Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Takeaways from #NJPAECET2 Conference

This past weekend I had the fortune of attending the NJPAECET2 conference (AKA alphabet conference via the #EdJusticeLeague). One of the best parts of the weekend was that the awesome #NJPAECET2 steering committee arranged for food and lodging for the weekend, which allowed participants to truly become immersed in being vulnerable, building face to face connections and growing our PLN. While I would love to share each conversation, experience and session, I’m going to focus on my major takeaways from an inspirational weekend of learning, growing, connecting and fun!

“Is this what wakes you up in the morning and keeps you up at night? It should be because when you’re a teacher every day is game day!”
I wanted to fist pump a rowdy “HELL YES!” in the middle of Principal Kafele’s keynote address when he said those words. He used an analogy where he compared teaching and learning to preparing for a football game. You’ve gotta watch the films to get ready for game day. Then, after the game, you assess, reflect, and make adjustments to improve. His words of wisdom served as a valuable reminder to foster and nourish trust, respect, and a positive rapport with each and every student that walks through the doors of my classroom. This was a common theme throughout my weekend.

Principal Kafele also asked us if we were fired up about every child that walks through our door and followed his question up by challenging us to make those students truly feel our passion. I think I did a pretty good job of making my students feel valued during the first week of school by asking relevant and personal questions on a ‘Getting To Know You’ survey (adapted from my best friend Mr. Schoenbart.) I always look for opportunities within my lessons to embed that knowledge and bond with each of my students. It is those personal connections and small touches that give students a feeling of being supported and trusted as they fail forward, take risks, and grow.

Cory Radisch also talked about personal connections in his session, “Creating A Community of Learners with Respect, Routine & Hope.” His words will stay with me for the rest of my teaching career - ‘You’ve gotta reach ‘em before you can teach ‘em.’ We sometimes forget that the children in our classrooms are more than a mere name on a roster or a body in a chair - Our kids are individuals with aspirations and fears. They are motivated by success and love. Cory’s message also reminded me of my favorite TedTalk (Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’). Our students don’t buy into what we teach them but why we do it. Make sure your students know they are supported and loved - Make your passion tangible!

Grappling with things that itch, allowing people to get lost, & answering questions then questioning answers.
When I go to conferences I always try to attend a session that is completely out of my comfort zone. Dave Culberhouse’s session on “Transforming Leadership & Designing Systems of Change” was it for me. His words, videos, and book suggestions (find all 9 million of them in this collaborative conference notes Doc) inspired me to take action on my goal of becoming a more active and involved leader, both in and out of my school. I desperately want the opportunity to ask and grapple with the tough questions.

Speaking of things that itch, there was a lot of talk about equality and bridging divides, both gender and digital. Joyce Valenza spoke about the role of women in #edtech and education. She showed Amy Schumer’s ‘I’m Sorry,’ which was an incredibly powerful moment for myself and many of the strong, intelligent women in the audience.

Then, my brilliant and passionate friend Talia Arbit (who created the greatest quiz of all time) led a fun, interactive discussion session on bridging the digital divide which further reinforced my passions about actively leading and making change.

That time we hung out with Jonathan Rochelle.
This was almost as cool as if I were to have met Taylor Swift - almost. Jonathan was doing a demo on Google Expeditions and we discussed my experience piloting Expeditions in my class last year. I loved seeing the excitement as session participants experienced Expeditions for the very first time! It reminded me of when my own class tried it last year and how seeing their faces light up truly was one of the best days of my teaching career. During the awesome #CoffeeEDU afterward Jonathan even offered to share the #EdTechCalNYNJ on his site and to bring a 3D printed #CoffeeEdu cup to a local #CoffeeEdu! I’d definitely call my @jrochelle experience my major #eduwin of the weekend!  

What did you learn that you can use on Monday?
I try to leave every conference with a Back to School Takeaway - something that I can use and incorporate into my teaching immediately. Yesterday, I showed some of my female students a portion of the Amy Schumer video and we had a discussion about empowerment. Later this week I am going to use https://bingobaker.com/ with my students, which the awesome Justin Schleider showed us during his fun and engaging session on SAMR as PD. Best of all, I taught my husband (he teaches Physical Education and Health) about Justin’s brain break activity of kinesthetic Rock, Paper, Scissor and his students loved it!   

The big takeaway: My tribe.

There was a tangible buzz of excitement and passion for connectivity and everything #edtech throughout the entire weekend. I am going to continue riding this high as I bring a fresh perspective and innovative ideas to my district. While the learning was amazing, the people are what really makes a conference. The nominated attendees and conference presenters at #NJPAECET2 were top notch. Each person I spoke to was kinder and more passionate than the last. There truly was an unmatched vibe of teamwork and camaraderie at this conference that I have never experienced before. I cannot express how thankful I am to the steering committee of the #NJPAECET2 conference for putting together an incredible weekend. I look forward to hopefully being able to present at next year's conference, as this was one of my favorite conferences to date. I truly feel blessed to have such a wonderful tribe of weirdos to call my friends and #PLN!


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