AAAS Annual Meeting, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Subs and Love PD
One of the benefits of being an Einstein Fellow is that it comes with A) time and B) money to do things that align with our professional development goals. One of those goals, for me, is to go to the conferences that I’ve never had the A) time or B) money to go to. Makes sense, right? So, I was thrilled that I got to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting this year in DC. I feel so fortunate that AAAS Headquarters is in DC and that I’ve gotten to go to a several events at their downtown headquarters. This year the Annual Meeting also happened to be in DC, so it was definitely something I wanted to attend.
Why Don’t More Teachers go to Conferences?
When I was in the classroom, attending conferences was hard. I am lucky enough that my school district does provide a small amount of money every three years to attend conferences, but we all know that travel and conferences are expensive and the money never lasted long. On top of that, when you’re out, someone has to sub for you, and that also takes money. Again, I am lucky enough that we got 2 days of leave for professional development, but that doesn’t leave much left over for other days that I needed to be out for district meetings or other leadership opportunities.
Another thing that might not be obvious to those outside of the profession is the amount of time it takes to prepare for being absent. Most of us will tell you that it’s more work to prepare for a sub day than it is to actually be there, and that’s on top of whatever else you’re doing the day you’re out. Everything has to be scripted, prepared in advance, contingency plans made, emergency procedures described, etc. After all, the show must go on.
All of this is to say that since most of the interesting conferences happen during the school year, you’re inevitably signing yourself up for a lot of work and money out of your pocket if you’re planning on being out. That’s enough to discourage plenty of teachers. Despite that, I did try to go to conferences, but I usually limited it to things that were nearby and that were directly related to teaching.
As an aside, here’s a great article that discusses how hard it is to be a teacher-leader and still teach.
So Why Attend the AAAS Conference?
Long story short—the conference was amazing. I attended sessions on climate change, science communication (which is a huge push of AAAS), criminal justice reform, and neuroscience, just for starters. I got to see some of my personal science heroes speak including Carl Zimmer, (She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, Yale Professor), Robert Sapolsky, (Behave: The Biology of Humans at their Best and Worst, Stanford Professor), Fabiola Gianotti, (Director-General of CERN), and I got to meet a few more: Ed Yong (I Contain Multitudes, Atlantic Science Reporter) and Wendy Zuckerman (Science Vs. Podcast). Just being in a space with that many hard-working, prominent scientists and writers was inspiring and rejuvenating.
Moral of the story—if you’re an educator and you can make it work—go! Next year’s AAAS Annual Meeting is in Seattle, and it’s well worth it to attend as a classroom teacher simply for the inspiration, validation, (yes, I AM a scientist, and I can understand this stuff just fine, thanks!), and the joy of being amongst kindred spirits.
Finally, since I did a lot of tweeting during the meeting, here’s my twitter moment with all of my tweets and impressions instead of pictures this time!