Saturday morning, November 4, 2016

I get up at the ungodly hour of 7:30 am on A SATURDAY to attend an education conference required for class. I begrudgingly get ready for the day and and grab a water bottle as I run outside to discover it is the coldest morning in the history of the universe. The heat in my car takes forever to get going, and my car takes at least 10 long minutes to defrost my windows so I can leave, making it impossible to stop for coffee. This morning is off to a great start as I finally head off for the conference.

While heading to the conference and waiting for it to begin, dreaming about the coffee I now see I had time to stop for, was a terrible experience, the conference was absolutely phenomenal. Gena Southall introduced the keynote speaker, Ms. Dubet, eloquently. The introduction showed us all how down to earth Mrs. Dubet is, and how she is a teacher, just like the rest of us are or will be. Ms. Dubet then began her speech, blowing the minds of every single person in the auditorium. She discussed how important interest inventories are, and how every teacher should give them and USE them. This opened a whole new world for me to be able to get to know my students and make connections with them. Making connections with students seemed to be the unofficial overarching theme of the conference.

We don’t always realize how connections make every aspect of teaching easier. Connections is also why we tend to want to be teachers. Without connections, we can’t make the differences in our students’ lives that we all say is the reason we want to teach. This was made even more clear as we went through the day.

I chose to go to the First Year Teachers session first. I am currently experiencing frustration and apprehension about finishing school and beginning my first year teaching. I feel burnt out on school, and completely overwhelmed with the lesson planning, unit planning, assessments, SOLs, and so much more. It seems there are so many things I have to do all the time and they always all have to be done at the same time. I decided that hearing from first year teachers would be just the encouragement and motivation I need to not take a break after graduation, before finding a job. I was right. These two women talked about taking every scrap of paper and knowledge from any and every teacher, and using anything you can to make things easier for yourself. If someone else did it already, and you can throw it in you lessons, DO IT! Don’t do something new if what someone has done before you will work just as great. They also talked about making time for yourself and doing what makes you happy. This is important for me, because right now, I’m struggling to see that I will be able to do that. This was the biggest thing I got from the whole conference. There is and should be time for you. You are a teacher. That doesn’t mean you are ONLY a teacher. You are a young woman, who has and needs a life outside of school in order to STAY a teacher. Social Life is extremely important to keeping your sanity. THANK YOU!

The next session I went to was the Grouping session done by Ms. Dubet herself. This session was by far the most fun. We learned how to randomly group students, and how to get them working well with each other. I learned some new things about one of my current teachers, Dr. Smith. She likes Netflix binging just as much as I do! Anyway, we also talked about the challenges and benefits of grouping students together. This was eye opening. There were so many things I hadn’t thought of, that will be challenging, however, we also talked about how to head off those issues, and keep things running smoothly. I quite love the idea of grouping students together. My favorite grouping strategy, that I plan to implement in my classroom, that Ms. Dubet mentioned was having core groups of students that are then branched out into new groups on occasion. In y experience this is the best way to get the best group work.

The next session I went to was done by Ms. Higgins. This session was informative, but not my favorite. I loved hearing of her experiences as a teacher, but the information she gave was not as specific or particularly creative as I’d hoped. I was hoping to hear of new innovative ways to set up a classroom. Recently, in an English class, we discussed how neutral colors and soft lighting helps create a space of comfort for students that helps them be more creative and enjoy being in the classroom more. I was hoping to hear of ideas much like this one, but was mildly disappointed. Her stories and experiences, however, were wonderful to hear about, and made me more excited to be a teacher soon.

The last session I went to was a crash course on SPED. This session was absolutely wonderful. They gave us a handout that when through steps of how to deal with certain behaviors of students. The greatest part about this session and handout was that all of the information can be used in any situation, with any class, not just SPED students. I learned a great deal in this session. One of the Session leaders even gave out her contact information to offer help to any current or future teacher who may want or need it.

The sense of connectivity and community I got while attending the conference gave me so much encouragement. I know now more than ever that I am not alone. I am not the only one struggling and stressed out. I am not the only one that cries two-three times a week because of what I am going through with becoming a teacher. This conference was beyond eye opening and informative. I had so much fun, and learned more than I expected to. I am definitely going again next year.