23 February 2013

Do These Three Things to Benefit from Attending Professional Conferences

In a time of tight school budgets, too often opportunities for teachers to attend conferences fall by the wayside. With continued research about the benefits of professional learning being embedded into our jobs, I think it’s important we also remember the benefits of attending professional conferences.  As professionals in our field, it’s up to us to benefit from our limited opportunities to attend professional conferences. 

Listen.  Attending professional conferences can be a professionally rewarding experience because we get to hear and participate in sessions as well as hallway or lunch table conversations.  Listening to presentations informs us of what other educators are doing beyond our own school/district/state walls.  In turn, this can inspire our own research, reflection, and refinement.  Just as we know “shutting our doors and teaching” leaves us feeling isolated, at conferences we should make it a point to talk and listen with others.

Learn.  We learn from talking with others about our work because we can see what confuses people, articulate what’s working or not working in our own practice and acquire new ideas to try in our own schools and districts.  When the sessions we attend at professional conferences set clear learning objectives, we can evaluate our own attainment of those learning goals as we participate in the session.  Just as we want students to self-assess themselves in our classrooms, so should we assess ourselves when we attend professional conferences.

Network.  Seeing people in our field excited about their work is a benefit.  By networking and socializing with others, it’s amazing how many opportunities to collaborate with others come our way.  In an increasingly globally connected society, we expect our students to learn and collaborate with others within and beyond our school walls.  As professionals, so should we collaborate with others at professional conferences before we attend, while we’re there and afterwards as well.  Building new and effective relationships with other professionals increases our ability to continue providing learning opportunities for our students.

When we listen, learn, and network, we return home from professional conferences feeling refreshed, invigorated, and ready to move learning forward in our local communities.  This is exactly the way I feel right now upon my return from the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference.

18 February 2013

Home with My Boys on Presidents' Day

Like many other educators who are off from school today with their children, I, too, am off from work but catching up on work related tasks (providing feedback to schools on their writing program review documents & finalizing details for threefull days of LDC training this week).  As someone who tends to work more than play, I’m trying to be conscious of my need to break from work tasks more often. 

Given my boys’ interest in history, Presidents’ Day provides me the perfect opportunity to ensure my day includes more than work tasks. In fact, the exciting part of my day includes  planning for our family spring break vacation to Washington D.C..  My boys have long wanted to travel to D.C.,and after every trip I took for work, the boys showed even greater interest in the history of our country.  They actually requested mini statues of the White House as a souvenir.
Nine year old last year dressed up for
biography project
This morning I asked each child individually (and not within earshot of each other) if he knew why we were off school today and if he had a favorite president.  Thankfully, both boys knew we were out today for Presidents’ Day, and interestingly, there is a significant connection between their responses regarding their favorite president.  My twelve year old promptly responded that his favorite president is Abraham Lincoln. When I asked the nine year old, he said his favorite is Obama.  Knowing of his interest in Abraham Lincoln, Ipressed him further about why Obama.  “Well, of course I like Abraham Lincoln.  He was the one who made it possible for Obama to one day become president.”

Let’s hope our request for tickets to the White House is granted, so these boys can see the home of our President.  Knowing it’s unlikely since there are only four of us, we are planning our itinerary with only a short visit to the outside of the White House but keeping ourselves flexible just in case.

Here’s our tentative itinerary for the trip

Saturday          Arrive in Washington D.C.

Sunday            Ford’s Theatre

                        ArlingtonNational Cemetery

Monday           National Postal Museum

                       Union Station

                       Library of Congress


                       White House (outside view)

Tuesday          Bureau of Engraving and Printing

                        Paddle Boats in Tidal Basin

                        Monuments & Memorials on the National Mall

Wednesday     Smithsonian museums

Thursday         Return to Lexington

With so many things to do and see in Washington, D.C., I asked each son to tell me what he most wants to see and then I arranged our itinerary around those desires.