I’m a Fan of Conferences

…and not just conferences on literacy and other teaching themes; I love going to conferences in general. I’m such a nerd about signing up to hear my favorite speakers – you know, the big names that hardly ever visit Pennsylvania: authors who have shaped my craft as an educator; ones who I quote to my colleagues during department meetings; or those whose voices seem to guide me as I craft my lessons. I also love attending conferences to meet new people: teachers from across the country or in the next county; educators who I now follow on Twitter and who have become part of my PLN; new-found friends with whom I feel an instant connection, although we just met. I love the energy of a conference environment: the exhaustion of a few days filled with so much learning that my head feels ready to explode, and the contentment I feel after I return home, rejuvenated, re-energized, and excited to return to my classroom so I can try out everything I learned.

But Eduspire’s Summer Literacy Institute is Special!

Each summer in idyllic Lititz, PA, Eduspire brings all the wonderful feelings of a national conference right to Pennsylvania with its Summer Literacy Institute, a four-day event focused on literacy in education which can be taken as a graduate-credit course. This year’s institute is returning to Linden Hall, August 1-4. Each morning opens with a keynote speaker who could easily be seen at one of the 1000-people conferences, except there’s only 50 attendees – the perfect number to make the learning personal and enable attendees to readily connect with the speaker. After the morning session, just like at any conference, attendees get to choose from session topics that match their interests (literacy training topics with varied focuses, for example, this year’s theme is assessment).

How We Spend the Days

We learn from literacy experts and local educators who are in the classroom, just like us. As our repertoire of ideas for teaching and learning grow, our connections to these local resources grow as well. Lunch is a quiet time where some attendees pack and work, or blog about the literacy skills and teaching ideas they picked up that morning (personally, I spend my lunch visiting the delectable eateries downtown Lititz has to offer. I also don’t mind sharing that I sometimes window-shop during lunch as well). The afternoon finds teachers attending preferred breakout sessions again. We discuss, collaborate, learn, and grow through each session. We are inspired, re-engaged with our craft, and ready to “keep assessment in perspective” – the theme of this year’s institute – by engaging in relevant and exhilarating conversations about the important role formative assessment plays in education, and how teaching literacy is about so much more than reading and writing work.

The Literacy Institute is Also a Course

The work for the “course” – after all, it does earn an attendee three graduate credits (what conference can boast that after four days?) – is practical, purposeful, and aligns all of the ideas shared throughout the week. Educators read and respond to the course text, share their thoughts about the speakers’ messages through blogging and tweeting, and create a plan of action to implement ideas from the week of learning when we return to school in the fall. No wonder they call it the best professional development of the summer!

Eduspire’s four-day Summer Literacy Institute is well worth the time “working” in the summer. It is what being in education is all about – remembering how to thrive in our profession by connecting with like-minded educators, learning new ideas, refining our best practices, and being able to return to work more inspired in the fall.

Aileen Hower is not only the Coordinator of the Eduspire Summer Literacy Institute, but also an elementary and middle school literacy coach and a grad course instructor.