It’s hard to believe that more than a week has already passed since the final day of NTAC 2012. I find it unbelievable how long it takes after being gone to catch up at home (For only living 115 miles from Grand Rapids, it’s unreal how much I still had to do to “catch up!). Now that the dust has settled and I have had a chance to reflect on this year’s (awesome) New Tech Annual Conference, three things stick out:
• NTAC is like going to summer camp. Conferences like NTAC are more enjoyable when there are plenty of familiar, friendly faces and a person understands what is going on. Last year, I attended NTAC on the “new teacher” track. I had no clue who anyone outside of my own school was. I hadn’t met my school’s New Tech coach. I was convinced that all the smiling people had drunk some special Kool-Aid and I wanted the week to be over quickly. This year, I wasn’t ready for the three days to end! It felt like a family reunion for educators. At the end of the week, I found myself smiling and figured that if I had joined in drinking of the New Tech “Kool-Aid,” then it was okay because it was good for me.
• NTAC is about encouraging each other to be the best educators possible. It was great to be in an environment where each presenter’s main goal was not to brag about him or herself, but to share of him or herself for the sake of bettering everyone else’s teaching. From sessions addressing the esoteric details of classroom management or the abstracts of design thinking, to the Ignite talks on Thursday morning (Theresa, if you see this, you should know that your bridges and fences talk was the bomb!), everything was about what we as educators have the ability to do to push students to become better, deeper learners.
• NTAC is about pushing us to walk through the same steps we want our students to walk. Project units begin with a problem. The teaching process begins with a problem or an issue. Project units involve a process of creation, critique from self and others, review and revision, and reflection. The teaching process involves a process of creation, critique from self and others, review and revision, and reflection. It sank in when I arrived late a few minutes to a session. After listening to the last part of presenter’s anecdote because I had missed the first, I realized he was describing his reflection process, not what he had his students go through at the end of a unit. A light bulb moment occurred in that instant. If I can’t be reflective about my own teaching, how can I expect my students to be reflective about their own learning?
NTAC is a conference that is deceptively good about disguising deep thinking as fun. With takeaways concerning among other things the importance of reflection, creating an environment of encouragement, not being afraid to take educational risks, those three days in mid-July will not only impact the next 186 days of school, but many years to come.
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