By Mary Anne Mather, Managing Editor
TERC’s Using Data for Meaningful Change Blog
The 2013 annual Learning Forward Conference in Dallas, Texas faced quite a challenge this past December as a major ice storm glazed the area in a slick crust of sheer slippage. Flights were canceled, and Texas-based drivers found themselves snarled on impassable roads. Using Data, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was scheduled to present a full-capacity, all-day session on Monday, December 9 entitled Effective, Continuous Data Use Requires Prepared Leadership. Would we make it? Would our participants?
As the storm subsided, travel remained impeded. Interestingly, our Sunday Boston-based flight was one of only two American Airlines flights that weren’t cancelled. In fact, it even ran on time! We took this as a sign that we were meant to serve the dedicated educators who might be able to brave the elements and show up for an annual event that is highly valued as one of the premier professional development (PD) conferences of the teaching and learning year. And, like the little postmen of Golden Books fame, many dedicated education leaders allowed “neither sleet, nor snow” to keep them from their much cherished PD.
We expected 42 participants (the room capacity); 22 made it after much ado! Several Texas-based educators noted that it took them several days to realize a successful arrival. Even our third co-presenter, Brian Huff from the Rowland school district in California, was thwarted, but we were able to Skype him in on a big screen, and the session commenced as planned. It included mini teaching pieces, small group collaborations, hands-on activities, and the creation of a learning journal to inspire action planning afterward. Brian was even able to provide individual sidebar consultations to participants upon request. The session purpose was successfully accomplished as participants:
- Left with an understanding of data-use best practices
- Shared how schools/districts translate these best practices into action
- Reflected on your current conditions that align with the best practices
- Initiated thinking about implications and next steps
Several remarked that it was one of the best-planned and executed PD sessions they had ever attended. We were pleased it was worth their tenacity in getting there!
We share this experience and some action shots taken that day as a tribute to the dedication of teachers as life-long learners who value hearing about new strategies and processes and who see the wisdom of engaging with professional peers to share ideas and develop action plans that will stir improved teaching and learning in their own contexts. Let those who fail to appreciate the efforts excellent educators regularly take to bring the best to their students take a lesson from this hearty group who braved nature for the sake of their own high-quality professional learning.