I go to a lot of conferences. Maybe not as many as some people I know, but certainly more than most teachers. It is important to me that I get out of my school and district and see what other people are doing. I need to talk to other teachers to understand the challenges they are facing and how they are overcoming those challenges. It helps me in identifying and overcoming the challenges I face in my own classroom. I do try to manage the conferences so that I am not out of the classroom more than I really need to be. This means a lot of workshops and conferences on weekends and breaks, on my own time.
Some of the conferences are paid for by my district, some I pay for, and still others are paid for in trade for my services presenting at the conference. My biggest expenditure for this PD is my time. I invest a lot of time, and I want that time to be used effectively. I often wonder after attending a conference if my time would have been better spent not presenting, but by paying for my conference registration and attending all of the sessions in which I was interested. I usually am left wondering if my presentation was effective. I sometimes receive feedback from session evaluations. The feedback occasionally is timely, but it is rarely useful.
I have asked my PLN for advice; how can I become a better presenter? I have even asked if it is important for teachers to present at conferences. The answers I got were not overly helpful. Yes, it seems, it is important to present at conferences, because that is what teaching is, presenting. To get better you keep doing it, and watch others, and you will get better. I call poppycock on that last one. Practice, without effective feedback, does not make perfect.
I think I need a peer presentation team. I need to team up with someone and team teach these conferences. We would submit a proposal as co presenters. Each team member would review the other’s proposal, and provide timely, effective feedback. Each would review the other’s presentation, again providing feedback. And they would sit in on each others sessions, not to co-present, but to be a critical friend, to watch what is happening, and to provide areas to improve. By submitting as co-presenters we would not be scheduled against each other and be available to watch the actual presentation. If I am going to improve my presentation skills, this is what I need to do.
So the deadline for Fall Cue is right around the corner. Does any one want to be on my team?
For the last several years I have been on a one man campaign to end the use of scissors, glue, and cardboard trifold science fair type project boards in high school. It hasn’t been a very successful campaign. I reasoned that kids in high school should be creating things that look like those they will create in the workplace. I don’t know of any careers that involve printing pictures from the Internet and gluing them to cardboard. It seems to me this might be an appropriate activity in 3rd grade, but by the 9th grade we should have moved on, for sure by the 12th. We should ban glue. We should ban scissors. We should ban cardboard. That was my reasoning.
Along comes #caedchat on Twitter. (Every Sunday night at 8:00 pst) The topic this week was innovation in the classroom. You can imagine my surprise when the topic of scissors and glue came up. Innovation, scissors, and glue are just three things that I never thought of as going together. But this exchange got me to thinking:
I always tell people its not just about the tech. I tell them not to just add tech for the sake of the technology, but to view it as a tool. But I have been dismissing the use of scissors and glue as low tech, and not worthy of high school. When I stop and think of some of the conversations I have recently had with people about entreprenuralism, prototyping, maker faire and the like I realize there may be room for scissors AND glue in the high school classroom.
Its not the tool, its what you do with it that makes innovation.
But I still draw the line at cardboard trifolds!
This year has seen a dramatic change in my professional development. I made the decision last summer that I need to take more control of what I was learning and I needed to share more as a way to learn more. I really felt stuck in a rut. One of the manifestations of that decision has been that I have attended more conferences this year than I have attended in many years combined. It started with the Rock Star Teacher Camp at Minaretts High School. Talk about getting out of a rut! I also attended CUE in Palm Springs for the first time in a really, really long time. Most recently I attended the SVCUE event last weekend in San Jose. (That is a really good way to get to attend for free!) This year I also attended or presented at events in Monterrey, Napa, Modesto, and North Hollywood. And I am not done yet.
The results? I am much more comfortable presenting to other professionals than I have been. I think this is an important ability for an experienced teacher. I think it important to be able to discuss what I do, and why I do it. Presenting at conferences forces me to really think about this. It holds me more accountable.
I also am much more aware of how many really awesome teachers there are out there who have their students doing amazing things. If I hadn’t gone to these conferences I simply wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know what I should be expecting of my students. I wouldn’t know what I should be expecting of me. But I do know now. I know even more awesome teachers. I have more ideas for awesome things my kids can be doing.
Prepare for awesomeness.