I’ll start with a quote that resonated with me so I can begin on a positive note. Despite my best efforts at having positive intent, this conference unfortunately didn’t meet many of my needs.
“We need to stand up to the politics of learning that do nothing to benefit kids.” ~Roger Fisher
I started off my day with the stereotypical edtech presentation that Dan Meyer talked about at #nctm12. You know the presentation I mean.
It’s the one that starts out with the picture of the baby with the iPad next to the picture of students back in the dizzay looking tortured by their lives in the dark ages. Then there’s a video with sinister, throbbing music or heartbreaking overly calm music that incites panic that we’re JUST NOT DOING ENOUGH.You know, like this one:
Then the edtech presentation goes on to hit all the overworked, oversimplified tropes that education presenters like to trot out when they want a quick burst of laughter or nodding heads. You know, things like:
“Not all of us can have the technology that Bellevue has.”
WAT. Please don’t assume that schools in a wealthy area automatically have every resource necessary.
The presentation goes on to grumble about charters and questionable instruction methods.
The presentation then continues to say that Common Core doesn’t address thinking strategies, and he then went over Marzano’s strategies and said all sorts of “isn’t this a shame teachers can’t do this.” Well, MAD PROPS, FEDERAL WAY, because this is crazy-old news to me because you’ve been focusing on these strategies for the past three years. So this last bit was good information, I just happened to already have training in it.
And then, the end of the presentation.
I don’t need more negativity at conferences. I don’t need sarcasm and snark and negativity from PRESENTERS at conferences. I get enough of that during my everyday interactions with disgruntled educators. I came here to channel our collective energy into something effective. Diane Ravitch told me that public education is a negative place, and I kind of need to suck it up and just accept that, but I don’t believe that avoiding destructive negativity means I’m keeping my heads in the clouds or avoiding big issues. Anyway.
Then there were speed sessions, where we had a chance to talk with folks from other schools. I didn’t move around because I wasn’t ready yet. So I stayed at my table with my district folks. It wound up making me want to barf because of comments such as “none of my kids are actually gifted,” “I don’t even have kids who are able to do any work.” Thankfully, MY PEOPLE get me and they helped me not scratch any eyes out.
“A gifted child is JUST AS DIFFERENT from “the norm” as a severely handicapped child.” ~Roger Fisher.
Next session. “10 Things Students Should Know about Math and Science.” Actually, I only got through two of the ten things before I had to evacuate. Our presenter was excellent at reading his slides out loud. I had an opportunity to read many Dilbert comics and plenty of cartoons of Albert Einstein. Then I saw this!
I was fortunate to see Briana was enjoying her session a few floors down, so I hustled to join her. Surprise! Presenting was Lisa Van Gemert, Gifted Youth Specialist for Mensa. She covered lots of information about how gifted kids’ minds work. It bolstered what Dani and I had been saying earlier in the day when we were freaking out about the perception that “you can just put gifted kids in a gen ed class and all they need is harder work.” WAT.
Thankfully, Cheryl Steighner came and rescued us and took me to delicious soup.
The lunch keynote was another fascinating PowerPoint-let’s-read-the-text endeavor. I don’t remember what it was about.
I entered a session about “real-world high-level independent projects,” but then saw expensive binders bursting with color photocopies of a student’s pretend application to U of M, and an educational trip to Washington, D.C. Not really my bag. Not really my students. So I left.
I’m glad I did because I saw a pretty solid presentation by Adam Brock called The Beauty of Independent Technology Projects! The presenter was nervous and admitted to as much, but he had GREAT information! Rock on! Present again! “This is authentic, this is authentic, this is authentic!” Dani says. “I needed this session really bad.”
I doubt that I’ll attend WAETAG next year, or if I consider it, I’ll definitely take a much closer look at the presenters. Bring Brock and Van Gemert back and I’ll be back.
Anyway. More reflection to come. Did I leave with some new learning? Yes, but I had to dig really hard to get there…