I thought I would take some time while traveling home to reflect a bit more on the model schools conference.
I learned three important things:
It is important to get away
There is some real value is going away physically from your building. I don't know that you need to go all the way to Georgia, but being in a new environment does something to help you think differently.
It is important to hear from others
I've been a fan of the power of connecting with others to learn for many years. I am a naturally social person and I want to share with others. One way is through social media, obviously. Another very important way is face to face. One teacher said to me this week that she has heard me say things many times, and it meant something different when it came from someone else. I think hearing from others makes you realize that the person telling you something isn't crazy.
Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.
You just cannot do anything without relationships. We all know relationships are important, but we sometimes forget or get distracted from that.
I went out to dinner with Rob Carroll and his team of ten that came with him to present. I saw them present in February and I was captivated by their comraderie then. It was totally different this time. There were more of them and their bond was stronger.
What makes them unique is that they care so much about their students. They have a saying "school before self" that they really believed. They really knew that each of them would be willing to put their kids first at any time. They cared deeply about their students. Because of those two things, they cared deeply about each other. They come from a hard school. Someone from Florida wrote a story about them which is much better writing than I can do!
What I can say is this: you could feel the love and dedication! It was amazing.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend the time with them.
Recognize your awesome teachers
I wish more teachers could have come to this conference. The teachers that did come were incredibly dedicated and open minded. They were quick to learn, to ask hard questions and to be critical thinkers. They didn't buy into everything just because it was presented at a conference. They thought about it, asked questions, and then decided for themselves. It was great.
Big Ideas, then make a plan.
We took the first couple days to just think big, pie in the sky and not worry about any realities that may be facing us. We focused on vision. Then, as the conference came to an end, we dedicated sufficient time to make a plan. Because we took the time to make a plan, we know what we are doing when we get back to school.
If you go to a conference and come up with many new and different things, it is probably going to be hard to go to the district and tell them you are changing a bunch of things and going away from the district vision. What I loved so much about this conference was:
- They weren't trying to get us to change, but to improve.
- They weren't selling a system, they were communicating a vision, and leaving the details up to us.
It is easy for a conference organizing organization to get caught up in vendors and selling a product, but that is not what was happening here.
NOTHING that we learned at that conference was not aligned with our district vision. How amazing is that? What we did learn is that we can do it! We can make a powerful impact on our students' lives.
Talk to people
There are so many amazing educators out there. It was great to just get to know people and learn from them. So many people are doing so many inspiring things for our students. It was great to spend a weekend with them. One person talked about how his school has helped people in the community become more connected with each other. Another told me about helping kids whose parents were in jail. Another shared how she helped a student with muscular district ride a mechanical bull. Bother talked about a former student working a job an hour away from home so he could take the ACT enough times to be able to get a score good enough for a scholarship for college. Another said she was now willing to do whatever it takes to help kids. And the list goes on and on.
Ok, so I wrote about more than three things. There is so much more, but that is all that I can bring to the surface right now.
I'm very grateful to ICLE for organizing such an amazing conference and so grateful that our district sent me and four teachers to it. It will certainly make us better for our students.