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From Celebration to Action

The sixth annual WNET Celebration of Teaching and Learning took place last week in New York. The purpose of the celebration is laudable: to celebrate teachers and the teaching profession.

The Celebration allows educators to, in the words of conference chairs Neal Shapiro and Jane Williams, "imagine new possibilities for teaching and learning." Due to significant corporate, foundation, and professional organizations and union support, participants were treated to opportunities to interact with education "celebrities," learn about new resources for enriching their classrooms, and be inspired by the work of great educators.

Teachers and the important work they do every day was the focus of the event. And the important contribution that professional development plays in supporting innovation, improvement, and effectiveness was a key message. I was proud to attend and present at this year's conference as part of a session discussing the newly released MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.

Teachers were exposed to new ideas and resources at the Celebration. To transition these ideas into action, attendees will need opportunities to consider how they relate to their immediate needs; discuss them with others; examine their appropriateness for their contexts; determine what is necessary to implement them with fidelity; and know where they can go for support if things do not go as they have planned.

I call on those who attended the Celebration, and those who supported their attendance at this and other educational conferences, to take these follow-up actions seriously. We must document outcomes from investments in conference attendance.

I also invite attendees of this conference and others to consider the following actions as strategies for demonstrating how conference attendance can contribute to an overall successful approach to professional development.

  • Send a thank you note to the person most responsible for your attendance, and share something you will do differently as a result of your attendance.

  • Choose a person who helped organize the conference, locate his or her address, and write a note about the importance of their contribution to the success of the conference.

  • Write one of the key conference funders and describe the impact it had on you.

  • Share with one presenter what you intend to do with the information you gained from his or her presentation.

  • Tell your students and parents about what you learned and what you will use as a result of your attendance.

These actions may help to ensure that the Celebration and similar experiences continue to be accessible to educators, and resources continue to be allocated to support them. While businesses and school systems across the country struggle to allocate fewer resources in ways that produces increasing results, let's make sure they understand the important contribution opportunities for professional development such as the Celebration make to student achievement.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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