The content of an ECET2 convening should focus on providing teachers with knowledge, tools, and skills for their professional growth in four areas:
Teacher Leadership Teachers have a powerful voice and an invaluable perspective on what works to motivate both students and their peers at the school and district level. Convenings should focus both on raising teachers' awareness of their own strengths, interests, and potential as teacher leaders, and on giving teachers opportunities to lead.
Effective Collaboration Teachers should leave a convening ready to build strong teams, empower colleagues, and influence those in positions of power in their schools and districts. Convenings should guide teachers through the use of effective techniques for communicating with their peers, administrators, parents, and community members.
Innovative and Effective Instructional Practices Convenings expose teachers to cutting-edge technologies and pedagogical practices, as well as to high-quality, evidence-based curricular materials and practices that are closely aligned to state standards. Teachers should leave a convening feeling like they have a greater understanding of, and access to, these materials and practices and can share them with their peers.
Equity in Education Convenings should promote educational equity and advance efforts to close the achievement gap. Teachers who work in high-need schools or with high-need students should leave with a network of support, connection, and inspiration.
In addition to these focus areas, regional convening planners often supplement their events with unique and creative content.
The Format and Structure of an ECET2 Convening
Cultivating a Calling Keynotes Speakers share emotional and candid stories about why they teach, in spite of the many challenges. Keynote speakers showcase diverse experiences in terms of demographics, grade level, and subjects taught, as well as response to the convening’s overall theme. Every convening should include between two and four Cultivating a Calling keynotes.
Colleague Circles Small support communities meet throughout the convening to share and address common challenges. These central hubs allow participants to quickly build intense professional, social, and emotional bonds. Some teachers report forming relationships in Colleague Circles that last well after the convening. In fact, many teachers have said Colleague Circles are the most important and rewarding part of convenings. Every convening should include at least two meetings of Colleague Circles, with each meeting about one hour in length.
Teacher-Led Breakout Sessions Breakout sessions allow teachers to learn new skills and techniques, access actionable tools and information, and build their capacity to develop into teacher leaders. Teachers are the primary presenters and content experts, but non-teacher experts and facilitators may support them. In effective sessions, participants learn by doing and creating, and facilitators move quickly from concept to application by focusing more on the “how” than the “why.”
Teachers leave effective sessions with key takeaways and tools they can bring to their classrooms. Every convening should include at least two breakout session time blocks of at least one hour in length, with multiple options for teachers to choose from during each session.
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Format and Structure: Additional Elements
These three additional programmatic elements can be embedded within the convening agenda or creatively incorporated in other ways.
Deliberate networking opportunities throughout the convening serve to expand teachers’ connections within their states and districts. This networking enables teachers to know that even if they are isolated within their team, school, or district, they can still draw upon the strength and knowledge of their ECET2 colleagues. These networking opportunities should connect teachers not just with one another, but also with existing regional and/or national teacher networks (such as the Center for Teaching Quality, Hope Street Group, and others). They should also provide a platform through which teachers can easily find resources to improve their classroom practice.
ECET2 convenings should also incorporate specific opportunities to build teachers’ capacity to use social media to stay connected with each other and with new networks following the convening. Ultimately, teachers should leave an ECET2 convening feeling less isolated and more connected with teacher network organizations, their colleagues, and helpful teaching resources.
Celebrating teachers and teaching is at the heart of every ECET2 convening. Convenings can often change the way teachers approach their futures in the profession by giving them the space to celebrate themselves and their work. Good food, nice venues, social activities, and tokens of appreciation are critical elements of an ECET2 convening. You have the discretion to pick how and when to infuse celebrations into their convening.
Successful convening planners carefully consider how and when to give teachers opportunities to reflect during the convening. Reflection opportunities help teachers process the convening experience and begin planning for action. These opportunities can take the form of informal sessions such as meet-ups to talk about specific topics or takeaways that resonate with attendees. Colleague Circles can provide opportunities for teachers to plan for action within the safety and trust of a supportive community of peers and can encourage continued dialogue and progress check-ins during the months after the convening.