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1000 sessions. Three days. One. Thousand. Sessions.
Just the idea of the size of ACTFL’s Annual Convention is overwhelming to think about. Even for someone who attends state (Wisconsin) and regional (Central States) conferences regularly, ACTFL is a bit overstimulating. There are thousands of attendees. It’s insane. How do you even approach something like this? This will be my third ACTFL conference, so while I’m not necessarily a “seasoned pro”, I’ve got some experience with this, and still remember how thoroughly overwhelmed I was by some aspects of my previous two conferences (San Diego & Boston). If you want more tips, Carrie Toth wrote her own list on her site. Check back here for daily updates from the convention!
I still remember Rick Steves’s speech in San Diego. He was outstanding. During his speech, #ACTFL15 was trending on Twitter. It was remarkable. The opening general session from 8:30-10am on Friday morning will feature journalist Bill Weir presenting “Stories from Cultures Around the World”. The five regional finalists for the national Foreign Language Teacher of the Year will be there and the winner will be selected. For first timers especially, there is also a convention welcome & orientation from 7-8am.
Between sessions, presentations, and exhibitor workshops there are over 1000 possible learning opportunities. And that doesn’t count the pre-conference workshops and paper presentations. Looking at a time on the schedule with 100+ things to see can be really challenging. Is there something in particular that you would like to learn about? Maybe you’re trying to incorporate new technology. Maybe you’ve got a textbook you dislike. Need to inject more reading? Want to find more review games? Pick a mission or two. Whatever your goal is, define it clearly. Use that to hack away at the sessions that don’t meet your goal. You can’t become an expert in everything in 3 days. If you’re looking for a list of sessions that focus on Comprehensible Input-based themes, check out this list compiled by Palmyra Languages. The Fluency Matters booth will also have a printed list available as well as the one linked on their website.
There are 14 different session times on the schedule. That means you could soak up 14 hours of professional learning over the span of 3 days. Here is a secret: you don’t have to attend a session every single time one is offered. If none of the sessions at a time meet your goal (see above), or if you feel your brain getting full, it’s okay to take some time off. You may want to just process what you’ve learned. Maybe you need to get some physical movement by walking a lap around the convention center. If you’re staying close enough, there is nothing wrong with a little siesta. Maybe sitting down and blogging, or writing lesson plans inspired by a session will benefit you. I know, you’re thinking, “But Kelly, I paid SO much for this convention & the travel! I need to get my money’s worth!” I say this: Think of how you pace learning in your class. Quality teachers don’t just “cover” material because students don’t acquire it well. Your brain is the same. “Covering” more topics during the convention won’t necessarily allow you to acquire any of the topics and incorporate those into your teaching. You might actually get a better VALUE for your money by processing what you’ve learned.
There are frequently other groups that get together and hold events during the conference. Sometimes states or regions hold receptions. Online PLCs may have a get-together. Maybe you’ve got a long-lost friend from another state who will attend with his school. Take advantage of meeting people you don’t get other opportunities to bond with. On Saturday night at 8, there will be an event called “Hot for Teacher: World Languages Edition” where some funny and talented teachers will share stories from their classroom…and no hot topic is off topic. Tickets are available for $10 from Third Coast Comedy Club while they last (only 100 available). Or, visit a site in Nashville! After all, you may not get here again soon to see the Country Music Hall of Fame!
There are so many exhibitors to visit! Way beyond what you’ve ever seen at state or regional conferences. Companies you have never heard of. And several you have. Check out the things they offer. Or just cruise by and get some swag. (Okay, I know…but we all do it!) And if you want to say hi to me, I’ll be spending some time at the Señor Wooly booth! It’s worth it to take a lap through the hall. Besides, after sitting and learning, you’ll welcome the exercise!
Share! We're all in this together!