My Conference Evolution

My first major conference experience occurred five years ago when my school had a grant that afforded me the opportunity to attend the NMSA ( National Middle School Association) conference in Philly. It was a jaw- dropping event for me as a new middle school educator and I wanted to make the most of it by attending all ten sessions. The vice principal that come along with us at the time made a comment at the time that I really didn't understand until this weekend. While I don't remember the exact phrasing, she said that I was "missing out" because I was attending so many sessions. All I thought was I was missing was the information from the other sessions and that our VP might be wasting school funds, but after attending the MSET (Maryland Society for Education Technology) conference these past two days I realized I was wrong.

In two days time, I presented in three sessions, was backup in one session, and attended one and I couldn't be happier. I could have dedicated myself to attend all sessions and be quiet while searching for new bits of information, but I think I wouldn't enjoyed myself as much. It was better to catch up with those I never get to see and engage in great conversations with complete strangers.

Normally I end a convention day heading home or a hotel room, but not this time. After a quick turn around there was the MSET tweetup and a night in the inner harbor. It was a great night filled with laughter and friends.

Saturday was a little unusual since this was the first time MSET/MICCA was on a Saturday. Attendance was low, but it made sessions more personal and attendees felt comfortable speaking up in sessions. That was probably the most relaxed I have ever been in a presentation, but I still gave my attendees my best. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for others that presented at the end of the day. This was another lesson I learned for the day: Always respect your audience whether there is two or a hundred. Don't just muddle through out of obligation. I know a little off topic, but had to be said.

So what is my advice about conferences?

It is all about balance.

Of course you should attend to learn and grow as an educator. The day I feel like I don't need to learn is not only the day I quit going to conferences, but I quit the profession. Please take time to be social.
  • Talk to a stranger
  • Add to your PLN
  • If there is an after hours meet-up, get your second wind and join in
  • Make your Professional Learning Network more Personal