It’s Conference Time!

My presenter journey started a couple of years ago when I thought, “why not take a chance and share my work with other educators?”. My first conference was Bring It Together in 2015. Funnily enough, I find myself starting to write this blog from this year’s BIT conference.

In 2015 our school was involved in a school-wide Water Inquiry and I had just begun working with students on Entrepreneurial Thinking in the classroom. It was something new in our board and I was excited about this work and naturally thought the conference would be a great way to share it.

In Marketplace style, I set up my booth and had an hour filled with inspiring conversations with other educators about similar work that they were doing with students in their classrooms. Initially I thought I was there to present our work but found such value in learning from the experiences of others and gained great insight on how to take this work further. I caught the conference bug then, I’ve still got it, and I’m not letting go.

Over the years, I’ve learned 3 things as a presenter and attendee:

  1. The Power of Story
  2. Being Open to New Learning
  3. Network, Network, and Network

The Power of Story

Sessions that have inspired and impacted me the most have been ones where the presenter has connected with me through the power of story. Either through taking me on their journey or sharing their students’ journey, these sessions have brought life to the material that the presenter is sharing. Seeing a real application and/or the humanness and messiness behind the implementation of ideas or projects makes it real and tangible. As an educator, I’ve realized, the realness of the struggle and the ability to overcome makes the process inspiring. I’ve tried to implement this in my presentations and am learning that it’s not just about me, but more so the amazing students who I am privileged to work with and whose work I am sharing that are the power in my presentation. As I presented at STAO a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I was most passionate when I was sharing my students’ work on hurricane solutions and the learning that I gained from them. If ever you are considering presenting, tell your story; and with their permission, tell the story of your students. It’s some of the best PD I have ever experienced.

Being Open To New Learning

It’s inevitable. At every conference, I end up attending a session where I think it might be on a particular topic and find out that it’s really about something else. In the beginning I would get discouraged and tune out if I found that I wasn’t getting what I thought I was supposed to be. Then I learned that I could get up and find another session that might better suit my needs. While I thought the second “strategy” was effective/useful, I’m learning the importance of seeing a session through and finding new learning. Whether there is a new tip or trick used by the presenter or participants or a strategy to avoid, there is always something that I can learn. Fortunately, this happened a couple of weeks ago during a session. I learned that it’s essential to test a demonstration before facilitating a session and to ensure that I truly understand all the steps involved when I’m asking participants to take a risk and try something new with me. Presentations can be tough and many of us are just learning about how to give them. Bear with us. Consider sticking it out and perhaps you may just learn something that will be of value to you in the long run. By being there you’ve already opened the envelope. Why not read its contents to the end?

Network, Network, and Network

Ok…It may be no secret but I love Twitter. I have to say that all credit goes to my former Principal, Greg McLeod, who suggested I hop on a few years ago to participate in a Twitter chat. I hesitantly agreed to join the Twitterverse and little did I know, it would be a revolutionary tool that would connect me to educators all around the world. I’ve gained tips and ideas by seeing the work of others online and during conference time, it’s my opportunity to seek them out and meet them in person. It’s also my chance to find new people to connect with and learn from. Last year, I attended a workshop at STAO where I met Shari Green-Brown who is the Principal of RJ Lang Elementary & Middle School. Who would have thought that learning about hand tools during a session would lead to the opportunity to collaborate with her – and others – to help facilitate our STEM Certificate Course or our current PD series – Tinkering Thursdays? I’ve grown as a teacher, presenter and facilitator by building a relationship that began on Twitter, was strengthened through an experience at a conference and developed over time. If ever you decide to take advantage of presenting or attending a conference, take the leap! Talk to a stranger or a Twitter friend. You never know who you might meet & what journey you’ll have the chance to take with them.

Fall conference season is almost done for me. As I look forward to the fun of conferences this spring, I’ll keep in mind: The Power of Story; Being Open to New Learning; and Network, Network, and Network. Consider taking advantage of conferences and events offered by ETFO. Last year I had the opportunity to present at ETFO’s ICT Conference. The energy was simply amazing and the sessions offered many new learning opportunities for participants.

I look forward to learning from and with you soon!

Updated: November 22, 2017 — 6:07 am

The Author

Arianna Lambert

I'm a grade 4/5 Teacher in the Toronto District School Board who loves integrating technology and mindfulness in the classroom. Through inquiry and design, I work with students who are engaged in meaningful learning opportunities; developing core competencies, while creating ways to make the world an even better place. I am the recipient of a TDSB Excellence Award for the co-creation of #tdsbEd, Twitter chats for educators. Through conversations on trends in Education from STEAM to Mindfulness, it has become an online community of educators dedicated to improving their practice to ensure greater student success, well-being and achievement.

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