The NOW Conference Preview (Ep. 277)

The event we have all been waiting for–the NOW Conference–is finally here! Amanda Heyn joins Tim today to talk about their preparation for the big day, their excitement about the conference, and how teachers can make the most of their professional learning on Thursday and beyond.

Join us at the NOW Conference on July 29th, where we will share a great day of PD about teaching art, creativity, and inspiration. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

You have heard me talk for the past few weeks, past few months, maybe, about the Summer NOW Conference, and this week, it is finally here. Thursday is the day, and I’m feeling, as always, just this mixture of excitement and relief because we spend months putting this conference together, just planning and organizing and figuring out all the logistics, and it’s a great feeling to have the week finally get here and finally be ready to go. As I always talk about, as we always say about the conference, it’s going to be a spectacular day of professional learning and maybe, more importantly, of spending some time with your favorite art teacher community.

If you have not signed up for the conference and you still want to do that, do so quickly. Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the final day to register, but you can do that at the AOEU website. Everything you need to know is there, and you can find all the information you need, you can register.

I would just say the conference is inspiring. It is motivating. It’s going to give you a ton of new, great ideas as you go into the school year. We still have a lot of questions about what the school year is going to look like, but I think spending some time thinking about that, spending some time looking for ideas from some other teachers and thinking about what’s going to work for your classroom is going to be really worthwhile, so I think this conference can be incredibly helpful.

Also I’m hoping that Thursday can be a little bit of an escape for you. It’s been a really, really tough year, year and a half, and so I hope you can spend some time doing some art-making, some time connecting, and just kind of take a break from everything else and think about art, to think about teaching, thinking about the things you love and just to spend some time with them.

Today, my wonderful NOW Conference co-host, Amanda Heyn, is here to talk with me about the pre-conference on Wednesday, the conference on Thursday and just everything that’s going to happen and maybe, most importantly, how you can kind of maximize the time that you’re spending with other teachers, the learning that can come from this conference and how you can continue that learning as we move into the school year. So let me go ahead and bring her on, and we will have a great conversation here about this week’s NOW Conference.

All right, and joining me now, my favorite co-host, Amanda Heyn. Amanda, how are you?

Amanda: Favorite? I mean, I’m your only co-host, but I’m going to take that. I am doing great. On the way home from taking my kids this morning, Jock Jams was playing on the radio, Jump Around-

Tim: There’s a blast from the past.

Amanda: … so I’m ready to go. How are you?

Tim: Well, I’m doing well, especially now we’re talking about Jump Around, my kids love that song, so it’s-

Amanda: It’s a good song. So I’m in Wisconsin and in Madison and they always play Jump Around at the football games at the beginning of the-

Tim: Oh, yeah.

Amanda: It’s like a thing, so it’s a very special song to me.

Tim: Very nice. Very nice. Now my kids like it, and I told them, “Hey, back in the day when I was your age, the song came out. These are just two kids and they wear their clothes backwards,” which is a whole different discussion, but they love it.

Then my 13-year-old, who’s not super impressed by a lot of things, she just sits there in the seat, listening to it in the car, and she’s, like, “Yeah, this is pretty good. I can see why people would like this,” which is high praise from a 13-year-old, so that’s good stuff.

Amanda: Oh, that’s so funny.

Tim: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Are you ready to talk about our exciting upcoming conference?

Amanda: I mean, yes, but could we take a moment to process the last conference just for a minute? Because that was like the most, I don’t know, it wasn’t the worst day of my life. It was a very stressful day in my professional career.

Tim: I was going to say worst day of your professional life perhaps?

Amanda: Yeah. Yes, yes. You could say that.

Tim: Does everybody need to hear our therapy session?

Amanda: Just very briefly, I just… Because you had to host it from a… There’s so many things went wrong.

Tim: Yeah, there’s a lot.

Amanda: It started with the winter storm, I would say.

Tim: Okay. So the conference was on a Saturday, so I would normally go up on like a Thursday, I would drive to headquarters. Then there was a giant blizzard coming, so I had to leave about 36 hours earlier than I wanted to, just so I didn’t get stuck. Then with COVID still happening, that meant I was in a hotel room by myself with nothing to do or just watching a blizzard and so that was not great. Then a blizzard kept you from even traveling or-

Amanda: Well, I tried to come.

Tim: Did that keep you from attempting?

Amanda: I tried my best. Then I remember, first, I pulled over and I called my husband and I was, like, “I’m turning around.” Then I called you and I was, like, “I’m crying, but I’m fine, and I’m not coming.” So then I had to come home. Oh, gosh.

