Before making the commitment to attend this year, I questioned whether I deserved to go. Was this an indulgence? Was I worthy of this trip?
But today, I know this conference is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. It’s not just professional development. It’s professional sustenance.
I learned in sessions led by teachers who enter the classroom every day, just like me and do extraordinary things to teach learners the value and importance of the written word. Teachers like Pernille Ripp, who reach out to authors and enrich the lives of students around the world with the Global Read Aloud.
I learned in sessions led by writers of the books I bring to my students. Writers like Katherine Applegate, Cynthia Lord, Sharon Draper, Linda Urban, Georgia Heard, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Writers who humbly share their process, their strategies, their struggles and their hearts for the benefit of teachers and students.
I learned in sessions led by educational leaders and researchers. Those who have provided me intellectual and professional support; whose words I’ve underlined and try to live in my classroom. The likes of Tom Newkirk, Ellin Keene, and Lucy Calkins shared their research and best practices.
I sat with and talked to educators whom I am privileged to call my dear friends. Social media and conferences like NCTE have made these connections possible. We come together for these events that build our relationships and our practice.
Now home, these teachers, wordsmiths, and researchers are beside me, Supporting my students and me. As we read, as we open our writer’s notebooks, as we try on strategies, we engage with this community of literacy.
Teaching children to become thought filled decision makers is a challenge and an honor. The annual NCTE convention supports the passionate community of educator-learners who choose this vocation. It brings together the best in the work to inspire more.
There were so many great sessions at NCTE14, the toughest part was choosing which one to attend. The panel discussion on Reluctant Readers Overcoming Shame chaired by Justin Stygles was one that called to me. Initially, it spoke to what I know to be true with my readers.
The reflections on their own learning experiences were personal, revealing and in some ways startling. The power of teachers words was at the core of each panelists’ presentation.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt (One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree) shared pieces of her growing up and teaching life. She was that snarky-make-me-do-it kind of student. She didn’t fit the mold. It took a middle school teacher to “see” and her strengths to help her get past her shame and grow. As a teacher, Lynda, found ways to reach “those” students . One way she let kids know she “saw them” was by giving them a business card with space to write a personal message. Something quick and easy, but also thick and durable: a real keepsake for a student needing acknowledgement. I love this idea and plan to get a stash of cards printed up.
Liesl Shurtliff (Rump) shared the importance of listening to students and respecting their choice in books. She highlighted the need to be careful about what we teachers say is a “great” book. Imagine sharing a book we “love” and students for whatever reason don’t love it. What does that imply?
Give kids validation with what they like to read, even if they don't like what you like. Liesl Shurtliff #ncte14
Teacher’s words can lift up or put down and possibly, inadvertently shame a student. I walked away with this important reminder. Thoughts about good teachers being in touch with their inner student also tugged at my heart.
This led me to think a little more about myself as a student. I’ve thought on this before, but never really named it. I wasn’t the struggler. I wasn’t the super star. I was the one who followed the rules and tried not to get noticed. You know that kid. The hider. For students like me, school was a place where I was invisible. It took leaving the school world, age, and mentors who saw me and asked more of me before I managed to step out and grow. Imagine, what if a teacher had seen me sooner.
Those kids, the hiders, make up a pretty big portion of my students. Their names are ringing in my head.
You can’t help but notice the strugglers and the stars. But the hiders, the quiet ones, are easy to ignore. I admit it: I”m guilty. And oh what a very big and unexpected aha.
When I walked out of the session on shame I had two things in hand. The bigger thing took days to get to. Today I celebrate the brave teachers who shared at NCTE14, the time to think about their message, and a space to reflect and grow in.
I must start this slice by apologizing to anyone who did not go to NCTE14, you have my permission to be extremely jealous, to stop reading, and to start making plans for NCTE15 in Minneapolis. I you won’t regret it. I promise.
Sadly, I am suffering from NCTE14 withdrawals. I thought, if I can only get to that conference, then I’ll be satisfied. Nope. Doesn’t work that way. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of this kind of learning, I just want more.You just don’t want to it to end.
Someone said, not sure who, that reading slices won’t be the same after this weekend. #true Seeing slicers face to face, and actually hearing their voices made it real.
