Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflections from All Write - Mentors

Last week I attended the All Write conference in Warsaw, Indiana. This was my third year in a row that I had the chance to attend – and it was as wonderful as ever. Over the course of two days I attended ten sessions, each one teaching me something new. Tomorrow I hope to write up a blog post highlighting just a bit of the learning I walked away from this conference with. Today, however, I wanted to share some ideas from the Thursday night dinner.

Each year at All Write they invite an author to speak at a dinner on the first night of the conference. Two years ago we listened to Gordon Korman. Last year we were honored with Ralph Fletcher. This year it was Kate Messner.

Kate is one of the first people I “met” on Twitter. I still remember being in awe when I learned that she was writing a book – The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z – AND teaching middle school. That first year she Skyped with my school, shared insights from her classroom, and wrote more books. Amazing.

Kate’s talk at All Write dealt with the idea of mentors. She had a picture of Dumbledore up and said we often think our mentor has to be an old wise man, but really it can be anyone. Kate shared that it is important to look for your mentors, learn from them, and thank them. Mentors can help enrich our lives while helping us to grow and learn.

I sat at the table that night and reflected on this idea – who were my mentors? Truly, I am blessed with many. I have mentors that show me how to be a good parent, friend,
teacher, wife. The mentors in my life help me to grow, push myself, reflect. When I lose confidence in my abilities, there are mentors I turn to and gain guidance. And while I have fabulous mentors in my town, the mentors I thought of while sitting at Kate’s dinner have all become part of my life through Twitter.

Starting Twitter four years ago, I don’t think it would have dawned on me how important it would become. I attended this conference because of Twitter. Two teachers from my own district came for a day of it because I knew about it to share with them. I sat at tables, in sessions, or at dinner with people I consider close friends and those friendships began on Twitter. Leaving the conference, I brought my friend Donalyn to my home for a night to meet my family and talk books. I wouldn’t have known her without Twitter. And Sunday she and I drove three hours to meet two friends, shop for some books, and share a meal. Guess where we all met? Twitter.

These friends I have met through Twitter have become my mentors. They have shared ideas for teaching, helped me to solve issues in my classroom, and encouraged my own professional growth. They have pushed me out of my comfort zone and nudged me to think of writing a professional development book when I was sure that was impossible. They have become more than friends on a screen, they are my friends in real life and my mentors. So, as Kate suggested, I want to thank all of those Twitter friends for spending time with me at All Write and more – I’m grateful to you all.