I just returned from my first NCTM Conference in San Diego. I was fortunate to be able to attend with my friend and coworker Amy. Gotta say, being able to meet up with old “friends” I’d never met was a good thing too.
The most immediately valuable aspect of the conference for me was the conversations I had with Amy as we debriefed each night. Having someone to talk and reflect with has become a necessary part of any learning experience for me. I also think our attending together will be helpful as we return to school and are able to remind one another of what we liked and planned to do with what we learned. She’s smart. She keeps me on my toes. I’m lucky to work with and learn from her. Everyone should have an Amy in their department.
As for conferencing, I learned I need to have a better system for taking notes. By the time we left on Saturday, many of the sessions were jumbled up in my mind. As I began trying to type up the specific session reflections, I realized I had haphazard notes on my laptop, comments scrawled on session handouts, phrases on my iPhone, and random comments I’d made on Twitter that I somehow need to try to piece together into a coherent semblance of thought. I need a system. As always, suggestions are welcome.
When I was attending sessions solo or standing in line at Starbucks (I did a lot of that), I would start chatting with the random people around me. I had some interesting conversations. Overall impressions were that the elementary ed people were happy with the sessions they attended, while the secondary ed folks seemed to have a more hit or miss experience. I met a lot of very nice high school teachers who were frustrated with some of the more lofty-theory type sessions: “How am I supposed to change this system, policy, structure, …, whatever as ‘just’ a classroom teacher.” or “I want something I can take back to my classes on Monday.”
Too many of the sessions I went to spent at least the first twenty of the sixty minutes setting up the need for whatever point they were trying to make. Yes, I know that we are… doing poorly on the TIMSS/getting some new common standards soon/teaching computation with little conceptual understanding/teaching in a flat world/training the students for jobs that don’t yet exist/ … /whatever crisis you want to use to make your point. But get to the point. Sooner. PLEASE. I sat in one session for twenty minutes without ever figuring out what the presenter meant by her title. I wasn’t sure she was every going to get there, so I left. Maybe I need to learn to be a bit more patient, but I’m not sure that will actually happen, so if you’re presenting, GET TO THE POINT.
Another issue was that too many of the presenters ran out of handouts. But don’t worry, if you email them next week, they’ll send them to you as a .pdf. (I find it ironic that those who spoke of the flattening of the world were some of the same who’d email you the handouts. Although it could be worse – they all could have had this option). There were a few that were able to provide a website with links. Crazy idea: maybe next year we can have actual links to session materials on the NCTM conference site.
Oh, and WiFi would be nice.
Overall, I’m glad I went. I did learn. I’ll be writing more detailed descriptions soon. After I get caught up on planning and the return to the real world. And after I make some sense of my “notes”.