English Language teacher Charlotte Hogan and French teacher Miriam Przybyla-Baum attended the STAND UP! Symposium at Phillips Academy Andover on Thursday, April 16.
“From 1960s lunch counter sit-ins to recent movements at the University of Missouri, student activism has long sparked institutional change in American high schools, colleges and universities. And yet, independent schools have often been considered sites of privilege. How might these schools’ policies and histories engage or hinder student activism in equity and inclusion?”
One of the wonderful parts of summer break is the ability to have long, sustained Twitter conversations with my friends. One Wednesday, @teachermrw of Watkinson School piqued my curiosity by asking, “While I enjoy reading and learning from the tweets shared by my educator colleagues from education conferences, / the tweets reveal nothing new under the sun. It is old knowledge recycled and re-packaged for a different day and time.” I highly value her ideas, and certainly have had the experience of leaving conferences feeling that I spent much more time listening to things I already knew than learning new things. At the same time, I am the kind of person who live tweets conferences I attend, and I also serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the New England League of Middle Schools - which means I help plan that Annual Conference. Uncomfortable as I felt with this conflict, I also recognized that such moments are often the best time to learn. And, as I’ve said, @teachermrw has a gift for stretching my thinking in deeply important ways. So I decided to engage with her and explore the question together.
As I reflect on the year, I am surprised to realize how few conferences I've attended. Professional Development is an integral part of my daily life, but these days 95% of it or more takes place on my phone. For all the derision it draws from various quarters, Twitter has become my most valuable tool. I manage quite nicely to avoid the inane, and find more links to articles and blogs, more thoughts and observations on teaching (and also on social justice), than I could ever hope to read in one day. "Teacher in a Strange Land," the EdWeek blog by Nancy Flanagan, and anything ever written anywhere by José Vilson would on their own make the service worthwhile. Fred Bartels's work in starting OPuS1, the Online Progressive unSchool, is fascinating and inspiring, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach's work with passion-based learning is also years, perhaps decades ahead of its time. And I come into contact with so much more, deliberately including a range of viewpoints so I don't get seduced by the echo chamber of my own instincts and opinions. I try to give back, too, sharing links to my own blog as well as to particularly thought-provoking pieces.
However, this May is the exception that proves the rule as I am attending not one but two conferences. I already went to "Sharing Best Classroom Practices," held recently at Andover, which my son attends. And I am preparing to attend a special Symposium on the history and future of the middle school movement which is being held in Georgia.