Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Most Valuable Data

          Something that hasn’t happened in my classroom in a few weeks happened today.  I was able to talk books with my students!  I knew I was missing this valuable time, but didn’t realize just how much I was missing it!  The last few weeks have been hectic.  Going to the NCTE convention, the short Thanksgiving week, administrating reading assessments and district writing prompts, and completing report cards meant something had to be sacrificed.  Unfortunately, it was talking about books with my students.  They had time to read, but since I only see each group for a 90 minute block of time, I haven’t been able to meet with them.
          With the district mandates finally completed, I was so excited driving to school today.  I couldn’t wait to be able to reconnect with my students as readers.  After reluctantly finishing other work, we transitioned into reading.  The students knew I was excited to be meeting with them again and quickly settled in around the classroom, eager to discuss their books with me.  Time seemed to fly by as I met with reader after reader.  Over the next forty five minutes, I reconnected with old characters, was introduced to new books, challenged my reader’s thinking, left some of them wondering about upcoming events in their book, introduced some to new books, etc.  There were no charts to fill out, data to collect, papers to assess, or time restrictions (except for lunch, of course!)!  It was just my students and me, our notebooks, and genuine talk.     
          With all of the mandates and data collection, the information I received today by simply talking to my readers about their books is the most important data I could ever receive.  I also realized that I wasn’t the only one who was missing this treasured time.  So were my students.  As we were packing up, one of my students told me they planned on finishing their book tonight and that she couldn’t wait to talk to me about it tomorrow.  “Neither can I!” I thought!   

Saturday, November 30, 2013

NCTE Rookie

          My teaching career and reading life changed positively a year and a half ago when I joined Twitter.  I was always a voracious reader, but read mostly adult books during summer and holiday breaks.  Thanks to the people I was meeting on Twitter, I was now reading YA books, a lot of them.  It didn’t take me long to realize that these books were better than the adult books I had been reading.  Since joining Twitter, I can’t get my hands on enough YA books.  I’ve got piles of “to be read” books along with lists of “to be bought” books all over my house and classroom.  The ability to “talk” to and connect with educators who have the same passion for reading as I do on Twitter has enriched both my teaching and reading life.  I have gotten so many great ideas that I have been able to bring into my classroom. These ideas, and being able to connect with authors of the books my students and I are reading, get my students excited for reading and writing. 
          A year ago, unfortunately I had never heard of NCTE.  I followed several people who were tweeting live from Las Vegas and remember thinking that this was something I’d like to attend in the future, but didn’t give it too much thought.  I never thought I‘d make it to one of these conventions.  That all changed when I found out that this year’s NCTE would be held in my backyard, Boston.  With much persistence on my part, my school system graciously paid for my registration and I was going to NCTE13!
          Fast forward to last weekend, my first NCTE convention.  I was excited, nervous, and overwhelmed all at once!  Since this was my first NCTE convention, there were several challenges to overcome.  My first challenge was creating a schedule for the four days.  It was tough choosing only one workshop for each session.  In the end, I was very happy with my selections, being able to take something away from each session.  However, I learned that there were other sessions with certain presenters or in different formats that I will want to go to in the future.  The second challenge had to do with the exhibit hall.  This is where I learned the most!  After scanning the pages of author signings, I tried balancing author signings with workshop sessions.  However, I later realized I was unsuccessful, sacrificing too many workshop sessions.  In the future, I need to make sure I get to as many sessions as I can, and then mix in the author signings.  If planned correctly, some of the authors will be at those sessions.  The other thing I learned (the hard way) is to stay out of the exhibit hall when it first opens.  I was there with the crowd on Friday at 12:00.  I had no idea that this would be very much like Black Friday.  It was evident that people knew what they were doing, and I was not one of them.  A wave of teachers carried me past several vendors as fellow teachers pushed and grabbed free book after free book!  I was too busy asking vendors if the books really were free!  At that point I realized I was an NCTE rookie!
          The biggest challenge I had was coming to the conference by myself when it seemed that so many others already knew each other from previous conventions or came with a partner(s).  I made it through Thursday and Friday having several great conversations with fellow educators at different sessions and while waiting in line for author signings.  However, it wasn’t until Friday night’s Nerdy Book Club’s get together did I really start to feel comfortable.  That night was incredible!  Once I was started talking, the night flew by.  It was awesome meeting and connecting with many educators that I have been “talking” to on Twitter.  It was also mind-boggling to have the chance to talk to so many authors who attended.  At one point I was talking to three authors that I am in complete awe of.  There were several moments during this conversation that I had to pinch myself.  What was really cool was that I ran into many of these same people over the next couple of days and we were able to pick up our conversations from the previous night.  I definitely didn’t feel alone anymore! 
          The last challenge will be staying away from NCTE14!  I had such a positive experience, that I’ve already started thinking about how I’ll get to next year’s convention.  Several teachers have asked me about the conference since returning to school and I really didn’t know how to answer them.  How could I sum up the most rewarding educational experience that I’ve had in fifteen years as a classroom teacher?  So that’s exactly what I told them.  Something tells me I won’t be the only teacher from my school at NCTE14!

           I’ve wanted to create my own blog for a while now.  Thanks to my experiences at NCTE, my blog is a reality.  Although it’s definitely a work in progress, I look forward to sharing my thoughts about reading and writing with you.