Conference learning: Valuable for principals?

As the principal of an elementary school, I normally walk away from the conclusion of conferences feeling one of two ways:

1. I’ve lost time in my building and gained little to nothing in return; or

2. I feel inspired, refreshed, and sometimes overwhelmed. I know it’s been a great conference experience when I’m walking away prioritizing how I can share the multitude of resources/information and how to roll it out in my building/district.

See a list of sessions suited for principals.

When I attended Learning Forward’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. last year, I left energized. The entire plane ride home I was digesting the resources, conversations, and experiences I gained. Every session was high quality, provided endless resources, and included a component where my fellow colleagues were sharing their experiences and building off of the material presented. Additionally, the presenters practiced what they preached by demonstrating the strategies, making real-life connections, and applying it towards multiple scenarios.

Principals can truly benefit from this type of conference approach on many levels. I walked away from this learning experience having increased my network of colleagues, acquired new resources and knowledge, shared current practices, and collaborated on the latest innovations and best practices.

Principals have many roles and one is educator professional learning. The effectiveness in this area can be felt in in all areas of a school. Sometimes I wonder if I’m headed in the right direction or not pushing hard enough. By talking, listening, and questioning my fellow colleagues at the conference, I was able to acquire some validation for the progress we’ve made and set new goals for where we want to go.

I attended a session with two amazing ladies from Texas, Lisa and Janet, who spoke about Tips Tools and Techniques for Professional Learning. Their session was full of common sense strategies and practices like if you bend the corner of a name tent it will stand up better or place pipe cleaners on the tables for your adult learners to play which allows them to release fidgeting while also still focusing on the content being delivered.

Another technique that impacted my future planning for professional development is the “chunk and chew” method. I made this a personal goal for when I designed sessions the second half of the year. They used the analogy of a chipmunk to bring a visual to the strategy. We deliver about five chunks and their mouth is full like a chipmunk, so give them time to chew what has been delivered. I felt like telling these ladies to drop the mic because they gave me several a-ha moments during the session.

I’m looking forward to this year’s annual conference in Vancouver both professionally and personally. My focus this year is on the implementation and student learning strands.

Quick tip for newbies: The Area of Focus categories in the program are extremely helpful when selecting your desired sessions. It allowed me to narrow my focus because every session looks great! I feel both of the areas of focus I’ve picked will significantly impact my school, help redesign stronger professional development, and enhance my leadership. I can’t wait for December to roll around and embrace everything Vancouver has to offer.

See a list of conference sessions that may be of interest for principals here.