Saturday, November 8, 2014

The AMLE Conference - It's the People

(courtesy AMLE.org)

Professional Conferences. It’s the people that make the experience memorable.

Even in today’s day of being connected, the takeaway from the AMLE Conference in Nashville goes back to the human element. It is all about the people. And, it’s all about the relationships.

When we have the opportunity to sit and discuss best practice, experiences and our passions it is inevitable that it will be the contact we have with each other that is what resonates in the weeks to follow. That is what we will talk about more than anything else.

After spending three days with educators passionate about kids in the middle, I share my reflections of my experience and a list of suggestions the next time you head out the door to a professional smorgasbord.


-       Passionate Minds. Get a few thousand people in the same city, under the same roof, remove all distractions and task them to grow as learners. On top of that, they are all focused on the same thing. In this case, middle level educators who care about the adolescent and their development through some of the most challenging years of their lives.  Dive-in.

-       Keynotes are Key. There is a reason they start the day and there is a reason certain people are tasked to kick-off conferences. Dru Tomlin and his cast of characters had this on their minds throughout the schedule. We need those hooks to inspire us and motivate us for the day of learning that lies ahead.

-       Take Notes. Our brains are amazing in all they can do at any given time. However, there is so much going on throughout the day that we better jot some of this stuff down. Whether electronically or old-fashioned paper and pen, you are going to want to refresh your memory once you get back home.

-       Introduce Yourself. For those that get in front of the group and present I give you credit where credit is due. Some people are meant to be in the audience while others can command a room. If you sit through a session and are inspired by what you have learned, take the time to thank the person that delivered it. Both parties will appreciate the simple gesture.

-       Get, and Stay, Connected. Many of us are tweeting, blogging and surfing the web often for ideas, direction and suggestions for our own work. Sitting in a room on a Friday night conducting #mschat with 25 others is jaw dropping. Connect names to avatars and ideas to faces. You’ll be amazed on how the connections raise the energy in the room. I am connected therefore I am one step ahead.

-       Ask Questions. When we signed up we assumed we knew what we were getting in to. We saw the keynotes, got excited about the pending experience and set a course for the trip. Many would say that sometimes the best sessions are the ones we know the least about. As you walk around the conference ask others sitting across the table about their experiences. Two fold – you’ll gather some more great ideas and you will “get connected” along the way.

As I make my way back home this morning I am eternally grateful for the experiences over the past few days. Even more so, I am grateful for the friends that I made. It is these new relationships and the conversations we had that will motivate me to continue the work for middle-level students, their teachers and the community.