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Convention: A school of our own

There is nothing like the feeling of walking into a classroom the day after attending an NAGC Convention. Despite exhaustion, looming deadlines, and work to get caught up on, the smile on my face and the thoughts and excitement I feel seem to carry me along during my slow introduction back to the daily classroom schedule. As I meet my students face to face I can’t help but feel that if we can instill even one percent of the enthusiasm we feel for learning new material from exceptional teacher leaders, half of our work will already be done. 

In many ways the NAGC Annual Convention in New Orleans was very much like a school and the attendees from across the country the “class.” Pre-conference sessions, mini-keynotes, general sessions, poster presentations and daily “classes” presented a schedule that would overwhelm even the best vice-principle of academics. Hands-on practice, lecture, group work, and independent learning were just a few of the delivery methods used by the presenters to ensure that there was truly something for everyone. And attendees attended and organized “meetings, clubs, and activities” intended to create learning communities and support NAGC’s ongoing projects and goals. 

Inside the halls of the hotel and conference center, folks conversed, listened, offered ideas, received advice, and participated in one-on-one meetings. Physical education was present in the form of speed walking, escalator riding, and button pushing. Lunch was quick, and I am sure that some folks took advantage of a little nap time. Beignets and cake provided an afternoon snack, the exhibit hall served as a resource room and book fair, friends gathered socially “after school," and new friendships were made. The arts were spotlighted on several occasions for it seemed that wherever you were you heard the sounds of horns or vocals, witnessed dramatic productions, and observed beautifully created visual art. “Assemblies” provided time to hear from our leaders about the current state of the field, and yellow school buses even carted more than 800 attendees to an offsite field trip . . .  on school buses no less! Awards were given with new and veteran educators recognized for their contributions to the field of gifted and talented education and their dedication to NAGC and its mission.

With each passing day, participants filled their brains with new and exciting research-based practices and ideas. There was even a virtual “school” in the form of a digitally transmitted conference for those who could not be in attendance. All in all, it was a mammoth conference, and one that I’ll remember and reflect on during the year ahead.

As I look back on those jam-packed days, it is clear that new advocacy and communications of “our” work is underway. Most exciting was the new work with the NAGC P-12 Gifted Programming Standards, the release of the 2010-2011 State of the States report, and our connection to the Common Core State Standards.

One clear difference is apparent, though, between our Convention “school” and the daily experience of many gifted teachers and students: each of us in New Orleans was allowed to be him or herself on a social, emotional, and educational level. Starting tomorrow, and each day after that, I will think a little differently of the students who wake up early, get dressed, pack the books, catch the bus or walk, take their seats, and prepare to learn. It is what happens next, when the class is quiet and the teacher begins to speak, that makes all the difference.

In mid December, be sure to visit NAGC’s Live Learning Center, where you’ll be able to access the recorded sessions from this year’s convention, complete with handouts. Relive a session again or listen to one you may have missed.

For those of you who would like to read an in-depth, 4-day report of the conference, visit Tamara Fisher’s Teacher Magazine Blog, Unwrapping the Gifted.

See you when school's back "in session," November 15-18, 2012, in Denver!