The first trick when planning a large teachers' conference is you have to find a few hotels where the teachers can stay and attend the sessions of the conference. You want to pick a distant city that can be advertised as an exotic location so the teachers will want to travel there. The actual hotel location though must be a boring neighbourhood so the teachers will not wander away to go for walks in the parks, shopping in the malls or looking for fancy restaurants to dine in.
The location for the conference shown in these photos was the city of Saskatoon in the middle of Canada's Prairies. For hundreds of kilometres in any direction the scenery was always the same. Just flat farmland possibly growing wheat or covered with snow.
The immediate area around the conference hotels was an industrial park near the city airport. There were no parks, shopping malls or fancy restaurants. There was nothing the conference participants could see through the hotel windows that might tempt them to wander outside and go for a walk.
Now there will always be a few teachers who will not make it to a conference because their vehicle broke down somewhere along the highway. Some teachers might have the misfortunate to be involved in a serious traffic accident. But for all the teachers who were successful in making the trip they were totally disinclined to leave the conference hotels once they arrived. That is the secret to having near perfect attendance of the participants at a conference.
Here are some photos taken from various windows in the hallways and rooms of the hotel where I was staying. It was across the street from the main conference hotel (not shown) where all the sessions were held.
Teachers are the most experienced and best behaved students on the planet. Anyone can stand up in front of a classroom full of teachers and teach them. I once sat in a university lecture hall where a six year old walked up to the front of the room and taught a short lesson to a classroom full of teachers-in-training. Did anyone rebel? No! The student teachers in the front row provided lots of encouragement, moral support and leading questions to support the six year old in what otherwise would have been a terrifying ordeal for the youngster. The lesson itself had been planned by a professor so the six year old was simply trying to remember and follow the professor's instructions.
Here are some photos of one of the rooms at the teachers' conference in Saskatoon. As you can see it is just a regular school classroom on a grand scale that fills a large hotel banquet room. Various instructors took turns leading the sessions by standing at a podium on a stage at the front of the room to teach their lessons. Look carefully and you will be able to spot the podium in some of the photos. The teachers attending the conference behaved like students by sitting at tables where they could write down lecture notes during the sessions. Occasionally for a change of pace the teachers were assigned to participate in group activities with the other members sitting at their table.
Due to the near perfect attendance of the teachers participating in this conference there is an overflow resulting in some of the teachers sitting across the back of the room because there was not enough room at the group tables.
Along the side of the room there are some tables the hotel staff have set up where the teachers can serve themselves coffee or tea. I have taught in a few northern schools where a native teacher may have coffee and/or tea available in their classroom for high school students. Occasionally a high school student may fall asleep in a school classroom. In the big banquet hall shown in these photos there are probably many teachers having difficulty trying to stay awake. Over the years they have become accustomed to the excitement of standing at the front of the classroom while teaching. Suddenly switching roles to find themselves sitting quietly still in a classroom feeling like a bored student is bound to cause many of them to fall asleep. Maybe some coffee or tea will help a few of them to stay awake.
Does anyone want to try to take attendance in this oversized classroom? Does anyone want to try to monitor everyone who might have to leave the room to go to the washroom and whether they returned in a reasonable amount of time?