*Article by Allison Gallagher, Bridgewater State University SEAM*

I never thought I would have attended a professional development conference during my freshman year of college. “Professional Development” sounds intimidating when you hear it for the first time, but there is nothing I enjoy more than learning such valuable information on how to enhance my future classroom, engage my future students, and learn about different teaching styles alongside other aspiring educators.

Joining SEAM gave me this opportunity, and I have attended three conferences since then. Navigating my way through these conferences for the first time seemed somewhat overwhelming. However, I’ve learned to use the following as a guide:

 

What to bring with you/Keep in your bag:

  • Writing Utensils (and extras)- pens/pencils/highlighters

You will be taking a lot of notes. There are usually pens provided, but I like to have my own supply of them too.

  • Laptop or iPad (optional)

These devices can help your note taking be more accurate. A lot of workshops offered at professional development conferences are from multi-day programs. Presenters are normally given an hour to an hour and a half to provide you with the most important aspiring educator friendly information.

  • Paper and/or Sticky notes

I find it helpful to keep a designated SEAM notebook/sticky notes with me even though you will get paper at the conference. This helps to keep everything organized. Tip: Write down things you enjoyed or quotes from the presenters you would like to remember. These are great to share when you return to your ED classes!

  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Band-Aids (in case of blisters from shoes, cuts etc.)
  • Re-fillable water bottle
  • High-protein snack (granola bar, cheese stick, trail mix, etc.)

 

When registering for the Conference:

  • Sign up for workshops that are interesting to you and that you want to know more about because there is nothing worse than sitting in a workshop and being uninterested.
  • Sign up for ones you think/know will benefit you as an educator
  • Variety is very important! Taking similar workshops at conferences will not give you the full experience and of broadening your professional development areas. Signing up for various workshop topic areas will give you the opportunity to discover a new passion, resource or opportunity.

 

During the Workshops:

  • Write down the contact information of the presenter(s). You never know if/when you will need it!

Most presenters provide their contact information for your benefit!

  • Sit in the front and pay attention
  • Don’t go in thinking you know everything already

It’s called “professional development” for a reason. Refreshers are both mandatory and key in this field in general because it’s always changing. You will most likely learn way more about a topic or subject in a PD workshop than in your 15 week semester because they are designed to be more in-depth.

  • Talk to others/network
  • Make eye contact
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Take notes on content and possible future resources
  • Participate in activities
  • Do your best to apply the material in imaginary situations/envision how they would work
  • Say Thank You to the presenter

They are taking time out of their day to come share their experience with you.

 

Throughout the Day:

  • Introduce yourself to presenters and other conference/workshop attendees

This will help to expand your professional contacts and potential future collaboration partners!

  • Pay attention
  • Be respectful
  • Take advantage of everything they are offering
  • Take pictures
  • Step out of your comfort zone

 

At the end of the Day/After the Conference:

  • Take time to reflect and review the day

Asking yourself/the group you went with questions like: What did you enjoy most? What do you want to learn more about? How can you do this? What inspired you most?

  • Keep your materials from the organized and put them somewhere safe where you will use them in the future
  • Speak with your ED professors about sharing what you learned in a quick 5 minutes of class time or speak with your campus’s SEAM leadership about doing the same at your next meeting
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