Wednesday, February 5, 2014

PA Department of Ed Annual Conference - Day 1!

Hi all! Just thought I'd check in super quick with how it's going here in Hershey, Pa after my first day at the PDE Annual Conference! I actually drove in last night because we were expected to get hit by an ice storm...and we did! It took 10 minutes just to scrape myself out of my parking spot this morning.

We started the day with a really cool keynote speaker named LeDerick Horne. He talked about his struggles growing up with a disability that was never truly explained to him in school, and talked about the things that eventually led to his success. He's a great example of why it's important to provide our learners with special needs the proper accommodations and the same high expectations that we would have for any other student. He also presented some of his poetry, and told us about the narration he did for this video celebrating the 35th anniversary of IDEA. Great history lesson on IDEA in just 5 minutes, btw! His presentation was a great way to start the day!

These are the two tri-boards I put up for the poster session!
I won't get into my contribution to the conference beyond saying that it went really, really well. There was a lot more interest in my topics of Peer Supports and Improving Inclusive Practices than I thought there would be. I got a lot of compliments about the things that we are doing at my school, and people seemed to be surprised that I was "just" a general ed classroom teacher. Haha. I've already posted a lot about what my class, and what others in my school, have done with increasing our inclusive practices...and to be honest I'm kind of tired of talking about it after today, so I'll move on! But I'm excited to share with the teachers at my school that people from around the state are clearly impressed with all the hard work they are doing!

In addition to everything else today, I attended a workshop on spelling and vocabulary. It was great to hear that a lot of what I'm doing in my classroom is in fact supported by research and gets the approval of my state! I did take a few things away from the workshop that I think I'd like to make sure that I am doing though. Here are the points that stuck in my mind:

1) Never ask your kids "Who knows what this word means?" If you expect them to know it, then why are you teaching it? Chances are they don't know it but will take an incorrect guess that will then be stuck in all their minds! (I KNOW I've been guilty of this one.)

Just for fun, check out the wallpaper
in my room's bathroom! Haha.
2) Just tell them a kid-friendly definition. And these should be picked out and thought up ahead of time. Don't make them look it up, the context will be lost by the time they do that. Give them the short and sweet kid-friendly definition in the moment, then have them look it up later if you want.

3) Don't assign vocabulary words as spelling words. If you're assessing spelling, assess spelling. If you're assessing meaning, assess meaning. It took me the first 7 years of my 13 year career to realize this for some reason...

I was excited to see several books on
mindfulness featured. I promise to write a
post soon about what we're doing with
mindfulness and centering activities soon!
There were a lot of other good points made, a lot of them (like the three above) I felt were things that a lot of educators already know, but served as good reminders.

So now I'm free to roam the Hershey Lodge and sit in my plush Hershey Kiss themed hotel room until tomorrow morning! My contribution to the conference is all done, so tomorrow I get to just sit in on presentations all day! I'll try to share any nuggets of wisdom I gain from them!

I have to say, the conference SWAG(stuff we all get!) leaves a little to be desired! Haha. I remembered when you used to get full samples and books and stuff. I guess it's the recession... The Hershey bar on my pillow is pretty sweet though! (pun intended)

Click here to grab it for 3 clams.
In other news, on our last snow day I was able to put the finishing touches on two new products! The first is my gratitude journal, which has 20 days worth of prompts to help kids think about gratefulness. I'm using it in my class right now, and some of the things the kids write are really endearing.

Grab these for the ridiculously low price of 2 bucks!
You can have these for life...or 4 fried apple pies from
McDonalds for like 5 minutes. Trust me, pick this.
The second is this pack of Clean Desk Notes and Brag tags! There are notes for clean desks AND messy desks! I'm a mean ol' teacher and only leave a piece if candy with the note if the desk is clean. It serves as a great motivator when a kid comes in first thing and sees that jolly rancher on his desk...or NOT on his desk! And I don't feel guilty cause, "Hey! I told you to clean your desk!" Haha. Also, they'll get plenty more chances. I mean, I have to use all the different varieties of the notes! After several clean desk checks the kids can earn the brag tag!

Anyway, that's it til next time! Thanks for reading!


  1. Holy moly that is a lot of ice!! I am glad you got yourself scraped out! Thanks for sharing with all of your blog readers the "nuggets" of wisdom you are learning or being reminded of. I love the one about vocabulary---I am definitely guilty of that one! Yikes!

    Can't wait to read about what you are going to learn tomorrow!

    Mind Sparks

  2. I'm glad your presentation went well. I have been guilty about breaking point number one as well. It makes sense though. I will have to be careful of that one. Enjoy the conference today.

    Fit to be Fourth

  3. Good thing you drove up the night before - that is a serious amount of ice. Thanks for the spelling and vocab. info. I am just starting Word Nerds so I can see some re-vamping of my program coming : ) Glad your presentation went so well, just a classroom teacher, pfft!!


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