Keep the Post-Conference Fire Burning

Having just got back from the awesome SHAPE America conference in Seattle, it’s time to reflect on the hours spent in outstanding sessions, reconnecting with educators, experiencing a wonderful city and two impactful keynotes. When I return from conferences I want to do ALL OF THE THINGS – make lesson plans, tweet about my experiences, hug my family, and unpack my suitcase. That said, while your heart, and cup, is full, there ARE steps that we can all take to make sure we keep our fire burning until the end of the school year and beyond.

Here’s my list of 5 things to do to keep the fire burning.

1. Get Some Rest: If you maximized your time in Seattle you are likely to be physically and mentally exhausted. Having burnt the candle at both ends you’ll need to concentrate on catching up on lost rest. My advice for the days after the trip would be to get your sleep pattern back to normal, eat some healthy food and get some exercise. I find that at conferences it’s easy to eat unhealthily, sample a few too many local beers, and attend a lot of socials (and rightfully so) but remember, If you don’t recover from the excesses of the conference, you’re no good to anyone. (Exhaustergy photo inspired by: Jessica Peconi-Cooks)

2. Provide Feedback: While the conference is still in your head, why not provide feedback to SHAPE America and let them know what went well, and any suggestions you have for next year’s conference in Cleveland.

Was the conference everything you hoped it would be or are there suggestions that you can make to ensure that next year’s conference is even better. In addition to contacting the organizers, were there any presenters that impressed you? Consider sending them a thank you message, which goes a long way, strengthens your connection with that person and might lead to future collaborative efforts. Oh, and while you’re at it – thank whoever made it possible for you to attend. It’s becoming increasingly harder to find funds to attend conferences so strike while the iron is hot, and maybe start the conversation regarding attending next years conference.

3. Follow Up With Those You Met: There’s no doubt that the national conference attracts some outstanding educators and this year was no different. The connections that I have made over the years make national conventions such a warm and friendly event. I had hugged at least 30 people before I had made it to my first session. I make sure that I’m following all of the great educators who impress me with their presentations and their social media presence. I also followed anyone who was awarded ‘Major of the Year’ – I hope to learn from them as they move through their career.

It’s always great, especially if this was your first national event, to finally catch up with teachers who you may only have ever interacted with online That’s the best feeling…..and yes, Will Potter is taller in real life than you ever imagined. If you bonded with a teacher, or wish you had the opportunity to talk with them for longer, I encourage you to follow up with a DM or Vox in the coming weeks.

Did you get a business card, or follow someone new on Twitter? Was there a vendor that caught your eye? Now is the best time to touch base with them. 

4. Reflect: As a practitioner of skills-based health I know the value of reflection, encouraging my students to ask themselves – was my goal appropriate, was my advocacy message effective, did I make the correct decision? Take time over the next week or so to take stock, look through your notes, ponder the post-conference tweets, engage in a conversation on online and access the presenter notes from the conference site/app.

My initial takeaways from this year’s conference include continuing to make my lessons and my teaching spaces as inclusive as possible. Murray Wallace‘s rugby session reminded me that I need to follow up on my promise to students to teach them the game (I also promised to teach them Quidditch!), and Sarah Gietschier-Hartman and Lisa Smith‘s session has me asking myself how I will disrupt my own teaching…..I plan on teaching a PE lesson where I ONLY ask questions for the duration of the class.

My co-worker Andy Horne asks those in attendance at conventions “What one thing will you takeaway and try when you return to school.” You will have seen so many great ideas, but which idea will be the one that you lead with? Was there an idea, a game, a theme that you can either fit into the remaining lessons this year, or can you incorporate that into your summer planning.

This summer I want to follow up on Christopher Pepper‘s media literacy session and create a robust lesson for my sophomores. I also plan on developing a series of lessons that allow me to ‘sell movement’ to my PE students. Call me a movement salesman.

5. Pass on Your Knowledge to Co-workers: Believe me, I know only too well how difficult it can be to get permission to travel to a conference and I’m certain that many in attendance had to leave co-workers behind. Although you will have attended sessions that allowed you to grow as a teacher, I’m sure you also looked out for new ideas that would help your students..and those that teach them. Don’t keep all of your new found knowledge to yourself. Arrange a brownbag lunch meeting, or even find time to physically take your co-workers through some of the new activities that you saw. At my school we are often asked to create a Powerpoint slide to share at our next meeting. This type of positive interaction can only help, and hopefully your co-workers will reciprocate when it’s their turn to attend a conference.

So what next? We all only have a few months left until the end of another tough year for many. Hopefully the energy and inspiration you found in Seattle will keep you going through to the end. For me, it will be over the summer where I’ll really be able to sit down and find ways in which I can improve my instruction for next year. Already the ideas are bubbling away in my head – new ways to introduce health at the start of the semester, improved ways in which to better serve my students, and all the books I’ll be reading this summer. So many books!

What was your best moment(s) from the #SHAPESeattle conference? I’m appreciative of the time I spent with the Teacher of the Year cohort. Feel free to share in the comments section below, or online – there’s some great conversation on Twitter right now. It would seem that we are all keen to keep the fires burning, drive the conversation about effective instruction, and improve the experience of our students. That’s why I love my PLN!

Did #SHAPESeattle inspire you to consider proposing to present at a future conference? Check out this #slowchathealth blog post:  Proposals

Good luck for the rest of the semester, and I hope to see you in Ohio in less than a year!

Big shout out to the firestarter himself, DOCTOR Bob Knipe for inspiring me to keep my fire burning!

Why not keep your fire burning by writing a bite-sized blog post for the 4th annual slowchathealth microblog event? A microblog is an engaging and concise blog post of up to 500 words (although longer posts are acceptable). The joy of the word limit is that a microblog post can be a collection of thoughts or sharing an idea that has worked with students. Sometimes the thought of writing a longer blog post can be daunting, but there is often creativity in constraint. Constraints provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people, which is evident in the number of submissions from first-time bloggers.

Find out more here.

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