Why I Love (and Hate) Professional Conferences

I’m in the middle of a two-week stint of attendance and presentation at a pair of conference for professional education organizations.  I found myself growing eager for the rejuvenating experience that I often enjoy at these events.  Like most teachers, I come away with exciting lesson ideas and validation about the way I teach.  Being at these conferences is rewarding and energizing.

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Except when it’s not.

Arriving at NMSA, I knew it was going to be a little more challenging than my last few conferences.  For starters, I didn’t know a single soul who would be attending the conference (Later, I learned that a few tweeps were there and we ended up doing the F2F thing a bit).  I had some time restraints, as well, that precluded me from attending as many sessions as I would have liked.  Moreover, finances were tight so I had to live on a very, very tight budget (almost ate a half-eaten sandwich I found on a bench).

But, the biggest problem was me.  I get bored easily by presentations that don’t provide any new information to me.  I also get irritated when a session doesn’t tell me anything I couldn’t find via a simple Google search.  On the other end of the spectrum, many talks were encouraging and forward-thinking, but geared to policy-makers.  I heard so much about compelling initiatives that I don’t have the authority to do in my classroom and can’t afford by myself, that it hurt my soul a little bit.  It is so frustrating to learn about programs that could be incredibly helpful to my students but that require entire school districts (or states!) to buy in before they can be implemented.

And so, I spent much of the two days sitting in rooms next to electrical outlets, charging my laptop and getting other work done.  In the end, I guess it was a productive time, but I can’t help but feel like I missed something.

What do you think about conferences?  Have I got it all wrong?

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