I am writing at the conclusion of the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education. Last year, we met in Austin, this year in Chicago.

It was a smashing success! Attendance was 50% higher than in Austin. There were attendees from every corner of the country. All the sessions were held in the Drake Hotel.

Saturday opened with keynotes by Tanaisa Brown of the Newark Students Union, which launched the sit-in in Superintendent Cami Anderson’s office, and Jitu Brown of the Journey for Justice, which is generating civil rights complaints against several major cities.

There were many outstanding workshops during the morning session. At lunch, blogger Jennifer Berkshire interviewed bloggers Peter Greene and Jose Luis Vilson, which everyone enjoyed.

After lunch, Yong Zhao gave a scintillating multi-media presentation, which was both educational and hilarious. At one point, the entire audience stood to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which Yong used to make a point about the value of being different. At times, he was almost drowned out by laughter. If you have a chance to hear him, don’t miss it. Or wait for the videos of the conference to go online.

Saturday afternoon, there were more workshops. We split for dinner but after dinner, Anthony Cody moderated a session of new documentaries about the schools. The film makers were there to describe their work.

Sunday morning, more workshops. I especially enjoyed Jesse Hagopian’s discussion of the racist roots of standardized testing. Jesse was accompanied by Seattle’s education director for the NAACP, which issued a protest against standardized testing.

Mid-morning, I moderated a discussion between Randi Wengarten of the AFT and Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA. I asked them about the future of teachers’ unions, teacher tenure, Common Core, annual testing, whether they would pledge to reject any funding from Walton, Gates, and Broad (they did), and what advice they had for those fighting for public education and the teaching profession. Their answers were lively. See the tapes.

In the last event, I led a discussion with the great and much-loved Karen Lewis. Karen looks fabulous, but she is not fully recovered from her surgery. She shared her wisdom with us, and she was showered with love. Her message was to build alliances. Again, you must watch the tape.

Before the meeting, the wonderful Newark students presented me with a selfie stick (lots of selfies all weekend!). After showing me how to operate it, Tanaisha Brown asked me to show her that I could do it myself. I knew I was in the presence of a real teacher!

Everyone I spoke to told me how much they enjoyed the conference, how energized they felt, and that they would return home to pick up the struggle with renewed vigor.

It was a wonderful and inspiring event!!