I’ve been home from NCTE for a few days now and I am still decompressing and reflecting. If you have the opportunity to attend NCTE’s annual convention you must go! It is the most powerful professional development I have ever experienced. Chicago was my second NCTE and I am already planning for the 2012 convention. The PD is 24/7 at NCTE- whether at a session, in the exhibit hall, or just conversations over dinner. In fact, those conversations were some of the best PD I’ve had in recent memory. I had the opportunity to meet up with many of my Twitter friends and we talked about teaching, literacy, and so much more!
My convention officially started Saturday morning at 8am. I woke up early to head over to the Palmer Hotel, where I was presenting with Donalyn Miller, Cindy Minnich, Colby Sharp, and Meeno Rami. On my walk to the hotel, I passed the gorgeous Art Museum.
Once at the hotel, I finally met all of my co-presenters face-to-face. I had sort of met Donalyn a few years ago at NCTE09, when she attended my session. But this would be my first time meeting everyone else. As I wandered the maze that was the 7th floor of the Palmer, I ran into Meeno, the amazing mind behind #engchat. She led me to the right room where I met everyone else. We had put the presentation together via Googledocs and twitter and I think we were all a little nervous about how it would gel together. Plus, with an 8am workshop, it’s hard to gauge how many people will show up.
Well, we ended up with a great crowd and the presention, “Pound for #: Twitter Hashtags for Professional Development and Literacy Initiatives” was AWESOME. I am so lucky to have presented with such pros. We discussed #engchat, #bookaday, #titletalk, #ARCsFloatOn, and the basics behind hashtags and archiving. We also discussed community and met some of our favorite tweeters. I had so much fun and the time just flew by. We also had a back channel throughout the presentation (#4pound) with people both in and out of the room participating. It was a fantastic resource and really kept the conversation going.
I also admit to doing some reading while my co-presenters were speaking. Cindy had brought a stuffed rabbit with her and placed it on the projector while she was explaining how to archive. She it #teamrabbit, you see. I knew that lately everyone had been talking about this picture book by Jon Klassen called I Want My Hat Back. Teaching HS, I don’t buy a lot of picture books so I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. Lucky for me, Colby had brought his copy along and I borrowed it. First of all, I am #teambear all the way. But more importantly- BUY THIS BOOK. I already purchased a copy and read it to my freshman. I also plan to find a way to share it with my seniors (it only takes 5 minutes to read). It is not for the faint of heart and probably not for all average picture book readers. But it is my new favorite book. Get yourself a copy ASAP.
After finishing up our presentation, Meeno and I raced back to the Hilton to attend a session about Chicago as a setting. The panel consisted of young adult authors John Green, David Levithan, Simone Elkeles, Jillian Larkin, and James Klise. The panel was great and I learned a lot about setting, revision, and general research when writing books. I took a lot of notes to share with my students, especially in reference to research. But the most amazing moment came at the end. John Green is a favorite of my students and also myself- his Looking for Alaska is the book responsible for bringing me back to YA literature. I promised my students that if the opportunity to arose, I would tell John Green that my nerdfighters said “hi!”. I made my way up to the panel and introduced myself to John Green. He was super-nice and shook my hand. He even said to tell my nerdfighters that he said hi. Needless to say- thrilling! I immediately updated our class Facebook page with the news and my kids were ecstatic. So thanks, John!
After that, I went upstairs to my room to recharge my phone (a theme for the weekend) as I had been tweeting so much from the sessions. After a brief rest I headed down to the exhibit hall and picked up some ARCs. While down there I literally bumped into Jordan Sonnenblick, who I recognized from his Facebook profile picture. (#authorstalker). I introduced myself and we talked about some his books and how I used to read Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie aloud to my 6th graders, which led to a fantastic service project we put together for the children’s oncology hospital in a nearby town. Jordan was very gracious and let me know that he has YA novel coming out in the spring and I was able to snag myself an ARC at the Scholastic booth. I am so looking forward to read it!
I wandered around for a few hours downstairs, talking to vendors and jotting down notes for my colleagues. When I passed the Chronicle booth at one point, I recognized the wonderful Kate Messner signing her books. I stopped to introduce myself and we were finally able to meet. Kate and I have been to the same conferences in the past but our schedules have never allowed us to meet face-to-face. Needless to say, she is a sweetheart and I was thrilled we were able to take some time to talk.
After I finished up in the exhibit hall, I made my way to my last session of the day which focused on teaching The Canterbury Tales. I love Chaucer but it can be hit or miss with my students. The panel was fantastic as all of them had attended NEH’s summer experience in Canterbury. They shared many of their ideas and the experiences they have in their own classrooms. I took copious notes and walked out feeling re-invigorated about my choice to teach the tales.
That night, Chris and I spent some time in downtown Chicago. I was determined to see the “bean” and I was not disappointed. It’s gorgeous!
We also had our first experience with deep dish pizza, which was amaaaaazing.
At the end of the night, I took a picture of my stack-o’-books and uploaded it to my class Facebook page. I wanted to make sure I stayed connected to my students even though I missed two days of school. The Facebook page allowed me to do so, while also letting them know what I was doing at the conference.
Needless to say, I had a waiting list before I got back to my classroom!
Day 1 of NCTE was unbelievable. I met some of my idols and listened to many of them share best practices from their own classrooms. I learned about writing from some of the best in the business. I spent time learning from my colleagues. I loved presenting with my panel and I was able to spread the word about #ARCsFloatOn. It was an amazing day.
Look for my day 2 reflection in the next day or so!