Interestingly, anticipating that “real” I had this worry. This what if… What if my thoughts, when they aren’t being re read and revised, aren’t so interesting or worthy. When I write, I can measure my words. Think about them. Change. Delete. What if, in person, without the re read, and editing mechanisms, I’m not what I appear to be, what people expect.
It sounds a bit crazy, but at the same time a bit interesting. Something I never would have anticipated.
As it turned out the dinner was wonderful. Worries were unfounded. I had that feeling of being with best friends that I just met. Being surrounded by people that you feel such a kinship toward is just a little bit of heaven.
After the dinner, unsure I would see people again, I started saying good bye. Hugs all around.
Then Sunday morning. Not so coincidentally, I run into slicers. Seems we are attracted to similar kinds of things. More hugs. And good byes.
Thinking back to moments in the conference, in sessions, at the dinner, in passing, I feel this overpowering connection. These are my people. You have accepted and supported me and all the things that come with me. And when I think about it, that is a pretty big deal. While I’d like to have you all in my town, at my school, or at least a train ride away, I feel honored to have you here every Tuesday.
My thanks to all of the Two Writing Teachers. More than ever. Thank you Dana (love the notebook and surprises within), Tara (my go-to grown up for assurances in my blogging classroom), Betsy (for your calm poetry-self making it all seem so doable), Anna (smart words for my writing workshop struggles), Stacey (for putting it all together – stressful, but so appreciated) and Beth (wish you were there).
For more of this week’s slices or to contribute your own, click here.
This was my first time at NCTE. I just wanted to thank you for attracting and organizing such an incredible group of educators in one place. It was a gift of knowledge, passion and hope. I attended over twenty sessions, had hundreds of conversations, heard and read thousands of words. It was an honor not only to hear expert teachers and advocates for children, but to be with so many passionate people. It fed my teacher mind and soul. There is so much to process, to write about and try out with my kiddos. But for now, a few quick words of thanks.
Lester Laminack, who can make you laugh and cry in the same moment, implored us to stop using the word bully and bullying inappropriately. We are overusing and abusing the word. We need to be talking about behavior that is kind or unkind. Don’t call anything bullying unless it is bullying, otherwise when it is bullying children will get no help. Work on the bystanders. They are either “rocket fuel or extinguishers.” If a bystander is rocket fuel, a spark will accelerate bullying. Use story as a means to step inside and stand along side the bystander and help students re write the narrative to see we have choices.
Thank you to those who say things that must be heard, again and again.
"If teaching is not a calling and a passion for you, go and do something else." – Marion Wright Edelman #truth#ncte14
Amen. Teaching takes lots of time, patience and sometimes it breaks your heart. It wears you down. Sometimes we come up short of what we know we need to bring to the table. That is why it should be a passion, an obsession. Teaching needs to be something you love more than things.
Thank you to Vicki Vinton, Fran McVeigh, Steve Peterson and Mary Lee Hahn for pushing me to reach up and join you in presenting at NCTE. The process has changed my stance as a teacher forever. The power of inquiry and wonder is amazing: what we notice when we just take a risk, ask our students and really listen can make a world of difference. #teacherswonder
Happy late celebration! Thank your Ruth Ayers for your link up where we (you too) can link up and share our week’s celebratory moments.
I’m late in this posting because of the gift I gave myself: a spot at The Whole Language/ NCTE sponsored a conference, located a mere 60 minutes from my house. I need some time to digest all I got from this conference (posts for later this week?) but for now I’ll share a few words and links that highlight some of what I experienced Friday and Saturday.
All sessions I attended were lead by teams of teachers who were passionate about their teaching and their mission with children. All had students at the center of their work. What I share here is no particular order. I hope as you read this you will think of how these little pieces might spark something in your classroom. That’s how I entered this conference and I’m still ruminating on how these ideas will find there way into my teaching world.
First… Social Studies Simulations
The 5th grade team from the Edison School in Elmshurst, Illinois presented their work titled, Building a Bridge: Connecting Language Arts and Social Studies. In their classrooms, students take on the responsibilities and challenges of a colonist. Students read, discuss, debate, write and work through the various issues that colonists had to deal with. This team of teachers have created and curated great resources you can find on their blog, writing2learn.
