How to prepare mentally for an education conference or learning experience

Perhaps you are doing it wrong!

Everything is connected and interwoven. This is the idea I am trying to process and understand in my life right now. I look at my job, my personal goals, my kids and family, and everything else and am constantly striving to make sense of everything.

With that being said and going through my ideas scribbled in my notebook and listening to some podcasts I realized a few things.

  1. I never reflected upon my experience at ITEC
  2. I have goals with some upcoming conferences I am attending and presenting
  3. I am giving up certain things when deciding to make decisions to attend conferences and be away from home*

* #3 is important. For every decision we make we are turning away other ideas and events. I was thinking about how to frame my mind for these upcoming conferences so that it is worth the sacrifice to other things in my life. When we say yes to one thing we say no to another. For example, saying yes attending NYSCATE15 is me saying no to watching my kids play basketball and missing out on a small surgery my daughter is having.

Let’s take a look at some things I have learned over the years when preparing for a conference, PD, or learning experience.

Mindset – I am not going to bring up growth mindset(I just did I guess), but the idea I am about to share falls in line with this concept. When you go to a conference you should not go to a conference for others to “give” you ideas and things. Instead you need to go to the conference looking for answers to, “What am I going to learn?”

You need to have a plan and goals instead of attending and hoping. For me, I am heading to NYSCATE in a few days to present and also to learn. I have a goal. I want to learn from teachers in others states about the pressures they face and how they organize their days and planning to make ends meet. Each state is different with different expectations and criteria. I think it will be very helpful to absorb the ideas from teachers in New York to bring back to Iowa. I want to come back and prove to our teachers that we are doing amazing work and/or to come back and share ideas about how to make our work easier and more time efficient. I want to find educators and schools doing great project based learning, interdisciplinary work, and find people who are making sense of standards in ways that does not feel like more things on teachers plates.

What is more important?

What is more important to you – to learn a new idea or connect with a new person?

This is a very important question. For me, my goal is to connect with new people. I feel like I can find almost any new idea from my PLN and social media. However, I want to enhance my PLN and meet new people to make sure this happens daily. I want to engage in conversations and push the thinking of others that will push the thinking of my own.

Each person is different. Some attend to gain specific ideas. This is why the mindset piece above is so important. What are your goals and how are you going to reach those goals? I shared above what I am hoping to find, but if you peel back the layer to my goals it is about people. I am seeking educators.

Goal Check

If the conference is more than one day, then make it your goal to reach your agenda/goal by the end of day one. If you can complete your goal on the first day, then the second day and all the days after are just bonus.


Finally, don’t sit on the ideas and do nothing. Take time to reflect on your learning and your goals. Then it is time to create an action plan. I have a notebook where I draw and draft my ideas and how I plan to implement. I also use this blog to showcase my learning and ideas so that I am held accountable. Find a method that works for you. Otherwise, those notes and papers sit and collect dust or move way down in your Google Drive and nothing happens. When that occurs, did you actually learn anything? Don’t fool action as simple note taking.

When I think back to ITEC I launched five new presenations with two being workshops. I was nervous as they were all brand new. My goal was to test my new learning. Could I actually teach these ideas? Even more important, I was gauging my audience in terms of my style. I opted from using slides. I used OneNote for everything. I used ITEC as a playground for learning and experimentation. I learned so much from certain things to keep, certain presentations that should go away and not be repeated, understanding timing and how much to talk and how to allow hands on, and I learned more about myself through others. Basically, my sessions were my class periods I had as a teacher. I had to make adjustments on the fly from not having enough seating to technology not working to people liking my presentation to people walking out.

After ITEC I spent the rest of the week cleaning things up, eliminating the unnecessary and researching how to improve my weak points. The beauty is that I get to test out my improvements at NYSCATE and continue my learning journey.

Additionally, I sat in on some sessions to learn how others presented information. I was not there necessarily to learn the ideas being shared, but how it was shared. I love watching the craft of teaching. I wanted to learn from those who teach students every single day to how they teach to adults. I believe it is a different set of skills.

I had goals. I had a mindset to learn specifics. I was successful.

How do you tackle conferences? And what else should I consider?

NCCE2015 spkr button

And by the way I am super pumped to learn at NYSCATE! with the help of Microsoft!

Last, never, ever, forget to drink coffee!

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2 thoughts on “How to prepare mentally for an education conference or learning experience

    • How do you connect these? I am quite intrigued by your comment. I would to learn more about complex theory and fractals concept.