Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A First Date

Do you remember your first date with a special someone? Your heart races; you don't want the date to end; you wish you'd met that person before; you can't wait until the next date. Well, that happened to me November 20 through 23 in Washington D.C. And to be honest, my date wasn't with just one person. It was with hundreds.

Several friends (especially from Twitter) have told me that NCTE is a not-to-be-missed event. I had never attended before this year. My friends were spot on. The National Council for Teachers of English conference was life-changing for me. This annual event is one I've been hoping to attend for several years. This year some last-minute things fell into place so I loaded my suitcases (one of which I left at school), hopped into my car, and drove for about nine hours, not having any idea how incredible this journey would turn out to be.

Once checked in at the hotel and registered (on-site) for the conference, I scoured the program to make plans for sessions to attend. There were plenty that were right up my alley. Sonia Nazario is a Pulitzer Prize winner for her research and writing about a Honduran boy whose desire to be reunited with his mother in the U.S. took him on a perilous journey. Her story was compelling, raw, and inspiring. Another session reached to the depths of my own journey in reading, as it probed the idea of people who feel a sense of shame in their reading lives. There were joyous sessions which included authors and illustrators sharing their own journeys of creating stories and bringing them to life. There were sessions, too, that pulled out self-reflection of my teaching practices. And, of course, there was the exhibit hall, where I had the fortune of meeting and chatting with so many of the authors my kids (and I) appreciate so deeply. I also left a boat-load of money there, and brought home books for my classroom!

In the process of attending these incredible sessions and exhibits I was fortunate enough to meet not only authors, but some pretty incredible people in other areas of language arts, too. These individuals ranged from researchers to teachers to illustrators, publishers, and book distributors. It was truly a haven for anyone who loves to read, write, and inspire others to do the same. Sometimes just listening in on conversations gave me inspiration; sometimes hearing the words of a person who has been involved for years in the business of helping kids read and write made an indelible impression on me.

From this experience, I returned to my classroom even more determined to honor each child and to nurture his or her love of reading and writing. Some of the tools and resources from NCTE have and will continue to impact my life and the lives of my kids.  I brought back over five shopping bags of books; enough to hand a new book to every reader in my classroom on the first day back. Some of the new friends I have made will challenge me in ways in which they probably aren't remotely aware.

One thing is for sure: I am surrounding myself more and more with people who inspire me so I can inspire my kids.

This first date with NCTE will not be my last, and I look forward to a long-term relationship!

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