Mark Suter

A teacher friend told me, “Why did you bring students to the conference..that’s where you go to get AWAY from them!” I bit my tongue, but I thought to myself, “Because I LIKE my students, and I want to help them become young professionals.” Isn’t that why we became teachers? To make a difference?

Why Take Students to a Teacher’s Conference?

Taking students to a conference is hard; even MORE so when attempting an overnight trip. There are lots of reasons you don’t see many students at professional conferences such as ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) or OETC (Ohio Education Technology Conference) that we recently did. Here’s reasons and hurdles related to why teachers DON’T take students:
  • Permission from Parents
  • Permission from Administrators
  • Funding for Transportation
  • Driver to transport students
  • Rather than freely enjoying the conference, teacher is in charge of students, accelerating the exhaustion rate.
  • Missed opportunity cost, like missed networking during and after-hours events
Now, let me defend why I DO take students almost every chance I get:
  • Student impact. “That conference changed my entire life Suter. I’m serious. I discovered what I want to do with my life and career, I’m majoring in strategic communications.” – Sarah Baumgartner, class of 2017 at Pandora-Gilboa High School. Local Nerd.
  • Student impact: My 3 students this year were approached as the authority on a topic (teaching programming using Minecraft) by teachers. They presented again in the evening on Ohio State University’s campus to reps from, Battelle, university, and K12 teachers on our Student run business, Grit9. They were followed up with as professionals with conversations and emails.
  • The. Student. Impact. (On teachers) When brainstorming what’s best for our students, maybe…ask the students? Their perspective is not our own, and that’s the point.
Students are savvy. They know when they’re being treated like a child. The inverse is also true, they know when they are treated as respected young professionals, and their behavior reflects it.

Do it.

It’s hard, but it develops a level of engagement and trust with that group of students, that spreads to the other students when you return to school. We were presenting on Microsoft’s Minecraft, so as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, I was able to get my hotel room paid for, helping to reduce the cost. Even without that, if the teacher and students are dedicated to travel to a conference, they will find ways to pay for it through supportive parents, administration, or company sponsors related to your presentation. Finding a way to make it happen is part of the entrepreneurial journey that students should be a part of.  Want to teach real life skills? Team up with students to make the improbable task of getting them there, and scratch and claw to make it a reality.

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