A Parent’s Guide to SENG Annual Conference Too Much? Too Little? Just Right?

by Mary Lovell

To start with, the usual disclaimer: There are many approaches to participating in a conference of this magnitude. This article contains one parent’s experience. By nature, I am an information magnet. When my daughter was identified as gifted, I was lured by the prospect of learning more about this world of ‘giftedness’ like Goldilocks was to the Three Bears’ home.

But just as Goldilocks was challenged to find the ‘just right’ chair, porridge and bed when she visited the three bears home, parents attending the SENG annual conference often experience similar ‘overload’ when they look at the workshops offered. Do I attend the session on tweens or under-achievement? It all looks so valuable!

I often characterize attending my first conference on giftedness as drinking from a fire hose: So many resources! It was so challenging to make the best use of my time. Each of you will have your own method and plan. Rest assured that there is no one ‘right’ answer to this challenge. The good news is that it is a terrific ‘problem’ to have! I hope these suggestions will help you find your level of ‘just right!”

First, consider your needs. Consider your interests too. You’ll get content from the speakers and make connections with the other attendees.

Next, mark your first and second choices for each time slot. That way you have some flexibility. You’ll also have a chance to see if you’re missing something you really wanted or ‘doubled up’ inadvertently. It helps to prioritize sessions. If you go with a friend, you can leverage your time and sessions by attending different sessions and sharing the news afterwards.

Review the speakers – backgrounds and locations. The workshop presenters are especially passionate about helping gifted kids and their parents. Sometimes choosing the workshop session you’ll attend by speaker, instead of by topic will result in some positive connections.

Take a chance! If there is a workshop on something new, and you’re interested, mark it as a possibility. What’s the worst that could happen? During one time slot, a workshop I really wanted to attend was standing room only! I popped into a room nearby and heard a terrific speaker (and also checked out if the SRO workshop was offered at another time – it was and I got there early!) Flexibility is a good thing. If you’re still uncertain about what to attend, ask! There is usually a friendly resource who will help you.

Enjoy the vendor exhibits and silent auction. You may find something helpful and interesting — you will certainly support a great cause.

Finally, share what you’ve discovered! It’s been said that to really learn something, you must teach it. When you share what you’ve learned with friends, other parents, teachers, counselors (be sure that they’re interested, or willing to be interested), you’ll find that you retain more of what you experienced and connect with ‘kindred spirits’ as well.

Questions that I’ve heard include:

I homeschool my child. Is there anything here for me?
You bet! Lots of enrichment resources and insights into the social/emotional aspects of gifted children are applicable to families in public, private and home-school environments.

Can I bring my children? 
SENG offers activities specifically designed for parents and children. This is a wonderful opportunity for families to learn together and experience the wonder of learning!

So, consider coming to Salt Lake City in July. Besides being SENG’s milestone 25th Anniversary Conference, Salt Lake City has some wonderful sites for children and adults alike!

Together you will discover what is ‘just right’ for you!

Mary Lovell, after a successful business career in the energy industry, is now applying her leadership and management skills to inspiring educational causes. She is a director and Finance Officer of SENG and President of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Association for the Gifted & Talented in Texas. She is the proud mother of a highly gifted and inspiring daughter. Mary earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BA in Communication from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.


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