Down in the Trenches: Networking and Learning With Others

Attending conferences and professional training has been a significant part of my development as an educator. While training can certainly vary, learning from others is always a welcomed opportunity. Every year I look to participate in different conferences or online seminars, and I strive to experience training that will:

  • Provide instructional strategies that increase or enhance student learning.
  • Offer new content that will improve instruction for teachers.
  • Refine my coaching and leadership skills.

In June, I had the opportunity to attend the Model Schools Conference in beautiful Orlando, Florida. Surrounded by 5,000 colleagues in education, I was both excited and a bit overwhelmed as I tried to select from the list of experts all gathered in one location. I eagerly learned about courageous conversations and equity from Dr. Tyrone C. Howard as he reminded us that we are “change agents” with the responsibility of exploring and addressing issues of race, culture, and implicit bias. Investigating and investing in the why behind the striving learner is a priority that will serve as the foundation for the professional development opportunities I offer for the upcoming year.

Dr. Bill Daggett’s session, titled “Moving Vision to Action,” was also uplifting for the mind swirling to construct and refine plans for the next school year. As educators, we have goals and a vision for how our divisions, schools, and classrooms should operate. He explained that these goals are not enough. We must actively decide on the steps necessary to make those goals a reality.

He also discussed the ever-increasing importance of properly addressing the social and emotional needs of our students. The statement that truly resonated with me was: “The question should not be, ‘What is wrong with this student.’ But rather, the question should be, ‘What happened to this student?’” Like Dr. Howard, Dr. Daggett explained that we cannot teach children without first building positive relationships with them.

Borrowing from the experts, I will ensure that we have back-to-school professional development that will:

  • Focus on school and classroom culture.
  • Provide instructional strategies that ensure equity for all students.
  • Ensure actionable goal setting for both teachers and students.

Embracing all the wisdom from nationally renowned experts in the field was like a delicious cake, but the icing came when I met and engaged in the discussion from those working in classrooms or directly with teachers who help striving readers use either the READ 180 or System 44 intervention programs. Learning from the experts in the trenches who daily work to improve the reading levels of students and their coaches gave me countless instructional ideas and strategies.

Dr. Monica Robinson (second from right) stands with READ 180 and System 44 educators at the 26th Annual Model Schools Conference.

I found the perfect mix of humor, inspiration, and vision in a session about working with our most challenged readers—and eventually, READ 180—from Noelle Morris, HMH’s director of professional events. Teachers currently using the programs excitedly shared their personal stories of success during table discussions; these will remain etched in my heart and mind forever.

Finally, my favorite takeaways from attending this conference with customized experiences is that I was able to meet other HMH Professional Services team members such as Marilyn Feldmeier. She created a tool for the event that I know will excite my teachers. I appreciate my local team, but as I shared, getting to experience this depth of expertise within our partnership was beneficial. Can’t wait to see my teachers soon.

From the trenches, I learned:

  • Both passion and dedication are required to teach students who struggle with content, especially reading.
  • It is important to frequently monitor and use data to evaluate and revise instructional practices.
  • Teachers can foster positive relationships with students by sharing impactful stories of their lives and allowing students to do the same.

Learning from the educational gurus and experts cognitively was certainly beneficial, but learning from those who are in the trenches with students every day will guide and influence my daily practice and pedagogy.

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MSC 2018 has come and gone, but you can hear more from thought leaders and speakers at our Leadership Academy 2018: Leading With Vision in Atlanta from Nov. 2–4, 2018.