This week SHAPE America had their annual conference. There were close to 3500 attendees who attended the attractive Nashville, TN destination. I would imagine the conference costs easily in the six digit figure. Keynote speakers were flown in, socials were planned, and some of the best and brightest Physical Education and Health teachers shared their immense knowledge and skills with each other. All the major companies brought their best presenters, paid for socials, and gave away free equipment to participants. I am sure it was amazing.
During this same time, Sean Pasieka (@seanpasieka) held a Physical Education conference with 20 attendants. Attendants were asked to email their best lesson and present them to a group of 18 3rd graders who were willing participants for either the morning or afternoon. These presenters may have never presented in front of anyone before. They may or may not have been well versed in GLO’s, standard-based grading, or what many consider best practices. What the attendees lacked in knowledge or experience they made up with by dedicating their day to getting better. They were able to see 15 different lesson ideas, 15 different ways to interact with students, and 15 different ways to present a topic.
This final period of the day every teacher was asked to show one instant activity or tag game. This was a simple demo slam of quick hitting ideas. I loved this idea!
The irony was not lost on me that while the most coveted Physical Education conference in the United States was being held in Nashville a tiny little conference was being held in Kinnelon Nj. The dichotomy could not have been greater. They were polar opposites in terms of cost, attendants, prestige, the vetting process, social media awareness, and pomp/circumstance.
It also occurred to me that both have their place in the world of professional development. We need the big conferences to share the newest ideas, best practices, and newest research. We also need these tiny conferences to keep the fire alive. It gives newer presenters an opportunity to present as well as older ones the opportunity to continue to give back. These small teach meets, pe jams, or mini-conferences are valuable assets that are underutilized.
What are your thoughts?