A good conference leaves you both energized and exhausted, focused and overwhelmed, and generally ready to get to work. Last week, Elizabeth Harder and I had the opportunity to attend Innovative Schools Network’s National Conference on Educational Innovation in the Wisconsin Dells, and it delivered on all counts. The conference brought together hundreds of teachers, administrators, school developers, governance board members, and other experts who are passionate about educating children in non-traditional ways.
For me, the highlight of the conference was the keynote speaker, Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer, Director of Indigenous Education at the University of Hawaii West Oahu. Dr. Meyer specializes in indigenous epistemology and spoke about native intelligence, love, balance, simultaneity, and much more. It was as delightful and unexpected as it is difficult to explain. Let’s just say that by the end of an hour, she had hundreds of us chanting in Hawaiian and everyone seemed willing. As one organizer said afterward, “You’ll notice that this is not a normal conference.” It wasn’t… in a good way.
Over the two days, I attended sessions on using Google Sites to track personalized learning plans, how to integrate students into project-based learning assessment, best practices in new school development, arts integration and children’s brain development, and a number of other topics. One especially practical session was by Sarah Hackett, who introduced attendees to the Wisconsin Resource Center for Charter Schools, a new office being created using federal grant funding. The office will offer training and other resources to Wisconsin public charter schools on authorizing, operating, governing, and improving charter schools. It was exciting to hear about how Wisconsin is developing this resource center--I expect that having a “hub” for networking and training charter school board and staff will be positive step forward in creating a more healthy and hospitable environment for charter schools in Wisconsin.
It was inspiring to be in the company of so many others who have been through the school development process that we are embarking on and to get their encouragement and support. By conference end, I gathered not just the knowledge shared in the formal presentations but also a pocket full of business cards, with associated offers to come visit schools and to reach out anytime for advice. I look forward to using those new connections to assist INDE as we continue our journey.
-Anna Rybicki, INDE Member