Yesterday, I was very proud of myself: I avoided yelling at a stranger. I was sitting in the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, waiting for a session to start at the Arkansas Curriculum Conference. There were only a few other teachers in the room – and I, being a quiet, unassuming person by nature, couldn’t help but listen in to their conversations. One teacher in particular was ranting about how much she hated the conference we were all attending – she was “fed up,” she said, and this was the “worst thing” she had ever experienced. She said she was ready to go home and this had been a “waste of time.” This is where I had trouble keeping my mouth shut.
You see, I really wanted to tell her that having time off from teaching students to come to this conference was a privilege. I wanted to say: “If you aren’t getting anything from the session you are in, pick a different one.” Or, better yet, present your own next year! Because, while I’ve been attending sessions this Thursday and Friday, I’ve found plenty of thoughtfully planned sessions facilitated by plenty of great teachers with plenty of great strategies to share. But, more importantly than that, I have found time to connect with other educators, share successes and struggles in the classroom, and gain a new hope and revitalization for the rest of the school year. So, Ms. I-refuse-to-be-happy whom I overheard, to you I say this – if you don’t like coming to conferences like this, don’t come! If you aren’t getting anything out of it, that’s your fault!
So many times, we as educators live in a vacuum. We teach the same kids every day and talk to the same teachers every day in the faculty lounge (and whether we like to admit it or not – these conversations usually take a more negative turn than we intend). We all need time to get away – to connect with the best teachers across our state, to remember that we aren’t the only people facing these struggles, and to realize that there is hope and there is always more we could be doing to reach the kids in our classes.
I don’t really have a closing to this post, other than this – go to conferences! Connect with other educators! If you are in Arkansas, come to the Arkansas Curriculum Conference! But wherever you are – take the time to connect with others, get away from the routine and self-containment of your own class for a while, and rediscover the joy of teaching.