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  • Writer's pictureMike Vachow

Conference Recap

I returned Friday night from two days in Columbus, Ohio, site of the ISACS Annual Conference. I was there in my role as the ED of the Association of Independent Michigan Schools. It was my first post-COVID conference and first time back to Columbus in 4 or 5 years, long enough to be whiplash inducing in that fast-growing city. In no particular order, I've recorded my learnings and observations below.

  • Teacher recruitment and retention dominated the leadership conversation. One insight I found particularly impactful was something elementary teachers do with their students all the time, namely, helping colleagues move beyond broad statements like "I'm exhausted!" by naming specific emotions and their roots, understanding what they can and can't control, and then helping them make choices about the things they can control. Teachers also want more clarity on job expectations and feedback on how they're doing at them. With GenX and Millenials making up over 75% of the teaching corps, the era of "other duties as assigned" is over.

  • Consultant, Jill Goodman, described a new model for parents associations that matches better the expectations contemporary parents bring to the kind of belonging they want at our schools. Parents don't need to feel like they belong to the whole school; they want to engage with the part that excites them: arts, sustainability, making and technology, athletics, etc. In this new model, a school leader would oversee this confederation of parent-led "interest circles."

  • Pedagogy is in. I heard about some exciting coaching models, separate from evaluation, that were focused almost entirely on teaching strategies, on helping teachers grow the methods they used to engage students in learning.

  • As an outcome of the former, teachers are finding extraordinary place-based intersections between pedagogy and content. I heard about out-the-backdoor excursions and primary resource investigations that teachers were using to turn units, even entire courses, that once resided in textbooks into context-rich opportunities for firsthand discovery and for a rich experience of citizenship.

  • Innovation. If it doesn't arise from strategy, it's just random acts of new stuff.

  • Haberdashers, take note. The neck tie is dead.

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