My goal for the past several years has been to become more active in the professional community of teachers. Over the years, I have become more comfortable with what I am doing in my classroom and sharing those things with others and I have taken a couple of small steps towards my goal this year.
In November, I attended the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Houston, Texas. The conference is basically four days of focus on teaching English - best practices, new ideas, old standards that must not be forgotten, and the EXPO!
Eric Cooper, one of my fellow DAR English faculty members, lovingly referred to the EXPO as the EXPLO, and he was pretty accurate. The EXPO is an area full of free books, free resources, author meet and greets, and is really a playground for English Language Arts lovers. Eric, Jennifer Sikes, and I had to pack strategically knowing that we would be either shipping many things home or bringing an extra bag on the plane.
Several of the sessions I attended were roundtable discussions. I sat in on sessions called Nerdy Book Club: Building Strong, Inclusive Reading Communities; From Exploration to Analysis to Action: Empowering Student Writers to Discover Their Voices through Self-Selected Topics, Textual Analysis, and Argumentative Writing; and even Meaningful Assessment in Secondary and Post-Secondary Writing.
I ended up leading two of my other sessions on How Authors Find Their Voices and Contemporary Poetry in the Classroom just because I had a lot of experience in teaching the topics. In one situation I was pleasantly surprised. I have always been really insecure about teaching poetry, because I don’t really love it. I work hard to create meaningful lessons in my poetry units, which has had the interesting effect of making my poetry lessons really good! Poetry has become one of my strongest units to teach, and my students love it. I was able to offer a great deal of knowledge about teaching poetry to high school students in that session. After both sessions I had several teachers ask me if I would write up these sessions and present at next year’s conference in Baltimore. This encouragement from other teachers has helped me feel more confident about taking a chance in the professional realm.
Overall the NCTE conference was an invaluable experience for me not only for the ideas I picked up for my own classroom, but also in the validation I felt from the encouragement from my colleagues of my abilities as a teacher. I am thankful for the professional development grant that funded our trip to the conference, and I hope that I will be able to attend another conference in the future.