Thursday November 6, 2014
It’s People for Education’s 18th annual conference on Saturday, November 8th. It’s hard to believe we’ve been around that long, but it’s also wonderful. 
One of the things I look forward to most at the conference is the first half hour, when every person in the room – all 300 of them – introduces him or herself. The participants are parents, trustees, teachers, principals, academics, community members, school board staff and many others. And when the introductions happen, we all get to hear where they’ve come from.
This year will be no different. The participants will be from Thunder Bay and Windsor, Cornwall and Parry Sound, New York, New Brunswick and Vancouver, and many places in between. 
One of the themes at the conference this year will be success. What does it look like? How can we support it? And how should we measure it?
For a long time, I think many of us assumed that the most successful students were the ones who scored the highest on tests, and maybe the ones who had the highest IQs. But many experts are now saying that success isn’t just about high scores, or about amassing a particular set of knowledge. In fact, the experts – and many employers – are saying that long-term success is connected to a set of skills and competencies that we haven’t been paying enough attention to.
Maybe if I had known that when my children were young, I would have spent less time fighting with them about homework and more time building their capacity to innovate, to fail and to persevere. 
We’re going to start the day with Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, who argues that student success is really all about skills like curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control.  The big question for him will be: How can we do a better job building those skills in our kids?
We’ll also hear from four amazing young people from Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ). They’re entrepreneurs and innovators, and they’re going to tell us what they would do differently if they ran the education system. They’ll let us know what they did learn in elementary and secondary school that helped build their entrepreneurial mindset, and what they wish they had learned – at school and from their parents – that would have supported greater creativity and innovation, and better capacity for problem-solving and risk-taking.
Money and sex are going to be topics, too! 
Sex educator Ceda Verbakel will be part of a panel called “How to Talk About Sex So Kids Will Listen”. Joining her are an expert on Ontario’s Health and Physical Education curriculum and a university student. It will be everyone’s chance to ask about “the talk” or maybe the many talks we should be having – at school and at home – with our kids. One of the other all-important talks is about money. For this, author and financial literacy consultant Robin Taub will help us learn how to teach kids financial literacy.
There will also be hands-on workshops on topics such as using technology to build school communities, making schools more inclusive, navigating special education, supporting kids’ mental health and more. 
I’m looking forward to two other important discussions: an all-party debate about how we should be funding education and a workshop with the Hon. David Crombie and Karl Subban (former principal and famous hockey dad) that will help us figure out why other provinces have community schools while Ontario lags behind.
The day will end with a consultation. We’re bringing in experts from across the country who have been doing research for People for Education’s Measuring What Matters initiative. In workshops about creativity and innovation, health, citizenship, quality learning environments and social-emotional skill, participants will have a chance to let the experts know what they’ve missed and where there are possible minefields in the next steps. 
We’re also happy that TVOParents is participating again this year. Producers will provide articles and blog posts on many of the conference topics and post video interviews with some of the presenters, including our keynote speaker Paul Tough, as well as conference participants. Be sure to check out after the conference.
I hope lots of you can join us. There’s still time to register; just click here.
See you on Saturday, November 8th, at the Rotman School at U of T.
Annie Kidder is the Executive Director of People for Education, an organization that works to support public education in Ontario’s English, French and Catholic schools.