Teaching Opinion

Teaching and Learning Conference Returns

By David B. Cohen — March 09, 2016 3 min read
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[EDIT: Added disclosure, 3/10/16]

I’m packing my bags and returning to Washington, D.C., for the 2016 Teaching & Learning Conference, put on by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). It’s one of the highlights of my spring, providing a boost of energy and inspriration as we head down the home stretch of another school year. (Disclosure: I do some contract work with NBPTS, and my conference-related expenses are covered by NBPTS).

Though it may suggest a lack of discernment or erudition on my part, I must confess, I enjoy just about every education conference I attend. It might have already been apparent in a blog post I wrote not long ago about some recommended education conferences, and whichever one I’m at is my favorite, for the time being. But this conference really is special, for reasons well-captured by NBPTS President and CEO Peggy Brookins in her own recently posted reflection on the Teaching and Learning Conference. She relates much of what I also experience at “T&L” - though one important thing she doesn’t mention is her own transition into leadership at NBPTS. The death of Ron Thorpe last summer was a blow to the organization and to those who knew and admired Ron. However, I’ve admired Peggy Brookins for a long time as well. In a blog post going way back now, I raved about her contributions to a policy webinar on teacher evaluation. Since then, I’ve met her a number of times, and have great confidence that our professional community is in good hands with the first NBCT to lead NBPTS.

I’m pleased to see that this year’s Teaching and Learning Conference will offer some continuity with prior NBPTS meetings. Last year’s Teaching and Learning Conference featured an outstanding plenay session on race and cultural competence in education. David Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, was absolutely brilliant in keeping the conversation authentic, lively, and focused, pushing the thinking of those on stage and in the audience. The National Board advanced that dialogue about race at a meeting last summer, engaging network leaders from around the country in a similar conversation. On Saturday morning, David Johns will return with an outstanding panel, including teachers Renee Moore and José Vilson, author/researcher Ali Michael, and Linda Darling-Hammond, discussing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. It’s difficult to summarize exactly how these conversations yield specific changes, but I hope and believe that they provide some essential insights, moving us beyond platitudes and sound bites concerning various “gaps.” I know that we can achieve some reflective and empathetic moments in these venues, and hope that such moments incline us to live more reflectively and empathetically. In whatever spaces we have voice and agency - in classrooms, schools, districts, unions, professional and community organizations - we need open conversation about race and racism, and proactive steps to counteract racism embedded in much of our society and institutions.

While I’m excited about attending the conference, and the Saturday morning plenary in particular, I’m also looking forward to contributing to conversations. On Saturday afternoon, I’ll be moderating a panel about education blogging: Writing Our Future: Blogging for Educational Change and Personal Growth. The six of us will not only discuss the value and impact of blogging, but will also join in small group conversations with attendees, to look more deeply into the topics that they find most interesting or useful. The goal is to make the session relevant and useful for established bloggers, new bloggers, and potential bloggers alike. If you’re attending the conference, I certainly hope you’ll consider joining Jennifer Dines, Ambereen Khan-Baker, Luann Lee, Renee Moore, José Vilson, and me, to discuss education blogging.

Photo: Peggy Brookins, Haydee Rodriguez, Michaela Miller (l-r front), and Linda Darling-Hammond; by David B. Cohen

The opinions expressed in Capturing the Spark: Energizing Teaching and Schools are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.