I spent the day yesterday at the Education Minnesota Professional Conference. This year the highlight for me was connecting with other professional educators for informal discussions. I was in the aisles of the exhibit hall or in the corridors outside the presentation rooms talking with old friends or exhibitors (some them now also old friends) about possibilities and realities. We talked about substantive educational issues and substantive personal issues. This was probably my 17th conference - I went to a couple while getting my license and also while I was subbing that first year before getting a contract with the MPS. Getting affirmations from other pros is so crucial to this job.
One of the big affirmations for me was when a teacher who used to teach in our building met me in the aisle with a big hug and eventually the question - "Are you still doing your St. Patrick's Day Poetry Reading Contest?"and then "I want you to know that I've taken that to my current building and made the whole month of March a poetry month." I did skip the contest this last year because of scheduling conflicts with testing. I won't miss it this year; we'll be reading poems in Room 207 this March 17.
Some years the highlight has been a pep talk by great orators for the keynote; Paul Wellstone, Peter Yaro, and Garrison Keilor are memorable examples. Ray Suarez's excellent talk this year was more of a sober look at what's coming for our profession. I can't remember all of the stats he rattled off about the demographics of our schools past, present and what they're likely to be in the years ahead; I'll want to read his next book. The official theme of his speech was the impact of immigration on US education. He urged us to start paying close attention; things are changing and they're gonna change some more. His comments are summarized on this MPR audio piece which also includes comments on health care and journalism. Serious, researched talk both informs and affirms teachers.
Another form of affirmation is talking possibilities. Our 3rd and 4th grade team is still exploring arts integration opportunities for this year. Angie Keeton, The Minnesota Opera teaching artist, got me thinking about opera. Maybe we'll put my earlier claymation idea to music and sing the story. I've only been to a couple of operas in my life, but I'd like to learn more. David, my colleague across the hall, usually has classical or operatic music playing before and after school, so he'll likely be on board.
One of the uninspiring conversations I had was with a professor of one of the local teacher colleges. When he heard where I teach and that I've had a student teacher in my room almost every semester for the last twelve years (a K-8 close to the U of M and Augsburg gets lots of student teachers; he wasn't with either of those.) he perked up and started talking about an urban literacy program. And then, his next question was, "what are your scores?" I said, "uhh," and he continued with "are you AYP?" I grew up on South Dakota country western, and I like U2 and the blues. So, talk to me about poetry and opera, not AYP.