INTC Conference – Day One
Astute readers of my blog who have been following my posts for some time now may recognise the title of this post and find themselves wondering if I’ve made some sort of error. “After all,” I am sure they are thinking, “didn’t he write a post about the INTC Conference – Day One several months ago?”
Well, yes, I did. And congratulations for having such a keen sense of observation! For those who may not remember, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day conference sponsored by the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative in February. And since I tend to make my blog post titles fairly self-explanatory, they were cleverly entitled “INTC Conference – Day One” and “INTC Conference – Day Two.” At the end of the winter conference, I heard about a summer conference that would be held in Champaign, Illinois, for beginning teachers who were preparing to enter the second year of teaching. I immediately thought, “Hey! I live in Champaign! And I am going to be entering my second year of teaching! I should totally register!”
So I did.
Which is why I am now writing about the first day of the INTC Beginning Teachers’ Conference. And since WordPress uses dates as part of the permalink for posts, I figured I may as well use the same title as before.
This is a shorter conference than the one I attended in the winter, but so far it has been quite worthwhile. I was asked to be a facilitator for my grade-level breakout sessions, along with three other intermediate grade teachers from around the state. We are all beginning teachers, and the only reason we were asked to be facilitators is because we checked a box on the conference registration form indicating an interest in doing so. Today’s session focused on getting to know the 15-20 intermediate teachers who were attending, and sharing what we like about our schools and what we would change about them (if it were in our power to do so). We had lively conversations and learned that there is a wide range of teaching environments within our state.
Before the conference even started, though, I was one of four teachers asked to participate in a primary/intermediate-level teachers focus group session to share our observations about our experiences during the first year. Our comments were recorded so that they can be used in research. (The INTC is a research initiative sponsored by the University of Illinois.) We were asked specifically about our most positive experiences this past year, our biggest frustrations, professional development, and how we felt our teacher preparation programs actually prepared us for teaching. It was an interesting experience and I hope to see the research that grows out of it!
Anyway, after our breakout session this afternoon, I attended two workshops. The first workshop focused on a more practical side of teaching: learning how to use Foldables (TM) in the classroom. I got some great ideas and I am looking forward to using them with my class this coming year. I learned how to make tab books and flip books, and I was shown an awesome resource by Dinah Zike (the teacher who actually came up with the terms “hamburger fold” and “hot dog fold”) that I will probably be acquiring next year (unless I find out another teacher in my building already has them). One is the “Big Book of Science” and the other is the “Big Book of Math.”
The second workshop was also practical, but it was more of the administrative side of teaching: using standards-based assessment. One of the key take-aways from this session was this quote: “If you don’t have standards-based assessment, then you really don’t have standards-based education” (Ken O’Connor, paraphrased). I am in a district that does have standards-based assessment, but it was interesting to compare what we use to assess with what other districts use. Most important, to me, was the ongoing debate on whether or not a student can be said to be “approaching” or “making progress” toward a standard by the end of the year. Our district currently says that students in the fourth quarter must either be recorded as “exceeding,” “meeting” or “not meeting” a standard. The end of the year is D-Day for students: they are either doing it or not. Other districts will indicate that a student is almost there but not quite. It was an interesting discussion, for sure, with evidence to support both sides of the argument!
The day ended with a reception in the conference center. I didn’t stay for long, but I did get to chat with the director of the INTC, Dr. Chris Higgins, as well as the assistant director, Nancy Johnson. Dr. Higgins was very personable and seemed keenly interested in how I have felt about the conference thus far. He also asked me about my future goals in teaching and education, and I let him know that I am debating what program I should enter for my master’s degree. He, as an educational philosopher (philosopher of education?) put in a plug for his program and, actually, I am quite interested. Enough so that I will start researching it more once I’ve determined if I can have student teachers in my room for observations or student teaching. (The university grants tuition and fee waivers for teachers who let university students observe or teach, and I am all about getting TFWs instead going deeper into debt for my education!)
I am looking forward to tomorrow and spending more time with my fellow beginning teachers as we prepare for the next stage of our careers: Year Two!