Educator Development

Taking Learning Back to the Classroom after an Education Conference

By Russell Schwartz

Going to FETC 2018 a few weeks ago lived up to the hype and left me chomping at the bit to return and begin conversations about how to move our school forward. I knew the teachers with me were excited, but I wasn’t sure they would leave feeling the same way that I have at previous conferences. Within the first few minutes of the event, I was comfortable putting that concern to rest because of the pure awe and excitement each of them felt. Attiya Batool (4th grade), Kelly Addeo (4th grade), Ryan Morda (4th grade), Joey Goodman (3rd grade) and Traci Arnemann (3rd grade) dove into everything that is FETC alongside each other and me.

Here is a brief recap of our time at the conference if you are considering going to FETC in the future.

Turning FETC (or any education conference) into action

After returning from FETC, the teachers started implementing some of the changes into their classrooms. Ryan started using Nearpod. Attiya had class meetings to discuss and make changes to her learning space. Kelly started redesigning her classroom. Traci has been getting deeper into Buncee. Joey has been getting into Storybird with his class.

All five of them started using Flipgrid, and some are utilizing Socrative. I have started using Flipgrid to deliver operational types of updates to faculty that traditionally would be done in a faculty meeting. Now we are able to free up some of that time in our faculty meetings to focus on best practices, idea sharing, and professional growth.

However, there is so much more to learning than just moving around desks and trying new programs or apps. It is a mind shift. It is a focus on the future of our schools and classrooms.

So our FETC team began meeting and deciding on how to bring in the other teachers at our school. We recognize that our faculty is ready to try something new and implement a major change and shift. They are ready to do differently for their students.

We each identified one thing that we learned at FETC that could be practical if shared with the faculty at large – something that can be implemented in someone’s classroom pretty much immediately. We decided that we would move our faculty meeting back one week to give us a little more time to prepare and organize any videos, documents, and images. These were all placed together in a Canvas Course to be readily accessed by faculty during the meeting and at any point after.

At our initial meeting with faculty, teachers seemed very positive about these new tools. We discussed how taking control of your own professional growth is the only way to go. So many learning opportunities exist at your fingertips via social media. Our team explained how social media has changed their practice and has reignited their passion for teaching!

Our goal when we met with the entire faculty was to let them see our excitement. We also made it clear that what they are currently doing isn’t wrong, but to know better is to do better. We want to advance our methods of teaching. We want comfortable learning environments that are conducive to growth. We want student voice and student choice. We want to utilize some amazing technology that brings learning to life for our students.

Again, to know better is to do better. So many great things are to come at Nova Blanche Forman Elementary!

Russell Schwartz is the principal at Nova Blanche Forman Elementary in Davie, Florida. You can connect with him on Twitter and ask any of your conference questions @Russ_Schwartz.