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Reflection on a Conference: The #SummerOfSummits

Here I was again. The time when everything started to come together, and the person I had fought to become could begin to reach beyond my own expectations. I knew this because I had felt this urge many times before: leaving home for college, moving to the West Coast to become a broadcaster, embarking on a career in education, and leaving the classroom to examine the big picture. Each time, I heeded the call to go beyond what I knew to pursue what I wanted.

Here I am in 2018, ready to establish myself my own brand of influence in education, outside of what is historically considered instructional leadership. Instead of "moving on" from where I've come from, I adopted the mentality of "building on". I sought to leverage my past successes, failures, and experiences as resources as opposed to leaving them behind as anecdotes of a past life. In doing so, I discovered a capacity to establish a new kind of reputation to, as I have heard from several of my district colleagues, take ideas that seem markedly complex and make them simple and clear.

This was my goal for the #SummerOfSummits, a stretch where I presented and attended nearly a half-dozen conferences and education summits from the end of the '17-'18 school year. I sought to share the initial sessions of my independent presenting career ("Same or Different" and "Tips & Techniques When Presenting Video"), and obtain insights to share with my colleagues at Stiern Middle School in my role as an academic coach.

I previously wrote about my experience with the EdTechTeam California Summit, and over the last three weeks I've had the opportunity to attend and present at three others:

Bakersfield City School District Summer Institute

My main lenses through which I have viewed most of my educational career have been math instruction and technology integration, and my foray into academic coaching has given me license to explore additional subject areas. Since deciding to dedicate my summer to my own personal development, I used the opportunity to attend our district's summer PD session solely as a participant in support of our teachers at Stiern Middle School. In focusing my session attendance toward ELA and Science, two themes stood out as common with math. The first of which is the neverending balance seesaw between teacher as a facilitator and teacher as an expert. The most popular ELA and Science sessions were those that respectively addressed read-alouds to model literacy and lesson design that promotes exploration of a task before diving into concepts. As with math, there is a struggle with messaging that abounds with instructional approaches: none is a panacaea, all are tools that have a place when the need calls for it. Many times, PD on an instructional strategy feels like introducing a chainsaw, then feeling like you need to use only chainsaws.

Westside School Districts Summer Institute

In a similar fashion, nearly two dozen school districts in Western Kern County pooled resources to deliver a conference-style three day PD event in Bakersfield. As part of EdTech Day, I shared techniques for presenting video in class. Despite the technical nature of the session, I think the most valuable piece is diving into cognitive theory of multimedia learning. In a future post, I hope to dive deeper into the impact of the theory espoused by Dr. Richard Meyer. To summarize my biggest takeaways: 1) Avoid going Full Screen. 2) If students will be answering a question based on the video, post the questions near the video that will play as a point of reference and purpose.

EdTechTeam Bakersfield Summit

This was my third EdTechTeam Summit, and in this span I've noticed that the presenters have a penchant for delivering some captivating keynotes.

  • George Barcenas stealing the show from minute one with his tale of his migrant family's struggle with cultural identity told through the lens of education (delivered for the first time with his father in attendance for the first time).

  • Jessica Loucks highlighting the power and art of improv in teaching, spotlighting the case studies of Saturday Night Live, Improv Everywhere, and Second City, and connecting the idea of "And Yes" to Makerspaces and Creator Culture.

  • G Bundy launching into a multi-pedal solo jazz improv set AND tying it into his mobile makerspace, and concluding with a workshop piece that secured a greenlight for "The Greatest Showman".

Though the focus was branded as tech integration, these are the storytellers that continue to inspire me, and the professionals that drive me to expand my sphere of influence beyond the comfort of district boundaries, in order to serve my students and teachers.

The momentum from the #SummerOfSummits in crafting the message of my work leads into an entry that I hadn't considered as part of this itinerary, but serves as a natural destination: our beginning-of-the-year PD at Stiern.

Stiern Middle School LCAP Day

This was the first PD of the year with many new faces, a brand new principal and vice principal, and my first school year launch as an academic coach. When asked to co-present Collaborative Conversations with our new principal, I proposed sharing "Same or Different" as a model discourse structure. I was the most nervous presenting in front of my school-site peers, and their engagement and insight into the topic was the most gratifying and confirming experience of my post-classroom career. The feedback on a topic I had spent the better part of the last year exploring validated my shift into coaching, and for the first time in a long time I carry not only a confidence in my capacity to support others but the trust of my colleagues and admin to contribute.

Here's to a wonderful new school year!


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