Sunday, November 4, 2012

Educational Trifecta

I had the privilege of attending the Project Zero: Building a Culture of Thinking conference last Friday and Saturday.  Now, usually my weekends are sacred, reserved for some well needed downtime, family/friends, and fun activities, with a little bit of work sprinkled in.  But way back in May, when our principal mentioned that several teachers would be able to attend, I had crossed my fingers and silently hoped I would be one of the chosen ones.  To go along with my "year of positivity" and participating more, I was thrilled in September to find out I was selected to attend.   Two whole days to talk with other educators and hob-nob with some important people, and of course, partake of a free lunch.  

It was a huge event with over 700 educators in the house (the beautiful Clarkston High School).  People as far away as Africa were gathered to learn, exchange ideas, and hear some wonderful speakers.  People from my own school would be presenting at one of the sessions.  I offered to drive some fellow teacher friends, painstakingly made sub plans, and anxiously settled into my seat on Friday morning to begin my journey.  The first order of business was to google the word "plenary" as it was the opening item on our detailed schedule of events.   I felt a little better when a couple people around me admitted to not being familiar with the word either!  Next I checked and double-checked my scheduled list of classes, times, and mapped them out so I was ready for the day.  

First up -- Ron Ritchhart, a former teacher turned researcher in Project Zero out of Harvard (and so much more)..

 Click on this link if you'd like to learn more about Visible Thinking. 

Now to anyone not familiar with the educational world and their "top dogs" we would be treated to three of the best:  Ron Ritchhart, David Perkins, and Howard Gardner.  Each unique (and brilliant) in their own way. I felt like a tween at a Justin Beiber concert.  

Ron had a fabulous kick-off to the conference on Friday morning, David Perkins wrapped up the day (night) on Friday, and Saturday morning, Howard Gardner (of the multiple intelligences fame) so inspired me when he spoke about the five minds for the future that I lined up to get his book and autograph.  Unfortunately, they ran out of his book before I got to the front of the line. 

Cool PZ bag and button
There were so many ideas and excited conversations taking place all around me.  It was a positive and charged atmosphere. How wonderful to be in a place filled with people where learning and teaching and kids are the priority.  Where everyone wants to share and listen and learn.  So much to see and do, so little time.  

I can't possibly recap and recount everything I learned and did over the two days.  I will say, that normally I am not a note-taker.  I prefer instead to listen while hearing a speaker or new information with the attitude that it will "stick" if worthy.    But I left on Saturday afternoon with several pages of notes/ideas on my iPhone and notebook because I knew I wouldn't remember if I didn't. I learned some new words like "enculturation" and "life worthy".  I was told I am a meta physician and that positive psychology is real (that really validated all my positive thinking ways).  The entire two days renewed me and made me feel proud to be a teacher.  It made me want to do better and be better.   

Cheesecake for lunch!
And if all that wasn't enough, I received a very cool Project Zero bag and a button. I got to hang out with some teacher friends and eat cheesecake for dessert at lunch.   That makes everybody more positive.  If you don't believe me, just look 
at my smiling friend.

And of course, any opportunity Mary gets to stand next to Ron is one that can't be missed.  I think their bright smiles truly reflect the entire mood of
the conference.

To summarize, I feel lucky -  I hit the trifecta this past weekend.  I'm sure the payoff will last for years to come.  

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