NCTE, IRA, HSTW, AMLE, NAGC, NAIS, NAEP, ASCD, NBCT, ATEG . . . there are so many choices.
As a teacher and curriculum author, I have attended countless professional conferences in the past 25 years.
Usually I return inspired, recharged, and informed. There's nothing like a conference to get me out of a rut--to help me see beyond the walls of my own classroom. (As an added bonus, I've enjoyed seeing some cities I probably wouldn't have visited otherwise!)
Professional growth is crucial for all educators. Taking graduate classes and working on my National Board Certification helped me become a better teacher by forcing me to evaluate my practices and by reminding me of what it means to be a learner. Conferences are a great way to enjoy similar experiences without the long-term commitment and expense!
I like attending practical sessions that motivate and prepare me to implement new strategies in my classroom. National conferences provide a wide range of valuable sessions. Although state conferences can't offer as many different choices, I've found that the sessions they do schedule are often more applicable and less theoretical.
If you've never presented at a conference, consider doing so. Professionals should want to share with other professionals. And your school system might be more willing to pay your conferences expenses if you present.
While national conferences usually have earlier proposal deadlines and accept a smaller percentage of proposals, state conferences provide an easier (and less intimidating) avenue for becoming a presenter.
I always discover quality, innovative resources while wandering through the conference exhibit hall. Yes, I can look at just about any educational resource online. I can even peek inside books and read reviews by other readers online. But in the exhibit hall I discover products I might have never known about otherwise. I also get to put my hands on the books and other classroom materials.
I like to speak to the representatives at the booths. Granted, their goal may be to sell me their products; but as experts on the materials they sell, they can also answer my questions. And I can peruse the products in their entirety and get a better feel for the overall philosophies of the companies.
Exhibitors give away lots of free stuff, too!
Often I make positive and meaningful connections with other professionals at conferences. I have maintained friendships with many of these educators over the years, and we enjoy reunions each time we find ourselves at the same conference again.
In fact, at one recent conference, I reconnected with a former student who is now a teacher herself! Hearing about her classroom experiences inspired me and reminded me that, one way or another, we are all preparing each one to teach one.
School budgets are tight, and many teachers are experiencing pay cuts and furloughs. But if you haven't attended a professional conference lately (or ever), make every effort to do so. I recently met a teacher from Trinidad and Tobago who attends a national conference every ten years because that's how long it takes her to save up for the next one!
Don't want to wait ten years? Look for a less expensive state conference or even a national conference coming to a venue near you. Drive in each day to save on hotels, airfare, and food. Driving also allows you to haul home more freebies from the exhibit hall. I've brought back tables, desks, and more books and posters than I can count--just one more benefit of attending a conference!
Win This Shirt!
If you've ever visited DGP Publishing at a conference, you've probably seen this shirt. For a chance to win one, post a comment telling readers what YOUR favorite professional conference is and why!
By the way, DGP Publishing will be at NAGC, AMLE, and NCTE in November 2013. Please stop by and say hello!