25 November 2012

NCTE 2012 Allowed Me to Dream and Connect

Becoming a Connected Educator

Late last fall just before NCTE 2011, I was working on a project with an educator who was then working for SREB. This man is a dynamic leader who is very active on twitter. He encouraged me to join twitter and create my own professional learning network. I have to admit I was skeptical at first because I was concerned about the time involved. However, because I respected this education leader and because I was on my way to Chicago for NCTE, I acquiesced. My first tweet included a NCTE hashtag. Because I was just getting started, I messed up the hashtag, including 20 in front of the 11 instead of just #NCTE11. I didn't realize my error until after I left Chicago and the convention. Typical of my personality, I persisted in my pursuit of learning and networking online, and I became a more connected educator.  Being more connected at NCTE 2012 in Las Vegas allowed me to experience the energy and excitement of more sessions than there was time to attend because we could follow the events and quotes happening all around the convention center. It was invigorating to follow but also to be retweeted or to have my tweets favorited a time or two.  Connected.

Dreaming about a Focus on Creativity

Connection and collaboration are increasingly important in our education world today. As I've blogged about previously, we have to team up and use our voices to stop the crushing focus on standardized testing.   Sir Ken Robinson's opening session on Friday morning was a highlight for me.  Hearing him speak was energizing and invigorating, a perfect lead into a session I presented with another colleague. Our session"My Administrator won't Let Me" Media Literacy and Core Standards was inspired by a Kentucky teacher who was fighting the good fight toward teaching students some of the skills that receive less emphasis in the common core, but he was not feeling supported by his administrators.  Unfortunately, our session had small turn out, but we enjoyed sharing our inspired session with the educators who attended and have made plans to present a similar session at our Kentucky Council of Teachers of English conference in the winter.  Naturally, we'll tweak our presentation based on feedback from participants and based on other things we learned at NCTE.

While at NCTE 2012  one of my biggest claims about the teaching of writing was supported in a round table session with Jim Burke who stated--"If kids show up to college only knowing the 5 paragraph essay, they will be inadequately prepared."  In the district where I work, this is a hot topic which doesn't yet have many believers.  By learning Jim Burke's approach,  I'm hoping I can share his well received advice with teachers who are more likely to believe an expert such as Jim Burke.  In fact, I don't think it's that they don't want to believe me, I think it's that they don't feel there are other options.  I'm hoping to show them other options do exist.

National Writing Project sessions were another hit for me.  In one session from the Bay Area Writing Project in California, we learned from three practicing teachers the ways they are meeting the needs of English Language Learners in their schools.  ELL students are another growing population in our district as schools continue to enroll refugees and immigrants due to Lexington being a refugee resettlement center.  We are all learning and growing together as we determine the best ways to meet the needs of all students in our district.  Thankfully, this session provided some practical tips and resources for me to consider as I work with teachers and students.

One of the Ignite sessions I attended was especially exciting.  Sara Brown Wessling opened the session and included artwork to talk about ways teachers can be uncommon in an era of common core.  She effectively set the stage for the speakers who followed with their 20 slides in 15 seconds.  Each speaker made my eyes sparkle a little more and my smile widen because I felt connected to other educators who also believe we need to cultivate creativity and innovation in our schools, classrooms, and districts.

I can't possibly write about every session I attended and have any hope of this blog post being a reasonable length, so I'll end by mentioning the connection I experienced when I attended the reception hosted by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and organized by Sandy Hayes.  Sandy's focus on continued collaboration between NCTE and NBPTS sings my song of collaboration.  Before I even left Vegas, I was dreaming of a creative year and planning my proposal for NCTE 2013.