Thursday, October 9, 2014
Allison and I finally met in real life. She is amazing and kind and energetic and inspiring. Meeting my online kindred spirit has in no way deflated the awe and mutual respect we have fostered through blogging over the past month, and for that I am grateful. I feel like this is as close as I would ever be to having success at online dating.
The passionate Jen Paulsen invited us to be brave. She made that conference welcome just for me, right? Because I needed to be Dauntless, but really I am Candor.
It was time and the room was large and it was the largest amount of adults I have ever spoken to at one time. I shoved my fear down my throat and I looked at Allison when I could not look at the audience, and I spoke from my heart and my brain, and magic happened. They laughed when I intended to be funny and they nodded when I wanted them to, and they saw me as an expert, or at least someone whose ideas, opinions, and research mattered. I did not breathe for that hour and I had the foresight to wear black to hide the sweat that drenched most of my upper body, but when they told me it was time to stop I did not want to; there was still so much to share. I cannot tell you half of what I said during my own presentation because I was the moment and I used my candor and it was okay not to be dauntless because they liked it anyway. I cannot count the amount of people who introduced themselves to me and gave positive response to our session, and for that small amount of time we spread something good, something positive and kind about how we treat our student-writers. If the people in that room even make one tiny change because of something we said, then I have made this corner of the world a better place in some small way.
Debrief with Allison. We did it! They liked it! People are coming up to us to thank us and share their stories. This will continue throughout the conference, and it feels like the first time I've ever known my worth to the teaching community. I have never risked myself at this level before, and so I have never felt the reward of doing so. My students respond to my honesty and awkwardness every day, and I don't know why I've been so scared to show that in front of other adults; to limit myself and think that the only audience that could appreciate me is 13-14 year-olds. When we scrolled through the Today's Meet backchannel for our session (https://todaysmeet.com/ICTE) I saw that someone had posted "awkward=awesome" in response to me describing myself and my scarring experiences with harsh response. I want someone to make me a t-shirt that says that so I can wear it until in disintegrates, so I can take comfort in knowing that I should not have been afraid all of these years to think the worst thoughts about myself. Allison referred to this as being my Sally Field moment: they really liked me, and I need to work at not being surprised when that happens.
Being vulnerable in front of peers and respected colleagues makes me ravenous. Even at a table of teachers, I am one of the first to finish. SLOW DOWN, MISSY.
Dr. Brad Buck from the Iowa Department of Ed. came to speak. He held himself well and fielded questions with grace and honesty. He showed up. He can be a powerful ally for English education in our state and we need to nurture that relationship in years to come.
Standards based grading. I loved that teachers were sharing what worked and what didn't, being honest with success and failure. I don't love that analyzing whether a student met a standard often looks like breaking writing down into little pieces. Writing is not little pieces for me that can be easily crossed of a checklist. Writing is messy and non-linear, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I am not proficient at writing at all times, so how can I hold students to those standards all the time?
Forum with Dr. Jim Davis: How can I teach the Iowa Core while maintaining my personal core?
I am biased: JSD was my first reader and leader on my Oral Examination during my MA research. He has served as a guide and mentor through various IWP workshops and UNI classes. I luxuriated in the conversation this forum provided and the way Jim was able to guide us through difficult topics without allowing us to dwell on negativity. This should have been recorded and given to the Department of Ed.
Dinner with JoAnn: a random, wonderful chance to talk and get to know yet another colleague from the other side of the state.
Wine fun time literature discussion party with a small but mighty group staying at the hotel. One of my favorite things. I've found my tribe. A group of people who want to drink wine and talk about whether Odysseus is a true hero or a giant bag of d!@#$?! No consensus by the end of the night, but it was fupping awesome (you really had to be there).
Friday, October 10, 2014
Welcome from Kirstey:
Kirstey who started me on this journey more than anyone. I can listen to Kirstey share wisdom from writers all day and consider it a success.
Breakout #1: Poetry Out Loud
Since I spent so much of yesterday in ME, ME, ME mode, today I was a good conference attendee. I was discouraged to realize that Poetry Out Loud is just for high school students, but it doesn't mean I can't adapt and use it for my classroom in some non-competitive way. This session was worth it to see a teacher from the audience stand up and recite poetry for us on the fly: a true act of bravery. I tweeted about her, but then also took the time later to stop her, and tell her to her face how brave she was and how much I loved it. I wouldn't have done that before, I don't think. I wouldn't have had the guts to walk up to a stranger and tell her she was amazing, thinking that one small comment from me could ever matter. But so many people did that for me these past two days, and it did matter, it always matters, my research on feedback is entirely focused on how much it matters; so I did. She thanked me and I felt how much it mattered to her by her voice. She was scared and that made her more brave. Why didn't I ask her name??? Tall, awesome, brave poetry reciter: if you read this, let me know. I liked you. I should have asked your name.
Keynote: Aimee Buckner: 10 Principles for Managing Writer's Notebooks in the Classroom
So much of what Aimee said reinforced what I tried to share yesterday. Our kids need to practice writing. They need to develop their voices. We need to allow that.
Breakout #2: Read Aloud, Think Aloud with Jim Davis
*I couldn't resist going to Jim again because I knew that I'd leave with writing ideas just based on some random thing he said. I was right. I give you a poem in response to a poem he shared ("January Chance" by Mark Van Doren) and questions Jim asked us to consider:
Response to "January Chance"
This poem is my husband and his father,
riding in the combine.
Ignoring the facts.
Roger will not always be there
to show Tyler how it's done.
The season is wrong, but the sentiment is the same.
Janos, the god of transitions,
wonders why this conversation hasn't happened?
Whose responsibility is it?
The boy is 31; the man 65
The art is farming
and I'm watching this not happen
and encouraging Tyler
to start the conversation.
And he won't.
And neither will his father.
And I can't be frustrated,
because it's not my chance to take.
(Okay, so pretty much the only poetry I write is with my students, but whatever. When JSD inspires you to write poetry on a Friday afternoon, you just do it, dammit.)
Make your own taco salad. AWESOME.
Sarah Brown Wessling won the Distinguished Service Award. Her speech was phenomenal and with every word she shared you can feel exactly why she deserves to be such an honored member of our community.
Breakout #3: Podcast Narratives with Joe Brekke and John Boylan
Seriously amazing stuff. I'm going to steal all of their ideas and use them and blog about them here and take credit for it (just kidding, but not really). They've done amazing work and they laid out a foundation that makes it so easy to dive in and try. I had a million ideas listening to them, and that's the whole point of a conference, right? To find something that inspires you and take it back so you can use it right away. I love listening to This American Life, The Moth, and RISK, so why wouldn't I want to introduce my students to some StoryCorps magic?
Ipad drawing: alas, I'm still a loser at some things in life.
And then I was invited by Erin Miller to join the ICTE Executive Board as a Co-Membership Coordinator. Without having any clue as to what that means or entails, I said yes. Because I want to be around these people. I want to carry the feeling of the past two days in my heart on a regular basis. I don't want to soak in the positive energy of my tribe once a year; I want to see and hear from them more often. And it's not going to happen unless I force myself out of my isolationist comfort zone. I can't keep shutting the door when I gain so much from even the simplest conversation with like-minded English lovers. I feel liked I've been given a seat at the grownups table, and for the first time in my life I'm more excited than I am scared. In thinking back to how Jen started the conference, I will always be Candor, but it doesn't mean I can't be there help those who are truly Dauntless.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.