Impressions from day one of ASCD? Today was more about orienting myself. Getting to know the folks running and volunteering for ASCD, getting to meet up with friends some of whom I have met in corporeal form before, and some I’ve only known online. It’s also about figuring out the space in a new convention hall. while ASCD is not as big ass ISTE, it is a big conference with over 10,000 in attendance, and the Moscone Center is a large place.
ASCD has teachers, but there are a lot of administrators here. I haven’t spent so much time with so many administrators at a conference before. It’s a new and difference experience for me. I’m also taking on more of a leadership role myself, representing for my CUE affiliate, CapCUE as we start a new joint membership arrangement.
I did not attend a lot of the sessions due to poor sleep, happenstance, and our old nemesis, inertia. I did attend the opening keynote. I don’t have a lot to say about Chip Heath. Like many of the new school of speakers on change, his speech was full of generalities and amusing anecdotes, the ones on education were not all of great quality. He did cite some of Carol Dweck’s work with some nice examples, but picking out Do Nows from Lemov to talk to an audience of educators is not very insightful, since that’s been around since Harry Wong’s book were on the ascendancy. My concern, was that his anecdotes sometimes suggested more rapid change while, he general points suggest that it could take time, hence the need to focus in the positive to Maintain morale.
What did impress me was the winner of the ASCD Young Educator award, Bronx principal Luis Torres. He gave an impassioned speech about his students and the difficulties they face that I know all too well. I was thinking he was picked because he was another miracle worker ala Geoffrey Canada, providing wrap around service and getting great test scores. It was only after meeting with Mr. Torres in the press office that the more complex story came out. Here was a man struggling not only to bring up his students to survive and thrive outside their own mean streets, but was struggling with some of the same academic performance problems I know all too well. He can make one year of progress on his test scores, but NCLB requires two in a row, and that was eluding him as the bar is set higher each year. He seemed to literally tear up because he realizes that the odds are against him, and one year, probably sooner than he is ready for, they will shut down his school for “failing”. This is how we reward people who have the compassion and the tenacity to take on our hardest educational challenges, and put the child’s needs first. If that doesn’t make us want to cry maybe we’ve all become too cynical.
ASCD wants to get the word about about their Outstanding Young Educator award, and to strongly urge people to nominate teachers and administrators so they can be recognized. You can find more information here.