KSA #04 Subject Knowledge · KSA #05 Differentiation · KSA #06 Planning · KSA #07 Student Needs · KSA #08 Relationships · KSA #09 Instructional Strategies · KSA #10 Technology · KSA #15 Professional Learning · KSA #16 Vision of Teaching

SWATCA: My First Teacher Convention Experience

I am sitting on my couch, feeling high on energy, happy and exhausted… all at the same time, what an eclectic mix.

I had the pleasure of attending SWATCA the past two days. This being my first teacher’s convention ever… I had no idea what to expect! I can say with confidence that I had a fantastic two days filled with learning, collaboration and fun.

The day started off with an inspirational Keynote address from Amanda Lindhout. Her inspiring story about her being held captive in Somalia for over 15 months and the strength she used to overcome the many obstacles she faced was absolutely touching. The entire U of L gym was packed with over 2000 teachers and you could have heard a feather drop, it was that quiet; she had the audience absolutely captivated.

From there I went to a session titled “Energy Education in Alberta? Of Course!” with Kathy Worobec. This useful session discussed how we could implement Energy education into our classrooms as K-12 teachers.  Several resources were shown and engaging activities were demonstrated.

From here I went to an absolutely fantastic session titled ” I Can’t Tell ‘Em That! Use of Direct Instruction in the classroom” with Richard Rymarz. This session effectively de-bunked the myth that Direct Instruction is lecture. In fact, Richard demonstrated that Direct Instruction is an extremely effective and necessary teaching strategy to be used in the classroom. He defined Direct Instrction as “teacher mediated learning involving a range of techniques” meaning direct instruction is not the sole best method to be used, but it is one strategy that needs to be used in conjunction with several other teaching strategies. This engaging session showed how when direct instruction is used effectively it leads to student engagement and inquiry, or in other words authentic learning, which is what we are all going for, isn’t it?

To end the day I went to a session put on my Cory Johnson called “Turning Disabilities into Possibilities“. In this session, Cory, a person living with cerebral palsy, discussed how he has overcome battles in his life to become director at Camp Kiwanis. His fantastic story discussed self-inflicted disabilities and non self-inflicted disabilities. He can’t help that he has cerebral palsy, but he can control his attitude, view of life, interactions with others, etc. It is his attitude towards life and others that has allowed him to find the vast amount of success he has.

The final day of SWATCA, I was able to attend a fantastic session on “Meaningful Student Blogging” with Greg Miller and Crystal Lothian. Greg and Crystal authentically displayed their successes with student blogging in their own school or classroom. “Blogging is about flattening the walls of the classroom, the audience is literally the world” said Crystal “and when the students know that the world could be reading their posts, it pushes them to elevate their game”. Another fantastic way to make learning authentic and meaningful, and it’s so simple! Using a blog in the classroom can allow students to connect with other students worldwide and even experts in the field or topic that they are studying. I’m not sure anyone, regardless of age, that wouldn’t get excited about those possibilities.

My final session was an emotional discussion about at risk youth in the classroom with Marc Cheriyan, “The Paper Bag Kid“. Several strategies were discussed to work with at risk youth to help them feel included in the classroom where they feel safe. Marc being a Freedom Writer had fantastic insight to share with us, based on his own experience and his interactions with other Freedom Writers. It’s common to think, this “stuff” doesn’t happen where I live, but really it does.. and you can’t turn a blind eye to it. In a similar session, Carmen Momberquette told us to – Smile.. say “Hello Welcome to my class, I’m so happy to have you with me this year”, this makes a HUGE difference.

The closing keynote speaker, Deborah Grey, an absolute pistol and the perfect way to end off convention. Her witty personality and meaningful messages made for a fantastic close to convention.

Although convention is over, we have come away with a greater PLN and more resources than any of us know what to do with. It was a fantastic experience of learning and collaboration and I cannot wait to continue to connect with the professionals I have been fortunate enough to meet with these past two days.

Until next time,
Mr. B


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