Thursday, December 12, 2013

From the Outside of 2013 NCTE Looking Back In

As with every memorable experience, the end quickly comes upon us but the energy remains and the stories reside in our hearts and minds. It is so with the 2013 NCTE Convention in Boston this year. From my little corner of office space, I reflect upon the four days of NCTE varied experiences, chance encounters, and rekindled friendships. Although life's list of to do tasks stares me in the face, I spend quiet moments savoring the NCTE experience that gives breath to my thoughts. 

The journey began last year with the penning of the NCTE '13 proposal for Debbie Diller and I. Since Debbie Diller and I only see each other once a year (Texas to Long Island is a long distance), the NCTE Convention gives us the opportunity to continue the conversation where it left off, an art forged through a decade of friendship.  With purpose, we set our plan in motion a year ago with the submission of the proposal, "Redesigning the Literacy Landscape, Common Core Style." Once at the convention, Debbie and I collaborated, reflected, revised, and enthusiastically presented using the collegial circle model to an engaged audience. Our group, that spanned the United States and reached to Japan, were committed educators who joined our conversation even though it was the last one for the NCTE Convention. Needless to say, we left that session renewed and eager to read the haiku take aways soon to be posted to Twitter.

As for the conference days, they were busy. Hallways buzzed with learners from many walks of life. Often lost amidst the crowd of 7,000, I smiled as I encountered familiar faces, tweeted out memorable lines, and texted friends for meeting places. Although spaces were tight and frustrations mounted due to closed out sessions, the relationships that were renewed or forged were priceless.


Highlights of  the NCTE 2013 Convention included: a powerful opening ceremony with First Wave performers who pushed boundaries through spoken word;  lingering conversations about life and education with dear friend and co-presenter, Debbie Diller; a plethora of sessions that I attended, presented by national presenters, such as Laura Robb, Katherine Bomer, Donalyn Miller, Chris Lehman, Kate Roberts, Maggie Beattie Roberts, Franki Siberson, Ann Marie Corgill, Georgia Heard, Tom Romano, and Linda Rief; the trifecta of annual Scholastic events-Authors' Reception, Annual Thanksgiving Dinner, and Literary Brunch, with literary luminaries-Laura Robb and Ruth Culham, Scholastic friends, David Smith and Ben Woodward, and the gracious and generous host and educational advocate, President Dick Robinson; educational conversations with friends from Long Island, JoEllen McCarthy, Erica Pecorale, and Larry Butti, on the drive up and back; numerous engaging chats with other Long Island educators; hallway conversations with the charming Katherine Bomer and the spirited Chris Lehman and a quick question from Lucy Calkins inquiring if she could look over my shoulder at my notes during a crowded round table discussion. Tech integration was everywhere present in the sessions but connectivity issues frustrated me. Lastly, there was an endearing sight in the Exhibit Hall, a large sign at the Heinemann booth remembering Donald Graves, a gentle man with a heart full of wisdom for us all. 

Although most of my notes floated away in Cyberspace due to those connectivity issues I previously mentioned, I was able to capture a few quotes that were either preserved through Twitter or in the old-fashioned manner via a pen and learning log.   Garnered thoughts from amazing literary luminaries, presenters, and authors follow: 
  •  Stories and books are the heart and soul of the culture. -Laura Robb
  • Censorship grows out of fear. -Judy Blume
  • Reinventing the teaching of English is about who we are-Holding possibilities of what should be taught. -Ernest Morrell
  • Build a world with all you know. -First Wave
  • Your reading life is essential to your teaching life. -Carol Jago
  • Kids are our curriculum. -Chris Lehman
  • Messy allows you to be creative. -Marissa Moss
  • Close reading is a practice we can apply to our lives when we can see the patterns. -Maggie Beattie Roberts
  • Without dreams the world is just dirt and dust. -Ann E. Burg
As with every conference, there is one new presentation that catches my interest. This convention, I was immediately fascinated by Bill Bass' presentation on technology to build community in classrooms so I searched Twitter to follow him. His blog, "Giving Students Ownership through Mashups," resonated with me. Provided below is a glimpse into his thoughts,
  • ...I often say that the media that we have students create is a reflection of their world and by providing them the opportunity to create, we are giving them a voice in which they can share their thinking and viewpoints as well as help them determine what they actually believe about a specific topic.
  • ...Many times, we just need to provide the opportunity for them (students) to make connections and create their world.
With eager anticipation to engage in continued conversations that enrich my learning life, I ponder the next presentation for the 2014 NCTE Convention in Washington, DC. Unfolding the Diller-Varsalona story of redesigning the literacy landscape for information age learners under the umbrella of the convention theme, "Story as the Landscape of Knowing," is my current project that sits between the Christmas holiday and the New Year. This will be a from the inside out to the NCTE Committee task that requires time, so I am writing to Santa to bring me the gift of time? But while I wait for Santa, you can explore available handouts and materials from the NCTE 2013 sessions in the NCTE Connected Community.