Prioritizing Professional Learning Opportunities
By Sam Aguirre of WIDA Español
Spring does not just bring color to our gardens and chirping birds to the northern states, it also brings opportunities for educators to attend to their professional development. Popular national conferences for educators working with bi/multilingual learners that come to mind include the National Association for Bilingual Education 2021 Hybrid Conference and the National Association of English Learner Program Administrators 2021 Virtual Conference, both in April. There are also many local and statewide conferences, like the recent 2021 Combined Virtual Conference of both ESSA and Multilingual Illinois and the California Association for Bilingual Education 2021 Virtual Conference. This spring, attention to our professional learning is of great need, as we could all use an opportunity to recharge our batteries and acquire new skills to enhance the work with our students.
Whether you are an educator directly supporting students or one who supports other educators, this school year has been tremendously challenging. We’ve had many learning opportunities to adapt to online and hybrid learning, but returning to the classroom under COVID-19 also means adapting in different ways. For this reason, I highly encourage both education administrators and teachers to take advantage of local and national conferences. Because most of the conferences are virtual or hybrid, accessing the on-demand and live sessions can be done from your workspace and at times that fit best into your schedule. Additionally, we don’t have to worry about leaving home for a few days or the expenses that come with attending a conference in person.
In order to get the most of spring conferences, below are some tips that educators might find useful. I’ve divided these up into considerations for teachers and administrators. Feel free to share these with your colleagues and add your own tips to the conversation by sharing your insights and this article on your favorite social media platform.
Tips for teachers on conference attendance:
- Review the program and create holds on your work and home calendar for sessions you would like to attend
- Share sessions that interest you with other educators in your school whom might also find them meaningful
- Share session times with the school administration and inquire about your participation being part of your work for the week
- When you join a session (be it live or on-demand), do your best at silencing distractions around you to get the most out of the conversation
- Be sure to capture the presenter’s name and email, so you can connect with them if you have questions after a conference session
- Following every session you attend, make it a point to share something you’ve learned with a colleague
- Set aside time to reflect at the end of a day’s sessions and turn the learning into actionable tasks that can support your bi/multilingual learners
Tips for administrators on conference attendance:
- Review the program for sessions that will support your school initiatives
- Invite your teacher-teams to attend specific sessions
- Create opportunities for your teachers to debrief after the session so that they can turn the learning into actionable tasks that will directly enhance the student experience
- Advocate for and provide opportunities for yourself and teachers to attend conference sessions during work time or to be compensated for the time spent on virtual and hybrid conferences
- Don’t forget about your own learning and plan to attend at least 3 sessions that directly inform your work
- Take the learning an extra step and share new ideas and practices with your colleagues in your school and other schools near you
I hope that you are all able to attend and find meaningful insights at conferences this spring. If you happen to see me (virtually) at anyone of these conferences, say hello!