16 March 2014

Where Knowledge Meets Inspiration: Learning & Networking at the T & L Conference

Where Knowledge Meets Inspiration-a germane tag line for the 2014 Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, D.C. last week given the inspiring and informational sessions offered. As a National Board Certified Teacher, it was incredible to be surrounded by two thousand other knowledgeable and inspirational education professionals at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  

Though my flight was delayed and I missed a pre-conference workshop at the National Geographic Society, I wasted no time connecting with fellow educators via Twitter for a dinner at Pi Pizzeria for a day early celebration of Pi Day.  Our conversations ranged from discussing our own NB
certification process to our own children and families at home holding down the fort while we were off to our Nation's Capital to learn with and from fellow educators.  Before leaving the restaurant, we had each mapped out the next day and shared our plans with one another.

On Friday morning, a friend and I met up with the Director of NBCT from Kentucky's Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) to attend a session about the SEED (Supporting Educator Effectiveness Development) grant of which Kentucky is a part.  In this 8:30 am informational session, we learned about work taking place over the next three years to transform systems of support for encouraging more NBCT candidates in high-needs schools.  We also learned about the redesign of the NBCT process, including a total revamping of the assessment center part of certification and a redesign of the portfolio entries, with the primary change being an opportunity to complete only one or two components per year over two years rather than squeezing the entire NBCT certification process into a single year.  With this, new NBCT candidates will be able to spread out the hefty payments for certification as well.  All told, a very practical session focused on not only logistics and what needs to happen but on why we need to make these changes--a more intense focus on the 5 Core Propositions.  The new process also allows candidates to reflect thoughtfully and maintain high levels of teaching during the certification year.  An additional session on the SEED grant and Instructional Leadership later in the day brought occasion to learn more about how we can encourage and support more NBCTs as teacher leaders in our respective states.

The Plenary Session with Bill Gates was by far the most popular session of the day, with people lining up to gain entrance an hour before the doors to the ballroom opened and security checking tags for everyone who entered.  His speech focused on encouraging us to remain steadfast with the Common Core State Standards.  He mentioned our great state of Kentucky when citing examples of effective CCSS implementation because we all know poor implementation and too much focus on standardized tests are what's causing much of the recent backlash against the Common Core.  Following his speech, Gates was joined on stage by George Stephanopoulos who asked questions previously submitted by teachers, allowing a response from Gates.

A few of my favorite quotes from Bill Gates on 3.14.14

"...I'm not politically sophisticated, so I made the assumption people opposing them would have actually read the standards..."

"...the Common Core State Standards give every child an equal chance..."

"...handing out a worksheet will not be seen as a way to provide homework..."

"...I hope people are willing to read long books..."

Each of these quotes is significant to me because they speak to many of the topics I address in my own blog as well as to philosophies of teaching and learning I appreciate, so I linked each quote to a previous blog post I've written on a similar topic.

Our day ended with another plenary session, this one with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Again, a Kentucky reference.  Secretary Duncan referenced a Kentucky teacher who divides his time between teaching and providing professional development.

We also learned more information about new initiatives such as Teach to Lead and T3 (teachers leading efforts in turnaround schools!).  This project enticed me given that I've taught in low performing schools and know that the test prep mentality often employed only brings temporary success at most, and it does nothing for real learning and engaging students toward the futures they deserve and desire.

Debriefing the day over Indian food and beverage with a teacher friend included conversations about our experiences with the Common Core, travels with students to foreign countries, and family life, all in the name of keeping ourselves healthy and balanced individuals, something teachers often need reminders to do.

**Stay tuned for another post on the conference because there was too much to say in just one post**