What I learned from the AERA conference…

SL and I went to San Francisco to present our work at the American Education Research Association (AERA) conference.  AERA, a national research society, strives to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.  The conference had a very large amount of educational policy writers, researchers, and professors.  SL and I were in the EXTREME minority of practicing teachers.  While I understand we did not represent the intended audience of the conference, it is a bit … sad … to have such a large education conference without teachers.  I’ve never been to a conference that didn’t give me positive energy and push me to think more about my place in the field. 

This is what we look like.

Look! We are listed! It’s official!

Our panel presentation was well received.  Our discussant, Ann Lieberman, recommended additional readings and pushed us to think about the social (and not just individual) aspects of teacher leadership.  Attendees asked us questions along the lines of how to do we differentiate leading adults versus teenagers, which amused me.  Days that I treat my students more like functioning adults rather than adults-in-training have better results.  PDs and meetings that I plan for like I am planning a sub-sep class seem to run better than those I plan for as if they are just meetings.  So perhaps I need to think more about what leading adults versus kiddos actually looks like.  All of this work started with a group of East Coast teacher leaders who I am always in awe of whenever I check in with them. 

And, of course, the conference made me think about many things about me, my profession, and my classroom.

1.  It was a bit weird to attend a conference about education without many teachers (as I stated above).  This thought leads me to believe I need to involve students in more school-wide decisions.  I need to think about what sorts of scaffolding I need to provide to students so they understand the norms and traditions of typical meetings and so they feel comfortable participating in decision-making situations.  I am continuing to think on this.

2.  Perhaps I should read more scholarly works about my field.  I mean, I looooove reading blogs, NCTM and ASCD articles, and PD books, but I feel this conference reminded me there are people who are “representing” my voice and I should probably stay on top of what they are saying.

3.  I need to continue to process my whiteness professionally.  Because the organization’s focus this year centered around poverty, there were many panels about race and class.  I enjoyed participating in conversations about preparing pre-service teachers for urban teaching, helping students think about the many aspects of their identity, and structuring anti-oppression teaching.  In one particular panel, the chair stated it was intended NOT to follow typical panel etiquette (silence while the presenter speaks, questions during the set aside time, and praise when the session concluded), instead she wanted to set up a Baptist Church environment (introductions which highlighted accomplishments and various ways of verbally and visually announcing one’s agreement to whatever was currently being stated).  The panel was a much more celebratory feel of the work being presented and reminded me of my classes in BPS.  I need to continue to draw on all of my educational experiences and backgrounds to build a culturally responsive classroom.  

4.  I need to continue my development of scaffolding that help students be successful in a variety of settings.  I want to not only think about what sorts of things will help students think about the math but also how to communicate their thinking to others.  Social and scholarly behaviors objectives need to become crisper and more transparent to the students.  

Hooray for conferences!  I am eager to continue to process the experience and think about what future work may stem from here.

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