Have you found yourself feeling a bit stale in the classroom? Are you searching for new instructional ideas? Or do you just frequently experience a sense of professional curiosity, wondering if there are fellow teachers out there somewhere doing interesting things that might benefit your classroom of students?
If so, I highly recommend attending a professional teachers’ conference. Two weekends ago I attended the 2017 California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) state conference held in Santa Clara, CA. What I re-learned from the experience was the value of spending time amongst my own teacher tribe, exposing myself to new ideas, new faces, and intense energy.
The three-day CATE conference involved over 800 English teacher attendees from throughout the state. I attended general sessions featuring prominent speakers, and a number of smaller presentation sessions featuring teachers like myself willing to share their experiences and findings. Though I didn’t find all ideas applicable to my classroom situation, the presentations provoked me to reexamine what I currently do with my students—and that alone made the conference worthwhile.
In addition to attending, I also actively participated by delivering an hour-long presentation session to fellow 12th grade teachers. My presentation was on Olympian High’s Common Senior Experience—a theme/project-based curriculum my school has administered for the past 8 years. Though preparing for the presentation was time consuming and a bit intimidating, I actually enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone while conducting the event. Once done, I was on a mental high for the rest of the day after fielding enthusiastic questions and comments from the audience.
Next year’s CATE conference will be held right here in San Diego (at the Town and Country Hotel in Mission Valley) during March 9-11, 2018. For English teachers it will be a great opportunity to expand one’s perspective and spend time with fellow teachers. And you won’t have to spend money on airfare or a hotel room. I highly recommend attending! Chances are good you too will leave such a conference, if not full of new ideas, at the very least intellectually stimulated and mentally refreshed—not to mention, motivated by the high level of energy possessed by motivated peers excited to share their theories, opinions, and experiences.
Steve Rodriguez teaches AP English Literature and English-12 at Olympian High School.