Earlier this week, I was handed a hand-written note that was sent to the newsroom with no return address.
“200 Stockton Unified employees went to Las Vegas. Is this supposed to help educate the students?” is all it read.
Now, before you start picturing teachers and administrators sitting at slot machines and throwing television sets out a hotel room window at The Bellagio, in reality, the Vegas trip is in fact helping educate students.
A group of 200 teachers, counselors and principals from Stockton Unified took part in a Professional Learning Communities conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, explained district spokeswoman Dianne Barth in an email.
While seeing the words “teachers,” “education,” and “Vegas” together in a sentence is certainly worth a slight head tilt, the conference is dedicated to professional development for educators set in a group setting.
High performing districts have board members attend so they can build shared knowledge. Teachers and principals can collaborate ideas and are asked questions such as “What are you trying to teach? How do you know if your students learned and understood the material you taught? What do you do if they did not? What do you do next if they did get it?”
“This conference is popular because the teachers who have gone before have come back saying they got a lot out of it,” said Barth. Stockton Unified has attended the PLC conference for the last three years and she said Lodi is another district that does the same.
“The trip is approved for those attending from individual schools and costs for attendance were paid out of categorical funds targeted for professional development school site councils,” Barth wrote.
Edison High School Principal Brian Biedermann said his school has been practicing the PLC process for six years and he has taken a majority of his staff to PLCs conferences. He agrees that there’s nothing quite like the renewed energy, commitment, and shared knowledge created, and Edison is always excited to participate.
“I can see how some could view conferences in Vegas as a waste of time. That is a narrow minded view,” said Edison High School Principal in an email.
“My team has several pre-planning meetings (to prep for the conference) and we meet several times when we return to capture our learning and prepare our action plans for the coming year.”
It’s far from lounging poolside and sharing a vodka-cranberry with a Playboy bunny.