Recently, the Bedford School District ran its fourth annual Future Ready Conference. There were close to 90 different sessions that were offered throughout the professional development day, with most of them offered by staff within the district. This day happens to be the highlight of my year. Teachers are given choice in sessions that they want to attend. Teachers also learn from their own colleagues, and in some sessions, learn from students. Lots of learning, inspiration, and sharing happens on this day. It is a feel good day.
The conference felt different this year. I believe one major factor can be attributed to the keynote this year. Staff members could be seen getting emotional as well as sharing a laugh or two. There was a panel of five people who were asked to give a 10 minute talk about their passion, hence the theme of the conference “Ignite Your Passion”. The vision was to have 5 ‘TED Talk’ like style presentations. We didn’t want presenters and participants to read from slides. We only wanted visuals for participants to look at while these speakers gave their spiel.
In terms of selecting the five individuals, we wanted to make sure that we had a wide range of perspectives but having one aspect in common, all having a connection to Bedford. Thus, we selected an administrator, a teacher, two alumni, and a retiree. Each of these speakers had a completely different message to share which helped guarantee, or the hope was that it would guarantee, everyone could relate to at least one speaker. We also wanted to be mindful that sitting for 90 minutes can be difficult for some. Rather than one message from one speaker for the entire 1.5 hour time slot, we wanted to break that up, modeling what staff are doing in their own classrooms – constantly changing up activities and tasks for students to learn from in a class period.
This keynote reminded me that everyone has their own story and every story should be heard. Everyone has their own strengths. Everyone has their own passions. Everyone has their own struggles. And everyone needs to embrace their inner dork, nerd and geekness. It was so inspiring hearing the message from all five of these speakers!
It is our responsibility to get to know each other better. For instance, I had no clue that Mr. Cannon majored in Geography and likes maps and flags, even though I have worked with him for 10 years. I had no clue that a graduate has a passion for taking care of oneself. We are all guilty of coming into work and working hard to complete the tasks in front of us. We do this because it is our job and because we have lives outside of our profession where we don’t want to spend 24/7 completing tasks. However, the entire keynote reminded me the importance of taking the time to get to know people even more than I already do to learn more about their story and their passion.
I also appreciated the fact that all staff members were given an opportunity to share their passion. (Also a great opportunity for a short break, where staff were asked to stand and stretch). After three speeches, staff were asked to take out their phone and find a picture on their camera roll that speaks to their passion. They were then asked to share that photo with a staff member next to them. This idea came from the Future Ready Summit that some BSD employees attended a couple of weeks prior. Everyone has a passion. Everyone has a message. Everyone has a story.
Beyond the messages from the keynote, I continue to be amazed with all that is shared throughout the day. Many staff members shared their passion in individual breakout sessions. A special big kuddos to all the high school staff, as well as all other district employees, who gave up time in putting together presentations for their peers. Thank you for inspiring those that you work with.
I am excited to see what this professional development day looks like next school year. As you know, in order to be better, we must do better. Doing the same thing year after year can be ok but is not necessarily ok. Constantly thinking about how to improve is important. While I was inspired and thrilled with how the keynote landed this year I am excited to see how it transforms next year.
And that is my Spiel…