Today I didn’t follow my usual routine of driving to school with my son. Instead, I dropped him off and headed to the airport. I’m going to Las Vegas for a teacher conference! Specifically, I’m headed to the ACTE Visions Conference where 4000+ educators will convene to learn and grow from each other. I love traveling but traveling for a conference is extra special because I get to mix my two passions into one: Traveling and Learning! At our core, teachers are lifelong learners. And today I am going to teach you what to pack and not to pack for a conference. Let’s start with what you can leave at home.
What Not to Pack
1. Do not pack Guilt
This one is at the top of my list because it’s the hardest for me. Any time I sign up for a training or a conference where I have to leave my students or family behind, I feel guilty. Guilty that I’m not with my students teaching and growing with them. Guilty that I have a sub again after being sick last week. Guilty that I am not staying with my family to be with them which means I leave an extra burden on my family unit to take on my responsibilities while I’m out. But at the end of the day, your family understands and your students will be okay.
2. Do not pack Negativity
Last year, when I went to the Visions Conference in New Orleans, I missed my flight by 2 minutes. I saw the plane at the gate and the agent wasn’t allowed to let me on the plane. I could have allowed that to derail my attitude and ruin the trip and conference. But you have to learn to roll with the punches. Yes, I missed out on my favorite part of conferences (the keynote and half the first day) but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And being negative doesn’t add any value to your trip or learning.
What to Pack
1. Pack your Sponge
Not a literal sponge! You want to go with a sponge mindset. This is your chance to network with other teachers (and industry leaders in my case) to learn and gather ideas from them. Sometimes the sessions that I end up going to aren’t exactly what I expected or needed but they open a door of opportunity or give me an idea for a book to read or an activity to try for that one lesson. It also sometimes just leads to networking or someone to follow on social media. This year is the first time I actually remembered to bring actual business cards so I am hopeful that I will make some good connections that will benefit my students.
2. Pack Extra Batteries
Conferences are usually jam-packed with tons of keynotes, sessions, and activities. Then on top of that, you are in a new city that you may want to explore! You want to be ready for long fun days! Now because you are having fun, Guilt can sneak back on you but don’t let it! You also do want to pack extra batteries for real though… like for your phone so you don’t get lost or can get an Uber.
3. Pack your Notebook/iPad
Bring one notebook to take notes in. Or bring an iPad to take notes on. I have one consistent place I take notes on during conferences so that I can always return to my notes and ideas that I get from each session. I like the iPad version because you can also audio record any session that you know you want to listen to again later. When you are sitting in a session, you can tell about 2 minutes into the presentation whether you are going to get a cramp from writing notes or if it’s going to be a few bullet points of notes. I also take pictures on the iPad of any business cards I want to be sure to keep. I’ll insert those into my notes so that I can add who and why I need to contact them later.
4. Pack your Colleagues
Whenever possible, I highly recommend traveling with your teacher besties. There’s something so special about traveling with people that work with you towards the same goals. One of my favorite things to do is to plan out what sessions I’m attending and compare it with my colleagues so that we can go to different sessions and share notes after each session. This collaborative practice has sparked so many great ideas for my classroom and my school. These conversations and experiences are what renews us as teachers and energize us for the work that is ahead. This is how I combat burnout or fatigue.
So look around for a teacher conference that will reignite your passion for teaching. What conferences have you been to that have sparked your light? What do you recommend packing or not packing to a teacher conference? Share in the comments below.