This week, I attended sessions about:
- Making Home Visits (1 hour)
- Six Trait Writing (90 minutes)
- Beginning the School Year (3 hours)
- Interactive Journals (1 hour)
I especially liked the sessions about Six Trait Writing and Beginning the Year. Not only were there some ideas presented, but I enjoyed spending time with some of my peers in our school that I don't see very much due to our schedules and locations in the building.
I also presented sessions with the following titles:
- Using ClassDojo (1 hour, presented thrice)
- A Website that Works (1 hour, presented twice)
- The Ron Clark Academy Experience Plus (1 hour, presented thrice)
- Competition Math League (1 hour)
- Make Mathematics Great Again (3 hours)
While I enjoy sharing, my presentations about the Ron Clark Academy and Making Math Great were my favorites as a presenter. These were the sessions I was the most comfortable with, and I felt they were received with attention and wonder. Attenders demonstrated interest, asked questions, and genuinely applauded at the end as if I had shown them something they could use during the school year.
Summer Institute was an opportunity to share with teachers outside of Cecil Floyd and teachers outside of fourth grade. It has been a long time since I've presented to these types of groups, as the district has not provided such an opportunity for a while. As such, some of the people in our sessions were unfamiliar with me, my classroom, my experiences, and the topics at hand. Some had not heard of Ron Clark. Others have never used ClassDojo. As far as Making Math Great, most of that material was developed solely by me, so everything was fresh for participants.
Years ago, when I would present to middle or high school teachers, they would look down their noses at me (as an elementary grunt). They paid no attention to the guy who only teaches ten-year-olds. After all, what could I possibly have to say that would be relevant to seventh graders, right? This week, however, I heard them express their wonder as I presented tools and structures they could apply to their classes. I certainly hope they will.
Teachers also gave me direct input and ideas for different ways in which to use the structures I presented - other Math applications, as well as ways in which we might apply those structures in areas outside of Math. I knew, when teachers were dreaming up creative uses for my tools, that they were listening with appreciation. Some expressed their appreciation for my classes and respect for this extensive website.
On Wednesday, I taught six hours worth of classes, and some teachers staying for all four of my sessions. A few even skipped their scheduled classes to stay in mine. While I am flattered, I don't mention this to brag in any way, but to emphasize that there was value in the manner in which the Summer Institute was managed, this year. I feel as if:
- I have something to offer in a setting such as this one.
- teachers need to hear from veteran teachers like myself.
- there is a need for teachers to feel like the person standing in front of the room knows a thing of two and has the confidence in his material.
- there needs to be a setting in which participants can interact with the presenter and not just receive a lecture.
- teachers are longing for some guidance from within the district and not from some hired guru.
- teachers appreciate being treated as important professionals and not all forced into the same mold.
- teachers can be creative when given the opportunity and proper guidance.
The week after school is over for the summer is probably not the ideal time to hold a professional development fair such as Joplin's Summer Institute. Much of the information dispersed during this week fell upon receptive ears, but will nevertheless be lost by the time school begins again in August. Hopefully, however, there will be a spark left over with which a great educational blaze can be spread. I was happy to be a part of this year's professional development fair, and I look forward to reaching out in similar fashion, a year from now.
For now, I'll be toting my own children to church activities, Bible Camps, Vacation Bible Schools, Summer School, and selected online and home-school coursework. I will also spend most Sunday mornings preaching for congregations in Columbus, Kansas and Grove, Oklahoma. There may be some day trips and multi-day trips along the way as we relax over the season, but for the most part, we'll be around, here and there and everywhere.