Have you ever come home from a conference and been so inspired you can’t wait to get back into the classroom, your special education room, or your therapy station? A Professional Conference is great for stimulating your thinking, inspiring your curiosity, and creating dialogue with other educators and therapists.

Recently I attended the National Institute for Learning Development (NILD) conference in Virginia.  This was the 35th anniversary conference of NILD USA, held in Norfolk, Virginia.  The theme was “Learning Keys:  Unlocking the Highways to Success.” Dr. Kristin Barbour, the Executive Director spoke passionately about the importance of “curiosity, motivation, and resilience in educational therapy”.

NILD Conference - Inspiring!

Opening session with Dr. Kristin Barbour, Executive Director, NILD

Children who have learning challenges, and who often come from disruptive home environments, need to develop resilience.  They need to feel cared for and need a safe space to learn in the busy classroom environment. I reflected on this idea of resilience, and see it’s so true with our students. I have students who come to school having only eaten an apple for breakfast, forgetting their homework , and often are left feeling overwhelmed. Giving a safe space to help them re-group, and to tap into their curiosity is essential in the learning process. Once they can focus, they are able to develop motivation and achieve success in their

One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Kevin Washburn also addressed the importance of curiosity in school environments. He stated that “more curiosity in childhood produces more achievement in young adults”. We want our students to hunger to find out more about a topic, and consequently keep them engaged by introducing an element of surprise in the classroom. Good teaching sparks curiosity. I remember my high school English teacher would come into the classroom with a new novel hot off the press.  He read a few excerpts, made us curious, and then went on with the lesson. Of course I had to read the book

 In our technological society, how are we going to peak our students’ curiosity and make them want to learn? Sometimes it takes something as simple as bringing a gourd into the classroom, and putting one on each desk. Leave it there all morning, and give no reason for bringing it. (I did this my first year of teaching because our garden was overrun with gourds, and you can’t eat them. We ended up doing art activities, making maracas for music, and hollowing them into containers.  This sparked all kinds of curiosity)

Overall, the NILD conference was engaging, and promoted all kinds of dialogue amongst therapists from Ontario, the United States as well as several other countries. What a great time of learning and connecting!  We even had a sunset dinner cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk, along the harbour. Refreshed and energized by the speakers and dialogue, we felt the “highways to success” were opened up for us to take back to our classrooms and learning environments.

You can still register for our Annual Conference in Toronto on April 21 & 22, click here for more information!

(For more information on NILD USA’s conferences, check out NILD.org)