Professional development, its a love hate sorta thing. Sometimes we choose what we want to attend finding some workshop or conference that excites us to no end where we can converse with our peers and collect buckets of information. Sometimes we have to sit through those wonderful days where we fight to pay attention through hours of irrelevant rambling that has nothing to do with anything about the music program or how we teach in our classes.
It lays a question down on the table, what makes a good professional development opportunity for music educators? Is it the opportunity to be around our peers, the endless resources to bring back with us, or the way we absorb the passion radiated by the presenters we hear speak? A little of all 3 is my opinion…
So how do we start with these opportunities? Now, we have to stop for a second, how many types of PD are there? You have reading articles and books, talking to others online, going to day workshops, webinars, week long conferences, etc. etc. For the sake of not having a blog post 40 pages long, I’m only going to stick to face to face meetings.. Want to know more about using social networks to connect with your peers? check this out:
Workshops and conferences; you have your district, your state, and national level all open to you. In my district it is a rarity to get all of the district music teachers together. We usually are at our own schools listening to maybe 50% of the day and getting sent to our rooms to do “work” for the rest of the time. When we do get together though, it is a time where we are productive and taking every second we get to talk about curriculum, retention, recruitment, and other topics of interest.
If you are a person who plans district professional development days, be sure to let your specialists get together we’re more productive together than apart!
Now, at my state level I have two options. Being a techie I try to attend our state tech conference every year. First year was not my favorite time, not only did I have no idea I had to be there early so I was stuck in a 2 hr metered parking space all day but I also attended all the workshops that were WAAAYY too beginner for me. The second year was better because I attended just an all day Ipad workshop, but still I had wished there was more to it. Something you should always keep in mind when attending a conference, Always challenge yourself go to the workshops you don’t know anything about or the ones that are about areas you are weak on. You are at a conference to get better at what you love right? I’ve made the promise to myself to give this conference one more go, and this time I plan on walking out of the conference center with my brain fried and ready to show off some new ideas.
The other state option I have as a general music educator is our NHMEA conferences. Every state has a local music educators chapter and as far as I know they all put on state workshops and conferences. Our chapter has a small workshop day in the fall and one in the spring. Plenty of opportunity for educators of all shapes and sizes. I have attended these conferences in the past especially as a college student. The workshops at these conferences are usually eclectic depending on how many proposals the committees get from local educators ready to finally share their thoughts with their colleagues from around the state.
Now, national conferences, that’s where it’s at man. you have the ISME conference, TI:ME, the conferences NAfME puts together, there are so many others. Let’s say you’ve never been to a national conference, then you need to attend anything NAfME. They have biennial conferences, division conferences, and then Music Education Week. I have attended a NAfME conferences in some shape or form since my freshman year of college almost 7 years ago. I come back refreshed and ready to go again. Recently attending Music Education week 2011, connections were made, inspiration was drawn and overall I just had fun. For this specific PD I took my partner in crime with me who teaches in Vermont and is a former college room mate. Just getting to DC was an adventure. Due to a scheduling error we didn’t leave her house in VT until about 4:30, drove several hours south to College Park Maryland (I drove all the way, it was hilarious trying to watch my friend trying to keep me awake. We ended up rolling into CP Maryland at about 1am with the windows down, the Lion King on Broadway blaring, and us singing at the top of our lungs hopped up on sugar.) We had to be up by 6am to make the metro for our hour long ride into DC to just barely make registration. You do not understand the amounts of coffee we had that morning, luckily her and I were in the General Music session and I quickly woke up after jumping around pretending we were high stepping horses and throwing scarves at each other.
My most recent national conference was this past January in Louisville at the TI:ME/JEN conference. I was there for the TI:ME portion ready to learn about music tech from the elite. It was the best conference I’ve ever attended.We talked tech, we tweeted so much twitter practically cried, and I finally realized I was with the best seeing Dr. Joe Pisano slap a projector once and get it working again. Yup, he’s Chuck Norris.
So,leery of going to a conference or workshop? Don’t be. You gain knowledge, make connections, reignite your passion, and best of all you create stories.