Not Just Another Convention: Why You and Your Staff Should Attend jDay


Sam Hedenberg

I have to be honest: I hate conventions.

Before I was a teacher, I was the sales manager of a corporate retail chain. And every quarter, they would send me to the BWI Airport Holiday Inn for a three-day “leadership symposium.”

This symposium consisted of sitting in a hotel meeting room with 40 other bored twentysomethings, drinking coffee by the gallon.

Watching bad PowerPoint presentations.

Playing awkward icebreakers.

Watching the clock creak toward 6pm when they would finally give me a buffet dinner and two drink tickets for the hotel bar.

When I became a teacher and was introduced to the wonderful world of “professional development,” I already knew the song and dance.

So a few years ago, when my journalism colleagues from around Northern Virginia began pressuring me to attend journalism-specific events like jDay, I balked. “School on a Saturday?” I asked. “My students will DEFINITELY not go for that.”

But my colleagues kept up the pressure, and last year, I caved. I half-heartedly pitched jDay to my Journalism I students. To my surprise, they loved the idea.

That weekend, I piled the students into my SUV and trekked across the county. I sat with my coffee and winced and waited for the glaze to form on their eyes — that glaze I still remembered all too well from my weekends at the Holiday Inn.

But you know what? Their eyes didn’t glaze over. The students loved it. They were into it. And I loved it too.

Because for the first time, the presenters weren’t forced to be up there. The audience wasn’t required to sign in and be there for recertification points. Everyone at jDay was there because they were passionate and excited about journalism and interested in getting better at it. jDay was an event that worked like an authentic symposium is supposed to: real and honest professionals and students sharing ideas and strategies with each other. No boring PowerPoints, no cheesy icebreakers.

I was so inspired by the speakers I listened to and the things I learned that I went home and put together this little news segment on my iPad:

I understand if you’re on the fence. I was for years. But I finally gave it a shot, and now, I can’t ever see myself not bringing students to this event. Give it a try, and I bet you’ll find the same.

Click here to register today!

Sam Hedenberg is a special education English teacher at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria. He is the adviser of The Surveyor yearbook, The Em Vee Hi newspaper and Pen & Palette literary magazine, and is a 2014 recipient of the Herff Jones Yearbooks’ “Rookie Adviser of the Year” award. He lives in Alexandria and is currently finding reasons to not work on his debut novel.