This week is the ESEA Conference in Indianapolis. I’m glad it is here because I can sleep in my own bed every night, but also sad it is here because I already know this city. The conference will last all week with several thousand attendees. Today was a pre conference day with policy makers, the main conference begins tomorrow.
Although I am very much an introvert, I’ve always enjoyed conferences. My first conference was NCTE in Nashville as an undergrad. From there I was hooked. I attended (and sometimes presented at) NCTE, NCTM, ASCD, IRA, and ISTE, along with attending smaller regional conferences, as a classroom teacher and administrator. Now that I’m at the state level, I now am able to attend CCSSO meetings/conferences, legal forums, and the ESEA conferences.
There is something about being around like-minded professionals. Each of us are able to commiserate on our challenges—we know what the other deals with on a day-to-day basis. Some of our challenges might be staffing, experience of teams, changes in leadership, and interpreting policies.
There is a flip side as well. Although our challenges may be similar, we are also able to bring a new idea to the table. We can discuss what has worked, or not worked. What strategies moved the needle for student achievement? What technical assistance did the field respond best to over time? And many other issues as well.
Even though as an introvert, being around people, having to interact and be “on” for the day, usually wears me out, I leave conferences feeling quite energized. I think it is because of all the great ideas that are either shared, or my brain makes connections to create new potential ideas to run by my team to try. It also allows me, and other attendees, to build relationships and supports that may be helpful in the future.
It was a very long day, but I’m ready to go back to see what tomorrow holds. Hope you too are able to find your tribe at a conference and feel rejuvenated, ready to face the challenges and celebrations in your job.