Monday, February 13, 2017

Reflections on Teachers' Convention (NCTCA2017)

February 9th and 10th was the NCTCA 2017 Convention. Check out their Twitter and Facebook (and the Twitter hashtag). It was great to attend keynotes and sessions, network with colleagues, and walk through the vendor area. A highlight of this year was that I was able to attend with my wife, who is currently teaching grade three.

It was very interesting to hear Mohamed Fahmy talk about his experiences being imprisoned in Egypt, and about the importance of the media and journalism (Media in the Age of Terror: How the War on Terror Became a War on Journalism). He is a very engaging speaker.

I also attended a session by Kathy Worobec from the Alberta Council for Environmental Education on "How can Alberta Schools show climate leadership?". It was good to hear about, and discuss, projects that schools have been, and can be, involved in.

Next I attended a physics session, even though I'm no longer a physics teacher. However since it was about astronomy (Black Holes DON'T S**k) it is also applicable to grade six science. Great session, very interesting. And I knew the presenters, (Laura Pankratz and Jeff Goldie) so it was good to see them.

After lunch I attended some of the session "Minimalism in the Classroom" by Julianne Harvey that my wife was also attending. I liked what she had to say about simplifying our classroom environments "to improve student concentration and focus".

The last session I attended on Thursday was Amber MacArthur's "Cybersecurity & The Next Generation: 10 Steps to Privacy, Safety, and Citizenship". I last heard her speak many years ago at an ATLE conference, and she always has good ideas and is able to articulate the importance of many issues in technology. My favourite quote from her was something like "if you have time to know who is winning in 'The Bachelor' then you have time to check out some of the apps your kids are using."

Friday started with a session entitled "Stop working harder than your students" that I went to with my wife. It was very good, and I came away with a lot of ideas from Pierre Poulin and Philippe Bresee. One idea that I have implemented already, although it was already in the back of my mind, was a class government. This ties in nicely with democracy in grade six social studies, and gives students responsibilities and autonomy. I also liked the classroom layout design tool they demonstrated, Classroom Architect.

Following that that was my session entitled "You Can Program, and Kids Can Too". Unfortunately since it was in a venue that was both new to the convention this year and required some outdoor walking, fewer than half of the people that added it to their schedule actually attended. There were enough people for interesting questions and interactions, however, and even if a few people thought it was valuable then it was worthwhile.

After a longer lunch and more time in the vendor hall, I looked in on a couple of other sessions but only stayed for the entirety of "Entitlementality (And How to Teach Against It)" by Joel Hilchey. He talked about how students, and teachers, and in fact most people seem to have developed a mentality of entitlement. As an example, they/we "expect exceptional results with minimal effort". To combat this, he suggests a "focus on relationships, gratitude, and citizenship." I'm going to try gratitude journaling with my students.

Despite having to drive and park downtown for two days, it was an excellent teachers' convention. I came away with a number of concrete "try this on Monday" ideas, some inspiration, and things to think about for the future. Teaching is a great profession.

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