With a cold day declared today, I found myself at the local coffee shop furiously trying to prepare for the conferences I am lucky enough to present at this spring. I have never been invited to speak at conferences before this year, so the pressure I feel is mounting. I want people to be inspired. I want people to feel it was worth their time. And most importantly, I want people to leave with ideas that they can implement the next day, not just the next school year. I don’t know why I find it so nerve wracking to speak to other educators when I teach students every day, and yet it is exactly those experiences I need to rely on. I would never lecture for 45 minutes or longer to my students, so why would I do it to adults?
To make sure I was on the right track, I tweeted out the following
As always, I was not disappointed. There seemed to be several themes that immediately jumped out at me, and it turns outI was right, people attending conferences do not want just to sit and get, they have very big desires for what they will leave with.
So for all of us gearing up for spring workshops/presentations or any kind of professional learning opportunity, listen to what educators around the world had to say.
They want choice! No more forced professional development with only one choice, with in-district experts there is no reason to limit the day. Sure, bring in outside speakers, but don’t forget about your local talent; those teachers within your district that know a lot too. Get as many sessions as you can muster and offer a wide variety so that all minds can be at least somewhat satisfied.
They want to connect! Sitting in a room with like-minded people and just speaking to them is not something we get to do very often. So please offer time to discuss, share ideas, and inspire each other. As one teacher wrote, “Allow more time for me to talk with other attendees.” Offer them a chance to become connected educators. Brilliant.
They want to be acknowledged as experts too! We tend to elevate the speaker to the one with the most knowledge, and while this sometimes is true, we can never forget about all of the knowledge there is in the room. So find a way for others to share what they know and acknowledge their expertise. No one wants to feel inferior or that there experience doesn’t have merit just because they are not the presenter.
They want practical ideas! They want something they can go and try the very next day in school without a lot of preparation or extra stuff needed. They also want long-term ideas that they can implement over time. So make sure to offer a mixture of both.
They also want to be inspired! We go to conferences to become better, so being inspired and having our passion re-ignited is vital. Use the opportunity to lift up rather than break down, there are indeed many things that should be changed in education but don’t forget about all of the good. I would rather start from a place of hope than a place of fear or anger any day.
They want the focus to be on students! As presenters we shouldn’t be there to just highlight the work we do, but rather keep the focus on the students. What we are doing, after all, is to make the lives of our students better. So make sure your presentation discusses the way students have gained from whatever topic and share their voice through quotes, video, pictures or even bringing a real live student in. They are in the end why we teach.
They want it to be fun! I learned a long time ago in my classroom to have fun with my students as a way to get the learning across, yet I tend to forget this in my presentations, I get too nervous I suppose. Yet professional development needs to be fun, energetic, passionate, and exciting. Find a way to lighten up the learning a bit, this also allows you to offer participants a way to get more hands on with things.
Once again, the people I connected to helped me push through and really sharpen the focus of my upcoming presentations. The next month will allow me to hopefully create an experience for all the people I am lucky enough to work with in the coming months. If you are interested in seeing where I will be or having me speak, please go here.
And now it is your turn. Please finish the sentence…Every workshop I attend should….
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.