Sharing what we believe to be right and good should be our next step, right?
I've been told by many people in my presentations that "It's so good to hear from someone who's still in the trenches." That phrase rubs me the wrong way, because in my mind, a school should not be compared to a war zone, but I can see why they say these things. I, too, feel distant from those presenters who used to be educators and are now consulting full time. I know, however, that many of those same presenters should be respected for so many reasons, so I pay attention to the message, not solely the speaker.
My husband and I recently got back from a successful workshop and keynote at South Dakota State University. What a stellar group of educators there! It was a small, welcoming group that included preservice teachers and teachers up to about five years in, as well as other alumni of their REMAST program (math and science rural educators). I know the healthy grading workshop went well - especially when some educators argued over zeros for missing work and late work penalties. I know the keynote went well, as one man was crying afterwards as he thanked me. This was my first big presentation since the large one I had in January flopped. I learned a lot from that audience, and was able to make sure this audience was a good fit for me this time.
That was January, and this one was in the summer - BIG difference. First of all, I didn't need to take any personal days from work. I didn't need to make any sub plans. My students aren't even factored in. I could focus solely on my message. This trip took us six days. BIG difference. We got back yesterday, and my husband is worn out from the driving, even though we are glad we drove and didn't fly. Seeing America's small towns and landscape is enjoyable for us.
At what cost do teachers present outside of school?
What price should be charged for excursions that take so much out of us?
I then headed to ISTE on Monday to present. I did not get paid. In fact, my district paid over $400 for me to attend - for one day. I'm grateful that Carrie Baughcum texted me the night prior and asked if I'd ride along with her downtown. I was able to take the green line from half a mile away from McCormick Place to the blue line to the Rosemont station to get picked up by my husband that night. It was a massive venue, with over 600 exhibitors, over 1300 presentations, and rumor has it there were over 21,000 attendees. Presenters pay their own way, and also need to be a member of ISTE. I understand that the cost to use McCormick Place for so many days and to pay the myriad keynote speakers must be out of this world. However, I believe the cost to attend - even to present - is too much of a burden to put on educators. Consider those not from Chicago - to stay overnight in a hotel downtown? Just. Too. Much.
Oh, my goodness. The rockstar educators that showed up to ISTE. No wonder teachers clamor to go! I thought I met a few in the one day I was there - then I saw tweets from so many others! It was a day full of lines, chats with PLN outside the sessions (my favorite), lines, selfies, lines, sneaking lunch on the floor, lines, closed doors, lines, ball pit (seriously ??), lines, and genuine conversations about becoming better educators. I am grateful for being able to share part of what I've learned, meet familiar and new PLN friends, support from friends not seen enough, and star sightings of educators I've learned from for many years through the tool we call Twitter.
When does presenting become too much? Or when do teachers turn that corner, leave the schools, and consult or present full time?
I know educators who do not teach in the school system anymore. They either work for themselves, for an educational company, or they are in administration part time, and presenting as well. Some have taken to advertising only their books and presentations through social media - this could be a big source of their income (and retirement) if they don't now have a steady teaching job. I have heard of one presenter who has said, "I won't present anymore where they won't pay me." I wonder if these teachers would rather be back with us - in the classrooms - but the cost or burden of presenting during the school year was just too much and they felt that calling to share their message with more educators.
I hope to never get to that point. I have turned down applying to present at venues where presenters do not get paid when I need to travel there. If teachers are paying for a flight (or wear and tear on a vehicle) and a hotel, at the very least provide the presenters with access to the conference for free. I feel so very fortunate (and honored!) for conferences that want me to present, so they pay for my meals, hotel, travel, AND the conference - depending on where and when it takes place, that can often be payment enough!
I did not become a teacher so I could present about ideas in my book. (I still can't believe I can say "my book!") I am much more comfortable with seventh graders. When I get a good group however, who enjoy hearing of the ideas I bring, I feel over-the-top happy. I feel like I'm in the right place. I feel like I'm making a difference. I had this feeling when I was at ISTE for that one day. Some parts of my message were impactful to some educators. This helps me to keep presenting. I will retire from teaching in ten to fourteen years from now, and I will present when I can until then. I will also still attend edcamps, of course (with my tribe)!
I think we need to give a break to educators who present to other educators.
During the school year, it's amazing that they're taking time away from students to share with adults.
During the summer, it's amazing that they're taking time away from family to share with adults.
If presenters are not teaching anymore, it's most likely because it's just too very difficult to do both.
Thank you to all those in charge of conferences that help educators share their message.
7/2/18 Update... Gary Stager's two centsISTE By the Numbers - 9,000 heart tattoos I never saw... and 23,000 balls? C'mon.