3 Things I Learned from the Exchange Conference

banner for the 2014 Exchange Conference

Last week, BJU Press held the third annual Exchange Conference. What is the Exchange Conference? Simply put, it’s a conversation. Christian school teachers and administrators gather from all over the country for four days to learn from and engage in conversations with others.

What do they learn? One of our conference speakers says, “The Exchange Conference is about how we do what we do.” That includes how to teach from a biblical worldview, how to teach the way the brain learns, and even how to communicate effectively. The best part of the Exchange Conference is that there’s something for everyone. As an illustration, I’ll share three things I learned from the conference this year—things that any educator should be able to use.


  1. Regularity—kids need it. I had the privilege of attending both Katie Klipp’s and Lezah Cruz’s workshops on classroom management, and both of them made this point. For the elementary level, Katie explains that having a set schedule lets students know the expectations for the day and keeps them from being surprised. When something different or surprising happens, elementary students can erupt into chaos. On the secondary level, having a schedule and keeping to it is important for time management. According to Lezah, since you only have so much time with your students in a class period, you have to make each minute count so that you get the most out of your class time. Sticking to a routine can also help with distractions, like rabbit trails—if you know what you need to be doing, you can’t get too far off topic.
  2. Effective communication requires clarity. Whether you’re an administrator or a teacher, you have to communicate with others. According to Ryan Meers, part of effective communication is clarity. What does that look like? Clarity begins by understanding, as Dr. Meers says, that “just because you think you’re clear doesn’t mean you are.” Many people think that their message is clear, but in reality it’s not getting through to the recipient. Clarity requires dialogue, and good dialogue means asking good questions. Dr. Meers clarified that good questions are not questions with yes or no answers. If you want to know if Jimmy understood the long-division lesson, don’t ask, “Do you understand?” Instead ask, “What doesn’t make sense?”  Or if you want to make sure your staff members understand a policy change, ask, “Do you have any concerns?” rather than “Was that clear?”
  3. Motivating kids to learn is all about perception. In Esther Wilkison’s workshop on how the brain learns, she explained that our five senses are what we use to learn. She compared our senses to doors. For some kids the audio door is slightly closed, but the visual door is wide open. According to Esther, as a teacher you need to be aware of which kids learn through which senses in order to motivate them. But that doesn’t mean that you teach each lesson five different ways. Instead she encourages every teacher to incorporate a little something for each of the senses in each lesson. By doing so, you’re including all your students in the learning.

As you can tell, I learned a lot from the Exchange Conference.  Does it sound like something you would be interested in? Check our website for the latest information on next year’s conference.

Do you use any of these ideas in your teaching already? Do you have any other tips you consider helpful for teachers in general?

5 Educational Sites in the Southeast

Wanting to add educational value to your vacation? If you live in the Southeast or are planning a summer trip that way, check out these five historical places that bring learning to life.

  1. Castillo de San Marcos

    Located in St. Augustine, Florida, this is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Built to protect Spanish interests in the New World, the fort’s construction from a rare type of limestone made it unusually durable. Though a number of different flags have flown over the fortress, it has never been taken by force. Learn the uses of the rooms inside the fort, and watch a historic weapons demonstration on the gundeck.

  2. Old Salem

    This historic district offers a unique way to learn about the Moravians, Protestant missionaries from what is now the Czech Republic who settled in the area around Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in the mid-eighteenth century. You can see pewterers and shoemakers plying their trades in period dress, attend an heirloom puppet show, learn a German paper-cutting craft, and sample crisp Moravian ginger cookies.

  3. Boone Hall Plantation

    This picturesque plantation is nestled in the coastal area near Charleston, South Carolina. Larger than most plantations of the pre-Civil War era, it features a long driveway up to the house, lined with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Visitors can tour the grounds, browse through cabins that housed the plantation’s slaves, and maybe even spot an alligator in the pond. A seasonal presentation highlights the Gullah culture brought to the region by enslaved people of West Africa.

    the front of Boone Hall Plantation home

    Boone Hall Plantation

  4. First African Baptist Church

    Step back into church history in Savannah, Georgia, with a visit to North America’s oldest African-American church. A stained glass window features George Leile, the church’s first pastor after its organization in 1773. The church still has some of its original pews and a special design on the ceiling that signified safety to all who entered. Beneath the auditorium floor is a four-foot-high crawl space that may once have sheltered fugitive slaves as part of the Underground Railroad.

  5. Carl Sandburg Home

    Tucked away in Flat Rock, North Carolina, is the house that belonged to the author of such unforgettable poems as “Fog,” “Grass,” and “Arithmetic.” A guided tour takes you through rooms filled with old books and cozy furnishings—including Sandburg’s typewriter. Visit the goat barn, where the poet’s wife raised prize-winning goats. And be sure to hike around the lake. It’s the perfect place for aspiring poets to pause and scribble a few lines of their own.

looking across a river at the Carl Sandburg Home

Carl Sandburg Home

• • • • •

Eileen is an author at BJU Press, working primarily with elementary-level materials. She writes frequently outside of work and also teaches a university writing course. Among her favorite pastimes are reading, taking hikes to waterfalls, and doing children’s ministry with her local church.

What interesting historical places have you visited?

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