I’m a can-do person by nature. And I never feel that way more than when spending time with extraordinary teachers, like those who recently attended the second annual Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers conference, hosted by the foundation, in San Diego.
As one teacher said in an opening-night presentation, whenever things get tough she remembers Frederick Douglass’s adage: “where there is no struggle there is no progress.” Then she added with a smile, “I also read a lot of romance novels.”
That seriousness of purpose combined with esprit du corps characterized the three-day gathering, where nearly 250 of America’s top teacher-leaders exchanged ideas for improving practice, reaching students, and taking charge of their profession.
The foundation hosted the event to celebrate these extraordinary teachers, to honor their work as mentors and advocates, and to acknowledge teachers’ efforts to engage with students in deep, meaningful ways. As veteran French teacher Ken Haines put it in a speech to the group, “We teachers are the gardeners of humankind—we amend the mind, we nurture intelligence, and we propagate knowledge, treasure diversity, and harvest compassion.”
ECET2 teachers celebrated their work through spoken-word poetry, brought their colleagues to tears through inspirational TED-style talks, and led workshops for each other to spread promising practices. Teachers learned how to implement the Common Core in creative and effective ways, assume leadership roles in their schools without leaving the classroom, use social media to improve classroom practice, and build virtual learning communities across schools and even states. You can watch some of the highlights here.
But some of the best exchanges happened informally at meals and during breaks, and in Colleague Circles that brought together teachers from far-flung schools.
Teachers discussed an array of important issues in the circles, from how to motivate discouraged colleagues to how to improve writing across the curriculum. The circles also focused on getting school-wide support for the Common Core, with one teacher proposing something akin to an online Common Core University that would educate teachers about the changes.
The most important thing to emerge from ECET2? Teachers pledged to carry on with these critical conversations via email, Facebook, and more. As one teacher put it, “This is about the best professional development I’ve ever had, and I’m not going to let it stop here.”