I just returned from the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) meeting in Denver, CO. In advance of the conference, through a biology teaching listserv, a group of five of us decided to join forces at the NABT this year, in order to cover more sessions.
We met on the first evening and mapped out a plan to allow us to cover many more sessions than any of us could have done alone. Joe Walsh (from Farmington, CT) was our ring leader – he suggested the idea in the first place in a listserv post and gathered us all together that first evening. In addition to Joe, our group included Dana DeFarcy (from Casa Robles HS in Orangevale, Califronia), Gian Toyas (from St. John’s HS in Puerto Rico), Alton Lee (from Mission Hill HS in San Francisco, California), and me (Robin Heyden – Boston, MA). After the first day, Ilona Miko (from Scitable in Cambridge, MA) joined us because she could see that we were having so much fun.
After we fanned out to cover our appointed sessions, we gathered together again each evening, in the bar. Our pattern was to give a 5-minute recap of each session we attended, sharing handouts and urls that we’d collected.
This turned out to be a terrific way to cover a lot of ground at a busy conference but what was interesting to me was that it was so much more. Over the course of our sessions, we got to know each other, and ended up trading more information than what was covered in the sessions – teaching ideas, our opinions on the sessions and speakers, insight into what made a session effective. We introduced each other to other teachers, who wandered by and were curious about our working sessions. And since three of our members were NABT-first timers, I suspect that this little enclave helped them to feel more connected to the conference. We have plans to keep in touch via email, after the meeting, and continue to share resources and information.
What a great example of the power of a teaching community. Seems to me that this could be an idea to suggest more broadly at future conferences and professional development workshops. Small teaching communities, working together to reflect on and interpret the conference in a more meaningful way. What do you think?