By Alyssa Davidson
Congratulations! You have discovered the magic of the edu-conference. You are basking in the glow of new learning, sharing your own stories and strategies, and connecting with edu-friends. You might also be looking at the presenters or discussion leaders and wondering, with a little trepidation: Could that be me?
The answer is: Absolutely, positively, yes! Not only could that be you, it should be you.
1. There’s Always Someone Who Can Learn from YOU
Any teacher who has taught new content or used a new strategy on the fly knows that you only have to be one step ahead to get started. If you know just one thing that someone else doesn’t, you are ready to share. Literally… like Oprah-giving-away-cars ready to share.
Tried a new tool or inquiry-strategy that was awesome? Go yell it from the rooftops!
Did you discover some quirky feature in Google Forms? I want to know!
Tracking student data like a boss? Tell me your secrets!
You might be thinking that what you are sharing is old news and has been done before. I guarantee that there will be attendees that have never seen what you are doing, and are ready to pick your brain and learn with you. I have been sharing Socrative with educators for 4 years; it never gets old.
Let’s clear up a common misconception. Your presentation or discussion doesn’t have to be about a tech tool or involve technology at all. If you have discovered a classroom management strategy that is shaking up your world, or how to slay parent-teacher conferences or writing workshops, share it!
Teachers want to learn from teachers. In my experience, the best professional development is usually just down the hall. I love seeing classroom teachers teach and share their passions and successes (and failures) with others so that we can learn from each other.
If you aren’t convinced, read Your School Rocks… So Tell People to find out how to start sharing your classroom with the world. Not only will Ryan and Eric convince you to share, but they will tell you how to do so daily.
3. Connection and Collaboration
Quite simply, two heads are better than one. A roomful of heads can go further than your three-headed planning team. You never know who you will find at an edu-conference, but odds are you’ll be challenged thoughtfully and pushed professionally.
You might think that your topic is only interesting to you, but discover that many teachers share your passion once you start sharing. You might meet a fellow teacher who wants to collaborate on that project or resource development with you and then compare student responses and share successes. When you genuinely connect with someone about work or subjects that you are passionate about, the world stops for a minute and then starts again at lightspeed as you move forward together.
4. Opportunities for Innovation and Improvement
Creating a session proposal, informally sharing something, or leading an impromptu discussion forces you to reflect upon and explain what happens in your classroom. Sharing your classroom with someone other than your students and evaluator is a powerful learning experience. A question from the audience might lead to a discussion or train of thought that allows you to question and improve upon your current ideas. A shared tweet or feedback form response could help you clarify the reason behind your classroom practices or realize that it’s time for an overhaul.
5. Informal Conferences Have Lowered the Stakes
There has never been a better time to share the wonderful things in your classroom. Informal events like Edcamps and Campfire Sessions at larger conferences like ISTE have lowered the stakes and created opportunities for every teacher to share what they are doing.
Once, I just put a question up on an Edcamp schedule to see if there was anyone else interested in discussing the question. We ended up with 10 people and a nonstop hour of discussion. The worst-case scenario at an informal conference is no one shows up. I would have been disappointed if this had happened, but it wouldn’t have been a disaster.
Even at a larger, formal conference the worst-case scenario is that your proposal gets rejected or no one shows up. I bet that you have experienced a new lesson getting shot down or wrecked by your students; you can survive a rejected proposal. There's always an opportunity to learn and connect.
There is something worth sharing in every classroom in America. I wish every teacher shared an image a day from their classroom on Instagram so that we could truly see the phenomenal work of our students and teachers. An edu-conference is a way to share or start a discussion about something that you and/or your students are excited or motivated by, and that you take pride in.
Alyssa Davidson is an Earth Science teacher at Ralston Valley High School and a Pear Deck Certified Coach in Arvada, Colorado. Alyssa strives to be a teacher leader by growing her Professional Learning Network (PLN) through social media and sharing her learning at local edcamps, conferences, and on her blog. She blogs about technology, educator wellness, and Earth Science at mrsgeology.com. Alyssa has found value in taking an active role in her professional learning and works to create opportunities for students to become leaders and take charge of their own learning. She would love to connect with you on Twitter.