Tim: I remember seeing your name pop up on my screen, and I was, like, “No, she’s not coming, is she?” So I answered the phone and you’re in tears and I was, like, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Amanda.”

Amanda: It was like Ice Road Truckers. There were so many cars in the ditch. I was swerving all over the road, and I have… I live in Wisconsin, I have snow tires, like, I was prepared for a journey. I had those little hand warmers. I was coming, but no, it was very dangerous. Then I had to set up a spot to host in my house with my kids screaming, and it was terrible.

All of this is not even the worst part.

Tim: I know.

Amanda: We didn’t get to the worst part yet.

Tim: I know. So we’re, like, “Oh, we can make this work. We can host from different locations. It’ll be fine.” So I was all set up at AOEU headquarters, and then the internet just did not work, which makes it really tough to stream live for five or six hours. So about 10 minutes before the conference started, I was, like, “Amanda, you have to take over. I’m going back to the hotel.”

So I ended up streaming from my hotel room, which was super awkward, and we explained that at the beginning of the conference. But then everybody who signed on 20 minutes later, or an hour later, I just got all these messages, like, “Tim, is everything, okay?” “Tim, why are you in a hotel room?”

Amanda: Yeah, it was bad. I mean, luckily, our processes are so buttoned up, I could take over, I knew… We had trained for the worst and it happened-

Tim: It happened.

Amanda: … and it ended up, honestly, the… I don’t know, maybe I just want this to be true, but I think it actually is. I think it was our best conference ever.

Tim: Oh, man. It’s tough to say that with how bad it was, just the chaos we had in the scenes. But it really was because our presenters are amazing, and we are able to still piece together our conference to highlight those presenters, and I think it worked out.

Amanda: Yeah. People loved it. It was great and it was like, I don’t know. It was of the moment. You and I had an experience, like, “Go back to the classroom now. Go back and teach at home.” It felt this was our version of that, so it really made us empathetic to all of the people who were still teaching in the classroom-

Tim: Oh, for sure.

Amanda: … and having to deal with curveballs. So that was many curveballs to do it.

Tim: Yes, yes, but it worked. Okay. All right. Can we move on now?

Amanda: Do you feel better? Yes, we can move on.

Tim: I don’t think I do because I didn’t want to talk about that at all, but let’s chat about the conference that is happening this week. This is exciting.

Amanda: It’s so exciting.

Tim: So what’s new, what’s different, what’s exciting, I guess, are the questions. For me, I think it’s good to just sort of, I don’t want to say memory hole, but to sort of put the last year, year and a half behind us. It’s been just, I mean, no way to sugarcoat, it’s been a terrible, terrible year for a lot of teachers and I’m super excited to kind of move on from that and to be able to start talking about ideas for the next school year, for what’s coming up soon.

I know not everybody’s there yet, but I know a lot of teachers are looking forward to the fall. So I think it’s good to sort of capitalize on that and let everybody get excited about the upcoming year, about all the new things they can try, about getting back to some semblance of normalcy. So I think that’s good and, as always, I think we have some great presenters. I think we have some really exciting new presenters. We’ll talk about those in a bit, but what are you looking forward to with this week?

Amanda: Yeah. Well, I would agree. Terrible, terrible is an accurate description. It was the worst, but… So I’ve been listening to the new podcast, the SEL podcast by Jonathan Juravich. He always asks his guests how they’re feeling right now and so many of them say hopeful, which is really interesting because I think a few months ago there would have been some much different words. So I think people really are feeling hopeful and I think the NOW Conference is always inspiring. But I think this year it’s going to be just extra needed and extra necessary and I’m so excited to spend the day with our teachers. I’m really looking forward to it.

We do have some new, exciting things. I think we’re going to talk about the conference guide later, but we also have an interactive featured presenter. So Phil Hansen, who did the Embrace the Shake TED Talk is going to be interacting with our guests, and you’re going to be able to make artwork and then it’s going to be so cool. I’m very excited about that. We’ve never tried something that before, so I think it’s going to be great.

Then I’m also excited to try out the Bob Ross waffle-maker that we’re going to give away at the pre-conference.

