A Little About the NAEYC Conference

Over the weekend I shared about my Dallas trip on my home blog.  It was such a wonderful opportunity to travel, learn more as a teacher, and present with a group.  It’s an absolute dream to be able to attend the conference (which is really expensive – thank you LeapFrog), but to be asked to help present just pushes it over the top!
NAEYC is the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  This conference was specifically designed for the early childhood educators out there who wanted to learn more about teaching this age group.  There were over 700 different sessions offered over the 5 day conference.  We were not there all 5 days, but I was able to fit a handful of sessions into my time in Dallas.  The first session I attended was the one I was part of!
So, there we are!  Left to right, that’s Jody from LeapFrog, Me, Jill from Tennessee, and Gina from Detroit.  We each had a roll in sharing information about technology and media at home and in the classroom.  One of the things I love about LeapFrog is that they aren’t just an educational toy company.  Yes, they sell fabulous educational products, but they are also about sharing information with parents and teachers.  So, this session wasn’t all about how to use LeapFrog products in the classroom, but it was more about how to make informed decisions when it comes to media and technology.  The big idea behind it, supporting teachers and helping teachers support the parents in their classroom, reminded me of the big idea behind Learning Path on the LeapFrog website.  I’ve been writing and taking photos for Learning Path, and it’s not all about selling a product.  It’s about sharing educational activities with families and teachers that they can do at home with their kids.  
Ok, back to the conference,
Our session went very well.  We had about 50+ people attend.  I really had no idea what to expect, but 50, or so, felt like a good crowd.  People kept coming and going during the presentation, which made me hope we weren’t boring them to death.  After attending a few more sessions and talking with other teachers, I found out that many teachers scheduled their time so they could see as many different sessions as possible. Sometimes that meant splitting the time, beginning at one sessions and then heading to a new one half way through.  Overall, I think it went well.  Hindsight, there are things I would have changed, but I’m hoping there will be a “next time” so I can try them out!
After our session, I squeezed in as many sessions as I could.  I went to sessions on music in the classroom, issues and trends in kindergarten, Autism, reading instruction, and a special presentation of children’s book authors. Oh, how I loved hearing the authors speak!

My favorite authors were Marla Frazee and Peter Reynolds.

Some of the must-have Marla Frazee books include Boot and Shoe, Boss Baby, Stars, and her newest wordless book called The Farmer and The Clown.  I can’t wait to buy that one!  I love wordless books and this one looks so sweet!  Marla did a great job of telling her story.  She combined telling her life story with walking us through her writing process, and sharing how she turns life experiences into her illustrations.  Of course, she’s a story teller, so you can only imagine that she told her own story wonderfully.  
Peter Reynolds books are very popular.  He has written Ish, The Dot, and Sky Color.  Those are on my “every teacher mush own” list.  Ok, confession time.  I may have gotten a bit choked up during Peter Reynolds’ speech.  He is incredibly passionate about education and some of things he commented on were very powerful.  He reminded me of the power we hold in the classroom, as teachers.  We, alone, can make or break a child’s year – or even beyond.  Here are some of my favorite Peter Reynolds quotes from his time speaking.
“Name your studio or classroom.  Take two words you love and combine them to make your name.  My company’s name is Fablevision.  I combined those words because I love the idea behind them.”
“Writing is an extension of thinking.”
“Take your wisdom, dip it in a little art, and just start.”
(That one can be applied to lots of different areas of life.)
“I don’t believe in standardized testing. Kids are not data.”
(I just have to plug my 2 cents in here.  I believe that some testing is good and essential in education.  We need to assess to see where kids are in the learning process and adjust our teaching to fit those needs. The high stakes testing that we are seeing, on the other hand,  is ABSOLUTELY  INAPPROPRIATE IN EVERY WAY, SHAPE, AND FORM. I could go on and on about my thoughts on this and tell you lots of stories about how our lawmakers are failing us in so many ways, but I want to stick to the happy thoughts about my great experience in Dallas.)
Going to Dallas and attending the NAEYC conference was right at the top of my list, when it comes to highlights of my educational career.  I was in Teacher Heaven!  I think the funniest thing I saw was the number of teachers who exited their session and went to the hallways, taking a seat on the floor criss-cross, to review their booklet and decide where they were going next.  There was plenty of seating at the conference and lots of chairs to choose from, but sometimes a kindergarten teacher is just more comfortable sitting criss-cross-applesauce.  I’ll admit, I did the same thing.  At the end of the day, I didn’t think I could handle sitting in another chair and I found myself a good spot on the floor.  What can I say… it’s the teacher in me.
My biggest take-away from the conference about my teaching and even about my homelife is this:
I plan to take my wisdom (about reading, math, writing, baking, sewing, cooking, or whatever I’m passionate about), dip it in a little art (which every child needs more of), and just start.  
Thanks Peter Reynolds.

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