Blog post by Shani Benson, third grade inclusion teacher at South Dover Elementary
Last Saturday, my fellow Rodel Teacher Council members and I hosted ECET2 Delaware: Connecting Innovative Educators. Our goal was to provide a teacher-led professional development opportunity while celebrating the outstanding and tireless work that teachers do.
In all, we had three keynote speakers, two colleague circles, two breakout sessions of the attendees’ choosing, and breakfast, lunch, and snacks provided by the St. Georges Technical High School culinary arts students.
More than anything, I was amazed to see the power of a conference that was planned and led by teachers, for teachers. It was my first opportunity to attend a professional development event created by my peers. At the end of the day, three lingering thoughts bounced around in my mind.
- Teachers love to hear from other teachers.
Teachers rarely get the opportunity to step outside of their schools and interact with other teachers. During the different ECET2 sessions I attended, much of the conversation was just learning about what each other does in our classrooms. From sharing our favorite apps to strategies for helping students understand content, teachers loved sharing their stories and their ideas. This was the spirit of ECET2, and to me, the best form of professional development, hands down.Jerod Phillips, associate principal at Seaford Middle School, one of three keynote speakers, underscored this sentiment during his talk on teacher-driven professional development. He spoke of his challenges as an educator and how he overcomes them through the advice and help from other educators, both locally and nationally through the use of online platforms like Twitter and Voxer.
- Teachers are dedicated creatures with a heart of giving.
Let’s be honest…it was Saturday. And it wasn’t even an ordinary Saturday in February. It was a rare 70 beautiful degrees outside. As I drove to DelTech’s Terry Campus in Dover, I saw people playing in the park with their children, jogging on the trail, and looking so happy to be out in the weather.The teachers who attended ECET2 saw the weather and still showed up in Dover to celebrate effective teaching and teachers. This wasn’t some district-mandated professional development, and yet teacher came for a full-day of intensive training to learn how to improve their craft—on their own time and unpaid.That, to me, says so much about who we employ as teachers in Delaware. We understand that it is up to us to improve our craft and techniques so that we can improve the lives of our students. As our second keynote, Two Guys Who Sort Of Know What They’re Doing, said: “teachers are heroes without capes and we should act like it. We cannot wait because our students cannot wait.” I was so proud to be a part of that dedicated group on that unusually warm Saturday.
- ECET2 made me wonder why this doesn’t happen more often.
As a teacher, I might know a handful of others teachers from the different districts. But on Saturday, I met various educators who share the same passion as I do. There were representatives from all three counties and educators who work in all fields, from early childhood to higher education.
I cannot remember the last time I was surrounded by so many colleagues. I found myself asking why events like ECET2 aren’t happening in schools and communities across the state. This event felt like a step in the right direction, and hopefully the Rodel Teacher Council continues to provide this opportunity and empowers others to do the same. We all need to challenge ourselves as teachers to think about taking hold of our own development, and consider hosting events like this in our schools.
Many people won’t know the love that was poured into the preparations, but I hope it was obvious. From the carefully thought-out sessions to the food that was lovingly prepared, the Rodel Teacher Council wanted to make this an amazing experience for the educators taking part in the conference.
If you were unable to attend this year, you can access all the resources and materials from ECET2 here and even check out Saturday’s activity on social media via our Storify. We look forward to seeing you again soon.