Luckily for me, I've spent the past few days up here in beautiful, chilly, autumny Boston for what is consistently the best PD I get all year -- the National Consortium for Secondary STEM Schools' National Conference. NCSSS is an organization that connects the top STEM schools in the nation under one big umbrella, and it's at their yearly conference that I can finally network and brainstorm with teachers and administrators who are "my kind of people". This conference caters to the special needs I and my kids have, coming from an advanced magnet program. It's refreshing and exhilarating,and I always come back home with a whole backpack full of ideas I want to immediately implement in my classroom and across my school.
This year, my favorite session strand wasn't even the science and engineering -- it was our student wellness sessions. Although the strands were meant for school counselors, they were well attended by teachers and admins too. Our top performing schools with top performing kids have a dark side -- crippling perfectionism, rampant cheating and cut-throat grade tactics, cruel social cliques and online bullying, and schedules so jam-packed full of homework, extracurriculars, and college apps that students lose sleep, health, and even basic personal hygiene habits. Schools like ours easily become pressure cookers where we (teachers, parents, school culture) push kids to such outrageously high standards that they develop a seriously warped view of reality where grades on transcripts matter more than physical and mental health, and "ends justify the means". This year at NCSSS, we began to tackle some of these huge issues that are troubling us. I'm proud to say my school's whole counseling staff was in attendance, and it was truly inspiring to see us all engaging with each other in presentations, discussions, and round tables that put the health and well-being of our kids front and center.
I want to talk more about some of the sessions I attended, but I'm also exhausted from an extremely full last few days. More later, I guess.