Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reflections on a Teacher Conference

This weekend I attended a teacher conference in Colorado Springs. In my short career as a teacher I have attended over a dozen of these events, so I consider myself pretty much an expert on these experiences.

Have you ever attended a teacher conference? Every time I attend another conference, I get a little more embarrassed to be included in this profession. I hate to say it, but it's pretty much a geek-fest. I am reminded how many jean-jumpers and apple sweaters teachers wear. It's like we need a booth with Stacey & Clinton from "What Not to Wear" at every conference. We need help, people.

Teachers are also freaks over free giveaways. It's like we are so deprived at school for lack of scissors, paper and pencils, we feel a God-given right to each and every free-be given away at the conference. Yesterday, at the end of the conference, they gave away free materials. You wouldn't believe the shouting and yelling that went on when someone's number was called. And watch out, because if you didn't have a good enough shout of jubilation, you got booed. (I think they even took away your free-be.) It's like they were on The Price is Right and they just found out they were playing Plinko or something. Calm it down a notch, it's just a free coloring book.

The conference I attended this year is one I have been to almost every year for the last 6 years. I have attended it in Nashville, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Washington DC, and now Colorado Springs. It's usually a great conference. They didn't plan so well for this one. They planned for 700 attendees and 1,400 showed up. The hotel was not large enough to accommodate all of the teachers. It almost turned ugly. We are talking about teachers here.

People were upset if they couldn't get into a session. And what I mean by not getting into a session is that literally every seat was filled, including the front row, the aisle was crammed with those sitting on the floor (hopefully the fire marshal didn't come through or we would have been shut down) and the door to the room was so crowded, the wall dividers swayed with the push of the crowd. So, literally the teachers "couldn't get into the session". Overachievers.

It's actually quite comical, if you think about it. Here are the educators of America, teaching the future leaders of our country. Armed with geeky teacher-bags in hand, pushing and shoving to get to the front row seat of a session entitled "Synthetic Phonics". On Monday mornings, our schools are lined with warm and friendly faces sweetly remind our children of how to be good citizens. "Good morning Johnny", "Don't forget to tie your shoe Susie," "Please have a seat quietly Matthew". But watch out on Saturday morning. It's a whole different animal.

I mentioned above "geeky teacher bags". This may not be a well-known accessory outside of the teaching profession, but it is an accessory. Must have. Every season. Goes with all outfits. Can be accessorized further with pins, buttons, etc... to raise the level of geeky-ness. And the best part, it's FREE with your registration to the conference! And, they are required for the all-too familiar "teacher conference walk-through ". Funny name, serious business.

If you don't know about this "walk-through", simply sign yourself up for a teacher conference, announce yourself as a "first time-attender" and you will be shuffled quickly into a back room to be taught the "walk-through". I will teach you a couple of key elements here.
1. Place teacher bag, full of free materials from the Exhibit hall (which you arrived to the conference early to browse so you wouldn't have to miss any sessions), on your shoulder. Using the hand of the arm you've placed your bag on, hold on tightly to your bag, ready to use it to swing at anyone moving too slowly or headed to the same session as you are. Front row seats are top priority here.
2. Elbows bent and stuck out, slightly. These assist with the "walk-through" portion.
3. Head down, slightly.
4. Scowled face. You do want to get into that over-crowded session, don't you?
5. Walk briskly, using elbows to force your way through the crowd. These are weapons, here people. And we have to get where we're going. You've got to be able to "walk-through" the crowd.
All of this is done under the assumption that you've downloaded the schedule before arriving at the conference and used no less than 2 highlighters and 3 colored sticky pads to mark your first, second, and third choices for each session time and a pen to mark the location of the rooms before hand.

Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. And not getting into your first choice session would fall under "poor performance".

In the end, I am reminded of a wise old saying taught to me by some great teacher of my past: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

And if you are wondering about that session called "Synthetic Phonics", I can tell you all about it. I have 3 pages of notes.


Amos said...

Sarah, you just make me laugh. I love to read your perspective on things, you word it amazingly!

Ski said...

Did you learn anything useful? I really don't like going to those conferences because I usually didn't use anything presented. I haven't been to one in several years now. :)

Pilgrim said...

One of my good friends taught elementary school. She told me to shoot her if she ever wore wooden animals around her neck or jumpers. Fortunately, I haven't had to take her up on this yet. It is a little frightening though!

my3boys said...

Ok, I must confess that I wore many jumpers and apple themed attire in my days as a teacher. The odd thing is that it took me being removed from the teaching profession to say to myself, "Get rid of it and don't wear that stuff again if/when you ever get back to the classroom!" So a few years ago I threw out all of those things while shaking my head in disbelief that I actually wore them. But just to clarify, I still consider myself kind of geeky. :)

my3boys said...

That would be me:
Dana Frerich