Sunday, January 30, 2011

Conferences: What's the point?

Before you freak, hear me out. I'm just so tired of conferences. I go to these things and I spend most of my time learning and sharing, learning and sharing. It is exhausting. I feel like there is only so much sharing and learning a person can do. Your idea and my idea, your idea and my idea. What's the point?

Conferences are a huge tease. They seem to say, "Come over and we can hang out and have a great time. I will show you amazing thing that will revolutionize your classroom" When I get there, they do show me some amazing things. I get very excited at what I see. Then, I realize I can' have it. My district isn't set up for this, school policy doesn't allow for that or my department would burn me in effigy. I'm not sure I can handle listening to the amazing things happening in Iowa, New Jersey, Philly, etc. without going crazy. I'm all for new ideas, but why do people need to rub in our faces. What's the point?

The only thing that keeps me going is the concept that frustration can breed innovation. Is all of this frustration I face on a regular basis going to prepare me for the next big idea? I just want tea change to be a little easier. This frustration seems to cause more pain than innovation. What's the point?

Wouldn't it be easier to just shut my classroom door and bury my head in lessons? Why endure a barrage of great ideas that will never happen for me or my students? Why spend hours discussing what I want with people who already have? What's the point?

All of this knowledge is just breeding frustration. I want what is best for my students and I need to walk them through a mine field of bad ideas and policy to get it. What's the point?

What is the point?

Oh, I'm an educator and I give a damn.

That's the point.

See you at the next conference. :-)

- @TheNerdyTeacher


  1. This is good. I think about the point of conferences each time I go, but I feel good going, feel like I'm contributing and learning. Each good conference energizes me to do more and to think more about what I'm doing.

    This is the same reason I'm in the National Writing Project: it energizes me, allows me to share, and puts me in contact with brilliant people who push me to be smarter.

    Thank you for this. I loved it.

  2. I love the buzz from the conference and share your frustration at hearing about all the great things people are doing.
    Wouldn't it be great to have that conference "buzz" everyday at school? I've experienced it on a few occasions when true collaboration was present amongst my colleagues. Building a collaborative learning culture in your school should be a high priority as a teacher. You can only be the Lone Ranger for so long without a few Tontos by your side. Social media allows us to get a glimpse of this potent experience, conferences give us a taste, but it has to be carefully constructed within a school for it to really become transformative... now if I only knew how to do this in a scalable way...:-)
    Thanks for the great post Nick!

  3. I loved the conferences I attended - but can understand your frustration. It's difficult when you know your district doesn't have the money for the fancy technology, or there are filters on the websites you'd like the use. I'm glad you are looking past it all - and working on being innovative!

  4. I don't go to many conferences. When I do go now it is (for me) more about making personal connections than learning content, skills, or tools. Honestly, I find it much easier to learn online anyway.

    When I went to EdcampKC my goal was to meet face to face people like you that I have developed relationships online with. What I found was the pain of leaving kindred spirits behind when the conference was over.

    I guess what I am trying to say is to me the conferences are about acceptance and understanding. I don't think we can do any really deep learning during them simply because we don't have enough time to engage in really deep learning.

  5. Conferences allow for a mixing of ideas that would be unlikely to happen in other circumstances. Attending too many conferences makes you an "absorber" and must be balanced with a healthy does of "down in the trenches work" to keep us grounded in reality.

  6. Loved your post so much I offer this in return

    Does that joke work in a comment section of a blog?

    As much as the internet has allowed us to globalize education it still requires balance of the senses. Quality conferences allow attendees to process strategies, techniques and experiment with peers. The current school system does not allow for daily PD due to never ending new initiatives, economic cycle instability and 'close your door to survive' leadership.

    It is the conference platform that still gets people out to collaborate, commiserate and innovate. Which in my opinion is essential for the human brain to process and evolve.

  7. My school barely spends money on conferences now a days....I've attended a few local ones and honestly haven't felt like I've learned anything new in awhile.

    Excited to be going to ISTE in June though - I've never been to a national conference! Hoping to be inspired!

  8. And here-in lies the rub. We aren't all at a place where education can be excellent- yet. But I think you are right, that frustration breeds innovation and a desire to do better. It is frustrating that not all schools can just pack up those ideas and bring them back home. But, a little at a time we will chip it down until it is a possiblity. BTW- you do an amazing job at this!


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