And How are the Children..?

ACEI Day One…

Posted on: March 18, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 12:56pm
I am attending the Association for Childhood Education International Annual Conference. I’m going to keep a diary of the experience.

8:22 am

I have checked-in, gotten my conference schwag bag, and noted which sessions look good for today, Wednesday. I’m going to check out a session on formative assessment for children – it seems less familiar than the early childhood methods session (early literacy) that was my second choice. We’ll see what happens.

12:27 pm

Very nice! I’ve been to 3 sessions so far:
-Shifting Gears: Using Formative Assessment to Ensure Students Reach Full Potential
– Diversity From the Inside Out
– Supporting Benefits of Sensory Integration

The first one was great – the strongest of the three (with the lowest attendance, ironically 4 people). The big idea that I got from this session was that it’s important to really involve the children in the process of ongoing assessment – to help children be able to know what they are working on as learners. We spend a lot of energy focusing on our accountability to the state, and our educator teams are working hard to be accountable to us – I think it makes sense that we should all be accountable to the children and families we serve, and should find ways to engage them more fully in assessment FOR learning. My challenge is to find viable ways to apply this to pre-k. I feel confident that it’s possible – just have to figure it out.

They presented their ideas, offered handouts, and we did a nice visual-kinesthetic activity where we generated data and then graphed it with our bodies. Presenters were very engaging, and offered quite a lot of practical methods for assessing learning informally, methods I can use as a trainer.

Diversity From the Inside Out was good – I was actually surprised by it, because it started off slow and the presentation wasn’t particularly dynamic from the start. But we ended up doing a really good activity that I’d also like to try sometime – though I’m not sure what context I’d try it in.

Supporting the Benefits of Sensory Integration was a nice 30 minute refresher on sensory integration dysfunction, and how it can affect children in educational settings. I wonder if any of our educator teams are taking these issues into account when they are working with and assessing kids – sensory defense behaviors often appear to be belligerent disobedience- especially since the child’s need to regulate themselves can be so intense. I’ll have to find a way to address that when I discuss doing observations and classroom setup with our educator teams.

Lunch was uninspired: McDonalds. I just wanted to get some cheap protein and keep moving. My next session is at 1 pm – I still haven’t decided between Transformational Projects or Universal Design for Learning. I’ll let you know – stay tuned for more nerdy dispatches from the conference front!

– Atena

4:21 pm

3 more sessions done! The opening keynote is at 5:15, so I’ve got a little less than an hour to find cheap eats (good luck, right? Magnificent Mile, indeed). This afternoon’s sessions:
– Moving Forward through Transformational Projects
– Going Fishing for Rainbows: An Approach to Integrating Curriculum for Diverse Learners
– A Critical Component of Multicultural Education: Respecting the Communication Styles of Different Students to Educate All to Move Forward (WINNER: longest title ever!)

The first one was great! Much like the first session of the day, it had the lowest turnout and the best content. And I got the last copy of the free book they were giving away! They were great – this team of 3 very southern, very spunky Ph.Ds from Alabama, talking about how children can do projects (a la Project Approach, a la Lilian Katz, et al) to make a difference, change the world and transform their lives and the lives of others. What? Yes! Love it!

A great way to introduce social justice work and general caring and concern to young children, and applicable across age groups. I’m excited to read the book, titled ‘Moving Toward Transformation: Teaching and Learning in Inclusive Classrooms’ by Jerry Aldridge and Renitta Goldman. The presenters were fun, totally sincere, and showed examples of transformational projects done with students from kindergarten up to graduate level. They also gave some great book examples that could be used in these kinds of projects.

The next 2 sessions were okay, but didn’t carry that ‘Umph!’ of the one on projects – a tough act to follow. They were useful though, and I don’t feel like they were a waste of time. The Fishing for Rainbows one actually gave quite a good demonstration of ways you can take a couple of topics and stretch the theme across all domains, which was pretty well-executed and made up for the cheesy name of the session. It was designed for elementary students and older, which is fine. I can just adapt those to adult learner principles for trainings and workshops.

Oops – I’m running out of time, and I need a little extra bit of food. More to come – see you later!

– Atena

7:49 pm – Notes on the Opening Keynote…

Alright – I am fed and resting. More or less.

Well – I was so sure that the opening keynote address would be the thing I’d bail on: I’d been to 6 sessions, run outside for food twice (in the cooler-than-I-was-dressed-for weather), and honestly, my baby belly gets a little tired toward the end of the day. I’d put in 9 good hours, so if the keynote was less-than-engaging, I figured I totally had permission to bail. Right?

Not so! I could’ve bailed, but the speaker was really good and it was totally worth sticking around for (I just had to do a little shifting in my chair to stay reasonably comfortable). The address was given by one Greg Michie, a veteran of Chicago Public Schools, now professor at Illinois State University. His speech: Another Path is Possible: Schools as they Are, Schools as they Could Be. He’s published a couple of books, including ‘Holler if You Hear Me’ and ‘See You When We Get There.’

Funny guy – insightful and eloquent in a grounded, down-to-earth kind of way. I appreciated that he brought up the Urban Teacher Hero movies and how their formula is a bit inauthentic (Dangerous Minds, etc). He even offered an alternative: The Class, directed by Laurent Cantet (French film). Now I have to read ‘Shame of a Nation’ by Jonathan Kozol, which I’d heard of, but hadn’t officially put on my list. Notable concepts shared in the keynote (several of these are quotes that Michie is quoting):

“The 3 Rs have become the 3 Cs: Coercion, Compliance and Control.”

“We’re using a Stupidity Model – teaching in ways that defy our own knowledge” (I think that’s Kozol)

“We’ve been given a choice between using standards and metrics for accountability and using child-centered, holistic education, and this is a false choice.”

“School improvement strategies alone (such as No Child Left Behind) will not solve the achievement gap.”

“We make the road by walking.” (Paolo Friere – love it!)

His overall point was that we cannot accept the status quo if we are to serve children (and communities) – he used the phrase “push on the existing order of things.” He talked about being dissatisfied with Obama’s education plan, in spite of being an ardent support of the president. I agree that there’s a lot of pandering to multiple groups in the education plan, which could lead to a weakening of whatever solutions are developed. I don’t think teacher compensation should be tied directly to student outcomes – that sounds to me like a way to lose a lot of teachers from an already understaffed field. But I digress…

It was good stuff, and I’m glad I stayed. Now my general goal is to figure out how to take these experiences I’m having and apply them to my work. How can I use this new information to serve children, families and communities?

Some of it is fairly straightforward – I learned about new strategies I can use in teacher trainings, or methods I can share with colleagues to help them build up their professional tool kits. It’s the bigger picture stuff I have to think about. How can I act to improve conditions for the people that I serve? I think I do this a little in my current work, but I know I can have a greater impact. Not for the satisfaction of having an impact, but for the benefit of these educators, and the children and families they work with, in the communities they work and live in. Which would be satisfying for me, as well.

Anyway, I’m going to stop before my brain starts to hurt. I’ve done a pretty good job of not overextending myself, which is key to this being a useful experience.

So, more to come – stay tuned for Day Two!

– Atena

My Conference Diary


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