The days of ICTE are ones that I look forward to each fall, not only because I know I will feel rejuvenated and excited about my profession, but because I love seeing familiar faces and sharing my passion with like-minded people. I also laugh A LOT.
This year I presented for the first time. Yikes. During the 2018 conference, I kept looking around and thinking, I could totally do this. I SHOULD totally do this. So I convinced two colleagues to present with me (I am brave but not quite brave enough to present on my own). When the call went out for breakout sessions for 2019’s ICTE conference, I started drafting.
The best sessions I have been to are the ones where you find out how things worked in other teachers’ classrooms and you take away new ideas, strategies, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, even the materials and/or resources that teacher uses. I wanted to put on THAT kind of session.
While topic is absolutely important, I recommend presenting on something that excites you, or as in my case, scares you–your idea might be the answer someone else is looking for.
Student research is an area that freaks me out. I didn’t become an English teacher because I loved writing research papers, and I’m guessing few of us did. I felt it was my weakest area. Every year of my short career, I stressed about how to hit the research standards in an authentic way that didn’t make me and my students crazy.
When I started at Ballard High, I adopted a student campaign project from the teacher before me. This project pretty much blew my mind. It asks students to CARE about something and actually become the change they hope to see in their community. Very similar to a multigenre research paper in format, students choose topics, design mediums, and publish those mediums to a wider public audience. Sometimes the audience was their classmates, school officials or parents, and sometimes it was local businesses or organizations. The project is challenging but rewarding. This is the project I shared at ICTE. Not the one I feel the most confident about or the one I could teach in my sleep, but the project that impacts my students the most in the content area where I am most uncertain.
Presenting felt GOOD. With a solid presentation full of shareable links to resources and materials and a little practice with my colleagues, I felt prepared to stand in front of my peers and lead a conversation on research. I rode a high the rest of the day and all the way through the weekend. I am still very much a baby teacher, but there was something incredibly rewarding to be facilitating that discussion. It was validating to share my work and in the end didn’t cost my team much time or stress.
ICTE is a community of teachers looking to support each other and cheer on other educators. I received GREAT feedback on my project and constructive criticism on how I can make it even better. Before (and even during my breakout session) I was nervous someone would ask a question I couldn’t answer or would disagree with an aspect of my practice. And honestly at one point, I was stumped, but the question turned into a discussion with all the teachers present and we gained from each other’s experience rather than just relying on the presenters as “experts.” Presenting improved my confidence and my practice–it was incredibly reaffirming. I cannot recommend it enough. If you have an idea, even one that kind of scares you, share it! You might even find you’ve been a rockstar teacher all along.