Having recently attended the latest FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference), I’ve renamed the 2014 version Fantastic Excitement, Teacher Commitment.
The reasons are simple, and simply wonderful. This was my eighth time at FETC. And this was the most exciting show with the most enthusiastic people I’ve met there in years.
I think if one wanted to be practical about the reasons, you’d have to mention that there has been, after three years of painful budget cuts, money finally flowing back into the school systems. And while the budgets may still be below the levels of former salad days, I think educators have learned to do more with less (which may be a blessing in disguise). So, yes, there was joy about finally having some money to invest in technology tools to make education better.
But my use of the word “exciting” goes way beyond that. At this year’s FETC, I sensed and experienced firsthand a bracing, renewed enthusiasm for education and the future.
For one thing, the show was packed: there were more attendees, more exhibitors. I personally spoke with dedicated educators from some 25 states of the union, and countries as far away as Venezuela and India.
I was, of course, glad that there was widespread enthusiasm about our newest product, the Flexcat, which is helping with better two-way communication and classroom management issues for school’s employing small group teaching (differentiated learning). It was flattering to hear educators describe the product as “groundbreaking.”
But on a more objective level, I was really heartened by the level of teacher and principal commitment, at the school level, that was evidenced in many stories I heard at the conference.
A principal, Jennifer Sewell, the key speaker at a presentation that we were proud to sponsor during FETC, told one such inspiring story. Ms. Sewell is one of those educational heroes that you no doubt have encountered in your career. (Maybe you are one of them!).
As she stated plainly, her passion (as it is for countless teachers nationwide) is about “children and their success.”
When this unstoppable principal first took her position at Montclair Elementary School (in a small town in northern Florida) there were a lot of daunting challenges. When she arrived, the school had even abandoned such time-honored, team-and-memory-building traditions as getting school pictures taken every year.
Restoring the tradition of letting the kids proudly get their pictures taken to remind them of their teachers, friends and great days of learning was only one of dozens of steps Ms. Sewell took in building a network of caring people to lift the school’s spirits and test scores (which has occurred).
The principal made changes in staffing where necessary, of course. But she also helped spearhead a new movement to involve as many parents as possible in the school and their children’s educations. She also helped institute a “food pantry” for the kids. And she has involved the community and its institutions in a big way (including stores, churches, law enforcement and seniors groups), putting Montclair Elementary back on the map for the town, as “partners in education.”
I think perhaps the most telling endorsement of the great work this woman and her co-educators, kids, families and community are doing is what I heard a senior administrator who attended the presentation say. She commented simply, “If I’d had a principal like Jennifer at my last school I’d probably still be teaching in the classroom.”
I can’t think of any higher praise you could give a leader than that. The enthusiasm I heard from Jennifer Sewell, as I said, was just one of many exciting stories from the latest FETC. And all that enthusiasm and commitment has given me even more inspiration for doing my small part in helping as a partner in education in 2014.
Rick's career in audio and acoustics includes working in product development and training, serving educators for nearly a decade.
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