Saturday, March 18, 2017
Last weekend, I had the fortune to attend the Central States Conference here in Chicago--a great opportunity to network with teachers from the region, present and get in some needed learning. I left the event feeling energized and so positive about the work happening in our community.
That has not always been my professional learning experience though. Let's talk openly here about CONFERENCE BURNOUT.
I used to go to conferences wide eyed with eagerness and wanting to take in as much as possible--especially if the presenters were well-known. My preparation consisted of going over the conference guide, circling every possible session I could hit--highlighting topics that seems familiar and interesting. Once there, I would go from session to session, collecting a pile of handouts, taking some notes, then moving on to the next. Heading home I was awash in disconnected ideas of things I would/could do in my program. However, once returning to my classroom, without any time to reflect or digest, and having too many topics to try and put into practice, those handouts and ideas made their way to my storage closet...and then the recycling bin. It was too much to take in, and too unfocused for me to integrate into my practices. In the end, I'm not sure how helpful those conference experiences were.
I left Central States feeling so good because I went in with a plan for my participation that was focused....and limited. I knew going in that I was going to be presenting with colleagues, so I carved out plenty of time to prep and meet with them. Then, I looked at my goals for this year. I set out this fall to focus on getting better at comprehensible input, becoming familiar with a variety of techniques to be able to provide lots of different kinds of input for my students. One strategy I knew I needed more information on is using video content in a comprehensible, culturally relevant way. With this goal in mind, I looked through the conference guide and found two sessions that fit the bill--one on an introduction Movie Talk and another on making authentic film/video comprehensible in elementary(shout out to Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell!).
That's right, two sessions. I added to that a networking session with NNELL, that used an unconference format, allowing us in elementary language to meet in small groups to connect around topics we wanted to talk/learn about.
When I came back to school, I met immediately with a colleague to continue processing and sharing--and she added some other great ways we could use the techniques from the sessions, and we're putting a plan in place to do it. This was the first time I had used such focus going in, and let go of any guilt about limiting the number of sessions I attended. In the end, this was one of the most meaningful conference experiences I've had...and no handouts in the cabinet or recycling bin.