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How to prepare for a conference

The annual CiRCE Conference is coming up in just a couple of weeks (July 24-26) and every year many teachers, administrators, and homeschooling parents go to conferences, not just ours, in hopes of becoming better – better teachers, better mentors, better parents, better people. But those kinds of lofty goals are not accomplished by attending some workshops and taking feverish notes over the course of three days. O, to God, that it were that simple! If only sanctification could be accomplished in a workshop!

Now that my disclaimer has been given, let me offer a few suggestions on how to get the most from a conference, particularly the upcoming CiRCE Conference in Houston, TX on July 24-26 during which we will contemplate humor and its important role in the life of education (how was that for slipping in a commercial?). If a conference is going to truly affect you, consider doing the following:

1) Take notes, but not in a way that distracts from your listening. Nothing will kill your ability to process ideas more than trying to write down every word someone says. Listen…you hear better that way. If you miss something, talk with other attendees after the session or ask the speaker himself (no offense to you gender-neutral language users out there).

2) Go to a session that is outside of your “comfort zone.” It’s human nature to flock to that which we already know and love, but that may also limit growth. If something is of great interest to you as a teacher, it is likely already one of your greatest strengths. Are there areas in which you really need to improve? Shouldn’t you work on those? Be wise about this. Don’t play only to your strengths, but don’t visit that which would be irrelevant (i.e., homeschooling parents should not attend 7 workshops on dealing with a new school board).

3) Enjoy yourself. Conferences always fly by and most people look back at them and wonder if they “got enough out of it.” For a conference to be profitable, you need to take time to talk about ideas, get to know other people, eat and drink well, take time for play, and renew your energy through the company other educators.

4) Oh, and here’s the really practical one – get directions to the conference, pack enough clothing, be sure you actually have plane tickets and a hotel room, and bring a toothbrush (forgetting that will make #3 tough to follow).

See you in Houston!

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