When it comes to working with students, we find joy in the rewarding moments: a struggling student has an “Aha!” moment; the class all-star volunteers to lead a study group; student growth right before your eyes; a smile of understanding; hugs.
Little can surpass those moments inside the classroom and even less comes close to the joy those moments bring. But meeting nearly 1,000 other like-minded educators in the same fight to end educational inequity comes close. And if that’s not a good enough reason, here are 5 more reasons you need to attend this year’s New Jersey Charter Schools Conference on March 30 & 31.
- Powerhouse Keynote: Have you ever seen a speaker so dynamic their words still buzz in your brain months later? Kisha Verdusco will do exactly that. As the Executive Director of Detroit Public Schools Office of Charter Schools, Verdusco is tasked with managing Detroit’s charter schools, which offer a variety of programs including bilingual education, parenting teens, college prep and adjudicated youth. Verdusco has seen a lot and done even more. As a vocal advocate for quality educational options for every child, she implements best practices and increased school and board accountability across the DPS charter portfolio. More accountability means more results. And more results means higher expectations. And that means better outcomes for kids. Join. Listen. Learn. Improve.
- Learning: I once signed up for a professional development session that promised “instructional materials to implement tomorrow!” for the cost of admission. What I attended was a day-long sales pitch. Thankfully for you, we don’t do that. The NJCSA staff works to ensure that EVERYONE in a school—and I mean everyone: teachers, aids, admin, board members, nurses, SBAs—has sessions that apply to their role and don’t require purchase orders to move forward:
- Advocacy/Policy/Law: Keeping up with Trenton is hard. This track makes it easy to keep up with the latest developments in district and state legislation regarding funding and accountability measures and how to overcome policy-induced obstacles.
- Use of Data: Data, data, everywhere. It’s the education buzzword that isn’t going anywhere—or is that PARCC? Whether it’s qualitative, quantitative, or the benefits and limitations of either, we’ve got your left brain covered.
- College & Career Readiness: Speaking of PARCC… From instruction and assessment to curriculum development, teacher training and special education, you can find it in this track. More than “Instruction” and “Student Achievement,” these sessions will provide insights and strategies to get our students ready for their futures.
- Leadership: For the instructional coach, head of school, or operations director, this one’s for you. We couldn’t do it without you, so a track for your needs, including teacher evaluation and supervision, how to build leadership capacity within a school, succession planning, strategic planning, hiring and working with staff, and oh yeah, culture and team-building. If you can lead it, this track is for you.
- Operations & Governance: Emphasis on operations, from facilities to fiscal sustainability, communications and PR to professional development, business best practices and policy development, these sessions are meant for the back-office employees, the trustees, and the additional supporters responsible for ensuring long-term organizational health. Check out Tuesday’s Charter Board Institute for Governance.
- Networking: While networking is one of Time magazine’s overused buzzwords, a recent Forbes.com poll finds it’s one of the single most important things we do to improve our work. The conference is a great resource for meeting new people, reconnecting with colleagues, and collaborating. And the best part? That brings me to…
- Location: What better place than Atlantic City? Indeed, let’s DO | AC.
- Your students: As a former teacher, I thought it was weird to leave the classroom for professional development. In my mind I always thought: “But my students need me In the classroom. I’m sure I can Google that session and figure out what it was about. It’s probably not even applicable to our teaching model.” But no, that’s not true and I was fortunate to have a school leader who set me straight and sent me to the conference. The opportunity to attend a charter-specific conference means session presenters are aware of the charter community’s unique needs and best practices for teachers, school leaders, administrators, and board members.
So, yes. On most days, your students need you at the school, but March 30 and March 31 are two exceptions that will reinvigorate you for your return home to your kids on April 1. To not attend would be the worst April Fool’s joke ever.