Driving north on the Thruway, I take a deep breath and am conscious of my heavy sigh. After squeezing in last minute college essay conferences, encouraging seniors to finish their Naviance forms and grading papers, I am satisfied that my long day of work is finished. I have left lesson plans behind. A whirlwind of running off essay questions for one prep and activity questions for my other classes has left my head spinning. (Often, I have complained it is more work to prepare for a substitute than it is to deliver a lesson.)
Seeing a guidance counselor about an issue in one class and touching base with an administrator for something else are just some of the last minute steps I have had to take prior to departing. At last, I am heading toward Albany with the Monroe Woodbury School District behind me.
My destination is the NYSEC English teacher’s annual conference. The leaves are amazing; the fall foliage is at its peak. I breathe in again and exhale. I need this change of pace. Such colors. The sky is a crisp blue and the leaves vibrantly contrast in reds and yellows. Just driving in the car reminds me that it is time to relax. I put the day’s scramble behind me and move on.
Upon arrival, I rush to the conference registration table to receive my program. Not only am I amazed by the amount of workshops to choose from, but also I am pleased to see that Kate Melendez, a Monroe Woodbury graduate has designed the cover for the conference brochure. Executive board member for NYSEC and English department chair for Monroe Woodbury, Michelle Bulla is beaming with pride as she displays the original artwork of her former student on a pedestal. Meeting up with colleagues, we excitedly begin mapping out the workshops we will attend. I am thrilled to learn that such esteemed writers as Linda Rief, Laura Robb and Chris Crutcher are keynote speakers at this conference. Michaela Caruso, an English teacher at MW is also presenting at the conference. Such an experience is valuable for affirmation and stimulation to a teacher. I am proud of her achievement.
Attending this conference is especially rewarding to me. My energies are renewed and my ideas are revitalized. Being somewhat overwhelmed by APPR, SLOs and all the other paperwork that interferes with my desire to deliver insightful instruction and hinders my rapport with students, I find attending a professional conference to be extremely important. Attending workshops on relevant and innovative ways of approaching curriculum is enriching. One such insight that spoke to me was a workshop titled: Using a Multi-Perspective Analysis of Literacy in Instruction. I am provided with tools to change what I am currently doing. I will now be able to increase my students’ critical consciousness while using material that I currently teach. This is just one of the benefits of attending a conference.
Meeting instructors from around the state and learning from their shared experience is inspiring. Networking with professors from colleges and other professionals increases the effectiveness of all who attend. Professional development augments a teacher’s repertoire and brings innovative ideas to the classroom. As a beginning teacher, I relied heavily on my colleagues for advice, criticism and materials to meet my needs and my students’ needs. As I became more proficient, I reached out to other teachers to assist in their development as new teachers. As I have aged, I find it necessary to continue changing what I do. The tried and true can become mundane. Anything done too many times can become overdone. Attending conferences is the perfect way to stimulate change and to increase my capacity to bring the best instruction possible to my students. My advice to all teachers is to join a professional organization, find a relevant conference to attend, meet colleagues from around the state and get involved in the future of best practices. Run a workshop, take a workshop, read a professional journal. There is much to be gained.
by Carol Durkin, Fall, 2015