Monday, April 16, 2018

Almanac. Dissecting Conference Attendance

This is the final post of the series on the topic of attending and presenting at conferences. 

Spousal Support
The first conference I remember attending was in Washington, D.C. It was the week before Christmas Vacation in my district. I used some special project money to pay for my trip. I decided to take my wife, Leanne along.

That precedence was repeated several times over the twenty-plus years I presented sessions. Leanne and I traveled to New Orleans, Boston and environs, Seattle, and Honolulu. She spent her time sightseeing on every trip. She’s seen plantations outside NOLA, Fenway Park, and the White House at Christmas. Together, we experienced a variety of cuisine while having fun together.

Meeting relatives and friends
Several conferences were in or near cities where former colleagues or students or friends lived or worked. As a result of that
  • I stayed for free with a friend in at least two cities.
  • I ate dinners with both relatives and friends.
  • I went with a friend to a diner that was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
  • Had a guided tour of Indiana Wesleyan University by my friend, Dr. Keith Newman, one of the VP’s there.
  • I shared a table with teachers I’d never met for lunch or dinner on occasion. I know this is an outlier for the category, but it did happen.

This is me at a conference at the vendor's booth for the lab manual I co-authored. It has to be around 2010. As cool as that was, publishing the book did not keep the publisher from going out of business. They still owe me a couple hundred dollars in royalties.
I do not drink alcohol. Ever. As a result, my extra-curricular activities revolved around working on projects I had in the hopper.
More than once, I had my way paid by a supplier of biology materials or a project I was associated with. In those cases, one night was always dinner in a place that was more expensive than I was used to . . . gratis!
One of those gratis meals occurred in Boston at
The Union Oyster House, located on the Freedom Trail, near Faneuil Hall, enjoys the unique distinction of being America's oldest restaurant. This Boston fixture, housed in a building dating back to Pre-Revolutionary days, started serving food in 1826 and has continued ever since with the stalls and oyster bar, where Daniel Webster was a constant customer, in their original positions.
Lobster was the menu item of choice that evening. Of course, the company I worked with provided oysters on the half-shell, too. I don’t like oysters. I’ll eat lobster, but it’s not my go-to seafood.
Leanne and I make it a point to eat at places we don’t have in San Diego when we travel. We also try the local version of Mexican food frequently.
I ordered Nachos Grande as my entrée after the server raved about the size and taste. The item is not on the current menu. I’ll try to describe it.
Imagine an entire family size bag of high-quality tortilla chips layered with shredded cheese, hamburger, sliced jalapeño peppers, onions, olives, and salsa. It was over twelve-inches tall and had a dinner plate as the base.
I shared some with the others at the table.

Would I do it again?
There’s something in watching the faces in an audience light up when they realize that they can do what I’m describing with their students. I can’t adequately describe it, but it lifts my spirits every time. As a speaker, I made sure to talk with every person that stayed after the session to ask questions, give an example of their own, or thank me. That meant that many of those people missed getting a seat in another session.
How can anyone not appreciate that kind of effort?
GREAT group of people attended my "Tricks from an Old Dog" session 12/5/14 at the NSTA/CSTA conference in Long Beach, CA. Seating for 50. SRO with a dozen in the doorway as well. All 100 handouts and over that many business cards handed out. I'm very thankful for the graciousness of my fellow teachers. Thanks to my colleague, Ryan Garcia for this shot. He was a door-stuffer! This is the only photo I have of me during one of my presentations.
Final comments
Once, while attending a session that sounded intriguing, I received a printed packet of materials. As I thumbed through them, to my surprise, I found one of my handout pages from a session with similar content. I always put my name and contact information in the footer of all my handout pages. That footer was gone.
I stayed behind and talked with the speaker. She was shocked to learn that it wasn’t original to the speaker that handed it out. 
If you are asked to speak, and you want to use another speaker’s materials, please ask for permission to use those materials question form. Then give credit where credit is due!

While with student teachers, I encouraged all of them to go to a conference if it’s within driving distance. Once there, find one idea and work on implementing it.

Two comments by attendees of my sessions will end this blog post and the series.
“I’ve taught for over twenty years and never knew why my students were so bad at answering open-ended questions. Now I know why and what to do about it. Thank you.”
Community College Teacher after the session Open-ended Questions are Fine for Some Students, but Mine Can’t Do Them.
“As soon as you started talking, I recognized your voice, but I knew I’d never seen you until today. Then it dawned on me. You’re the voice of Kinesthetic Protein Synthesis! I use it every year to ensure that my students understand the process.”
High School Teacher at a session on the importance of including whole body movement to learning steps in a process.

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