Second.. Prezi for Student Work
Technology was present in the form of Prezi. My aha was the power of Prezi as an alternative thinking and writing tool for students. If you aren’t familiar with this, hit the link and give yourself about an hour, no pressure time to play with it. Go though a few tutorials and consider what thinking skills you used when creating. Now imagine your students creating a character web or an research report with this tool. Prezi has low barriers to entry (free, web based), high engagement possibilities (multimedia), and opportunity for higher level thinking.
Third… Whole School Project Based Learning
The Borton Elementary Magnet School in Tucson, Arizona is committed to Project Based Learning in grades k-5. Some essentials for this work included:
Significant Content (big and relevant issues)
In depth inquiry ( lasting 8-10 weeks)
Student Need to Know
Student Voice and (managed) Choice
Revision and Reflection
Public Audiences (authentic)
Getting a school to do this as a whole community takes training (they utilize the Buck Institute for Education) and staff dedication. This team shared student work from all grade levels and talked of their own work to revise and work toward continued growth as a staff. This panel shows some of the work of their fourth grade’s anti-bullying project.
Four.. The Opal School
The Opal School of Portland provided the opening keynote. I had read about this school’s work on Vidki Vinton’s blog and was intrigued by what their approach could bring to my Reading and Writing Workshop. Their presentation was breathtaking and their hands on workshop inspirational. Today, I’m only gong to share a few thoughts…
Listening is not easy. It requires a deep awareness and a suspension of our judgement and prejudice. To do this teachers need to allow for listening by slowing down.
We need to consider questions for our students to ponder, but also for teachers, looking to foster growth in students and in teaching practices. Some questions for teachers:
What do I notice
What am I wondering about
How can I make children’s learning visible
How do I know core values and beliefs are being reflected in day-to-day practice
Saturday sessions featured hands on work with Opal School teachers. Here’s a peak at some of the materials and artifacts we got to play with. More on this later. Too much to process now!
Each session I attended was filled with enthusiastic teachers as presenters and attendees. The sharing and celebration of knowledge and learning about and for students was inspiring.
Five — Words about Play
I love quotes but never remember them when I want them. Fortunately there are people like the Opal School and my very literate son who do and share them with me. Here are a few I’d like to share.
Play is not the opposite of work. – Opal
A person’s maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play. – Nietzche
After reading Jennifer Brittin’s great post on the NCTE’s position paper on formative assessment and her struggles with data, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring and fess up: I am drowning in data. Post its trail me. I find them in bags and books. Notebooks are filled with data creation, collection and interpretation that leads hopefully to next steps for nearly 60 students. Frankly even when I analyze and categorize the data, then group students, feedback seems no where near what John Hattie calls “timely.” Superhuman powers seem necessary. An all-knowing great and powerful Oz of a teacher…or is that just that man behind the curtain?
Due to my lack of super powers, I am looking to students to learn what they need to do and then approximate their success along the way. Their approximations of success may be slightly off, but their misinterpretations of the expectation is easier for me to lean into than me letting them know “where they stand.” It is a work in progress, but so far this is how reading is looking. I have based these “ladders” on Jennifer Serravallo’s work with an eye toward growing student thinking and writing about reading in the areas of setting, plot and character.
I have students use their self-selected club books and write about their reading (click here for sheet) weekly using the ladders to assess their thinking. They work independently, then go to their groups to revise and hopefully refine/upgrade their thinking during club talk. Each week I look at their assessment of their work. and then group for instruction the following week. Needs fluctuate based on the type and level book.
A group of readers who tested out as “T/U” did exceptional work in Tale of Desperaux a “Q” level book that had been read aloud to them in third grade. It was some of the best work I’d seen. They got it! And more importantly, they know how it feels to get it. As they move on, they should have a model of success to work from.
I’ve also seen the opposite. Students not being able to do the work, and more importantly they are starting to see where they are. I’m hearing more, “Ohhh that’s what that means,” versus, me saying this is what it means. Shockingly some are still discovering that setting refers to a place and or time not a character’s clothing. Shocking that I thought they knew what setting was, after all, hadn’t I told them many times.
I’m so thankful for the voices such as those in the NCTE twitter chat on Sunday night (read the Storify here) that are solidly behind the work of goal-oriented, student-driven assessment or as Kristi Mraz (@mrazkristine) termed “successment!” Here’s to a lot more of doing that work together.