Yes Teachers, You Really Should Do a Conferenece Presentation

Excited for my conference presentation

I started blogging (albeit, inconsistently over the past year) to share what I was doing in my classroom. I wanted to throw the doors of my tiny room open wide to let people in and  learn from others, connecting with other teachers. Finding my “tribe”, as Marlena Gross Taylor calls them, that group of like-minded educators that I could share with, learn from, and grow with, was important to me.

However, even as I found and expanded my tribe online and shared my work through this blog, telling people about it in real life at at a big conference was something that I wanted to do, but didn’t really think  I could. After all, what I’m doing, I told myself, wasn’t anything special. No one really wants to hear what I have to say about what is basically just best practice, right? Besides, what if they shoot me down before I get started? What if they tell me what works for me will never work for them and for their students? Not just in a blog comment, but right to my face. Or they walk out of the room because my idea is so obvious that it just seems ridiculous.

I even presented at a few smaller conferences or in workshops that I helped set up. I did these presentations with varying levels of success. The issue wasn’t that what I was saying wasn’t good or interesting. It was that I was going in with the mindset that everyone already knew it, so they probably wouldn’t be interested.

Here’s the thing: I think as educators we frequently sell ourselves short. We’re a group of passionate people, and if we were looking for recognition or glory would have done something else. And yes, we know there are always one or two people who want to do things the way that they’ve always done them, but the majority of us are focused on honing our craft and making sure our students get the best education possible. I think sometimes because we’re so passionate, we forget that just because what we’re doing doesn’t seem earth-shattering to us, it doesn’t mean it won’t give someone else that “ah-ha” moment.

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Before my conference presentation. Look how excited I am! (Fake it till you make it–totally felt like I was going to puke…)

Interlude: Everyone Is Worried About Their Conference Presentation

(Obviously paraphrased and based on our memory of the actual conversation, because I was quite nervous and it was almost a week ago)

Me (seeing David Hayward, who I had just taken a workshop, right before my session): Hey! I really enjoyed that. It was awesome.

David Hayward: Really? You kept nodding. I thought you knew everything already.

Me: I knew a lot of it. I kept nodding because you talked about things I knew, and then gave me ways to take it further. I got so many ideas!

David: Thanks (or something–I’m not sure. I was incredibly nervous.)

(I’m pretty certain after this I ran away because I was was nervous and worried I would vomit)

If an expert who gave an amazing presentation thinks this, does that mean we’re all worried about the same thing? Maybe.

Seriously, You Have Something to Teach People in a Conference Presentation

No matter how simple or basic you think what you’re doing might be, you’re doing it your way, with your own style. There’s also so much to know that we can’t possibly know it all. And even if others already know about what you’re going to talk about, they don’t do it the exact same way you do. Maybe they’ve heard about it, but haven’t heard someone who has the same passion you do. Maybe there’s one small thing that you do differently that will spark someones imagination and make them want to try it out for the first time.

The bottom line is: You have something to say. Start sharing it with others!

Have you ever presented at a conference? Thought about it and then not applied?

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