Recently, I had lunch with a couple I knew in college. It had been a while since I last saw them and I had forgotten the wife, Caroline, worked at an alternative school, just like me. It didn't take long after that discovery for the two of us to be immersed in our own side conversation. What I learned from that dialogue is that teachers from alternative schools are starved for interaction with their colleagues, with people who understand the ebbs and flows of dealing with our unique student population.
In my state there is a conference held yearly for alternative educators. Unfortunately, it's one that switches between math and science curricular areas one year, and social studies and English the next year. That interaction is nice....but it's not consistent nor is it enough. In addition, this conference is held in conjunction with the adult education (GED) conference, so nothing is totally dedicated just to alternative education teachers.
This friend and I lamented the short amount of time we had to talk and share stories, finding commonalities and differences between our two programs. The conversation left me hanging and wanting more. Before departing, Caroline quipped, "It's too bad there isn't a regional conference for alternative education teachers. If anyone needs support, it's us." We both chuckled and moved on.
But I haven't forgotten. What if there was a network of alternative education teachers who banded together to meet and share best practices? What if there was a conference for alternative education teachers? I know there are the dropout and prevention conferences on a national level. I've been to them, yet they don't really address the needs specific to my school.
Would a regional conference fill that void? I think it might. However, it took a long time to organize just the alternative schools in my own state, as sparsely populated as it is. What would it take to mount a multi-state conference?
Talking with Caroline made me realize how starved I am for interaction with other alternative teachers. I enjoy interacting with colleagues in my district but that can only go so far. We're really from two different worlds. Most of the PD I attend doesn't really apply to my classroom situation. Sure, it can be bent to fit into the mold, but there's always gaps.
I don't know what the solution is. But it has me thinking...which often leads to surprises!