People attending the National Charter School Conference for the first time may feel overwhelmed. There are a couple of strategies that may be helpful, including picking a strand (e.g., governance, facilities, etc.) and just going to workshops in that strand. Another strategy is to pick a variety of workshops, on different topics, to get a little bit of everything.
Almost everyone who attends a conference with a group of people makes sure that they are all in different workshops so they can report back and discuss what they've learned. This is a great strategy because it's one thing to hear about a new or innovative idea, but it's totally different for it to be instituted back at your charter school. Further, it's often the side conversations, with other people in the workshop, where real nuggets are unearthed.
I've always liked when new charter school leaders attend the national conference and then come back appreciating how great we have it in Colorado! We have a wealth of resources available for charter schools and a comprehensive support system in place. Most states don't have that level of support.
The best part of the conference, however, is in getting to catch up with old friends and meet new friends. Attendees are typically very eager to learn and so are eager to engage in conversations. Everyone likes to talk about their charter school and it's fun to hear about the variety of models in use around the country.
I went to the very first National Charter School Conference in 1997 in Washington, DC. There were maybe 150 people there. Now we have more charter schools than that in just the state of Colorado!
Lots of great memories are made during the conference each year! I hope to see you at this week's conference!