At the end of last week, our organization held our second annual learning conference. These conferences were born out of the request of our Curriculum Council, a group of curriculum leaders across our districts who wanted to design a large-scale conference now that our organization had redesigned learning space within our education center.
The conference design over the last two years has relied on the expertise within our districts, and the innovative facilitation of district staff members, who give of their time to share best practices with the rest of the region.
This year, our conference focused on student engagement through the four “C’s” of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Educators designed sessions showcasing how a given “C”, or a combination, were shaping teaching, learning, and leading in their schools and districts.
We were lucky enough to have Peter DeWitt join us for the keynote. Peter’s great personality, and his ability to meld research with practicality, put all in attendance in a learning frame, and prompted excellent discussion, question-asking, and reflection.
As I visited breakout sessions over the course of the day, I found myself considering many different ideas; here are three that echoed so forcefully in my mind, that I had to also tweet them out.
First, it was amazing to see educators in all roles engaging in deep conversation as equals regarding student learning. Too often, positions prevent us from interacting often enough with those in other roles. Whether teacher, principal, or assistant superintendent, all attendees were engaging in relevant conversation.
Second, it was incredibly powerful to hear educators referencing each other’s learning sessions during presentations. Since such a large portion of our conference attendees were also presenters (we had roughly fifty people presenting and a conference participant number of one hundred and twenty-five), there was ample opportunity for presenters to cite what they had learned or experienced in an earlier session. This was amazing, as those facilitating the learning were in turn making adjustments to their learning session based on what they had learned earlier in the day!
Finally, we need ever more opportunities for practitioners to share best practices and problem solve. This conference was a great example of how necessary it is for us to cross building, district, and regional lines to collaborate, question, and network.
As I later tweeted out, I am honored and humbled to work in a region so full of commitment to learning, and so innovative in process and practice. I feel like an ant among giants; there is simply so much to learn from the great work happening around me. I am in awe of the potential opportunities our students have. Our goal? To make sure every student, in every classroom, leaves feeling as in awe as I did today every day of their lives.