Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Educon Thoughts - Thanks and Miscellaneous Awesome Sauce

I had the pleasure of heading to Philly last weekend to attend Educon, an education conference hosted by the staff and students of the Science Leadership Academy. My thoughts before, during, and after the conference are scattered, to say the least. Maybe it was the fact that I got nailed with a stomach bug just before arriving in Philly so I missed Friday and was in mostly a fog on Saturday.... Regardless, I think I'm going to break my scattered reactions into several shorter posts, instead of rambling like a madman.

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to Chris Lehmann and the rest of the staff and students of SLA for hosting the event. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself, your staff, and your students out front and center for a group of highly intelligent educators from all over the country. The flexibility of the planners was outstanding and the conference had a wonderful, laid-back feeling. The vibe of the school is very powerful- pulsing with energy and filled with awesome kids.

I want to say thanks to all those awesome, smart folks that made it. Not only those facilitating discussions, but those that really spoke up and pushed the debate and thinking. I regret to say I wasn't feeling up to this, but will certainly throw my hat in the ring next time more fervently! I went to three sessions on Saturday:

1- Gary Stager's presentation on Reggio Emmilia preschools. I love the model of learning described within. There are many lessons to be learned here, and I am happy that my own daughter attends a preschool that shares a lot of the same qualities as these amazing examples in Italy. Very student centered, taking long looks and attempts at projects, letting the pace flow from the children instead of a script or pacing guide. The really groundbreaking piece was how these exemplar schools were such an important part of the larger community they were a part of. I really enjoyed that. Plus this was the first I'd been in a session with Gary, and he lived up to what I expected- smart, funny, abrupt. Works for me.

2- In this session, I went to hear from the two student co-chairs of SLA, Cody N and Alaya. I hated missing Friday because the main thing I wanted to do was speak more to the kids....after all, that's where you get the real scoop on a school- by probing the students themselves. These two students were very impressive and excellent leaders. They handled themselves very well. I learned about the SLA selection process here, which was the big piece I had questions about, as my school embarks on turning itself into a magnet school next year, much like SLA. Stay tuned for the next post on this...

3- This was a cool session. Since my school is turning into a STEM school next year, I took the opportunity to listen to a mathematician speak about K-12 education and how important math is in the picture. It was headed by Dr. Idris Stovall, a math professor from the University of Pennsylvania. The conversation in the room flowed wonderfully, with lots of folks taking things in different directions, which worked just fine for Dr. Stovall, who rolled with the punches! We talked about why it seems to be ok in the US for people to say they simply can't do math. We shouldn't stand for this... We talked about how important math and mathematical thinking is to the jobs of the future. In the end, my mind had a lot to chew on as we embark on the M piece of the STEM puzzle.

Saturday night was a blast as well! After going out to dinner with my sister (and actually eating something...for the first time in more than 2 days..) I met up with the Educon peeps at the Field House. It was great seeing some old friends as well as meeting some cool new folks as well. I got to finally meet @plugusin, otherwise known as Bill Ferriter, and we got to speak about writing, our books, and what kinds of projects we're heading toward. I met Meredith Stewart from the Cary Academy, Larry Fliegs, Carey Phoanka, Chad Evans, and a bunch more. I also got to reconnect with others... And even though I missed karaoke, I know when I come back in Philly the party will once again be hearty.. And I'm looking forward to it!

Thanks again to SLA and all those that came to connect and share!

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