More Than Just Learning, It’s Friendship

(Photo credit: Stuart Seeger via Flickr under Creative Commons license)

By now you might be aware of the nightmare my family is going through as we try to get our refrigerator repaired. It’s a long story, one that is written and ready to post once I receive permission from my bride to release the hounds on Sears and Samsung. Yes, we are still without a working refrigerator, but I digress. The bright spot in this whole ordeal occurred a few days ago when a valuable member of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) offered to have my family over for a home-cooked meal.

Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt is the lower school principal at Margolin Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school here in Memphis. It’s a school and community about which I knew very little. Over the past few months, Akevy and I had connected several times via Twitter. I subscribed to his blog and even commented on a few of his posts, but the two of us had never had the opportunity to meet in person.

After my last post asking for feedback on whether or not I should go public about our refrigerator woes, Rabbi Greenblatt left the following comment:

I’m always interested in meeting members of my PLN, so I responded to him on Twitter that getting to meet him would be fantastic and he then invited our whole clan to his home during the celebration of Sukkot.After a few more exchanges to provide me with resources to teach my kids and sort out the details, we finally had the opportunity to meet last night over a fabulous meal. It was wonderful to meet the Rabbi’s wife and daughters and to know that I’m not the only father/educator who gets grief from his family over his obsession with Twitter. I enjoyed the conversation and the stories of the Greenblatt’s journey that brought them to Memphis. I also appreciated their sharing a little of their religious traditions with us. My oldest son was fascinated with the Rabbi’s library of religious writings. It was a fantastic evening full of great conversation, new learning, and delicious food, and I am so grateful for the hospitality of my new friends.

After returning home, I quickly sent a post to say thank you to the Rabbi for his generosity and received a message from him just as I hit send. It appears we had similar thoughts at the same time. Funny how that happens.

As I was reflecting last night on our visit, I realized how much the Rabbi and I have in common. Sure, we come from different religions, cultures, and regions, but we are also both fathers, educators, and men of faith who are passionate about our families, our students, and their learning. It was good to share a meal together. I hope it happens again soon.

Just today, Jason Bedell wrote a post about the benefits of TweetUps and meeting members of his PLNMark Schaefer also posted last night a story that has led him to want to get to know his online connections better. He even offered to arrange some Skype sessions. I totally agree that the face to face meetings and video calls are an important part of our professional learning and networking. While I enjoy getting to know people through what they write, it’s even better to get to shake a hand, look a person in the eye, or simply hear the sound of their voice. Such interactions, however, require time and purposeful planning. I’m grateful Akevy was so hospitable and intentional in making our meeting happen (and Mark’s already put a Skype session on my calendar).

Having said all of that, I’d like to invite you to our next Mid-south EduTweetUp this coming Friday night, October 1. You can see all the details here. If you are in the area, I really hope you’ll come. I’d love to see you and shake your hand.

So what about you? What has been your experience with meeting in person the folks you know online? What are you doing to solidify those connections? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

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