Why The Martin Institute Summer Conference Was Awesome

I discovered something this week: good education conferences are like youth camp for teachers.  You church brats know what I’m talking about – you go off somewhere for a period of time with a bunch of other people who have pretty similar goals and mindsets and you get really pumped up and motivated for the coming year.  I’ve had the opportunity to attend two fantastic conferences this year: the Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit back in February (which is about equivalent to a Grace Covenant camp on the “drink the koolaid” intensity scale) and the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence Summer Conference the past two days (which had less koolaid, but did include door prizes).

At this week’s conference there were between 4 and 8 sessions of workshops (depending on the length of session you chose), 3 keynote speakers, and a featured session where you had 3 options to choose from (I chose the student panel…I will probably always choose the student panel.  They’re the reason I go to these things).  Out of all of that goodness, I attended one session that I felt was not useful.  One.  Do you have any idea how rare that is?

Because there was so much awesomeness, I’m just going to give you the highlights and tell you some things I plan on implementing in my classroom this year (mostly because once I put it out on the internet for all you lovely people to see, it means I have to actually do it.  Yay accountability!)

The first session I went to was about using book clubs in the classroom.  The presentation provided so many resources that, with a little tweaking, I can basically walk in and start doing this in my classroom.  There’s obviously still a lot of prep work I’ll need to do both in and out of the classroom to make them really meaningful for my students, but the basic framework is there for me (which, to be honest, is what kept me from doing this kind of thing previously).

Next was a session on integrating technology into the writing process.  The two big things I took out of that were (1) I need to focus more on the writing process and (2) I need to provide opportunities for my students to share their writing with people other than me.  Why on earth would I expect a student to put hours and hours of work into something that they will turn in to me, just to have me grade it and hand it back to them.  They should have evidence of their hard work that they can show off to friends and family (and not just by hanging it on the fridge).

I also attended sessions on using Wikipedia in the classroom and on what makes good readers and writers, both of which have ideas bouncing around in my head.  I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew heading into a new school with multiple preps, but I’m excited about the possibilities.

Some other highlights from the conference include:

  • Keynote speakers Gov. Bill Haslam (whom I introduced myself to), Tom Barrett (if you’re involved in education at all, you need to know who this guy is), and Bill Nye the Science Guy!

Photographic evidence proving that I met the Science Guy

  • Hanging out with one of my new colleagues and some TFA friends
  • Meeting teachers from my brother-in-law’s school in Dallas
  • Getting super excited about the potential opportunities Twitter presents for collaboration and professional development (check over on the right to follow my teacher twitter account; for my personal account, follow @rachel_heather)
  • Being surrounded by teachers of all kinds – old, young, new, seasoned, elementary, middle school, high school, male, female, etc. – who are all working to provide students with an excellent 21st century education.
  • Did I mention that I got to meet Bill freakin’ Nye!?
*sidenote: would you please look back and see how many times I used parentheses in this post?  I am out of control, I tell ya…
Leave a comment


  1. I’m glad you enjoyed the conference, Rachel. I look forward to learning with you at future events and through our online EduPLN.

  2. Philip Cummings

     /  June 17, 2011

    It was great to meet you at the conference, and yes, it was a wonderful tow days of learning. So much so that I think I hit overload just after lunch today. I appreciate your reflection and i look forward to our being connected via Twitter. Let me know if I can ever help you in any way.

  3. Gaynelle

     /  June 17, 2011

    Bill Nye the Science Guy…my hero!
    Your use of parentheses is still way under my use of exclamation points so you’re good!!!!


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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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