Adaptation and Change

Conference Planning, Technology

Change takes time. I’ve come to realize that making changes within any educational context is a time-consuming endeavor. This is true for the educational conference context as well.

2015 is the first year that we’re implementing all online registration and payment for both the fall conference and MinneTESOL membership. We are using a program called Wild Apricot that offers a lot of functionality. However, I’m starting to feel like the program was not built with organizations like ours in mind. It is not uncommon for administrative staff to register and pay for teachers at a school to attend the conference. I don’t know that this process has ever been without its fair share of issues, but this year seems especially problematic for these groups. Whether it’s invoice issues or not being able to access member accounts because admin staff often aren’t members themselves, I’ve been spending a good part of the last week troubleshooting.

A couple of things have come to mind as I’m going through this process. First, I’m thankful for my experience in customer service. It seems that my days in retail were not good for nothing. That being said, I’m not getting paid for this service, and it is sometimes difficult fielding the issues with tact and grace. Also, growing pains are part of the deal. Yes, our registration software has some issues. Yes, some people will get irritated with our move to online registration and payment. But, I think it’s part of the territory. The conference and organization have grown a lot in recent years, and I think we’re headed in the right direction. From a community standpoint, if we can approach a time when information is widely and easily available to teachers, administrative staff, and anyone else interested in learning more about our conference and organization, we’re on the right track.

I think we’ve come a long way in the last few years, and we’ve still got some growing to do. I think there will come a time when people will appreciate the efforts everyone involved with the conference and professional organization has made toward updating and making what we do more accessible. I think there will come a time when the new technology and changes we introduce won’t seem so scary. Changes and adaptation take time.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to be patient.

Shifting Gears

Conference Planning

Ok. I’ve failed to maintain this blog as well as I’d like in recent months (years…), but I feel like I’m starting to get to a place where I can actively reflect on my teaching as well as think critically about my other professional development endeavors.

Things have been a little crazy lately. I got married last weekend, so the last few months have been rather busy with preparing for that. Since that’s finally done, I feel like I have a little more time and energy to put into my professional growth.

I’ve been working with some colleagues in MinneTESOL and the Minnesota Department of Education to organize our fall Minnesota English Language Education (MELEd) Conference. The conference is a merger of the MDE spring ESL, bilingual and migrant education conference and the MinneTESOL fall conference. This is the second year for MELEd, and it’s looking like it might be a big one. We have two stellar keynotes this year: Andrea DeCapua and Stephen Krashen. In addition, we have tons of great concurrent sessions that will happen over two days.

I really enjoy working with the conference planning for a couple reasons. First, being involved this heavily in the MinneTESOL organization allows me to network with tons of people in the field of ESL. Through my work this year, I have been able to meet and spend time with professionals across various interest sections. It’s really nice to get a broader perspective of the field and our profession. Also, planning the conference allows me to satisfy my desire to organize. The whole planning process has been a lot of work, but it’s so satisfying to work through issues as they arise.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a great co-chair this year, and I’m grateful for her leadership and guidance as I take on the leadership role next year. I feel like we’ve worked really well together, and we’ve done a lot of work to organize materials and make them available for future conference organizers. Google Drive has been such an asset! I don’t know how the previous organizers kept it all together without it!

I’m hoping to write more about my experience in conference planning over the next year.