Symposium provides opportunities, humor

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More than 450 education students, wearing business attire and carrying newly acquired bright green tote bags, filled the K-State Student Union’s Forum Hall early Thursday morning. Students huddled together and pored over their schedules to see who shared sessions. The crowd stilled as Associate Dean Debbie Mercer took the stage and introduced the 25th annual Education Symposium: The Future of You in Education.

Mercer said the symposium was the type of continuous improvement that teachers engage in throughout their entire careers. Mercer bragged about the different accomplishments of the college and encouraged the future teachers.

“Don’t be discouraged,” Mercer said. “Teaching is so very, very critical to a democratic society.”

The discouragement Mercer was referring to is often caused by a negative stigma that teachers face everyday. Jennifer Shadle, senior in education, described this stigma.

“Sometimes people don’t take teachers seriously because they don’t think of it as an actual career or profession that you develop, and continue to grow in, from year to year,” Shadle said. “Our main goal as future teachers is to continue growing and learning in our fields. Symposiums like this really help because they continue to help us improve.”

Kim McWilliams, senior in education, said the negative view could also be from the pay differences between teaching and other professions.

“A lot of times the school of education can get pushed to the side or people just don’t think about us,” McWilliams said. “They’re more focused on the science or engineering colleges that make the most money, and they can forget we’re important, too. We make a huge difference, not only at K-State, but also in the state of Kansas because we’re the number one school for teachers in the state.”

The symposium cost $20 per student, and included all sessions, a souvenir bright green tote bag, pen and breakfast and lunch. All 500 available seats were filled during registration, which was held Sept. 12-16 in the Bluemont Hall lobby. The symposium consisted of several different small-class sessions held in Union rooms, and a whole-group session held in Forum Hall.

A few of the classes offered were Budget Cuts — How They’re Affecting Education and You, Overseas Teaching, Interest, Engagement, and Imagination, and Creativity in the Classroom. McWilliams said the symposium helped fill in the blanks that classes don’t cover.

“There is only so much they can teach us in the classroom,” McWilliams said. “A lot of what they focus on is lesson planning and how best to deliver to the students, whereas this focuses more on what happens after you graduate with the job — and I feel that’s where a lot of us have apprehension and anxiety — so it helps us relax and see our options.”

Shadle said another reason for going was to fill graduation requirements and answer questions about the profession.

“You get six professional hours for coming and we need 20 to graduate,” Shadle said. “The sessions are also really helpful if you’re coming into the education field and don’t know what to expect.”

The whole group session, called the Richard G. Hause Creativity Lecture, featured eight of the top teachers in Kansas. The 16th annual creativity lecture was the centerpiece of the symposium and it was named after a former education professor — Richard Hause. Hause believed in creative teaching and thinking, and even taught a class about it. Hause’s wife, Nancy, was in attendance.

The creativity lecture was an hour long and each teacher had a short amount of time to present a creative technique or activity that they use in the classroom. Each teacher had a central theme for their stories that began with “creativity means …”

For Kim Morrissey, from Dodge Literacy Magnet Elementary School in Wichita, creativity means asking yourself, “What is the most creative way I can teach this?” To illustrate the point, Morrissey presented as Dr. Be-Healthy, complete with a lab coat, bright orange horn-rimmed glasses and three small pigtails on the top of her head. Morrissey used the kooky character to teach students active and healthy habits.

For K-State alumna Nikki Chamberlain, of Salina South High School, creativity means relinquishing control.

“Teachers want to pass on their knowledge but students don’t learn like that,” Chamberlain said. “We need to let them construct and create their own knowledge.” At the end of the day, Shadle said she thought the creative session was the most important past of the Symposium.

“It’s really inspirational to see how dedicated and excited they are about education,” Shadle said. “Our goal in education is to make a difference and they presented us with a starting point to do it.”

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