Reflections from my Cali Conference Adventure
Last week I left for California with my kindergarten colleagues. I know Bunny was nervous about me leaving, but what you may not know is that I was as well. She is my best friend, my wife and someone who I just like to be around as much as I can. Gushy I know but it’s true. She has gone away for conferences before, but that was before Shannon (our 17-year-old Chihuahua) was so old and had so many persistent needs that are best met by both of us. I kissed our little dog on the head before I left, though I was worried and didn’t like saying good bye, I continued on.
I had to pack the night before as I still had a full day of teaching before me. Ok, Bunny packed for me as she often/always is my fashion consultant in the mornings, so I of course needed her to plan my outfits for the conference! I feel a sense of duty to represent the queer, gender non-conforming females out there and to make the statement that Yes, it’s ok to wear pants!
Last Thursday was a crazy day, I taught all morning, coached basketball at lunch, had a meeting right before literally running to the taxi that would take us to the airport. Once we were at the airport though, the reality sank in: we- are- going- to- CALI! I recalled selecting my workshops with great anticipation, as this is my first ever teachers’ conference and I couldn’t wait to see what it was like. And the most amazing thing was that our whole team was given this exciting opportunity to attend together! I do apologize if I haven’t mentioned our kindergarten team’s amazingness until now, because they are some of the best people in the world. Our office is organized like one big table. Our desks all face each other and we often jokingly give out the “cleanest desk award” to who ever deserves it, usually not me. Other teachers marvel at how we actually get work done this way, but we do, you see, kindergarten is a village; we all care for all the students, and we all love our job. Teamwork is our middle name, we have a flat leadership approach that thrives on each others strengths.
On the plane ride we took time to finish up some collaborative work, watched a movie or two and probably annoyed our neighbours with our high fives, giddiness and my passing of
chocolate to those around me. We were EXCITED!
When we finally arrived in Los Angeles, we jokingly wondered which actors we would see. Well, low and behold, I saw Eugene Levy and his eyebrows from across the luggage carousel! CHECK! We met our taxi driver and he drove us in style and quite quickly, I must add, to Pasadena. We rested and regrouped to be ready for our next couple of conference days.
All the workshops I went to had one underlying theme in common, Keep It Simple Sweetie. This was helpful for me as I am a perfectionist and although this motivates me to constantly improve and push my limits, I often want everything I produce to be PERFECT. The problem is that perfection doesn’t exist, and I seem to forget that sometimes. I was encouraged by the workshops because I learned that I am already doing many of the activities/ideas that were presented. I was inspired by each presenters’ passion and joy for what they do. Each teacher, retired or currently working, had one consistent message: they want to constantly improve themselves and that they love what they do. There is that old cliché that says, if you love what you do then it’s not work. Well that is definitely true here. These presenters love what they do. Which was validating for our K Team because we share this sentiment.
Here are a few broad stroke conference takeaways:
Tablecloths make easy, affordable decorations and can help transform a classroom in millions of creative ways
Don’t be afraid to be imaginative
Presenters with a Southern Drawl are very funny
Bucket Filling is a great tool for empathy and social skill building
“We all have feelings and we all like feeling good”
Phonemic awareness is crucial
When helping children learn to write ask what is the “spelling” and not which “letter” do you hear
Seats closest to electrical plugs are VERY sought-after
Integrating STEM can be easy and modest: use simple materials
Fruit in California is divine, eat as much as you can
Not only did we learn a lot at the conference, we also became a closer team. The laughs and
adventures we experienced reinforced the bond we have with each other and strengthened our
team in incredible ways. From playing Ping-Pong, to thrift store bargain hunting, to finding gluten-free restaurants, to going swimming at the outdoor pool in 13C weather, to renting a car and driving to the Hollywood Hills, to looking at all the big homes in Beverly Hills and trying to find a public bathroom for all of us women, to renting bikes in Venice and biking along the ocean and the canals, to saying hi to all the animals I encountered, to seeing the ocean and touching
the water, to trying to find all the most perfect gifts for my wife along the way because I missed her terribly and knew she would have loved to be here with me and that she would have loved it as much as we did. We had so much fun! What an incredible experience, and I am honored to bring this passion back to snowy, icy, cold Montreal.
Note: Teachers and Parents, If you want to know more about the actual presentations, just leave a note and I can write another little blog.