Saturday, November 26, 2011

To feed my soul…

I mentioned in my last post that it has only been in the last few years that I have found meaningful professional development. Last November my twitter feed began to fill up with tweets from #ncte10. I began to investigate. I had attended IRA in2009 and it was amazing. I wrongly assumed NCTE was geared towards High School and hadn’t really looked into it before. Reading the tweets, I saw how wrong I was. I immediately began to plan to go this year.

There is no way to begin to describe the experience that was NCTE. I drove up on Thursday and quickly checked in at the Palmer House, racing a few blocks to make my first session. Penny Kittle, Doug Kaufman, and Linda Reif were presenting about the power of writing conferences. They spoke and my mind raced with possibilities for my classroom.

After that session I met up with Twitter friends and we had a group go to dinner. The conversation there varied from the hilarious, to what we were reading, to educational practices. The conversation continued back at the hotel and into the late hours of the night. I went to bed with my brain on overload.

Friday I spent most of the day with more Twitter friends trying to fit in all of the sessions that I wanted to see. We started the day with inspirational words from Linda Darling-Hammond who discussed the state of education – which is enough to get you down, but then she turned it around with almost a call to arms. I had the opportunity to hear wonderful authors like Kate Messner, Linda Urban and more explain how they use critique groups as authors. I pulled that idea back into Thursday’s session to think more about my classroom.

Saturday began early with the ALAN breakfast. More friends met up, more wonderful authors spoke to us. I toured the exhibit hall with my friend John Schu. After spending the better part of an hour together I reflected, again, on how different Twitter is. John and I have never met in person until that day, but I have “spoken” to him daily for the better part of two years. It reinforced the connection that Twitter has created in my life. Saturday continued with more fun; hilarious laughs from Gordon Korman, Jon Scieszka, and Alan Sitomer; wise words from Patrick Allen, Ruth Ayers, Troy Rushmore, and Stacey Shubitz; and laughter combined with insights from Sara Kajder, Teri Lesesne, Donalyn Miller, and Franki Sibberson. I should note that I will never forget what a “dongle” is or that Teri’s is magical.

Friday and Saturday nights were filled with dinner with friends – old and new. The chance to gush at Jenni Holm. And, luckily, the opportunity to breakdown all of my thoughts with the best suitemates in the world.

I woke Sunday to a final session with some amazing guys: Jeff Anderson, Terry Thompson, and Charles Fuhrken. These poor guys were all sick with one ailment or another but the show went on. It was a great way to go out. At lunch with a friend before I left I commented on the fact that I was on overload. I think I averaged around four hours of sleep a night. I often ate a Cliff Bar for breakfast and for lunch. I had so much information – some new and some refreshed - that it was in danger of not making sense. We talked through it together and I left with my thinking clarified.

NCTE is a long conference – four days of sessions and then two more if you attend the workshops. It can get expensive; I paid for a great deal of it myself. Is it worth it? I had that discussion with a fellow teacher upon returning to school. I told her about my sessions. I excitedly described the workshop I want to attend in March, the two in June. I explained I would need to pay my own way to them all and wondered out loud why I did this. Her reply was, “These conferences feed your soul.” She’s right. I have found what feeds me, what gives me a purpose. I love teaching and the chance in interact with others, to discuss what I love, pushes me in new directions. Thanks NCTE. I’ll see you next year in Las Vegas.

I didn't take a lot of pictures, I was too busy talking. But here are some of the wonderful people I got the chance to meet up with.

Ruth Ayers
Mindi Rench - a great suitemate! Didn't get a picture of Donalyn, the other fabulous suitemate.
Kellee Moye
John Schu
Jen Vincent
Aly Beecher