Tim: We should tell everybody about, like, we love Bob Ross, we love joking above Bob Ross, and we found a Bob Ross waffle maker. I don’t know, I think maybe you’re more excited about it, but are we going to try it out… Well, for those of you who are listening to this the day it gets released, we’re going to be on Instagram Live later and, well, do you want to… Okay, you want to tell everybody about it or…

Amanda: Yeah. Well, we want to try to make a waffle on Instagram Live while we answer your conference questions. So I think that Tim has some sprinkles that we’re going to try to put-

Tim: I do, I do.

Amanda: … in Bob’s glorious hair.

Tim: I think so.

Amanda: Well, I’m just excited to see how it turns out.

Tim: Yeah. It could be a disaster, but it could be fun. But, yeah, we will be on IG Live answering questions, making artistic drinks and artistic waffles. Should be a great time.

But the real highlight is the pre-conference, which will be tomorrow, Wednesday night before the conference. We’ve done a couple of those. They’ve been great. Amanda, you want to tell everybody, I guess, what they can expect and why they should come to the pre-conference?

Amanda: Yeah. Well, the pre-conference, it’s just purely fun. You get to play games, you get to hang out, you get to win prizes, and we’ve done a couple of different things. We’ve done trivia, we’ve done Price is Right. This year, we’re going to do Family Feud, so we, literally, surveyed 100 art teachers, which I’m super excited about. It’s just going to be so good.

We also have a really excellent drink menu. My personal favorites on there are the Salvador daiquiri and the Rene margarita. So if you would to bring an artistic drink, you can find that in the conference guide. Yeah. What are you excited about for that?

Tim: Oh, I think Family Feud is going to be great. You know, I was just going to survey a few art teaching friends and call that good, but that was, like, no, we have to say-

Amanda: No, we have to do it right.

Tim: … we surveyed 100 art teachers and so we put together a survey. Thank you at all of you who followed me on social media-

Amanda: Yes, thank you.

Tim: … and answered that. But I think that’s going to be really cool. I think that’s going to make for a lot of good discussion.

But the biggest thing is just having a place to connect, to hang out, to spend time with other art teachers because we don’t get that enough. I think just being able to be part of that community is a really, really cool thing, and we appreciate everyone else who is part of that community and is willing to come hang out with us and make drinks and play dumb games because it’s really, really enjoyable.

Then Sarah Krajewski is going to be hanging out with us, and I think she’s going to lead an art-making activity so there’s going to be a lot of cool things to do. So it should be…

Amanda: I mean, if there’s one thing teachers need after this year, it’s fun and relaxation. I guess that’s two things.

Tim: Yes, exactly.

Amanda: If there are two things they need, they are fun and relaxation.

Tim: Yes, yes. That’s a great way to put it. I mean, it is, it’s so needed and that’s so welcome. I’m really glad we can do it.

Let’s talk about the actual conference on Thursday. Who is presenting that you really want to talk to?

Amanda: Well, I say this every time, it’s all of them because we have excellent presenters.

But I’m especially excited about Janet Taylor because she has a way of making assessment interesting, which I really have not seen from many teachers. It’s just a passion of hers, and she makes it feel something that you feel excited about, rather than something that you have to do. She makes you feel like it’s something you get to do, which is just, I don’t know, bonkers to me that she can do that.

Tim: She was on the podcast last week, just talking about everything assessment-related. I’m, like, “What about this?” and then, she’s, “Oh, my goodness,” and then a light goes on and it’s great to talk to her. So I’m super excited for everybody to see that and see all of her ideas so that should be a good conversation. But, anyway, I’m sorry to interrupt. Who else?

Amanda: No, no. That’s great. I’m also really looking forward to talking to Yaz because she… Well, she’s talking about creativity. I really loved watching her on IG live with Sarah, and I just really love the fact that she’s going to be in the live chat from the middle of the night because she lives… It’s Australia, right?

Tim: Yeah, she’s from Australia, and so-

Amanda: I love when the time zones get wacky and someone’s, like, “It’s 2:00 AM where I am,” and they’re just so excited to be there, and I think it’s going to be super fun.

Tim: Yeah, I think it’s going to be, literally, 1:30 in the morning when her presentation happens. I was, “No, you don’t need to stay up for the live chat,” and she’s, “Oh, I already planned it. I told my husband I’m staying up with the Americans.” She said she may just stay up all night-

Amanda: Oh, my gosh.

Tim: … and just watch the whole conference live, so I think that’s fantastic.

Amanda: Yeah, that is fantastic. And, obviously, I’m, obviously, excited for Phil Hansen also just, again, because it’s just something new that we haven’t done before so I’m super excited for that. What about you?

