Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Conference Take Aways

You’ve probably had this experience: there is a conference that you’ve been looking forward to attending. There are speakers that inspire you, workshops that are invigorating, networking with colleagues from across the state or country. You come back refreshed with dozens of ideas that you want to implement right away! And then you see that pile of exams to grade, emails to answer, prep to do, and suddenly the tyranny of the everyday life of a teacher takes over.

What to do?

Some of my favorite conferences have been the ones where I am asked to reflect deeply on my role as an educator, especially how I address issues of equity in the classroom and on campus. In sessions like this I often walk away with ideas that I grapple with for a while, continuing to think about, and usually have an a-ha moment later in the conference or even when I am back on campus. The same kind of thing can happen in one-on-one conversations with colleagues from other institutions (why networking is so important!!) As an example, it was over breakfast one time that a colleague shared her research findings (primarily dealing with new college students who are not well-prepared for what we often call the rigor of college, but many are now calling the unwritten rules of college). She said that students ask 3 questions when they walk into your classroom: Can I do this? Is it relevant? Do I belong here? That very brief conversation stuck with me, and has become the focal point of my conversations with faculty. And it all happened in 15 minutes.

So my big conference take-away to share with you is that while you may learn new activities to implement in your classes, it’s often the conversations before, after or between presentations that have the biggest impact on the way we think about teaching. At your next conference, invite a new friend to coffee!

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