Wednesday I am doing something I dread with every fiber of my being – getting on an airplane. I haven’t always been afraid of flying, as a kid I loved it. Turbulence made me laugh. Somewhere in my twenties that changed. A flight became a time of massive anxiety. I prefer to drive 19 hours over flying for three. I become claustrophobic and convinced I will not survive the flight. Surely humans weren’t meant to fly, right?
So why would I put myself through this torture? To attend NCTE’s annual conference. I’m actually looking forward to the flight, or as much as I can possibly look forward to it. That flight will get me to my friends, amazing sessions, and BOOKS!
The only downfall to NCTE is that I’m out of the classroom. The kids had been lamenting this to me already – how can I possibly leave them for three whole days! They love my substitute – it is my mom – but still, who will they tell when they finish their book? Who will recommend another book to them? I quickly reminded them of the community we’ve built, the friends they can talk to, and they calmed down.
Then I shared. I told them what NCTE is and why it means so much to them. I told them the sessions I plan on attending. I shared the two sessions I am presenting at, how nervous I am. And then we got to the “good stuff.”
I explained to them what an ARC is, what a F&G is, and showed them some examples. I told them when I attended last year I had two ARCs I really wanted to get: Jo Knowles See You at Harry’s and Kate Messner’s Eye of the Storm. I talked about how I got them and read them that weekend. How I sobbed over Harry’s and my heart beat so strongly during Eye of the Storm. I then talked about ARC etiquette and how I will only be taking what I think we will read in our class. They laughed when I talked about shipping them back.
Finally, I showed them the list of authors that would be there. I mentioned that they were welcome to come over to my laptop during independent reading time to see if there was an author they felt I should really try to meet for them. I glanced up as I moved around the room to confer. Over and over kids would scroll through the list, calling to a friend when they saw a favorite author’s name. Lamenting once again when they saw the absence of one they adored.
And then Matt came to see me. Matt is someone I’ve spoken about before. Flying through books at amazing speeds. Although he classified himself as a non-reader, his habits show otherwise. Matt is a bit addicted to graphic novels – has read over seventy this school year. This past week he picked up Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. He’s over halfway through and loving it. He walked over and said, “Ms. Applegate’s name isn’t on that list.” I nodded and told him I didn’t think she would be there. He looked down and said, “I just wanted to tell her how much I love her book.” Pow – right to my heart.
As I looked at Matt and the kids cheering as they looked over the list of authors, the kids pouring over some F&Gs spread out on the floor, and the kids holding ARCs of See You at Harry’s and Eye of the Storm while they compared them to the actual novels, I realized what a community had been created in my classroom. I adore these kids. I’m so grateful they think authors are rock stars, just as I do. And I can’t wait to bring them back some books from NCTE. If that requires me to jump on a plane, so be it.