This place is exhausting. Up early and out late for an entire week. Sitting in classes and conferences and meetings trying to find something that we can take back to our students that will a) benefit them and b) allow us to do our jobs better, faster, and more efficiently. When one considers the cost in lodging, meals, payment to subs, and travel time, it is vital that the benefit be quantifiable in order to justify the expense. As educators and employees of the government we are called up (or at least we should feel an obligation) to be good stewards of the people’s money. While that may be a novel idea to some governmental entities, it has been a part of the ethics of being a teacher since teaching became a public profession.
The best I can offer on the subject is my own experience. I have been an attendee of the TCEA conference for 5 years and a presenter for all but one of those years. I volunteer to facilitate classes when I am not presenting and try to be an active participant. I know that my district spends a fairly large amount of money to send me to Austin yearly and I know that I miss a weeks worth of instructional time (although I am proficient enough in educational video to alleviate that for the most part) but does the benefit really outweigh the cost? I am going to say yes.
The time I spend here, whether in class or not is also time spent finding ways to improve my craft. I spend the majority of the business day either looking for tools to do my job better or reflecting on the things that I have learned and organizing them into a useable journal. I meet other people who are trying to accomplish the same thing and I share ideas with them. I take from them things I can use and ways of thinking I have never considered and they take from me the same things. We return to our respective workplaces and, hopefully, implement those ideas in ways that will help our students to be more successful.
Finally, there is an energy here that can help recharge batteries that are beginning to fade about this time each year. February is a rather tough time for teachers. The year is drawing to a close. The end of year pressure is starting to be felt and Spring Break is still a long way off. It is good to have a moment to recharge. Yes…I would say…all in all, conferences like that are worthwhile and are money well spent, at least from my perspective.