Tim: Well, Phil Hansen, yes. He’s got so many cool drawing prompts and writing prompts, and he’s going to be in the chat while everybody’s creating all of these drawings. The interactivity is going to be so cool. So, yeah, it’s something new that we haven’t tried before. I think it’s going to be really cool. I hope people enjoy that.

Other than that, I am really, really excited about Jonathan Juravich. You mentioned him earlier, you mentioned his podcast. That podcast has been so popular. It’s been so well received. So just being able to talk to him about social emotional learning and just the ideas that he has, not just for this is what it is, but specifics on this is how it works with your students, this is how it works with you. And here’s how you implement it, here’s how you do it yourself. I think those should be some really good answers, some really good conversation.

Also Karen Kiick, she is a high school ceramics teacher. She does a lot of wonderful things. I talked her on the podcast a while back and just about her hybrid teaching along with in-person teaching was just… She’s so thoughtful, and she’s so reflective about the entire year, about everything that we’re trying to do. So I really want to get her perspective. I really want people to hear from her about just everything that she’s done and everything that she’s been thinking about over the past year, year and a half. So I’m really looking forward to that live conversation as well.

Amanda: She has the coolest last name ever-

Tim: Right?

Amanda: Kiick with two Is?

Tim: Yes, agree.

Amanda: I want that last name. It’s great. Great.

Tim: Plus the first name with a K, the alliteration.

Amanda: I know, I know.

Tim: It’s great.

Amanda: It’s wonderful.

Tim: Then one other thing I think we’re both excited about is graduation. That was cool last time, and I think it should be really neat this time. Are you excited for that?

Amanda: I am excited. It definitely made me teary last time, but I’m also a sap, so that’s not surprising. But it’s just really cool to see all of the graduates and all of their hard work.

Then this time, I have an added layer because I got to attend some of the Capstone presentations of the graduates, and I think you did as well. It’s just so moving to hear their stories and what they’re doing and their work that came out of the program, it’s really impressive. I think we’re going to have almost 70 graduates this time, which is insane so, yeah, I’m very excited about it.

What about you?

Tim: I think it’s going to be awesome. Like you said, those Capstone presentations were great. That’s like people defending their master’s thesis, for those of you that don’t know. But being able to see teachers present about this work that they are so passionate about, they put so much effort into, and just reflect so well on their teaching and everything that they’ve been researching and doing, it was awesome to see that. Then to be able to see those people actually graduating, I think will be great.

I think Debi West is the commencement speaker-

Amanda: Yes.

Tim: … and she is fantastic. She is full of energy and passion and wonderful stories and really meaningful words. All of those is why she is the commencement speaker and not me. But no, just everything that she has to say, it’s fun and exciting, but it’s also very powerful. So I’m really looking forward to seeing what she puts together.

All right. Then we also need to talk about something you mentioned earlier, the conference guide. I talked about this on Nic’s podcast last month, but basically it’s just a really cool booklet that puts together all of your learning opportunities for the conference in one place, and it should be in your swag box, which, hopefully, is on your doorstep at this point. But if you didn’t get one, it is available via download so check your email, check the website, will be able to find that. But I mean, can you just sort of talk us through why we wanted to create this, what it looks like, and I guess how people can use it?

Amanda: Yeah. I think one constructive piece of criticism we sometimes get for the conference is that it just goes so fast. People are, like, “This is great, but it goes so fast, and my brain is broken by the end.” So we thought, “Well, what if we made something to guide you through the conference, give you prompts, give you space to write, designated space for each presentation, information that you can come back to, so you’re not scribbling it down super fast?” So I’m super excited about this. I think it’s going to allow people to focus on what they want to get out of the conference, instead of trying to write down people’s Instagram handles or whatever.

That’s all in the book for you, presentation titles, presenters, where you can find them after the conference, interesting facts about them. Then there’s space for you to write down what you get out of the presentation, and there’s prompts to help you think about how to take what you are learning in the conference and apply it directly into your classroom. There are also fun surprises throughout, there’s fun facts.

There’s QR codes if you want to explore further. Nic Hahn did a wonderful spread about Sketchnoting, if you want to try that out, and there’s a super cool QR code on that page to help you find a video that she did, a time-lapse video of that drawing, which is… I am a sucker for that kind of stuff. I could watch it all day.

Tim: Oh, it’s fascinating. I love it.

Amanda: Yeah, you should definitely watch that. So, yeah, I think we just wanted to help people really solidify their learning and their takeaways from the conference so that they can implement them in the fall, and it’s beautiful.

