Why a Good Education Conference Is Like a Music Festival

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Music festival season is right around the corner! Sun-kissed skin, music for the soul, interconnectedness, and a recharging of our batteries. If you have ever been to a music festival, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s all about the anticipation of the event, listening to the headliners, being introduced to other bands, and making connections to other concertgoers. Professional learning conferences for educators—like the Annual Model Schools Conference—function in much the same way. Here’s how you can take advantage of these kinds of opportunities.

Tickets Secured. Anticipation. Go!

Try to get away from the internet, I dare you! Honestly, unless you are living an 18th-century puritan life or you're at my school site during testing time, we are connected to other the time. Much like you, I’m sure, my Twitter feed is full of people whom I’ve never met but really feel like I know. We talk, we share educational links and memes—we are friends! It’s the interconnectedness of the internet!

Once registration to the big event is secured, we share the exciting news with our online forums. “Who else is going?” we eagerly ask. We start planning the event out, and the anticipation begins to build. Everything we discuss online—it all has a chance to come to fruition. It’s not only the event that adds to the buildup but also the chance to connect with our online community. Whether you’re an educator or a music festival goer (or both!), at this stage you likely view the event as a chance to grow and step out of the internet and onto a real platform.

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Bring on the Venue!

Whether the location is in the middle of the desert, Music City U.S.A., or the nation’s capitol, the venue where a conference (or music festival) takes place is an interesting part of the event’s appeal. There is a well-known psychology theory called Iso-Ahola motivation theory and it suggests, “Individuals are driven by the desire to escape their everyday environment.” When a venue is in an area far from home, it offers that escape from the everyday world that we crave. It allows us, for a moment—or rather, for the length of the event—relaxation from everyday woes and difficulties. It allows the participant to just focus on the reason that brought him or her to the event in the first place.

Now Playing on the Main Stage: The Keynote 

When looking at the lineup of a music festival, the headliners are usually the main determiner for attendance. The headliners are usually widely known and already have a loyal following. They are established and we trust not only that they will give us what we are familiar with, but that they will also use this platform to provide us with new material and to introduce us to new up-and-comers. A keynote and the headliner are one in the same. They bring the crowds. It’s when we are part of that crowd that the power of what is happening on stage really hits us. All of a sudden, we realize that what we feel or take away is not an individual reaction. Rather, it’s something that is owned by all of us, collectively.

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When the opening sequence starts, before the headliner even graces the stage, we feel that familiar beat—the anticipation of the event ahead, the realization that this is the event we have been planning for, the understanding that it's all coming to fruition in this moment. It’s a feeling that needs to be experienced firsthand to really grasp.

The Music Festival Lineup as Presenters

The bands are the reason people attend musical festivals. Although the headliners or keynotes are the power-hitters, it’s the bands or presenters who sustain and maintain the event. It’s while attending to the lineup of bands or presenters that a deeper magic happens. This portion of the event is most accurately defined as discovery. As humans, we crave discovery. A study done by Baylor University and Emory University stated that “the brain finds unexpected pleasures more rewarding than expected ones.” One could make the argument, very easily, that the discovery of new information brought to us by the lineup and presenters might be more impactful due to their unpredicted nature.

Attendees as Concertgoers 

While at a concert, as you look around at the people singing along with you, there’s often a moment of realization that you are connected to them that, until now, has gone unrecognized. When we hear a song we connect to, we internalize it, make it ours, even say things like, “This is my song…” Essentially, we think about how it makes us feel.

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But the music does not just belong to us, right? We look around and realize that everyone else singing along, pumping their fists in the air has done the same thing. They have interwoven their own lives into the song lyrics. It’s the artists themselves who have written the lyrics (if they are any kind of artist!) and probably have the deepest connection. However, in this performance, this connection is their gift to us. In this moment, the music doesn’t belong to the artist—it belongs to every person who has ever connected to it.

As we attend conferences like the Model Schools Conference, I treasure this feeling of interconnectedness. Of course we seek new trends, search out supports to strengthen our pedagogies, and obtain new strategies in reading comprehension. But one of the most powerful tools we come away with is our connection to each other. We have this opportunity to build relationships with 5,000 like-minded educators—5,000 professionals who get just as amped up as we do; 5,000 new best friends we have something in common with. I have had the opportunity to attend a few Model Schools Conferences and write a few blogs for Shaped. My one constant takeaway is always the same—connect and network! It’s through these connections that we can return to fill our cup throughout the year. These are the connections that promote our continued growth and development and drive us to act to impact.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


Join us for the 30th Annual Model Schools Conference in Orlando, FL from June 2629, 2022. Now a hybrid event, MSC is extending and enhancing beyond convention center ballrooms and across the world.

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