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My Reflections After Attending In-Person Professional Conferences for the First Time in Three Years

It's been over a month since I returned from attending the annual conferences for ASSM and NCSM. I used to attend national conferences regularly, but after not having the option to attend them in-person for three years I found myself appreciating the experience more than usual. I am still thinking about the connections I made and the learning I had. Here are a few things I want to share.

These are my general take-aways:

  • It's so important to collaborate with other professionals (in-person when we can).

  • It's invigorating to challenge ourselves in new spaces.

  • It's essential to support one another in our growth.

It's so important to collaborate with other professionals (in-person when we can).

One of my favorite parts of the conference was meeting colleagues for the first time in person after collaborating virtually. It made me grateful for the opportunity to collaborate virtually, but also aware of the nuances we experience when in-person. I also loved spending extended time with my local colleagues who I text and email regularly, but don't always get to see for 12+ hour days. It was amazing to make connections, personally and related to our work. When we collaborate we see things in new ways and make connections we may not always make on our own.

How are you leveraging opportunities to collaborate with others on your team, others in your building, and colleagues now working in different locations?

How might you leverage opportunities to collaborate with professionals you may not even know yet?

It's invigorating to challenge ourselves in new spaces.

I loved learning about topics that I already have some expertise in at an even deeper level. I also loved choosing to attend sessions for topics I wanted to know more about even though they may not be topics I am the most comfortable with. Presenting on a new topic is also a way to challenge ourselves.

How do you challenge yourself to grow in new spaces?

Is there a new technique you want to try?

A new topic you want to explore?

It's essential to support one another in our growth.

During ASSM I had the privilege to speak about what it means for me to be a member of ASSM. Most of my presentation involved telling stories of how I have learned from others and leveraged opportunities because of relationships with people in the organization. I am so grateful for those who have supported my growth over time, and also those who supported me in the very moment I was speaking.

During NCSM I was able to attend a presentation given by local colleagues and friends. It was so fun to hear more about the great work they are doing. It meant a lot for them to be so grateful I had attended their session.

How are you using your relationships with others to support your growth?

How are you supporting your colleagues in their growth?

Have you thought about taking a class, attending a conference, viewing a webinar, or reading a book together?

Here are a few specific nuggets I walked away with that I would like to share.

Let's use assessments for advocacy rather than judgment, meaning let's use assessments to show what students DO know and CAN do rather than making it about what they can't yet do. Let's also design assessment features to elicit student thinking. (Dr. Patrick Callahan, CEO, Math ANEX)

We need teacher leaders. It's important for teachers to be able to take on formal and informal leadership roles. There are things classroom teachers see and can advocate for in ways those not in the classroom can't. Systems need to consider what this leadership looks like. (Roberto J. Rodriguez, Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, USDO)

Let's stop talking about learning loss and talk about the brilliant things young people can do. When we give young children tasks that matter and allow for informal language to be used and partial understandings to matter, we'll be amazed at what kids know and can do. Our job it to create spaces from them to problem solve and talk. (Dr. Megan Franke, Professor, UCLA)

Ask system shifting questions. Work in community and not isolation. Clarify your pursuits. (Dr. Terrance L. Green, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy, University of Texas at Austin)

Adapt to new situations and try new things. Teachers benefit from being able to try small things over time, rather than being expected to implement large initiatives all at once. We benefit from refreshers to continually apply things we have learned. (Cathy Humphreys, Debbie Olson, Trisha Syversen, Jennifer Walker, Celeste Harding, Mary Broadbent, Davis School District)

Consider multiyear improvement plans and how change takes place over time. Start small to go big by considering what is manageable and then spreading to scale. Frame change initiatives by asking, "What are the attributes we want to develop in our students?" (Nick Lopez, Big Ideas Learning)

Math is often too narrow- we need to open it up and provide appropriate supports. Disability is complex and we need to understand people in their wholeness. We need to consider how to make little tweaks to make things more accessible. The goal of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is to become expert learners. What are expert math learners and how do we provide learning designs for students to become expert math learners? (Dr. Rachel Lambert, Associate Professor, University of California Santa Barbara)

Let's build and leave math residue by making things stick for kids. We need an ongoing balance of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and application. We may not see each of these components everyday, but should see them all over time. Math tasks are great formative assessments at the beginning of units and should also be used thoughtfully throughout instruction. Tasks that stick don't have too many words, are simple and accessible, are unexpected, concrete, credible, and include stories that connect to emotions. (Graham Fletcher)

Coaching is not about fixing teachers or students - it is a partnership focused on student learning . Clearly communicate the coaching models used. Lesson study and instructional rounds should focus on what we are learning about instruction that will grow student learning. (Sarah Schuhl & Mona Toncheff)

We need to focus on big ideas in math instead of isolated concepts, then make connections within and cross those big ideas. We need to open up pathways for kids to learn. Know your worth. Find your allies. Get and use data. Be careful and be informed. Practice empathy. Be a warrior. (Dr. Jo Boaler)

I hope there is at least something small you can take away from the things I learned!


Speaking of conferences, I want to share some important information about an upcoming opportunity in my home state of Utah.

The 2023 Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics (UCTM) conference is being held January 31st- February 1st at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah.

Historically, the UCTM conference has been offered on the weekend in local high schools. This year it is being held on school days at a convention center. They are not only having one, but two national presenters including Trena Wilkerson, NCTM's recent President and Graham Fletcher, an amazing educator who is known for his progressions videos, 3-Act math tasks, and work work with fluency.

It is going to be a great conference!

I'll have a booth in the exhibit hall and will also be presenting a session - Using Progressions and Learning Trajectories to Guide Intervention in Addition and Subtraction.

I would encourage you to attend. You may want to ask your administrator about funding registration and substitute fees if needed. There is Early Bird Pricing through December 1st.

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