I had the privilege of attending an incredible conference in Billings, Montana this week. ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching. It is organized at a National level by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This Montana chapter was organized by Bozeman teacher and instructional coach Anne Keith. Keith wrote and earned a grant from the Gates foundation to organize ECET2 in Montana for teacher leaders. The Montana Educator’s Association and Montana Professional Teaching Foundation matched the grant funds and assisted Keith in promoting and holding the event for over 100 teachers in Montana. To read the Billings Gazette article published about the event CLICK HERE!
I received an invitation to attend ECET2 this spring. I was excited to see the phrase, “Lead without leaving the classroom” on the invitation. This is a topic near and dear to my heart as I have always felt called to lead in my field but could not bear the thought of giving up my students and our classroom. I put down the letter and went right to my computer to register. The conference was free to all participants and a $100 travel scholarship was awarded by MEA MFT. We also got seven OPI renewal units for attending.
This “goodie bag” is my new favorite bag! Best teacher conference bag ever! It is professional and holds all of my devices! (and there are more than a few!)
These may look like ordinary pens but they double as a Stylus for a tablet or smartphone! I scored TWO!
Conference Reflections: What did I learn and What will I Do Now that I Learned
My new goal for any and all professional development is to set aside time after the conference to reflect on what I learned and make a plan for how I will use the information. All too often I will attend a conference or a workshop and promptly forget everything I worked so hard to learn during the sessions. Here is what I took from ECET2 and what I plan to do with it.
1. Global Competency
I attended a session delivered by a fellow National Board Certified teacher from Bozeman High School, Erica Schnee. I was inspired by Erica’s passion for instilling global competency in all students. As I listened to Erica share her experiences I thought of the Mystery Skype session my class participated in last spring with a class in North Carolina. It was such a powerful lesson for my students in geography of our area and the rest of the country. I decided during Erica’s session that my goal for the upcoming school year will be to Mystery Skype as part of our Social Studies units. As we study our place in our community, state, country and world I will have my class Mystery Skype with a classroom in each of those. I also would like to set a goal to Skype with as many states in the US and as many different countries as we can. The other idea I took from Erica’s session was to share music from around the world weekly or even daily. She had music from New Zealand playing as we entered the room. It created a fun and lively atmosphere. I think students would love to enter the room each morning to a new song from a different country. We could use a world map to locate the country for each song we listen to and keep track throughout the year. If I could find a way to have it overlap with our Mystery Skype sessions that would be even better!
2. Elevate Teacher’s Voices about the Montana Common Core Standards
The second session I attended was delivered by Allyson Hagen, communications director for Superintendent Denise Juneau and Sana Porte the communications director for MEA-MFT about the importance of teacher advocacy of the Montana Common Core Standards. Polling research shows that when voters are informed about the standards they are more likely to support them. More research shows that when teachers talk, voters listen. This did not surprise me but it was something I had not considered. I believe the Montana Common Core standards are good for kids and I am ready to start letting people know that. This session piqued my interest during Superintendent Denise Juneau's address to the group earlier that morning. She said, "The public trusts you to share your opinions about educational issues." Some of the suggestions we were given in the session that I plan to follow through with are,
1. Use social media to share good news about the MCCS I am an avid Twitter user and am happy to Tweet good stuff about MCCS whenever I can. I use Facebook more for personal correspondence but I think that is where my thoughts on the MCCS could have the most impact since I am friends with many people outside of education.
2. Invite state legislatures and Superintendent Denise Juneau to visit my classroom and see the MCCS in action. I am always open to visitors in my classroom. I know my students will be excited to show off for government officials.
3. Share a positive message about the MCCS whenever possible in oral and written communication. I think I have already done this to some extent but I will make more of an effort now.
One statement made in this session was that parents need to know if they should wonder, worry or cheer about the MCCS. As teachers we are in the position to tell them they should cheer. I was given the opportunity to record a quick positive statement about the MCCS. My statement, as well as those of many other teachers in attendance at ECET2 will be used in a video to promote the good news about the MCCS. I am excited to have been a part of it.
3. Teacher Leaders
Katherine Bassett from NNSTOY, the organization responsible for the State Teacher of the Year program shared a powerful message about teacher leadership. Her words have been bumping around in my head ever since yesterday. She gave me a lot to think about! In her position, she has conducted research and developed standards for teacher leaders. She lamented that when classroom teachers accomplish great things such as National Board Certification and earn awards they are often “all dressed up with no where to grow.” I know when I finished National Board Certification I suddenly found myself asking, “what’s next?” I was thankful to earn a spot in the PBS Digital Innovators program so that I could throw myself into learning more about technology integration. I used the action planning time after Katherine’s address to think about just how I want to use all that I will learn with the Digital Innovators program. I devised a plan to work with Montana PBS to film some short instructional videos for parents and teachers about how they can use iPads to help their children grows as learners at home. When the PBS program ends I will probably be searching for a new challenge to tackle and I am left wondering what that could be. People often ask me if I will leave the classroom soon to be a principal or teach at a university. I always tell them that the job of a principal is not for me but that I do hope to work with emerging teachers at the university level some day,just not today. I feel like I am just getting started as a classroom teacher. I finally feel confident in my skills to assess, plan and instruct all students. I am ignited with a passion for using technology to help students engage with the content and create authentic products to gain mastery. I can’t imagine leaving the classroom now.
Katherine Bassett's presentation motivated me to reflect on my role as a teacher leader. I find myself thinking about those things I am already doing within my school and outside of my community. In my school I know I could do more to lead. I offer my services to my co-workers whenever I can but I sometimes wonder if I appear too busy and somewhat unapproachable. My goal for the new school year will be to be more available to my fellow teachers. I would like to lead a book discussion and hold technology workshops during the school year if there was interest. Mostly, I would like the opportunity to collaborate with my peers regularly to learn from them and share my own experiences. I hope to find some common planning time with each teacher and explore those options.
I feel that my work with Southwest Montana School Services holding workshops during the summer and on the weekends for teachers allows me to share and lead classroom teachers without leaving my students behind. Working with the SENG parent discussion groups is also another way I can lead outside of my community as I help parents of gifted students in Bozeman learn and practice new parenting strategies. I invite teachers I meet at workshops and conferences to visit and observe my classroom and have enjoyed these visits immensely. I have joined the board for Montana AGATE as the website developer. It has been fun to oversee the website and help keep parents, teachers and students informed about gifted and talented education issues and opportunities. I also participate in weekly Twitter chats using #MTEdchat. This has provided me with access to so many like minded tech savvy teachers. I try to never miss a Tuesday chat! Writing this blog gives me a creative outlet to share my voice and perhaps offer insight to others. I find that if I blog about something I understand it at a deeper level. I’m not sure how many readers I have but if even one person reads all of this to the end I will be pleased.
My experience at ECET2 gave me a great deal to think about about and I am so grateful to have attended. A great big thank you goes out to Anne Keith for being the mastermind behind such a great event and to Marco Ferro, Eric Feaver and Jami Wood at MEA MFT for working tirelessly to bring Montana teachers together in the spirit of leadership and change.