While in Orlando, I was able to hear from speaker after speaker (including Gary Paulsen!!!!) emphasize the importance of putting the right books into kids' hands at the right time and the need for kids to write, a lot, about the topics they are passionate about. I can't say that I'm walking away from the conference with a new idea that is going to change my teaching, but I feel re-energized to, as Paulsen put it at the ALAN breakfast on Friday morning, "Go back to work and kick some ass." Not the kids', mind you, rather Paulsen was encouraging us to stand up and speak out against policies that are not in the best interests of kids, such as shutting down libraries. Paulsen's life was changed in a library because someone put his name on a library card and put a book in his hands.
Another moment I am taking away from me is Donalyn Miller's keynote address at the National Writing Project's annual meeting. In case you don't know, Donalyn is the author of The Book Whisperer and she writes a column of the same name for EdWeek. In her address, Donalyn spoke eloquently about how the National Writing Project changed her both as a teacher and a writer. Early in her speech, she exclaimed, "I hate writing!" and she means it! She hates the writing, but, like Dorothy Parker, loves having written, so she sits down and pushes her way through the hard part. This was inspiring to me, because I feel the same way about writing. I have such a hard time believing that anyone would want to read what I have to say that I rarely sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Donalyn's story of her own struggles with writing have inspired me to be more diligent with my own writing, and perhaps get that book that's been cooking in my head for a while written - and hopefully sold! Until I write that book, I've started a second blog over at blogger where I will blog about the books I've read. Check it out - http://nextbestbook.blogspot.com/.
The best part of NCTE, however, was meeting in person my online personal learning network. Over the past two years, I have found for myself like-minded teachers to reach out to in both good times and bad online, mostly through Twitter and The English Companion Ning. I almost hate to list the names of all the people I met face-to-face for fear of leaving someone out! At my very first session, I met Teri Lesene, the "Goddess of YA." When she walked in, SHE recognized ME from my Twitter photo! I nearly fainted! Then, in came Paul W. Hankins, a high school teacher who runs a fabulous website for his students that counts numerous YA authors among its members. THEN in came The Book Whisperer herself, Donalyn. Cindy from the ecning, Kellee from twitter, over and over I got to put faces to names. The interactions I had with these folks made my weekend. I was able to continue and expand on conversations about books and writing and teaching that had started with just 140 characters. The fact that I had not met any of these people face to face before did not matter one bit. We KNEW each other.
So what next? I'll wait impatiently for next year's NCTE conference in Chicago. And start saving my money so that the Chicago convention isn't my last.