|2012-11-04||Steve Gardiner||Add a Voice to the Dialogue|
Every October, the Montana Education Association (MEA-MFT) sponsors a two-day teachers' convention to give the state's teachers a chance to get together to talk about education. In addition to well-known keynote speakers, the event features breakout presentations by many teachers from across the state.
While I enjoy the keynote speakers, it is the presentations by my fellow teachers that move me the most. Those talks feature specific actions that have worked in classrooms for the presenter and usually give the attendees something to take home that they can use Monday morning. It is the edge where theory meets application. This is valuable stuff.
In most cases, it is clear that the presenters bring their best ideas and have spent considerable time preparing their presentations. It is a chance for them to give back ideas to the profession and help others from around the state become better teachers.
I have spoken several times at the MEA convention, usually about my passion for sustained silent reading (SSR) in the classroom. Other times I have talked about National Board Certification, writing for publication, and student motivation. Each time I volunteer to share, I have a moment of wondering why I go to the trouble of doing so. It often takes hours to collect the materials, organize the presentation, set up the Power Point, and prepare the comments. I also find that on the day I present, my mind is focused on the topic I will present. It is then very difficult to attend someone else's presentation when I am so distracted over my own. Being a presenter, then, limits my own experience as a teacher attending, but overall, sharing ideas with colleagues outweighs the inconveniences.
It is a great experience to begin a presentation and enter into a professional dialogue with people who share the same interests and classroom situations. It is a chance to build professional relationships and share what has been tested in the classroom. The questions and comments that other teachers bring to a presentation more than make up for the time and energy that go into creating the presentation. I have often found myself thinking about those questions and comments for days or weeks after I present.
Even though the teachers in the audience are from the same state, differences in each community lend a perspective to a presentation that can give it a new meaning. These dialogues and professional conversations are a gift for both the attendees and the presenters.
It takes time to think of a topic, pull together the related ideas, and set up a presentation; however, the benefits for everyone involved are worth it. As teachers, we should help each other and make each other's jobs easier. One way to do this is to get involved in local and state teachers' conventions and volunteer to make presentations. Adding a voice to the dialogue is a rewarding experience.