Why Educon Matters to Me

If you’ve spent any time reading the Radical in the past few years, you probably know that I’m your friendly neighborhood pessimist in most circumstances.  There’s no “glass half full” in my world because the glass is most often shattered on the floor in the corner of the room!


That’s why Sam Chaltain’s question at Educon yesterday caught me by surprise: If you’re a pessimist, why do you keep coming back to a conference where so much optimism about what education could be is shared in session after session?

Here’s my answer:

(Download slide on Flickr)

Long story short:  As a classroom teacher working in a state where regressive policies are dominating nearly every conversation about education — where tenure has been eliminated, where high-stakes, low-skill tests are used to evaluate teachers, where teacher salaries have been frozen for going on 8 years, where incentives for earning Masters degrees have been stripped from pay schedules — Educon is a place where I can still come to dream and to imagine what could be.

While I still doubt about whether or not I’ll ever see the changes advocated for by the thinkers in room after room here at SLA take hold in a scalable, systemic way given the #edpolicy quackery that governs my work, the conversations I have at Educon always leaves me with a renewed sense that we CAN create something better for our kids and a renewed hope that tomorrow’s schools will be better than today’s.

Any of this make sense?


5 thoughts on “Why Educon Matters to Me

  1. Sherry

    If you are ever in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, come and visit my school, Ellerslie. We haven’t solved all of the challenges and frustrations of outdated policy and practice, but we are doing some cool things here. And we are making a difference in students’ lives.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Believe me, Sherry — I’ve thought about moving to Canada more than once! My mom was born in Ontario, so I think I can lay claim to citizenship if I work at it.

      Always jazzed to hear about the good work being done on behalf of kids in your part of the continent.


  2. Dan Agins

    All of it makes sense, Bill. While my situation in my state (and my school in particular) is no where near as dire as the circumstances you describe in North Carolina, I am nonetheless an affable pessimist like yourself (especially on a national scale). Your handwritten notes perfectly sum up why I try to attend Educon yearly. For me (and, I presume you, too) it is the refill of hope of what education can be – and I’m not just talking about SLA – I’m talking about the concentration of passionate educators from all over who have nothing in common (from Kindergarten to Higher Ed, independant affluent schools to Title I public schools) other than a common vision of what education can and should be. We need this. We need hope as a subversive activity in the face of the “#edpolicy quackery” that ultimately dictates what we do. We have no option other than to go along with these decisions made on the state and national level – except that we still possess the power to refuse our consent on a (for lack of a better term) spiritual level. It is that refusal of consent that keeps us going, pushing for what is really best for kids – not corporate big box ed. If allowing yourself to experience this brief reprieve each January refills your hope tank, then pessimism or not, it is worth it.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Dan wrote:

      We need hope as a subversive activity in the face of the “#edpolicy quackery” that ultimately dictates what we do.


      Hey Dan,

      This is a brilliant statement — and it sums up all that is right about a place like Educon. So often, the teachers that I meet here describe this weekend as a weekend that rejuvenates.

      My sadness is that there is even a need for that kind of experience.


      Definitely missed having you here.

  3. Sam Chaltain

    Makes sense to me, Bill – but I’m always grateful for the ways you can take conversations and reshape them visually. Even the #Educhoir needs a sermon. . .

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