Tim: Oh, that’s true.

Amanda: It’s fantastic.

Tim: Yeah, our graphic designers do incredible work and so I’m really excited to have that out into people’s hands. If you want to listen more about that, Nic did an entire podcast on the conference guide and how to use it, so we’ll link to that in the show notes.

Then, Amanda, one last thing before we get out of here. We, of course, would be remiss to not talk about the art-making opportunities because for a lot of people that is their favorite part of the conference. So, for you, what are you excited about with the art-making?

Amanda: Well, I’m really excited about the Everything is a Canvas Presentation that Jerald-

Tim: Yeah, Jerald Robinson.

Amanda: … yes, Robinson. I think that’s a really interesting concept, and I’m excited to learn more about that. I mean, I’m not teaching in the classroom, but I think it’s something my own kids would be into, so I’m super excited about that. Also just budget-wise, if everything is a canvas, anything is a canvas, and if anything is a canvas, your world is wide open. So I think that’s super cool.

Amanda: I’m also excited for Matt Young’s presentation about monster sculptures.

Tim: Yes, monster battles.

Amanda: I think that can be fun.

Tim: Hey, can we have our monsters battle?

Amanda: Oh, my gosh, yes. Yes.

Tim: Okay. Let’s do it.

Amanda: Okay. Okay, great.

Tim: Let’s do it. I’m excited. Okay.

Amanda: Yeah. So, I mean-

Tim: No, I think-

Amanda: … what are you excited about?

Tim: Well, I think Matt’s presentation is going to be great. I think Jerald’s presentation will be fantastic. I talk all the time on this podcast about how when you’re looking for budget-saving opportunities, I always say everything is a canvas with enough gesso and so this presentation is right up my alley. I’m super excited. So I think that one’s going to be really good.

I’m personally really bad at weaving, but Caitlyn Thompson approached me-

Amanda: How can you be bad at weaving?

Tim: Okay. So I never did weaving ever. I never taught weaving when I was doing elementary art, which I don’t know how I got away with never doing that. But I never did, and so I just never have had the practice. I understand the concept of it. It’s like-

Amanda: I was going to say it’s just over under, and then under over.

Right. I understand the concept. It was just not something that comes naturally to me. But Coach T, Caitlyn Thompson, she has put together a really cool presentation, I’m excited to try it.

Amanda: Me, too.

Tim: So, as long as you promise not to make fun of me too badly-

Amanda: I promise.

Tim: … for the weaving that I put together, then I’m ready for it.

Amanda: Thanks for that disclaimer. That gives me a little leeway.

Tim: So I think all of that will be good. That’s only about half of what’s going to be available, so a lot of really cool stuff coming on Thursday.

All right. Well, Amanda, thank you for joining me. It’s been great to talk to you.

Amanda: Of course, loved being here. I’m really excited to see everybody at the conference.

Tim: All right, that will do it. Thank you, Amanda.

We have so many cool things planned. If you were listening to this podcast on Tuesday, the day it comes out, join Amanda and me on Instagram Live, maybe on Facebook Live, too, I’m not quite sure, this afternoon. We’re going to be answering a bunch of questions about the conference. We’re going to be making some artistic drinks, kind of chatting things up. It should be a good time. If you are registered for the conference, come join us at the pre-conference tomorrow night, Wednesday night and, of course, for the conference itself on Thursday.

On top of all the other incredible things that we’re going to be doing, I would encourage you, as we talked about at the very end of that conversation, Amanda and I did, I would encourage you to try and make some art during the day, just a ton of presentations that give you the opportunity to make some art, whether it be weaving, or ceramics, or printmaking, or drawing, or, who knows what, bookmaking. We have so many really cool ideas that I think are really enjoyable. So jump on that opportunity, definitely participate in the chat, if you’re there on Thursday. So many great ideas being exchanged in the videos, in the chat, altogether throughout the day. I think the more you participate, the more you get out of it.

So if you are signed up, get your swag box out, get your art-making materials out, and just be ready to learn, be ready to interact, be ready to enjoy yourself. Like I said at the beginning, if you are not signed up, you can do that, but only through the end of the day on Wednesday. So please, please move quickly, go over to the AOEU website, and you can learn everything you need to know about the NOW Conference. You can get yourself registered and, hopefully, we will see you on Thursday.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Enjoy the conference this week, and we will be back next week with Lindsey Moss. Should be a great conversation and, hopefully, you will join us then.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.