There was excitement in the air as the conference attendees started pouring into the conference center in Los Angeles. Standing at the foot of the escalators, in bright green t shirts, were members of the National Middle Level Science Teacher Association (NMLSTA) and the NSTA Middle Level Committee handing out postcards inviting middle school teachers to attend the annual Meet Me in the Middle Day and introducing them to this fabulous organization. Founded in 1989 by a group of educators dedicated to represent the unique needs of middle school teachers, NMLSTA and the NSTA Middle Level Committee sponsors this day full of resources, professional networking, sharing of stories and winning great prizes for the classroom.
Friday morning the balloons went up, the posters went out and the people started coming! Over 400 middle school science teachers crowded in 24 roundtables, 15 workshops and visited over 75 share-a-thon presenters. Topics ranged from NGSS, safety, special education to earworms, photosynthesis and engineering. My room was packed! What a thrill to present to these energetic and enthusiastic teachers from around the country.
At the end of the day, I was tired. Board meetings, set up, several presentations were over. My bright green shirt was a little wrinkled, my feet were pretty sore and I thought about a comment a colleague had said to me before I left. He’d asked, “Do you get paid for this?”. Nope. My school had paid for the conference registration, but the airfare,hotels, food, etc., well, that was all mine. “Why then”, he had asked, “Do you do it? Why would you spend all that time preparing presentations and spend all that money and get nothing for it?”.
That was actually a difficult question. Oh, not because I don’t know why I go to these meetings (four national, one regional and four state meetings in four years), but because I cannot imagine why anyone WOULDN’T attend.
Quite simply, attending professional meetings gives me a chance to grow. I am THE Science teacher in our little junior high and I do not have in school science colleagues to share with, plan with or learn from. Attending meetings, presenting, serving on the board, gives me a chance to validate that what I am doing is right. I get to share my experiences and hear about how others teach the same topics. I get to compare – class sizes, budgets (or lack of budgets), debate block vs regular schedules or whether or not to have a science fair. I get to help make decisions. I learn about professional development opportunities, grant funding and career options. All this-in a city other than my own that I can also explore through field trips, dining with friends and touring on my own.
So why do I do it? Well, I must admit to liking the bright green shirt, but even more, I like what it allows me to become – a better science teacher.
Get more involved with NSTA!
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.
Future NSTA Conferences
2017 STEM Forum & Expo
Kissimmee/Orlando, July 12–14
2017 Area Conferences