Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness, Part 2: Teaching and Learning Conference

Keeping it real...I'm a little worse for wear right now. I've made it through the winter with hardly a sniffle. Now I'm starting to feel run down. So far I have kept a pretty steady, speedy pace, but I have a feeling that if I don't take a few days and take care of myself, I'm going to have to put on the brakes stat.

Let's rewind, was it just last week?! It was! I attended the Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, D.C., the first time I have ever been to a national conference (outside of something for a fellowship or academy, not sure that counts - and those have always been when school has been out for the summer). Keep in mind, this is the teacher that hasn't taken a sick day in nine years, so I don't normally make it a point to be out of the classroom if I can help it. This was the inaugural conference for National Board Certified Teachers across the country, and it did not disappoint.

Each day there were several general, or plenary sessions held with a well-known presenter. The opening plenary session was with Gayle Manchin leading a panel discussion on "Reclaiming McDowell." McDowell County is the 8th most impoverished counties in the United States, and the panel discussed efforts being made to support its schools and improve the future of its students. I think about West Virginia a lot. I know that sounds silly, but the extreme Eastern Panhandle (Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties) is very far removed from the harsh realities of the more rural, remote areas of the state. The more I see, the more I understand - and the more I feel the need to learn about the issues that the majority of this state has to contend with  - and that will be a separate blog post.
Gayle Manchin leading the "Reclaiming McDowell" panel

Some of the other speakers were Bill Gates being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos about the Common Core, Arne Duncan, Harvard educator-in-residence Dr. Tony Wagner (who was outstanding), author Doris Kearns Goodwin (author of Team of Rivals, which was the basis for the movie Lincoln), and Vicki Kennedy sharing the progress on the Edward Kennedy Center for the United States Senate.
iPad picture of Bill and George (unfortunately my phone battery went dead right before this...)

Arne Duncan

Dr. Tony Wagner

Vicki Kennedy

Doris Kearns Goodwin

I also happened to run into Gail, one of the other teachers that I went to Germany with through the Transatlantic Outreach Program this past summer. We were even staying in the same hotel! It was great to catch up and hear about what her first grade class is up to in North Carolina.

I also attended three breakout sessions each day over the two day conference. On Friday, I went to a session on professional writing presented by the editor-in-chief of Kappan magazine, a "Teacherprenuer" workshop by the Center for Teaching Quality, and a session on PBS Learning Media (which is ironic - will explain in my third March Madness post). The theme within all the sessions was how teachers could lead and extend their influence in education without leaving the classroom full time. I truly love the classroom and miss my students, but have also been able to see through this experience how one can have an impact on education outside of the school setting. It is reassuring that opportunities exist to do great things in education without leaving the classroom.

The sessions I choose for Saturday were a little more random. The first session of the day was with Steve Spangler, who is an incredibly enthusiastic, engaging presenter and lover of all things science. He makes you want to go back to the classroom and teach science all day! The second session was a panel discussion on education systems in other countries, namely Finland, Australia, and Japan. I ended the conference with a music in the schools session presented by Debra Lindsay, a music teacher in Alexandria, Virginia, who is a former Martinsburg resident.
Steve Spangler Fun!

Bernoulli's Principal at Play
The conference concluded with a music performance and discussion with Bobby McFerrin ("Don't Worry, be Happy"). I had to leave early  to catch my train home, but am glad that I was able to hear part of his performance.
Bobby McFerrin

I learned a lot about the potential and future of National Board Certified Teachers to transform the profession. It was a wonderful, unexpected experience to add to my year. Now, I need to get myself up-to- speed and take care of myself, because April is going to be a busy month!

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