Third Best Practices Conferences Inspires Educators as They Face Common Core Challenges
The list of topics covered at JBHM Education Group’s Third Annual Best Practices Conference was impressive and comprehensive. The event, which took place at the famous Peabody Memphis hotel, featured four keynoters and more than 40 sessions, covering education topics from leadership to collaboration. Every conference event supported the effort to aid the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which was the primary focus of nearly half of the sessions.
Through powerful keynoters and informative sessions, nearly 250 representatives from over 50 school districts in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Alabama came away from the conference with new ideas and practices directly applicable to their own schools. JBHM's staff and specialists were also on hand as both presenters and conference participants.
Among the keynote events was a presentation by Donna Porter and D.J. Batiste, a teacher and former student from Picayune Memorial High School in Mississippi whose inspiring words had attendees cheering. D.J. told his story of transformation, talking about the moment Donna Porter helped change his life. Coming from a troubled history, both in school and outside of it, Batiste started his senior year in her class with a sarcastic quip. Rather than issue a punishment that could have led to a suspension and a failure to graduate, Porter’s careful, reasoned response led to positive change in Batiste’s life .'
If not for her, Batiste said, his life would be very different today. “I’d have been left to the world without the shield of education,” Batiste said, to replies of “amen” from the emotionally-charged crowd.
Speaking at the Best Practices Conference for the third year in a row, Dr. Lawrence Lezotte, Effective Schools researcher, talked about the function of learning. “We must examine both form and function,” he said. “Form should follow function, and our function is to teach all students.”
Popular educator and best-selling author Stedman Graham talked to attendees about the importance of identity and the self in avoiding simple mindless repetition that limits the ability to think. In his words: “If you can’t think, you can’t learn.”
“They could not have had better keynote speakers,” said Principal Kendal Montgomery of William J. Clinton Primary School in Hope, Arkansas. “They were absolutely top of the line. And the things we learned [from the speakers] were so incredibly informative, and validated many of the efforts we’ve been making. A lot of the issues [the speakers] brought to the forefront were things we really needed to hear.”
Other educators shared their experiences with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Although attendees recognized restructuring teaching to the CCSS would be challenging, they did find encouragement in a report by representatives from Osceola Elementary in Arkansas. There, teachers taught using the new CCSS. And even though students were still assessed on existing state tests, they had impressive results.
“The conference showed that Common Core is a proven system that educators really need to be a part of,” said Principal Veda Struble of Blytheville Elementary in Arkansas. “The practices are proven. The conference helps you develop a system that works.”
Taken together the keynote addresses and sessions provided a cumulative wealth of knowledge and practices about which attendees raved. “I enjoyed getting away to a great place with great people, sharing ideas,” Struble said. “It was a celebration, if you really think about it. It was relaxing and wonderful, and you get to be with people who share the same passion—educating children. The conference was a great place to learn with the best.”
JBHM staff, specialists, and conference attendees celebrate at BPC 2012!