Sunday, June 16, 2013

Let's Go to a Conference!

Have you sung Mem Fox's Where Is The Green Sheep?
Miss Carole from Macaroni Soup here – with a dozen thoughts on how to get the most bang for your buck from YOUR learning experiences in the coming year.
    Most of us go to a conference or two each year.  Or we attend workshops, inservices, or trainings.  Whatever you call them, we go somewhere to learn something that will enhance our teaching! 
    I present over 75 workshops each year in various settings, and attend a few dozen being presented by others.  In today’s blog I’d like to initiate some brainstorming about what YOU’VE discovered about “going to meetings” that makes it more meaningful.
   Here are my thoughts on the subject.


1.  Read the description of what will be presented.  

Ok, this may sound silly, but I can’t tell you how many times after one of my Active Music workshops I’ve heard, “That was really great – but I had no idea we were going to be actually doing the music activities and singing so much!”  Uh, you were expecting I would describe what it would sound like, play recordings or just sing to you?  With session descriptions which include “participatory music”, “come prepared to move” and “learn by doing” – how could they be surprised?  Ah, they hadn’t read the description!
     Should you be lucky enough to get a conference program BEFORE arriving at the venue, give it a moment of your time.  It may have helpful details on how to get the most from your experience.    

2.  If you’re not familiar with the presenter or the subject matter, do a quick google search to be sure it is what you think it is.  This doesn’t mean you have to read every scholarly paper on the subject – just a quick skim will do.

3.  Make sure you’ve registered!  Sometimes you can save money by registering before a certain date.  You may also get closed-out of a popular session by waiting until the last minute.  
    Stow your registration document in a safe place.  Remember where the safe place is (that’s for folks like myself!)

4.  Write the date, time and location on your calendar.  We’re all really busy – and it’s easy to forget you signed up for something or double-book yourself. 

5.  Tell a colleague or friend about this opportunity!  It’s often more fun to go to a conference or workshop with someone.  Not only do you share the experience, you can help each other remember details about what you’ve heard by comparing notes.


6.  Set out what you need to take:
  •          Paper and pen for taking notes on what you hear – so that you can use it in your classroom!
  •          A water bottle – it’s easy to get worn out without proper hydration.
  •          A small snack – if it’s an all-day conference, you’ll want an energy bar or an apple for between workshops!
  •          A bag or backpack to carry around your “stuff”.
  •          Money – if you intend to purchase a wonderful cd, book, toy – or whatever might be offered.
  •          Comfortable clothes and shoes – nothing worse than being uncomfortable!  Bring an extra layer in case the room is chilly.

 7. Get a good night’s  
  I know it’s hard sometimes.  The kids need you.  You’ve got lessons to plan.  You need to see who the Bachelorette kicks off.  But you’re investing the time (and money) to go to a workshop and getting credit hours (I hope) for the training, please take the time to be in your best receptive mode.


8.  Get there on time!  You’ve committed to it – do it.  Give yourself time to find the venue, the room, the bathrooms, and settle in.

9.   Listen, learn and DO!  Take advantage of all the educational opportunities presented.  If there are chances to be a victim demonstrate a point the presenter is making – go for it!  Practice active listening.  Please don’t hold conversations with the folks around you.  Save networking time for before or after the presentation is over.

10.  Ask questions, comment or clarify what you don’t understand.        
    Presenters should be experts in their field, but we don’t know EVERYTHING.  If the presenter invites your input, don’t be shy!  Whether you’re a new teacher or someone with vast experience, you have something to offer.

11.  Use the time before/after the presentation to network with other attendees or the presenter.  Some of the most interesting people come to workshops, and you must have something in common because you chose the same workshop!  Be sure to shoot a brief email to them when you get home.

12.  Make a time to look over your notes, handouts or website connections.  
    Pick at least one thing you plan to use in the classroom TOMORROW!


 If that handout goes into a pile on your desk, it may take weeks before you look at it again.  By then, you may not remember how the song went, or what the presenter meant when he said, “Surprise them!”  Sure, that’s what you wrote in your notes, but did it mean you had to wear a bat costume and hang from the ceiling? 
    This is probably the part that I am worst at – the afterward.  I am trying to get better at it.

I’d love to know what tips YOU have for getting the most from a training, workshop or conference. Please comment on this blog!  Is this helpful?

    If you’d like to find out where I will be presenting a workshop, take a look at – the Event’sCalendar.  This year I’ll be in IA, IL, WI, NY, MA, RI, CA (so far!) – and still waiting to hear about NAEYC!  If you’d like to have a workshop about participatory, developmentally appropriate music that teachers love to use at your conference or school, contact me!  I travel all over the USA and abroad. 

Yours for a Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens

Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Kids!  

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