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Making the Most of a SENG Conference

By Jane Hesslein.

With Seattle’s SENG Summit so close (try that three times fast), it seems like a good time to think about how to get the most out of the experience.

I’ve written before about how my own SENG conference attendance was “summer camp for Mom” when my children were younger. I actually came without them and had a great time, indulging my curiosity about all things related to the social-emotional needs of the gifted. I attended presentations during every session and disappeared with a new book when I needed some quiet time. Visits with vendors, presenters, and volunteers led to long-time friendships of more than twenty years. I came home charged, exhausted, and excited to do it all again in a year.

I told myself it was all about my children before realizing that it was also all about my husband (my “longitudinal study”). Eventually, I came to accept that I was learning much about myself.

Conferences then were much simpler than those of today. Now, in addition to the general sessions, there are continuing education sessions for professionals, credits and hours available for educators, training for guided discussion group facilitators, and children’s and teens’ programs to rival any summer camp.

With all of this in mind, here are a few ideas to help you get the most out of a SENG conference (visit SENG’s Facebook page to share more ideas:

1. Ask someone, “What brought you here?” Be prepared to make a friend.

2. Find the answer to a burning question. Then generate a new one.

3. For locals: adopt a visitor and share with them a Seattle “do not miss” idea.

4. For visitors: find a secret “must-do” recommendation from a local.

5. Get a good look at Mt. Rainier.

6. Start a book—this could mean “read one” or “write one.”

7. Collect contact information from new friends (yours and your children’s).

8. Get (or give) recommendations: speakers, topics, vendors.

9. Purchase a great book by a presenter and have it autographed. Maybe also get one for someone else–a friend, your spouse, your child’s teacher, or a school library.

10. Take notes, and lots of them. Maybe indulge in a journal purchased just for the occasion.

11. Remember to recharge—raising a gifted child takes lots of energy.

12. Get out on the water.

13. Make time to reflect on what you learn. It’s not just about the kids, and that may be a surprise.

The SENG conference truly has something for everyone, and the fun of it is that you will probably find something completely unexpected. After all, people may think they go to the state fair for the rides, but the chocolate-dipped frozen cheesecake on a stick is the real find.

I wish you wonderful finds at the conference, and I hope you’ll tell me about them. I’ll be there.


Jane Hesslein is a SENG Director and co-chair of this year’s SENG Seattle Summit Conference. Jane’s professional orientation has focused on gifted children from the beginning. Currently teaching fifth grade Humanities at Seattle Country Day School (an independent school for the gifted), her career has also taken her to public and private settings in New Jersey, Texas, Ontario, and Minnesota. A SENG facilitator since 1989, Jane’s goal is to promote SENG awareness and sensibilities among the teachers and families of the gifted.

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