Where do we go from here? 4 Things to Keep in Mind After The Conference

You’ve just been to that awesome conference. It was everything you hoped it would be; you learned more than you ever thought you would, you made new connections, your brain is overflowing with fresh ideas, you are a sponge and you soaked up everything you possibly could. You are ready to change the world!

A day or two later, you are still processing through everything and you realize, “I have absolutely no idea of where to begin.”.

It happens. Also, it’s normal.

A game plan is good. An actionable game plan is even better. I’ve started to be really intentional about what I hope to accomplish when I attend a conference – which is something I’ve purposely done more of over the last year or so; be an attendee more than a presenter. Don’t get me wrong, I love presenting at conferences; it energizes me a lot. There is tremendous value in just attending, even for the seasoned presenter. But I digress to another post for another time.

I thought I’d share some thoughts and ideas about what to do after the conference. Hopefully, they’ll help as you further digest and process your learning. 

  1. Strength in numbers – if you were lucky enough to get to be there with a team from your school or district, first off you are very fortunate! Schedule that post-conference debrief and compare notes. What were the common big ideas? What fired you up the most? Talk it out, swap big ideas and trade resources. More importantly, what are you going to try with your kids that pushes you (and them) to think differently about how you do things in your classroom? How is this a win for students? Even if you didn’t go with a team, it’s still important to do all these things.
  2. Crucial conversations – To go along with #1, whether you attended as a team or were solo in this adventure, start thinking about the important conversations that need to happen; but more important think about who they need to happen with. District leadership, school board, principal, other teachers, and parents. All are key groups that you need to share your excitement with. If it’s caused you think about a new way of teaching and learning that excites you, they need to know about it! Your voice matters a lot and the right people need to hear it if you want meaningful, sustainable change to happen.
  3. Try, try again, rethink, and repeat. – We all know how this one goes. You get really hyped up about something you learned about, you’ve planned and prepped to make it happen, the day comes, and splat – nothing goes how you planned. This has been happening for-ev-er in our world of teaching and it’s nothing new. Expect it, welcome it, give it a hug – just be ready to refine and repeat. You owe it to yourself and your kids to give it another go.
  4. Open the windows to the world. – In other words, stay connected! Conference hashtags and other sharing spaces aren’t just for during the actual time the conference is happening. Keep it going afterward! Ask questions, look for feedback, continue sharing what you’ve tried. Share what’s worked really well, and what hasn’t (see #3). All are important pieces in a successful conference experience. Also, don’t hesitate for one bit to reach out to a presenter you learned from – they should be willing to help you even after the conference is over. I always say in a joking (yet serious way), “I’m not cutting any of you off after the conference. I’m an easy guy to get in touch with.”.

These aren’t the only ways to have a successful post-conference experience, but they are some that have helped me and more importantly, they’ve helped lead to bigger changes for the better. I’d love to hear what your post-conference processing and planning looks like!

Keeping Up With The Maintenance

There is always a heavy stream of information on Twitter or any other network you belong to on a myriad of topics and buzz words. Skim over a hashtag as of late and we see a million and one ways to do better with technology, implementing personalized learning, project-based learning, makerspaces, etc., etc. No doubt that this is the beauty of being connected in various spaces – to learn from anyone about anything anytime you want.  These topics are good as well as important, but where my mind really focuses most lately is how we’re properly (or not) preparing our teachers for these things. We can talk the talk and claim we’re going to walk the talk, but at the end of the day are we truly willing to do what’s necessary to make the talk and the walk into a lasting change?

picture of people checking under the hood of a car
https://www.flickr.com/people/tcee35mm/

We have to be talking a long, hard look at what kinds of teacher learning opportunities we’re giving our teachers first in order to give them successfully to our students. Wanting to give students more personalized learning? Then that’s how teacher PD on the topic should be designed. Allow teachers to experience it as a student if you’re wanting them to create it for their students. I saw lots of tweets about this very topic earlier in the week, and all were in favor of it, but no one was talking about how they’re preparing teachers for it. If they were, it was outweighed by the “personalized learning for everyone” posts.

We also have to make sure we’re providing “regular maintenance” opportunities beyond the initial learning opportunity. It’s like a car – what happens if you don’t regularly get an oil change or have the tires checked? The car is going to not run as intended and eventually wear out. Now put that into perspective with professional learning. Are we giving teachers enough time to reconvene and share or at least reflect on what worked/didn’t work? This is key “maintenance” our teachers need. If there aren’t instructional coaches in place (technology or otherwise) that teachers can work with, we must incorporate more self-reflection into professional learning and have teachers share this with each other.

Our teachers deserve this and our kids definitely do. We have to make it a normal part of the “scheduled maintenance”.

 

Leaders to Learn From

Cross-posted at SmartBlog on Education.

Last month, I received the great honor of being recognized by Education Week magazine and the U.S. Department of Education as a 2013 “Leader to Learn From”. It was a tremendous honor to receive special recognition from Assistant Secretary of Education Deb Delisle and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The other 15 leaders receiving the recognition came from all around the country and the type of school systems represented was very diverse.

It was great to connect with these other educational leaders in the short amount of time we had together in Washington, D.C. We are making sure to continue to stay connected to learn from each other as we all recognize the variety of strengths we bring to the table. However, this got me thinking: if you’re a connected educator, a lifelong learner, striving to constantly be better no matter by what means, you are a leader to learn from. You have a lot to offer us. We need you.

If you’re a teacher that’s helping fellow teachers to grow professionally, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re modeling productive, positive, and creative technology use for your students, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a principal that is modeling what it’s like to first and foremost be a learner, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re tapping into the power of social media for collaboration and communication, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a district level leader that has a vision for the ways that teaching and learning are changing, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a parent that offers unconditional support to your child, your child’s school and teachers, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a district that’s putting more technology in students’ hands to make its use more seamless in day-to-day teaching and learning, you are a leader to learn from.

This can easily go on and on. Sure, the 15 of us mentioned above received special recognition (and many others do all the time), but it’s making me more thankful than I already was for the thousands of leaders I have to learn from. Those of you that I have become connected with over the last several years. Those of you whom I have come to call my friends. I appreciate your constant offering of your knowledge and expertise to myself and so many others.

I would encourage you to share in the comments section on what you think makes someone a leader to learn from.