What do school principals do at conferences? I can let you in on a few secrets, as I just got home from one of these sacred gatherings.
My friend and mentor, Ellen, and I left school on Wednesday and headed for a beautiful retreat centre in Washington, USA. It's in a rich farming area that always smells faintly (or strongly) of cows, and we could hear their mooing in the evenings. The grounds are meticulously kept up and at this time of year, are covered in tulips. A very relaxing place to hang out for a couple of days.
About 70 principals and vice-principals (that's me!) gathered to hear David I. Smith, an amazing thinker and teacher, speak about many deep topics. The sessions were always relevent, but yet, way out there. It was the kind of thing where I would have liked him to stop every 20 minutes to let us discuss, ruminate, and maybe do some journalling. Some of those amazing thoughts tend to get lost in the dust, unfortunately. However, I am left contemplating the connections between our teaching practices and what we believe. Sometimes they don't match up very well. Lots of things to think about.
Lest you think that school administrators spend all their time getting academic, we also had lots of fun. This yearly retreat is about relaxation and connecting, just as much as developing professionally. We went on a shopping trip to the local scrapbook store, one of our favorites, where we ran into a large group of other women from the conference. Lots of people went to the outlet malls, some visited a local cheese shop and micro-brewery, and a bunch of men played golf. In the evening after the session we had a huge card game and some of us finished up the evening over wine and cheese.
I still feel like a real newbie. It's only my second year in administration and I'm still getting used to swimming with the big fish. But I'm getting to know more people and really appreciate the amazing support and input that come from the principals' association. The best part of the whole thing, though, was thinking from time to time, "I guess it's time for recess..." or, "The kids are just starting class now..." It was really nice not being at school!