with each other. We won’t grow if we only surround ourselves with what we already know.
Do you remember The Muppet Movie? Kermit, with the hope of making it big in Hollywood, heads west. Along the way he meets all your Muppet favorites: Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo. When their car breaks down in the desert and all looks hopeless, Gonzo sings the movie’s most poignant line: “There’s not a word yet, for old friends who just met.”
The world is full of old friends who haven’t yet met. When you stumble upon one, say hello. You just might learn something.