A conference full of educators

I’ve been to my fair share of conferences. Design, tech, sustainability, activism. Last week I made it to my first conference focused on education. Hosted by the BARR Center, over 300 teachers, administrators, and advocates came together in Moreno Valley, California to learn from each other and immerse themselves in the challenges facing public education in America.

When it comes to the education of our kids, I feel that nothing should stand in the way. But as we all know, so much stands in the way. Funding, resources, bureaucracy, poverty, racism, apathy, and on and on. The question of how can we provide high-quality education for all is often replaced with how can we just get through the day. Which is absolutely heartbreaking. 

However, at this conference, the educators in attendance brought their passion for teaching and optimism for change in education that is very much possible.

The story of BARR is one of success, from 1998 to now. Started by Angela Jerabek in one school just outside of Minneapolis, the program is currently in 88 schools in 13 states. In all cases, no matter the school size or makeup, there are proven results. Better attendance rates, decreases in suspension days, and higher GPAs.Whatever metric is looked at, the results are there. 

How is this possible? I think it’s because it’s a program by teachers, for teachers, with the goal of doing their very best by every single one of their students. The other thing I kept hearing at the conference from everyone who was using the program is that it’s both firm and flexible, which means it can be applied anywhere.

I also heard plenty of success stories. From principal Karen Johnson at Valley View High and from the superintendent of Moreno Valley Unified School District Martinrex Kedziora. From veteran teachers 20+ years in the profession to those just starting out.

Speakers who are leaders in the movement for education reform included Dr. Pedro Noguera who spoke about leading with equity, Nadya Chinoy Dabby who spoke about how we can model the best of our cultural values through education, and LaShawn Routé Chatmon spoke about turning toward one another with constructivist listening.

All in all, I left feeling inspired and energized. With the division the country is dealing with currently, working to make education available for all our kids no matter what is the type of work where we can all come together to make lasting change happen. And if we do that, we’ll all be better off for it.