07 March 2020

The First Hit


Ten years ago today (full list of tweets here), I did my first large-scale presentation. It was for the ASCD Annual Conference (now rebranded as Empower) and it was a ton of fun. To be sure, by that point, I had presented lots of times at various conferences around the state—science, technology, teacher librarians, etc. I had had some big groups, but not quite like this. Not a national stage and a very large room that was filled to overflowing.

It was a great trip to San Antonio. I hadn't been there in 30'ish years and not as an adult on my own. I enjoyed staying in the Menger Hotel (where my dad always liked to be), wandering the River Walk, drinking Shiner Bock, visiting Mi Tierra for migas, and having a break from the overcast and cool winter weather that is the norm here at this time. I had dinner with some friends who worked for Educational Testing Service. They were based there and we had not seen each other since I transitioned from a job in science assessment to EdTech.

My presentation was on standards-based grading practices and student motivation. It remains a topic I passionate about, but it is not the focus it was a decade ago. This is the way of things, both in education and life in general. Inasmuch as I think grading practices should be a regular part of the conversation in our schools, I also recognize that there are many other things that require focus. Grading may well be a flavour-of-the-moment until new learning standards or state tests or teacher evaluation or trauma-informed practices or something else takes the #1-with-a-bullet spot. People also suffer from initiative fatigue. It is unreasonable to tell our schools that everything is equally important and deserves all of the same attention. At some point, we have to embrace a few things and let others go. So while I will never let grading practices go completely from my mind, I also know that it just has to adjust and find its space with everything else.

I am also thinking about the tweet selected for today because I know the conference for this year—set to start in a few days—has been canceled. And while I think that this is the right call, given the public health situation and all of the unknowns, my heart hurts for all of the would-be first-time presenters this year who won't get that first hit of something bigger and the synergy of the experience.

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