As I walked into Donovan last Saturday morning I didn't really know what to expect. First thing I noticed was name tags lined down in a row on multiple tables for people to pick up. These name tags had the names of the workshops we would attend for the day (thankfully because to be honest I had already forgotten which ones I had signed up for). I took a seat with the rest of the class as we waited for the conference to start.
The first thing I want to point out would be the fact that this portion of the conference was much too long. I'm not trying to set a bad mood for my experience because let me state that it wasn't at all. However, I feel that the panel did not accomplish too much in the almost three hours they were up there. They just seemed to dance around many questions that seemed to be given prior to the event starting rather than provide answers to legitimate problems. The most striking moment from this portion would have to be when there was another student who was raising a legitimate issue and he kept getting rushed from the moderator. This caused the student to get flustered and to be honest I don't think he ever got the complete question out. I don't really remember what the poor guy had to say (and that's probably an indictment on myself as well) because I felt outraged for him. Was it because he appeared to be African American that this moderator didn't take the student seriously? Or was it because he was raising an actual issue that they hadn't thought of or had a political answer lined up for? Whatever the case may be I felt right there that the moderator had no credibility anymore as a professional. Perhaps I read too much into it but I felt that was very wrong to do to someone who showed enough effort to prepare his question in the manner he did. The could've showed him the professionalism that he had shown them.
The mayor really wasn't much better in a sense. Mayor Angel Tavares did alright as a speaker, but much like the others on the panel, they really didn't have any answers. Questions were raised and like everyone else there danced around them never giving an answer to the issue. If anything he used this time to promote himself. The whole time the questions were addressed to him it really felt like he was running the campaign trail. Now I get it, he's a politician and he is running for governor at the time of this conference, but would it kill him to ease up on the self promotion and actually answer what could be done to help the education systems that need it? His major focus on the school system disparity in Rhode Island is the fact that the students are too lazy. Tavares basically stated that "if I could do it, anyone can". To me that just isn't a good enough answer. Somebody's personal accomplishments just isn't a large enough sample size to state that there isn't a problem. Nothing against him at all but it's almost like he couldn't see the bigger picture because of his own personal success. To me it's a great example of being in power and not seeing the privileges they might have had.
My favorite part of the day came from the individual workshops we went to. Granted, I thought that this was going to be the majority of the day and not about two hours. They were informative and the ideals they had for their programs were fantastic. I honestly wished that they had some more time to explain things to us because they actually seemed genuine rather than the aforementioned panel. But I definitely enjoyed my time at the two and I don't really have any complaints concerning them.
Between those two experiences I can say that next year they should distribute the time better than what thy did this year. I felt that they could've made a difference in attitude to the students there if they had more time at the workshops rather than have the panel last three hours. They actually had answers to issues that is plaguing the education system so why not spend more time there? If they do that next year I can say with the utmost confidence that they will see a difference from student reaction.