One of those people I've connected with is Ben Gilpin. Ben is a principal at Warner Elementary in Michigan! I've known Ben for a few years now, and through daily Voxer conversations (with Ben and Brad Gustafson) we've built a really great friendship.
Ben is that guy that is incredibly intelligent, level headed, and always has great advice. He's calm but deeply caring about others and he's always trying to push himself to be better.
I've learned so much from Ben through face to face conversations at conferences, voxer, twitter, and his blog.
This year I had a week off at Thanksgiving with no real plans (hey don't judge, we haven't had a day off work since August 10th in my district!)
One of the best ways to learn from someone is to see them in action. To see their team in action. So I talked with Ben and planned a trip up to Michigan to visit his family and his school.
So today, I spent the day in FREEZING Michigan, at Warner Elementary.
It. Was. AWESOME!
I learned so much just getting to sit and actually talk to Ben, but more then that, I got to watch his teachers in action, I got to meet his students, I get to be in the walls of the school and truly feel its pulse. And I learned.
I watched his interactions with his staff, his conversations with the students, his love and compassion to everyone on that campus.
I saw teachers toying with new classroom design ideas. I saw ownership of the campus by they way teachers had painted their rooms and the student bathrooms (genius, right??). I watched a MakerSpace in action, saw kids building circuit boards, played with a 3D Printer, sat in on a Podcast with 2 kindergarteners, and so much more!
And as I sit in the airport writing this, I know this trip was worth every dime.
Not only did I get to spend time with someone I consider a brother, but I also got to learn from one of, who I believe, is the best leaders in the business.
So thank you Ben for housing me and allowing me to visit. Thank you staff and students at Warner Elementary for welcoming me with open arms. And thank you to Amy Gilpin and Troy and Drew for allowing me to crash at your house and letting me join in on family games :-)
Three years ago, when I chose to start connecting with others, I never would have imagined I'd be flying across country to spend some time with a friend and to go learn from him. But I am so glad I did. Today I grew, I learned, I took lots of notes and pictures! Michigan, more specifically Warner Elementary, is doing some great things!