The Child Who Can’t Wait for #MYFest22

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 21 seconds

One morning, my child woke up and said, “I can’t wait for MYFest!” [If you don’t know what MYFest is, scroll to the bottom of the post]. I was amazed. Here I was, this probably crazy person, planning a 3-month-long PD event with a group of wonderful people all over the world, hoping this thing we were organizing could bring joy and healing to others and to ourselves… but honestly, as a career mom, feeling a pang of guilt for how much brainspace it would take from me during my child’s summer holidays. And then this. My kid can’t wait for MYFest22?

There are reasons for this, I know. But I think adding them all up together still doesn’t explain it.

I’ll start with the last and most compelling reason. The other day, all of us, the organizers of MYFest22 met on Zoom to do some team-building and get some work on the schedule done. I usually tell my kid before I get onto any online meeting whom I’m meeting, in case she wants to come and say hi. This time around, there were a LOT of people she knew well. Rebecca Hogue, who was maybe her first online friend ever. They became friends when Rebecca and I started meeting synchronously to plan for et4buddy (the prerequisite/pilot to what later became Virtually Connecting) – and they met in person twice, once in the UK and once in the US. Mia Zamora, whom she meets often when we’re on a Zoom call, and of course she and Mia’s son also appear on some of our community-building videos (https://onehe.org/equity-unbound). And there were people she had met in person, had breakfasts and dinners with: George Station, Heather Wright (formerly Pleasants) and people she’d met very often on video calls like Alan Levine and Nate Angell … people she texted with on WhatsApp (Rissa Sorensen-Unruh) and people she occasionally met on video calls, like Brenna Clarke Gray. And one extra special person who had visited our home in Cairo, and we had visited her home in Cape Town: Sukaina Walji. . A few team members were missing, and some of them she had met in person as well (like Remi Kalir), others she may have not interacted with at all (like Anne-Marie Scott, Felecia Caton-Garcia and Laura Gibbs). The cool thing about the team-building at the beginning of this was that it involved a lot of pair work and small group work, and so when my kid would find the person I’d been paired with, she could decide to pop in and join our conversation… and then we had some larger conversations and she would chat in the text with some folks while the rest of us talked. It was a lovely session for us as a team, all of us felt the joy and energy of organizing this. As much as we hope the product that we offer others brings joy, we also hope that the process itself is nourishing for us and brings us joy along the way. What I was NOT expecting is what my kid told me after the call ended. She said something almost verbatim like this: “That made my day. That was the best thing. I wish I could do this every day.”. And I told her, “That’s MYFest. We hope!”.

And now I’m kinda thinking we need a “kid’s section” in MYFest. There was a point at which my kid helped me with the graphic design for MYFest. The graphics on the MYFest site are made by Heather Wright (and her process for doing this was really lovely – I hope she’ll write about it soon! I learned so much just watching her think it through). My kid loves doing graphic stuff, so when Heather showed her banner design based on a concept I had asked for, I thought of changing something and asked my daughter to help me do a mock-up for Heather – and she did, and Heather took it and made the beautiful banner we now have… and what a difference a banner can make! Wow.

I also remember that at one point, for some reason, my kid started reading the MYFest expression of interest form and wanted to sign up. She actually started filling it… though I don’t remember if she realized “lifelong learner” was the category that applied to her 🙂 But then in the end, she’s like… I can just join with you, right, I don’t need to login on my own Zoom? And honestly, I said she could do either. Whatever she liked. There are times when stuff is happening in breakout rooms and she can join on her own Zoom.

But it occurs to me that the amount of fun my kid has with some of these online meetings – this is something other kids could enjoy. After 2 years of probably mostly UNFUN learning online, wouldn’t it just be SO COOL if we could do some fun stuff for kids online? And it would be an intercultural experience. My kid has had many of those. How many other kids would like that? And then imagine the day we meet f2f at a conference and all our kids already know each other the way we all know each other? Wouldn’t that be so cool?

I’ve always wanted to attend a conference in person that was “kid friendly”… not by letting me bring my kid (when they’re young, it can just be so distracting from what you’re trying to do at the conference), but by having a safe and fun space I could leave my kid for a while and come back to check on her.

I’ll be really honest here: traveling for conferences was really really hard for me before the pandemic. Leaving my kid was heartbreaking. I know not everyone is like that, but truly, leaving for a day was hard when she was younger, leaving for 2 or 3 nights (which I only did ONCE) was really tough for me. I usually took her with me, which was logistically and financially difficult, because I had to also bring my husband or someone to take care of her, right? And then I’d feel torn between family and the conference in ways that were emotionally exhausting. Everyone who’s a close friend and has experienced this “having my child along for the conference” knows how stressful this was for me. Running between one and another, having to choose “fun” places that were child appropriate, making sure my husband also got *some* attention. Occasionally taking my kid with me into a session I’m giving because she was clingy that day. Listen, it was also REALLY fun – I love that it was travel/intercultural experience for my kid, I love that she got to meet other people and I think when I’m a keynote speaker and I have my kid along with me, it makes it easier for people to walk up to me and chat and play with her, you know? Breaks the ice? It helps that she’s fluent in English and when she was at that age she was also really chatty with strangers. She’s now 10 and a little more reserved in general, but when she lets herself go, she’s still chatty 🙂 It’s just a preteen front haha 🙂

So yeah. I’m looking forward to imagining a kid’s corner or a bring-your-kid type option in some of these sessions… because why not? Why do people have to choose between “do I spend time with my kid, or do I do this fun learning experience” when it can be “can I bring my kid to this fun learning experience? could we both enjoy it?”. I think I blogged once about how my kid once joined a Liberating Structures event with Anna Jackson and Fisher Qua… I don’t remember who was in the breakout room with us but she had fun.. and then she met Anna and Fisher in another meeting and had fun chatting with them again.

Anyway, when these things click, they’re great. But it’s kind of been emergent, happens in the moment, rarely planned. I wonder if we can create opportunities for more emergence somehow. Of kid-friendly online learning stuff. Including the asynchronous making stuff that builds digital literacies? Let me know what you think!

What is #MYFest22? Check out https://myfest.equityunbound.org: The “Mid-Year Festival” (MYFest) will be a “recharge and renewal experience” exploring open educational practices, open publishing, digital literacies, community building, critical pedagogy, socially just education and activities that support wellbeing and joy. Equity Unbound (https://equityunbound.org) will host this open education festival experience virtually throughout June, July & August 2022, co-created with co-organizers from around the globe. Express interest at https://bit.ly/myfest22

Feature Image by DONT SELL MY ARTWORK AS IS from Pixabay

6 thoughts on “The Child Who Can’t Wait for #MYFest22

  1. With all the groaning I hear about the burden of online meetings, this made my day. It reflects the joy I find in meeting colleagues online, as well as friends new and old. Looking forward to meeting kids in #MYFest22
    Can I be a virtual Grampa and read stories with them?

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