I admit that I have been to my share of teacher conferences. Because of that, I sometimes have a bias that includes me thinking I already have a complete view of the experience before it even begins. I find myself thinking that I already know how sessions will be run and what presenters may be like…based on a little GOOGLE sleuthing of course. When I received an invitation to do an #ignite at ECET2BYU I expected at the very least a good time learning with great teachers. Happily, I got that and way more during my stay in Shreveport, Louisiana. A little internet research told me that ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Exceptional Teaching and Teachers. I had already met the conference organizer Nicole Nelson (see our sit down here) at Educator Alexander’s EdCamp nLA (see post about that here) earlier in the year. I knew that she was a fellow teacher coach with a good grasp of support needs and a wide network of teachers. After talking about what I could contribute to the conference, I agreed to come down and prepared to give what I was SURE would be the greatest speech in my upstart speaking career lol.
ECET2 has six tenants that the organization is founded on:
- Nurturing trust among teachers
- Focusing on each teacher’s potential for growth
- Inspiring both the intellect and the passion that drives teachers in their work
- Providing time for collaboration and learning
- Putting teachers in the lead
- Recognizing teachers as talented professionals
The ones that were most apparent to me during this most recent conference were…all of them. The teachers at ECET2 embraced me and one another wholeheartedly. The magic of the conference is that it felt more like a family reunion than a formal teacher gathering. Teachers from different parishes were greeting each other and exchanging stories. We had time set aside just to get to know one another (notice I did not say network which has a different feel) and let our hair down. Teachers were able to talk openly about their pursuits inside and outside of the classroom with the support of their peers. It was REFRESHING. I felt like I didn’t have to be “on”. Instead, I could just be a passionate teacher, working every day to make a positive difference in the lives of kids. I didn’t have to be super teacher with all of the answers or Mrs. I have read all of the current research. It was liberating in a way. The sessions were centered around real teacher pain points including classroom management titled “How to Keep your Lessons HOT and your collar cool” by Ms. Cathy James-Spivey and improving math instruction. We talked about building a better social media presence and teachers branding themselves in order to better transition from the classroom later. We talked about building principal leadership capacity and how to better use resources when money is low.
It was the kind of conversations that happen around kitchen tables in a forum focused on solutions. The news media was invited to highlight teachers taking the time to get together to improve their practice. I tweeted about the ENTIRE thing and you know that if you follow me. What is more is that the conference is completely FREE. Yes, Northern Louisiana got this one right. The conference is free. The food is free. The camaraderie is free. The solutions are real. My hope is that all of you reading this are inspired and want to go next year. I hope with all sincerety that you do. We spend enough of our professional lives under a microscope in front of kids and in some cases our peers. Once in a while it is healthy to remove yourself from that light and just be a teacher, a friend, and a learner.
Check out my Ignite below. “Hollaback” at me if it resonates with you too. My only aim here is to tell you about everything I am learning in the hopes it doesn’t take you as long to get there as it did me!
Remember to lead is to constantly learn, and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. You have to create a safe space for teachers just like we do for children if we are going to have truly healthy learning environments. If you need one, they have a spot for you next year at ECET2BYU in Shreveport, Louisiana. – Dr. Kia