Sunday, April 25, 2010

LMSA Post-Mortem

So after a really grueling week of studying, presenting, and testing, I'm really looking forward to this coming week without school. Of course, I still have college school work to take care of, but I'm over the hump of some heavy duty stuff--which makes me very happy. This past Wednesday-Friday I attended and presented at the Louisiana Middle School Association's annual conference in Lafayette. I had a much better time than I did last year, especially since people actually presented things that interested me. So here we go, these are the things I learned:

(1) Men are an Endangered Species at Conferences.

One thing that really stuck out while I was there was that, well, I stuck out for the single reason for being a guy. It was like the inverse of when I was at LeTourneau where there were nine guys for every gal. It wasn't threatening or anything; just different. The biggest sign women were the primary target of these conferences? The peddlers selling kitschy jewelry and home decorations outside the presentation room. I could feel the testosterone draining from me every time I got near them.

(2) Attending Conferences by Yourself Stinks.

It's true, especially when you tend to get a bit overwhelmed in unfamiliar crowds like I do. I went to my sessions like a good little conference attendee, but did little talking to anyone in any way, shape, or form. It's a bit hard to do when (A) you can be a bit awkward at social situations at times and (B) No one would want to talk to you anyway because they're too busy talking to their colleagues. Worst of all was the opening session, where I ended up being tucked in a corner with no one else sitting at my table for eight. I was tempted to carry sign that said "LEPER! UNCLEAN!" after that, but decided not to. Regardless, having a sidekick would make making snarky comments in some sessions a lot more fun.

(3) Lots of Teachers don't know the Content Knowledge in their Subject.

Yes, this is one of my pet peeves. Yes, I know I am the massive exception to the content knowledge rule because I scored two 200s on my Praxis II exams for Social Studies. And yes, I know nothing I can say will change the situation. That still won't stop me from being perturbed at how little my colleagues know about the subjects they're teaching. My top three moments were as follows:

  • Having to explain to the session presenter and the rest of the attendees that the reason the example of a diary entry of the girl from around Gettysburg was so blase about the battle as opposed to the Confederate diary entry was because the Confederacy only made two incursions into the North: Maryland campaign (Ending at Antietam) and the Gettysburg Campaign. OK, so the details may not be known, but to hear a teacher tell me that they didn't know the South actually invaded the North was a bit unsettling.
  • In a session on astronomy, I was the only teacher out of thirteen earth science teachers that could point out the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion, Canis Major, & knew that the centre of Orion's sword is the Orion Nebula, Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, and that Polaris is a circumpolar star. Considering that discussing the night sky and the constellations is an entire chapter of earth science textbooks, at least someone pointing something out would have been nice.
  • In a session on Science in the News, an earth science teacher asked the presenter why Iceland has volcanoes. I literally facepalmed myself.
(4) There's a lot of Teachers Presenting Cool Stuff.

Now that I vented at the general incompetence of several of my colleagues in the profession,  allow me to point out that the sessions I went to were well done and I got several ideas on doing some really cool stuff--especially if I teach science in the near future. I really enjoyed the reflection lab that used laser pointers to hit targets around obstacles with mirrors, the floor map with strings and cardboard, and the session that took us outside and taught us how to have a functional class outdoors teaching traditional topics.

(5) Always have a Plan H, Just in Case.

My session that I presented at our ShareFair in January was a modest success by my low expectations, and I expected similar for LMSA. However, it still ended up being a bit of a fizzle, mainly through technical problems. My session was immediately after one involving making large maps of the world, and the class was packed with fifty people. By the time I was ready to roll, there were five people in the room, including myself and the two presenters who would go after me. As you can guess, I was rather deflated.

My PowerPoint presentation went along just fine, though I lost my hardy band a couple of times. When it came to the demonstrations, my products made by ESRI, which were the cornerstones of my demonstrations, refused to work, and crashed. I internally panicked, but on the exterior I blamed it all on bad luck, and opened up Google Earth, showing some things you could do with regards to drawing polygons that I had used in my reading class. I then showed off the Night Sky, Moon, and Mars functions of Google Earth, and all five of us were wowed. The crowd thanked me for the presentation and said they were impressed with my quick thinking. However, I was embarrassed by the fickleness of the programs and how unprepared they made me look.

As an aside, let me throw the LMSA under the bus by mentioning the fact I had to pay $32 for Internet access for the day. Why? Because they refused to buy wireless Internet access for the conference and didn't let anyone know until the day of registration. Good thing I shelled out the cash, because I would have been sunk otherwise. Real small-time move by LMSA that should not happen again next year.

(6) Even Though your Session is a Miserable Failure, you don't have to Mention that on your CV.

Because all that matters is that you have this to put it on your CV.

OK, I may be am a bit vain (They forgot to give me my presenter ribbon at first, so I wrote it on my tag), but I put a lot of work and heartburn into making sure I got that little ribbon attached to my name tag. :^)

Until next time.

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