The Importance of Regional Conferences

IMG_1591Over the past few days I’ve been attending the NESA Fall Leadership Conference in Katmandu, Nepal. This conference is mainly intended to support leaders in international schools in this region of the world. However, at this conference in particular, there are folks from all over, including leaders from international schools in Asia and Europe. To me, the premise of a globally diverse and globally relevant conference was realized simply in the make-up of the attendees.

There are three important take-aways I gain from attending one of these regional conferences:

  1. A high level of learning which is timely and relevant to me. Over this 4-day period I was fortunate to learn about the importance of institutional and leadership generated focus from Doug Reeves, I learned how to plan for recruiting the best teachers using James Stronge’s Teacher Recruitment Index, Mary Ehrenworth showed me how to lift the level of close reading in our already established reading and writing workshops, and finally, Ian Jukes reminded me of the need for our schools to think about the future, rather than our past. This many top presenters all in one place make coming worth my time and effort.
  2. Networking opportunities with other leaders from other schools. Between the workshops, the coffee breaks and lunches, and the cultural events in the evenings, I found myself meeting and talking about international living and work with people from many different schools. Even though this is one, 4-day conference, what I’ve learned is that these connections follow me to other conferences and other schools. These connections could never happen if I attended a US-based conference.
  3. Being pushed out of my current thinking, into new ideas. Besides the money spent on souvenirs from Nepal, I’ve spent a great deal on new books mentioned by the different presenters and new friends. (My Kindle account was busy!) I want to better be able to deal with change, so Antifragile by Nassim Taleb has been recommended as a new and important read. Similarly, I was reminded more than once that I need to read the books Flow and Thinking Fast and Slow, and the literacy professional development text Pathways to the Common Core. I know it’s been a good conference when I leave with my head full and my brow furrowed, thinking about how to use what I’ve learned.

Regional conferences connect our schools both in sharing what we are doing and in helping us shape where we want to go. These large group contexts provide links which allow us to come together as professionals, maintaining a connection not only to best practices in education, but also to best practices in international education.

In addition, attending this conference allows me time to connect with my immediate school-based leadership team in ways we couldn’t do from school. Taking this time together has allowed us not only to get to know each other as educators, but we are also able to find our common connections as people.

Namaste from Nepal.

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