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#ASCD16: Know your “why”

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Voice of the Educator

Elementary-school teacher and ASCD emerging leader Jennifer Orr reports on ASCD 2016 for SmartBlog on Education. Read on to learn more about today’s general sessions. 

ASCD’s annual conference for is over. More than 7,000 educators of all types and from every state and many other countries were in Atlanta for several days. Day one and day two of the conference were full of outstanding presentations, thoughtful discussions and fun times. Day three followed the pattern.

To some extent day three was more low-key than the previous days. There were no general sessions, no times when many thousands of educators were in the same room. As a result, this was a day that was more about intimate conversations and difficult decisions about sessions to attend.

Regie Routman, an educator and author, in a session in the morning said, “Our practices are our beliefs in action.” This echoed Shanna Peebles from the second day who exhorted those in the audience to know their “why.” Our actions stem from our beliefs, from our whys. Not knowing those beliefs can easily result in actions that do not fit what we believe. One of the recommendations from that session was to identify your beliefs and then critically observe your environment and actions. That will allow you to determine if you are truly acting on your beliefs.

Routman is one of many highly thoughtful authors who present and participate in ASCD’s conference. Throughout the conference these authors lead formal sessions, smaller, more informal sessions in ASCD Central, host book signings and talk with other attendees. The chance to have a conversation with your favorite author is a great opportunity. William Parrett and Kathleen Budge are two more authors who were in Atlanta. They wrote “Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools.” Parrett and Budge have spent time in high-poverty schools observing, talking with administrators, teachers and students to identify what is happening in high-performing schools. The ideas in their book are beneficial to all schools, of course, but it’s a must read for those in high-poverty schools. Their next book will continue this work and address the importance of culture on student achievement in high-poverty schools (and, most likely, in all schools). Hearing Parrett and Budge talk about their research and the educators with whom they work is energizing. They speak with such passion and respect.

Another wonderful opportunity at ASCD’s annual conference is the interaction with ASCD staff. These highly-knowledgeable, thoughtful people also present sessions and interact with attendees. David Griffith is ASCD’s Senior Director of Public Policy. Over the three days in Atlanta, David presented four different sessions. He gave an overview of ASCD’s current education policy, discussed social emotional learning and how to move from policy to practice in that area, helped lead ASCD’s Forum on Learning for All = Teaching for All, and, on the final day, shared about accountability for the Whole Child, especially in light of the new ESSA law. It is a challenge for teachers to stay fully informed about policy in the midst of teaching. Griffith’s sessions were exceptionally helpful in this way.

Wrapping up annual conference is a mix of emotions. Spending days immersed in learning with other dedicated educators is such a wonderful experience. It is also exhausting. Fortunately the learning and joy will last far longer than the fatigue!

Jennifer Orr is an elementary-school teacher in Fairfax County, Va. She was selected as a 2013 ASCD Emerging Leader and was a panelist at ASCD’s fall 2014 Whole Child Symposium on teacher leadership. Connect with her on Twitter at @jenorr.