• Nathan Belcher

Reflection on the Charleston Educator Symposium

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Charleston Educator Symposium, and it was well worth the time and effort it took to attend. The staff from the Office of Educator Effectiveness were wonderful, and I appreciate all the hard work they did to make the symposium excellent.

There were several sessions that inspired and pushed me to think more deeply about the issues in Charleston County, and these were:

  • "Filling Your Personalized Learning Bank" with Dr. Wilson, Ms. Underwood, and students from Stall High School and Pepperhill Elementary School: This session was special because students interacted with symposium participants, and I was schooled on the art of personalized learning by a wonderful second grade student. I also discussed the use of personalized learning in high school science with the high school students, and they gave honest feedback about what did and did not work. This is important to me because my physics colleague and I are planning to incorporate some aspects of personalized learning into our honors and college-prep physics courses, and I will use the information from the students.

  • Keynote by Cris Tovani: From information in the doctoral program, I have become aware of the power of action research. Ms. Tovani discussed the use of action research in the literacy lab work that teachers were using to improve literacy, and this resonated with me because I am using the same research techniques to become a better science teacher. Ms. Tovani also discussed the timing of an ideal class, and it forced me to consider the manner in which I structure my instructional time. It was an excellent keynote, and it made me want to use ideas from her talk to improve my classes.

  • "Who is the 'Person' in Personalized Learning?" and "Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty" by Amos Fodchuk: I grouped these sessions together because they were by the same presenter and both phenomenal. In the first session, Mr. Fodchuk presented ideas that helped clarify some of the ideological confusion I have experienced with personalized learning. After this session, I understand the point of personalized learning more fully and how it fits into my constructivist mindset, and I know how to incorporate it with Modeling Instruction. In the second session, Mr. Fodchuk described some methods for helping school handle the large number of changes that seem to happen every year. One of these methods is a stoplight system whereby teachers place a red, yellow, or green card on their wall, signifying if the teacher is willing to have administrators or other teachers come observe their class. This helps to break down silos between teachers and allows the teacher to receive feedback in a manner that will help them get better. Mr. Fodchuk also discussed the erosion of traditional professional development and replacement by job-embedded professional learning, and this is important to me because I am helping with the professional development at my school next year. I have been thinking about the best ways to help teachers get better at what they do, and Mr. Fodchuk provided some interesting ideas to ponder.

  • "A Leader's Lens on Science" by Rodney Moore and elementary school teachers: The 2014 South Carolina science standards and performance indicators are a large departure from previous science standards because they explicitly incorporate science and engineering practices into each standard. As a high school physics teacher, this excites me because the more science and engineering students can do at earlier grades, the more prepared they are when they get to my course. I left this session hopeful for the future because the elementary school teachers presented lessons and documents showing their students can do science and engineering in a real and meaningful manner.

  • Keynote and Follow-Up with Shanna Peeples: I have followed Ms. Peeples on Twitter and Medium for over a year, and she presents insights and information that is timely and useful on these platforms. Therefore, I was unsurprised that Ms. Peeples delivered an excellent keynote; however, I was grateful that Ms. Peeples took the time during the follow-up to listen deeply to the concerns and problems of the teachers and administrators of CCSD and apply her wisdom and experience to our situations. The hour and a half follow-up could have extended another hour and a half, and many of us would have stayed. From the keynote and follow-up, here are two of my favorite quotes: "Teachers are artists of human potential." "Teachers are warriors of hope and battle against despair and hopelessness." Thanks Ms. Peeples for a great day and for representing the teaching profession well during your time as the 2015 National Teacher of the Year!

As I have worked with members of the Office of Educator Effectiveness, I had the privilege of getting to know Lori Bates. Unfortunately Lori is leaving the Office of Educator Effectiveness, but she will leave an inspiring legacy for all who have known and worked with her. The team in the Office of Educator Effectiveness created a beautiful slide show as a sending-off, and there were many tear-filled eyes on the stage and in the audience. Thanks Lori for all you have done, and best wishes in the next things you are doing!

If you ever have a chance to experience a Charleston Educator Symposium, I highly suggest taking the chance and finding sessions that resonate with you. If you would like more details, please let me know!

#CES #education


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