Survey Says?

Image result for shenandoah universityJust received the feedback from last week’s full-day training at Shenandoah University through VASCD. Super humbling and more than a little nerve-wracking to deliver a full day of PD to a packed college lecture hall with more than 60 educators from all across the Commonwealth of Virginia — easily the largest room I’ve ever presented in for a one-person training.

Since this was my first time ever hosting a full-day PD, I think it’s super important to dig deep into the feedback and take everything that folks are saying into account as I continue to reflect on how better to grow, shift, and shape these sorts of things to help me figure out how best to serve the diverse needs of such a large group. First impressions of the day left me feeling fired up and excited, but at least a little bit concerned that while it’s SUPER fun to vibe off of the energy of such a large group, it’s kind of a challenge to move at a pace that keeps everyone authentically engaged in meaningful work throughout.

Loved the people, loved the energy. Let’s see what the feedback has to say.

The Good: A high-energy conference with meaningful takeaways!

This was one of the few conferences that I have attended in my teaching career where I can actually use what was shown to me. So many conferences have great ideas that are impossible to implement where I teach. This conference was different. I do not feel like I wasted a day.

And this one…

I’m a veteran teacher and I’ve attended lots of conferences where I walked away thinking that I’d wasted my time. Not this time! This was fantastic and I can’t wait to try out some ideas in my classroom!

The Bad: Pacing issues. Ug.

I wish we had spent less time on the high school level English dungeons and dragons style game. The concept of the game was good, but we didn’t need to dig that deeply into content that wasn’t relevant to many. We missed all the makerspace stuff which would’ve been more relevant to those of us at the entry level.

And more pacing issues…

Was disappointed that we did not complete all of the agenda items. I was looking forward to the makerspace design challenge.

This is good info to take into consideration for future presentations. Ironically, it wasn’t the D&D stuff that took more time than we’d expected — it was actually the large group kickoff challenge #QRBreakIN, which ran for 1:45 when we’d only slotted it for 60 minutes because teachers were really digging the activity! But the data leads me to believe that nobody really seemed to mind the near double-length session of the opening activity, which is encouraging — as it means that time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Note to self for next time: carve out more protected time for scaffolding. Leave more time for Q&A when group size gets larger, and maximize time spent in hands-on activities.

The Ugly: Students too young for gaming?

John presented some great activities today. They seemed very motivating and engaging for high school age students and units of study. I teach 2nd grade. There were no examples or experience for elementary children. I truthfully think that most of the strategies would be tricky to alter for 7 and 8 year olds.

Not sure what to say about this one. I’ve seen YouTube videos students as young as Kindergarten using SeeSaw and Flipgrid. And things like blocks, LEGO, and sketchnotes seem to be right up their alley. But it’s certainly a worthwhile question: even if we’re “playing games” in an academic environment, do certain student-centered activities only work for older kids?

Einstein is reported to have said that if he only had one hour to solve a problem he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and the remaining 5 minutes solving it.

I link to this feedback not because it is laudatory, but because is excellent. Good, bad, and ugly alike — studying what works and what still needs work most definitely helps me define the problem from all angles. And that puts us one step closer to a solution every single day.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife, Laura, a high school music teacher and fellow graduate of The Catholic University of America, and a giant-sized Maine Coon cat named Jack.

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