A first time for everything #iste18 #wcpssiste18

A first time for everything #iste18 #wcpssiste18

Today is the last day of ISTE.  I’ve learned my lesson and am sitting in the first session of the day (8:30am) 45 minutes early.  Unfortunately, lines have been part of the memorable experience that is ISTE.  Even with the lines, it has been a fabulous experience and my mind is so full of ideas and promise.  I’m already excited for #ISTE19.

As a first timer, I was quickly overwhelmed with the whole conference.  I spent some time reflecting on the Uber to McCormick Place on what recommendations I would make to future first timers.

First, don’t let yourself feel any pressure to get more out of the conference than you can.  I understand that if your school or district is paying for you to attend, there might be some expectation of making it worth their while.  Yes, get as much out of the conference as you can, but don’t stress yourself out doing it.  Following Twitter, seeing all the lines, overhearing excited conversations, seeing people walking around with great swag can make you feel like you’re missing something.  No matter how hard you work to pack learning into every minute, you are STILL going to miss something.  So embrace the FOMO.  Plan a full day, but also don’t hesitate to plan a break and/or processing time.  Whatever the number of sessions you attend, you are walking away with some amazing learning.  Focus on what you got and how to take it back over what you missed.

Second, think about your conference strategy.  What are you here to get?  For me personally, this year, I focused on learning and sessions.  I know there is SO MUCH more including networking, the Expo Hall, before and after hours social events but I needed to get comfortable with the conference itself before I could tackle some of the other things.  I’m hitting up the Expo Hall today, on the last day, but I’m not walking in with any expectations.  With a billion vendors, all I’m looking to do is explore the layout, get a feel for how things work, and maybe pick up a free gift or two.  (C’mon, we all know teachers LOVE their free stuff.)   It’s OK to not do everything.

Think about what kinds of topics you want to learn about.  Browse through the conference schedule to get a feel for what’s being offered and go from there.  I knew I wanted to hit up some AR/VR sessions so I found a couple of those to add to my calendar.  Don’t get overwhelmed with the HUNDREDS of session offerings.  It is literally a logistical nightmare trying to decide which session to attend at which time.  I relied heavily on the ISTE app using the Favorites and Agenda feature.  I browsed through the session offerings for the day and anything that sounded interesting and related to my goals, I favorited.  Once narrowed down, it was much easier to decide what to attend and when and these were added to my agenda, almost as a “final draft”.  Also, be prepared with a backup plan.  If your session fills up, be ready with a second choice.

I’m not sure if this is the case for all ISTE conferences, but the lines for sessions were an issue this year, especially anything from Google and Apple.  If you want to get into the Google sessions, plan on getting there at least an hour early.  Apple sessions sold out almost immediately in the morning, so go EARLY to get tickets.

Hit up the Poster sessions.  Seriously.  They’re basically like big science fairs around different themes.  For instance there were poster sessions on STEM/STEAM, Early Learning, Libraries and Media, Coaching, etc.  I was skeptical as I am not great at talking with strangers and I love a sit and get lecture, but some of the best learning was here.    I found it easy to talk to the “presenters” and networked like crazy here.

All in all, I had a blast.  Some sessions were better than others, which is to be expected, but I am walking away with so many ideas and so many things I can’t wait to take back to my team.  I am very fortunate that I have been able to attend.


Listening IS important

Listening IS important

So I’m jazzed.  I’m spending the year learning about coaching and specifically did not write into my development plan anything about initiating coaching relationships.  As my AP said, it’s ok to give yourself time to learn.  But I couldn’t wait.  (Big shock, I know, for anyone who knows me.)  I’ve been reading and learning so much I wanted to try it out.  So I found some super generous volunteers who were willing to work with me in a coaching relationship to test out my new skills.

My first victim volunteer is a second grade teacher and today was our initial meeting. My main goal for this meeting was to ask questions and listen as much as possible.  I have found that as an ITF I am more often than not a last-minute source of ideas.  Sometimes, teachers want a cool “dessert project” and ask me to come the last couple days of the unit to teach their kids how to use a presentation tool.  Or they want ideas for a good app to teach or practice specific skills.  There is nothing wrong with any of this.  However, if this is all we’re asking our kids to do with technology, we have a real problem.

So most of the time I am viewed as an “expert” (your words, not mine) who is there to give a solution.  It is very much a role I have fallen into and even secretly enjoy (I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like looking knowledgeable).  Plus, I am a problem solver and impulsive by nature.  I can only handle so much discussion before I want to come up with a solution and implement it then and there (ask my husband about our house renovations….).  Don’t get me wrong.  As an ITF, there is definitely a time to be a source of ideas and an “expert”.  But this is not who I want to be when acting as a coach.

Talking is a hard habit to break.  Especially when you’re a nervous talker and like to fill silence.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. - EpictetusSource BrainyQuote

I knew I needed to be prepared or I would ramble.  I came in with the following questions:

  1. How would you describe your class?  What are their characteristics, areas of strength, areas for growth?
  2. What are some areas you’ve had a lot of success?  Why do you think that is?
  3. What are two areas you want to improve?  What do you think is preventing your students from being successful in these areas
  4. What are you hoping to accomplish with our partnership?
  5. What is your understanding of what coaching is?
  6. How do you feel you learn best?  What should I know about you to make our work as effective as possible?

Some of these are my own, some are from this article.  As we spoke, I focused on being present and actually listening to her answers.  Though I haven’t formally read or studied Stephen Covey, I am aware of his work.

“The habit to “seek first to understand” involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”-Stephen Covey

This quote has always resonated with me and I really took it to heart for this meeting.  What it allowed me to do was repeat her ideas back to her to check for understanding.  It allowed me to think of additional questions to further our conversation and deepen my understanding of her needs.  Most importantly, it allowed us to come to a place where we are working on her goals and wants rather than what I feel is important.

In the end, we decided to work together to plan her next social studies unit.  She wants her kids to be more engaged and excited.  I’m so looking forward to meeting with her next week to look at the objectives and start setting up a plan!  I’m also looking forward to the initial meeting for my second volunteer.  I’m looking forward to not just getting the chance to work with another teacher, but to take a completely different journey with her than anyone else because we’re moving based on her needs, not my “expertise”.