Friday, April 04, 2008

conventioning in Boston

So here I am at the Hynes Convention Center, skipping out on my first session of the day because it's boring as hell and not particularly helpful. I took my copy of the power point and left. I started a 'strand' of panel sessions by the Access Center on differentiation yesterday and it continued with a more specific math and science track this morning but I have been disappointed. Yesterday's module was excellent.

There are a couple words that educators throw around these days, one of which is 'differentiation' (an ambiguous term to say the least). With the laws as they are these days and inclusion (another education buzz word) in the classroom, differentiation is something that everybody says but very few really know what it means or what to do about it. We have to differentiate instruction, they say. Well that's great and all, but have you met my children? HELP! For once, during the session yesterday, I actually got some concrete useful information and not just lip service. I was hoping for something in-depth and math-specific this morning but I've been let down. For a two hour session, I heard everything I needed to know in 20 minutes. So here I am blogging about it.

Overall, the conference has been a bit disappointing for me. I am learning that educators can be notoriously bad about saying what they mean. And by this I mean that lectures and panels that have one title and description often turn out to be completely useless to me. I struck out twice yesterday before hitting something that had any meaning. For instance, a 'demonstration' ostensibly titled "State of Practice: Implementation of Inclusion and Prereferral Practices Across School Systems" that claimed to be about improving collaboration to improve inclusion practices (I realize that this means little to any of you out there - but it's important) turned out to be an awful slide show about the demographics of special education students in one small area of Texas. Useless to anyone not from Texas. "Strategies to Sustain Improved Outcomes for Youth with EBD and Their Families" turned out to be another data presentation with no real helpful information about what strategies were used in order to get such encouraging results. Most of my special ed students (and even those with 504 acommodations) have some sort of EBD (emotional/behavioral disability) classification and I need help, ideas, a starting point. It's why I came to this conference in the first place. So far, I got nothing. Most of the presenters I've seen have been preoccupied with presenting the specifics of the data from their studies without ever telling me how I can use the results of their study to benefit me or my school district. That's higher education for you.

I'm a math teacher. I need my presentations to be practical, to-the-point, and devoid of unnecessary information.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the city so I took a walk around the neighborhood and admired the brownstones and enjoyed the cold but sunny weather. Today is nasty and rainy, but if it lets up any time soon I may skip out of the conference for a little while and go find the comic shop and waste some time. Either that or I'll hit the mall or Barnes & Noble and hide until 5 o'clock. Oh, but look! There is a session titled "Differentiated Instruction, Social Skills and Behavior: Teaching Urban Learners" that claims to want to give me concrete and applicable information. Off I go.

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