Sunday, November 30, 2014

NCTE 2014 Annual Convention: Experiencing the Conference and Making Memories My Way


Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. for the 2004 NCTE Annual Convention at the Gaylord Resort. I have now attended the NCTE Annual Convention six times and participated as a program participant five times. My first opportunity to present was with the Folger Shakespeare Library in a session titled "Teaching Teachers to Teach Shakespeare." Since my first convention experience and first time presenting, I've learned much about making the convention valuable to my professional growth and nurturing. 

Last year my time in Boston felt out of sync with my needs. I worried about networking and spending time with people  whom, in retrospect, I'm not sure had the same goals. I left Boston sad and a little depressed. Things just had not gone as I'd envisioned. My experience and expectations took different paths.

Nevertheless, I forged ahead and wrote a proposal for the 2014 convention, an overview of which I wrote about here. 

This year I traveled to Washington D.C. determined not to worry about whether or not I networked, determined not to feel hurt if I wasn't included on others' lists of people to hang out with, determined not to worry about whether or not those whose sessions I have attended in the past reciprocated by attending mine, intent on not allowing the cliques inherent in most organizational structures to define my experience. 

In short, I decided to experience the convention my way with only my professional and social expectations in mind. That meant I didn't worry about whether or not I had arranged to sit with people I know at the ALAN breakfast and the Secondary Section Luncheon. I had not. I didn't worry about being alone or having someone to hang out w/ during sessions and events. Consequently, I had a very organic and gratifying convention experience, and I was rarely alone. I was never lonely. 

I captured many of my favorite convention experiences in photos. 

Attending NCTE is about meeting and hearing authors. I kicked off the convention in a session featuring Jacqueline Woodson speaking about and reading from Brown Girl Dreaming, and I scored a free copy of the book! 
Jacqueline Woodson, NBA Winner for Brown Girl Dreaming

Two of my professional heroes dropped by our session. Kylene Beers and Bob Probst push us to think about the ways we teach fiction and nonfiction. Kylene is quite the selfie-taker and inspired me to embrace the selfie throughout the convention.
Bob, me, Cherylanne, Kylene, Debbie.

I met David Levithan at the ALAN breakfast and shared the story of my student who asked me to take her copy of Two Boys Kissing to NCTE and get it signed. I did not. But I did get a selfie!
Selfie w/ David Levithan at the ALAN breakfast.


Later in the exhibit hall, I was awaiting a signature from Chris Crutcher and shared the story about my student with a teacher in line with me. She had a copy of Two Boys Kissing and gave it to me to give to my student. 
Rebecca from Louisville, Kentucky
I also snagged a photo with Andrew Smith. I would love to be in his class! 
Andrew Smith indulging my giddiness resulting from meeting fabulous authors.
Chris Crutcher signed a copy of Period 8 to my students. I asked him to sign it to teens in Pocatello, Idaho, where he gets all his best ideas, which references a comment he made on Facebook a while back. 
Chris Crutcher signing Period 8.
I am a huge fan of Cory Doctorow and had a chance to chat with him twice. He makes me rethink my use of social networking and other issues relating to privacy.
Cory Doctorow during his signing of Little Brother.
English teachers know how to have fun, regardless of what others may say, and the exhibit hall is a fabulous place to meet people one does not expect to meet!

Shakespeare and me!
A highlight of the convention was attending a TSI reunion at the Folger Shakespeare Library and seeing a production of Julius Caesar. We had a follow-up Q & A with the cast; they made me love Julius Caesar, and that's saying something as the play has never been my favorite. 
A selfie w/ Dana Huff in the Folger Shakespeare Library Reading Room!
Reunited in the Reading Room w/ Mari O'Meara, my friend from TSI 2008!
My friend Michael Klein, also a TSI 2008 alum.
The cast of Julius Caesar during the Q &A
I attended some fabulous and inspiring sessions that stretch my imagination about collaboration, about technology, about student choice in reading, and about teaching as art and the relationship of artifacts to reading and writing and speaking. 

Additionally, I met some wonderful people in my session, at events, and in others' sessions. 

Of course, the NCTE Annual Convention wouldn't be complete without the books. I purchased some from many genres, including professional, picture, MG, and YA. I also snagged some ARCs to share with students, and acquired a pile of books for my granddaughter. I managed to arrive home needing to purchase two new suitcases that finally went to that big baggage claim in the great beyond. 
Books for my students.
Books for my granddaughter, Kayla
In the mayhem and excitement of the convention, I still managed to greet and briefly chat with fabulous virtual colleagues from around the country and meet some whom I'd previously only met online. Their warmth and kindnesses embrace me, and I look forward to keeping up with them throughout the next year until we converge in Minneapolis and do it all again! 

I encourage others to join me for NCTE 2015 in Minneapolis and to consider writing a proposal for the convention program, which I'm planning to blog about later.  I was more than 20 years into my career before attending the NCTE annual convention. I wish I had known what I was missing years ago.