by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA
Standing alone in front of the room, I could feel all those eyes looking at me. Could I hold their attention and keep them engaged? Would they take something away from my lesson? Would they be inspired to continue their learning after they left?
This was not my classroom, where facing 34 bright, shining fifth-grade faces is something I do every day. This was a large meeting room at a conference center with more than 80 educators in attendance – and, as we all know, teachers can be the most difficult audience of all.
Yet there I was, poised to share some ideas I had used in my classroom with roughly 80 of my fellow educators.
Educational conferences can be amazing, invigorating events – you discover a wealth of new instructional strategies, learn about exciting technologies to enhance your lessons and collaborate with incredible educators offering ideas you’ve never before encountered.
But have you ever considered presenting at an educational conference?
“I can’t talk to a group of teachers!” … “Why would I do that?’ … “What on earth would I say?”
Before you reject the idea, consider this: every teacher has a trick or two that other teachers don’t know about. Every teacher has something to add to the conversation about new strategies for classroom management (and we need as many as we can get). Every teacher has experienced some real successes in the classroom that, if shared, might help other teachers and their students beyond our own classrooms
My district, Manteca Unified, is running our first MUSD Educator Conference this February. We put out a call to all 1100+ teachers and invited them to share an idea or lesson plan in either a 15-, 30- or 45-minute session. The logic is that teachers learn great strategies by observing other teachers, and it would be less overwhelming to stand in front of a room for short periodsd of time.
Now we have so many presenters, the district decided to create an app so that we can manage our conference day on our smart phones or other devices, just like at the big conferences!
We always say that our students really know a concept when they are able to teach it to another student. Why not apply that same idea to ourselves? The more we present ideas to other teachers, the more we model the kind of sharing and collaboration necessary for crafting a 21st Century classrom. We can’t do it alone, and getting into the habit of talking with and presenting to other teachers opens us to discovering more about what we teach and how we teach it.
As a frequent presenter, I find teachers often come forward after I’ve spoken (and sometimes while I’m speaking) to share their experiences and ideas. These interactions are valuable, as I not only glean some great ideas, but increase my personal learning network of involved educators as we share ideas, emails and much more.
Consider volunteering to present at the next grade level meeting, the next faculty meeting, or even the next local teachers conference at your county office of education. You will meet a lot of amazing educators, but you also might create a ripple effect. Your works could spark an idea in them or change the way they think about a subject or even a student.
When you present, you realize that those eyes staring at you are smiling, because they’re hoping they can learn something that will help their students become even more successful.
At the recent California Teachers Association 2015 Good Teaching Conference North, I decided to introduce Office Mix with a little humor. I created a Mix which had me talking to myself up on the screen, extolling the excellence of using Office Mix in the classroom. Not only did the teachers get a good laugh, but they also saw how easy and powerful the use of video can be through Office Mix!
Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., S.T.E.M. teaches 5th grade in Manteca Unified School District and Pre-Service Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin (Stockton, CA). She will be presenting at ISTE 2015, CUE 2015 and CTA Good Teaching North 2015. Tammy has presented for CTA Good Teaching North (2014), Cap CUE (2014), all three California Subject Matters Project Conferences, Capitol Area Science Education Leaders, and several San Joaquin County Office of Education events as well as others. She won the 2010 eInstruction $75,000 Classroom Makeover Video Contest, wrote a successful Enhancing Education Through Technology grant for Manteca Unified School District in 2008, and was Teacher of the Year in MUSD in 2006. She is on the MUSD Superintendent’s Technology Committee as the district embarks on their “Going Digital 2015” project.