These days, I am an Educational Consultant for Outliers Publishing. I create leadership curriculum that pairs with the Outlier Series of leadership and career books. I also teach math courses at a local community college.
But I used to be a high school teacher. When I was teaching, I typically struggled finding the time to hunt down a quality conference for professional development. Let’s face it, between lesson planning, preparing, creation of material, tutoring and grading, teachers don’t have much time in the day to find quality events.
Personally, I have been both motivated and severely disappointed from conferences I attended in the past.
I remember once sitting at a conference and feeling like I wasted three days away from my students, and aforementioned mound of work, that would only grow bigger and harrier as I was away. Giving up classroom time to attend a conference is a big struggle for many teachers.
With so much material to teach and the worry of a substitute teaching the students correctly, many teachers shy away from taking time from classroom teaching for their own professional development.
But please don’t give up on good professional development opportunities!
Professional development can be a great tool for teacher’s to re-spark their creativity, learn innovative ideas, and rejuvenate their passion for teaching.
Because this is typically time of year you want to quit and go work on a cruise ship or become a flight attendant, we have put together a list of opportunities to register for ASAP.
Top Five Quality Teacher Conferences to Attend in 2016
- Conferences hosted by each national teacher organization. Each teaching organization, like National Council of Teachers of Mathematics or National Council of Teachers of English each hold their annual conventions. These typically are huge and host a combination of hot topics and relevant material with multiple targeted breakouts.
Each national council typically also has regional meets that may be easier for some teachers to attend. Here are some of the national council annual conferences you can catch (some have already passed like the annual conference for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics):
- National Council of Teachers of English: 2016 Annual Convention in Atlanta Georgia, November 17th-20th with workshops on November 17th and 20th-22nd.
- National Science Teachers Association: 5th Annual STEM Forum & Expo in Denver, Colorado from July 27th-29th.
- National Council for the Social Studies: The 2016 Annual Conference for NCSS will take place in Washington, DC from December 2nd to December 4th.
- iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium: iNACOL stands for International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
- Hosted in San Antonio, Texas from October 25th-28th.
- 200+ sessions with specific tracks for attendees to find something to fit their professional needs.
- Targets K- 12 educators, experts, practitioners, policy makers and researchers.
- The goal is to help attendees find positive networking opportunities and for attendees to be able to access “expertise, analysis and trends in competency-based, blended and online education.”
- The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Conference: The ASCD Conference centers around Teaching Excellence for all grade levels and subjects. Conference highlights:
- July 8th-10th, in New Orleans,
- 150+ sessions for attendees
- Topics include: “instructional strategies, engagement and motivation, lesson planning, assessment, leadership, professional learning, special populations, and more!”
- 3 pre-conference classes available for maximized learning.
- Learning Forward Conference: “collaborate with education leaders from around the world, [and] gain deep insight into the attributes of high-functioning school teams and learning communities.” Conference highlights:
- December 3rd and 7th, in Vancouver, British Columbia
- 1 day to 5 day options
- Don’t forget to grab your passport for this conference
- The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) Leadership Summit: teachers can attend this summit that brings together leaders from more than 40 state departments of education. Conference highlights:
- October 16th-19th in National Harbor, Maryland
- States sharing examples of policies and practices
- In-depth discussions on educational technology issues
- Student Voices Award and Panel
- Corporate presentations on innovative technologies that can be used in education
- Networking with state leaders
Five tips on finding quality local conferences:
- Research the speakers. It is helpful to research the speakers and even try to find a speech they have done on YouTube to see if you find them interesting and enjoy what they are saying. If you don’t like their “highlight reel”, you most likely won’t get a lot out of their breakouts.
- Find out how the conference is structured. Not all conferences have break out classes. Some only offer one option at any given time frame, so you can’t pick the topics that best apply to you. If the conference is focused enough on topics you’re interested in, this won’t be a problem. It is important to scope out the classes, topics, or breakouts at the conference to see if it will fit your needs for the whole time frame you are paying for.
- Don’t be afraid to go to conferences that are specific. If you want to find out more about something specific like how to better teach online students or new technology you can use in the classroom, hunt down conferences that are specific to your those needs.
- Send an e-mail out to colleagues and see if any of them have had quality experiences with specific conferences. Getting first hand recommendations from your colleagues can be a huge help. In your e-mail you can even ask them specific questions about a conference like was it grade specific and subject specific, did it offer break out chances, how did you like the speakers, what did you like most about it and least about it.
- Decide in advance what you want to learn about. This is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. If you sit down and make a list of how you want to grow as a teacher, you will be able to narrow in on conferences that will meet your needs easier.
Lastly, don’t forget to always check when your national conference has its regional conference. This should mean minimal traveling since they typically rotate between different cities; you may even find that the conference is in your state!
We would love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite conferences you have attended? What did you like most about them?