Reflections on 3 days of learning at #AMLE2013

Students performing at #AMLE2013 

I had the pleasure of attending The Association of Middle Level Education Conference in Minneapolis, MN this past week. It was my first time attending a “national” level conference. The conference had an incredible feel of energy an passion. Walking into the convention hall I should have know the energy would be high since the line for the only coffee stand around went out of sight. All the attendees had to get their share of caffeine to match the energy of the conference and its presenters.

The session program was littered with who is who of educational Authors/ experts: Ruth Culham, Laura Robb, Jeff Wilhelm, Ruby Payne, Rick Stiggins, Jack Berckemeyer, Monte Selby, Kim Campbell and Rick Wormeli to name a few. As an attendee it was hard for me to choose what sessions to attend, not only high caliber sessions from authors, but 100’s of sessions from teachers about what works in their classrooms. Every session I walked into demonstrated a passion for teaching every student that walks into a middle school classroom. What ever topic you needed to fulfill  your professional development needs you could find it.

The General Session on Thursday remarkable. The Special Olympics, Project Unify put on a stage show demonstrating the needs to spread the word to end the word. If you every get a chance to see their performances DO!! Inspiring and meaningful. Every middle school student should be exposed to this program. Danielle Liebl and Jamie Behymer shared their personal stories about student advocacy and how SPecial Olympics had impacted their lives. The session ended with everyone dancing to Katy Perry’s Roar!

Friday kicked off early with a 7:30 general session by Brad Meltzer about Heroes. I am a huge fan of his Decoded series on the History Channel, but did not know why he would be speaking at  a middle level conference. He opened sharing his story about how he became a writer. Stories about his teachers filled the auditorium. He talked about the power of Thank You, and listening to the unheard stories for those are the ones with meaning. I was inspired by the end, Brad Meltzer is an engaging story teller.

For me the greatest experience of the conference was connecting with other like minded educators. As a classroom teacher, I have little time to connect and share ideas with others. Due to my activity on Twitter, I meet up with members of my Professional Learning Network. We talked in the halls, in session, on twitter and enjoyed meals together. These personal connections matter. I also had the privilege to attend the AMLE leadership lunch on Friday. The discussion there were rich with focus on students learning. The time was engaging and meaningful. Lead by Dru Tomlin, the lunch is a must for leaders that want to engage in answering the critical questions facing educators.

The conference wasn’t all roses: WiFi connections were spotty at times and the web app for the conference had issues. It was not light on the pocket book: I was out over $800 for travel and accommodations (Note to self find a sponsor for next year: anyone??) The money was worth it, the conference is not about the TECH so those were minor drawbacks. The conference was about connections, passion, energy all to make student’s learning improve in the classrooms.

All attendees have to remember to maintain the feelings from the conference, share the passion with your building and maintain connections with presenters via twitter. One member of my PLN shared that the energy felt at conferences can be continued by participating in Twitter chats. I hope I can live up to the energy and passion presented at the conference. If you have the time it is so worth attending. I hope to return next year when it will be in Nashville, TN,

Thank you to all I connected with! Dru Tomlin, Mark Clements and Rick Wormeli: Thank you for making me feel your equal. You inspire me to work harder and be better everyday.

#MSchat Live Twitter Event on PD and Conferences Nov 7th 7-8 pm EDT

Join #MSchat on Nov 7th from 7-8 EDT (Yes an hour earlier than normal) To discuss Professional Development. Chat will be occurring during The Association of Middle Level Education’s annual conference. Conference attendees are being encouraged to join the discussion. Experts will weigh in about:

  1. What makes great PD?
  2. Why do teachers attend conferences?
  3. Where does the best learning occur?
  4. What should Teachers expect?
  5. What can teachers bring back to the classrooms?
  6. How do new forms of PD fit/change the PD picture? (Edcamps and Twitter Chats)
  7. If teachers designed PD how would it look? (is this edcamps?)

Hope you can join us in what should be a lively discussion. Don’t forget to mark you calendar. Also follow all the activity at the AMLE 2013 Conference by following #amle2013 from Nov 7-9. I will be at session tweeting along with many others. Look for daily Storify archives too!


EdCamp Style PD for school PD – Take the risk

Today it happened!! Our school took a slice of its regularly scheduled PD time and made a small change. Teachers signed up to share. Share something they are doing in their classroom that works. Something that they feel would help others. The staff then could choose a location to attend 4 or 5 of these mini-PD session. Sessions ranged from computer applications to be used in the classrooms to procedures to how to create a calm climate for learning.

Our principal took a risk by allowing the staff to guide their learning. I feel it let the silent stars shine. Teachers who usually are quiet took center stage. Shared what was working for them, and slow drifted back to silence. Sharing gave the staff power to decide what they felt ours might want. It gave our staff respect, by allowing us to pick what sessions we wanted to attend. It gave our staff power over their own learning. Ultimately it gave our staff, a nice feeling inside as we head into spring break and down the home stretch of the year. To top it all off our assistant principal felt we needed a snack after work before soaking in the PD so she prepared a “Tater” bar with all the fixings, for the entire staff to snack on as they soaked in the Edcamp style session.