“I still remember my thoughts upon leaving the Aspen Ideas Festival as a 2010 Bezos Scholar educator: overwhelmed, inspired, anxious, committed, and excited to share the experience with everyone that I knew! Attending the Character Lab/Relay GSE Educator Summit 2018 left me feeling those same sentiments,” shares 2010 Bezos Scholar educator, Gail Heninger
At the advice of Relay GSE, we “dove into” each of the sessions. From keynote sessions by “rockstars” in the fields of grit, student engagement, and mastery to dynamic breakout sessions where we spent meaningful time with fellow educators grappling with the topics of building connections in learning, expert practice, and goal attainment, the experience was a whirlwind of opportunity that left us ready to tackle the coming fall semester.
Both of us practiced, and practiced, and practiced, and practiced to become better at explaining growth mindsets, creating concrete and succinct wishes, giving effective feedback, and developing connections between personal interests and curriculum topics.
“I appreciated the advice that was given as to how to give meaningful feedback,” notes Gail. “We learned to use the phrases “it was effective when…..” followed by “next time then….”. I see the practicality and usefulness in using this routine language in my classroom while offering feedback.”
“It’s easy to get lost in the ideas of individual subject content, state assessments, and a host of other things that require our time as educators,” shares 2013 Bezos Scholar educator Corey Alderdice. “The Educator Summit was a chance to re-center myself and my colleagues on easy to implement ways that we can connect students to their innate interests, support them as they aspire to expertise, and even take a step back from time to time to help them understand the value of setting goals for both near- and long-term success.”
“Since the conference, I find myself reading and re-reading the notes that I took about using the Character Lab Playbooks on WOOP, Building Connections, and Expert Practice,” adds Gail. “During the breakout session on Building Connections, Chris Hulleman emphasized the importance of finding ways to have students connect the work they are doing in the classroom to their everyday lives. As individual participants, we wrote down our personal interests and the connections to what we learned at the conference. These activities helped us simulate what our students would do to make the same types of connections to create meaning.”
During the Educator Summit, we also learn how character strengths are malleable and can be learned and developed by every student. Authentic relationships with students are what allow a teacher to spark a student’s curiosity, courage, and perseverance. When teachers show students that they care about them, beyond the boundaries of the school walls, students become more empowered in their thinking, engage in challenge, take risks, and express themselves in extraordinary ways. A strong message that resonated through many of the keynote speakers and breakout sessions was that teachers can and do make a difference.2013 Bezos Scholar Educator Corey Alderdice and 2010 Bezos Scholar Educator Gail Heninger with Angela Duckworth
“While attending Ed Summit, I was excited to meet and speak with Angela Duckworth, Dan Heath, Geoffrey Canada, Mayme Hostetter, and many other incredible and wise educational leaders,” explains Gail. “The Character posters, Angela’s book Grit, and coffee mug I received will be something I use all of the time.”
“The two-day event was the closest professional development experience I’ve had to my time in Aspen,” adds Corey.
The opportunity to have conversations with other attendees, describing each of our schools, jobs, students, and our hopes for the future was transformative because we rarely get to speak to other educators outside of our school districts. The conference is an opportunity to meet with others who possess similar passions. “I loved hearing not only from other teachers across the country, but also meeting people who work for non-profit organizations that support character education, or others who conduct research on the impact of character education in our lives,” shares Gail.
The 2018 Educator Summit created an “eyes-light-up” moment for us, just like the Aspen Ideas Festival did back when we attended with our Scholars. “I encourage all Bezos Scholar educator alumni to spend some time with Character LAB’s free online resources and consider attending the 2019 Summit in Philadelphia,” adds Corey.
“As Dan Heath said in his keynote speech, “Moments can change your life.” I am grateful to the Bezos Family Foundation and Bezos Scholar Program for changing mine—TWICE!” shares Gail.