« RTI Pointers | Main | It's About the Questions »

Keynote Fatigue


Live from NSDC, St. Louis-I'm a newbie to the NSDC "big" conference, although I've been hearing about it for years--its size, scope and innovative practice in professional learning for educators. It takes a good twenty minutes to even understand the twists and turns of registration--NSDC puts its standards into practice by offering extended learning sessions, eschewing drive-by learning snacks in favor of reflection, conversation and substance. One of my personal questions about this conference is: Do conference participants, trained through decades of 6-period days and 55-minute content dumps, really embrace slow and deep learning?

The opener keynoter is Tony Wagner, one of the Big Names in education conferences, a well-known, Harvard-based 21st century learning guru. The question floats around the breakfast table: Who's heard Tony Wagner before? Lots of folks, in fact. More about Tony Wagner's presentation later--there are lots of juicy content bits, some new and some familiar--but the man who introduces Wagner makes a crack about the fact that Tony is "still recovering" from being a HS English teacher. Wagner takes the stage and repeats the joke. Considering that the room is filled with people like him--former teachers, now in jobs where they approve their own travel vouchers and have access to wonderful, energizing conferences on a regular basis--it's no surprise that calling himself a recovering teacher draws laughter, twice.

In her greeting to the membership, NSDC Executive Director Stephanie Hirsh notes that 1.5% of the average school budget is dedicated to professional development. How much of that ridiculously tiny amount is now being spent on a breakfast-with-speaker for one or two people in a district? Collecting a list of inspirational speakers (and Wagner does stimulate some interesting thinking)--is that how we change practice?

Looking forward to thinking more about how good ideas generated and shared at a conference make it into classrooms, used daily by teachers who have not "recovered."


Odd how those who have "recovered" from teaching - or as I always say have "fled from teaching" - turn to being the ones who want to tell those of us who stay in teaching how to do our jobs better.

Also interesting how those who CAN go to these "exciting" national conferences about teaching are (for the most part) the central office people - NOT the teachers! Yes, there are some teachers who get to attend NSCD, but very few. It is, after all, for "staff developers", those wonderful people who are going to 'develop' the staff. For the most part their paycheck depends on THEM doing it, not teachers collaborating among themselves, right?

It always amazed me how staff developers could learn more about what I needed in my teaching practice by going to a conference like this than I myself knew about what I needed. Very interesting.

Thanks for your perceptive comment, Kelly. Over the two days, I heard often, from speakers and presenters, about the importance of deep learning for teachers, taking the time to collaborate and share best practices in teaching. I must have heard "job-embedded" 20 times.

I think professional development specialists (and principals and curriculum directors) DO understand the critical importance of asking teachers what they need. But their own jobs are structured in ways that make them come to conferences the way I go to the grocery store--picking up items and putting them in my basket to keep my family fed is job #1, and thinking about nutrition, well-being, the impact on the planet of what we eat, etc. comes much later.

People find it hard to get out of "urgent" mode (especially these days) and focus on "important." And so it goes with conferences.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Nancy Flanagan: Thanks for your perceptive comment, Kelly. Over the two days, read more
  • Kelly Mueller: Odd how those who have "recovered" from teaching - or read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here