I was excited to attend my first professional conference however it was so early in the morning that I did not know what to expect! On November 1, 2014, I attended Rhode Island College’s 17th Annual Promising Practices Conference revolving around Culturally Responsive Curricula in STEM. STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. During this conference, I attended two workshop that evidently discussed this year's theme.
The first workshop I attended was Confidently Working Toward Your Career ran by Yasah Vezele and Katherine Cook. Yasah Vezele is a Senior Test Engineer at Waters Corporation and Katherine Cook is President of K.Adina Coaching. These two presenters were so friendly and kept us engaged in their presentation; however, the content of the workshop was nothing like what I thought it would be. The description of the workshop said it was going to discuss the challenges of being a minority student in a majority world and tips and tricks for success and achieving confidence within yourself. I felt like I was in a middle school or high school presentation trying to prepare us for college. It was not what I expected. Yasah and Katherine discussed how resources can help me succeed, tools for middle and high school, and tools for college students such as scholarships and internships, guidance programs, recruitment and retention programs, etc. Most of the information discussed in this workshop was information I already knew.
The second workshop I attended was Comedy in the Classroom ran by Elizabeth Anne Keiser, Corinne McKamey, and the Transitions through Arts Literacy Learning (TALL) University students. I was excited for this workshop because I was expecting to get tips on how to incorporate comic in a classroom and as a behavioral management technique. A group of children were standing at the door attempting to introduce themselves and shake their hands with us. There was complete chaos when I walked into the classroom, there were more people than desk and it was very crowded. The TALL University students ran the workshop which I thought was different and adorable! I was very confused throughout the workshop because we played games and activities but were not explained what they were until AFTER we did them. It was not until the end of the workshop that Elizabeth spoke to the group and explained what all of these activities were for and what they meant. I think it was a fun time, especially having the chance to interact with these children who come from diverse backgrounds.
My favorite part of Promising Practices was the Keynote Speaker, Christopher Emdin. In his keynote address, Dr. Emdin promoted strategies for advancing opportunities for STEM Education in Urban Environments. He expressed that teachers and educators are responsible for the reason why students drop out, skip class, and fail if they do not feel comfortable. Students may find classes hard if they cannot relate, especially STEM classes, which is why Dr. Emdin suggests teachers must find different ways in order to prevent students from disconnecting from school. Dr. Emdin said, "teachers can have similar goals but they cannot do the same structure because they are privileging children." The teachers who expect children to sit quietly, take notes and soak in information is an example of this by not giving the students a chance to show and express their brilliance. What touched me the most in his presentation was the video he showed of a teenage boy, in an urban school, who was calling out the answers in the back of the classroom. This student had the right answer for his math class but the teacher interpreted as "disrespecting the class" and "disrupting the teacher" for shouting out the answers in the classroom. Dr. Emdin related this to cyphers, which is freestyle rapping. During a cypher, you do not have to raise your hand you just shout out a verse one after the other. Dr. Emdin believes Hip Hop Education used in STEM education can help students relate to their education because the skills people use to create a rap verse is the same skills it takes for a STEM classroom. Dr. Emdin was such a powerful speaker who kept the audience engaged throughout his presentation and I found this to be an amazing opportunity.