I went to the NCTE Anuual Convention for the very first time this fall. I seriously have no excuse for not attending in the past. I guess I thought that the roughly $1,000 I knew I would spend on conference fees, transportation, hotel, food, drinks and books was too much for me to afford. After 3 days in Chicago I came to the conclusion that I can't afford not to spend the cash in the future. Thank goodness my "tweeps" got me to seriously consider going. Without them I would have missed a tremendous experience.
Thinking that I am clearly an "odd" teacher has never felt better to me than it did at NCTE. For nearly 20 years I have meandered along a path that felt like the outskirts of the world of teaching. I am the guy who spends probably too much time and money on both books for kids and professional books. The nearly constant process of looking for new thinking and stories has been fulfilling, but often times I have felt rather lonely on this path. Yes, I have been fortunate enough to develop connections with some great people over the years, but in my school I feel out of place at times. I love where I work, but it is hard to have a conversation with a colleague about a book they haven't read. And it is really hard to have conversations with colleagues who say things like, "I know I should read more, but who has the time?" These colleagues are great people and teachers, but it is hard to completely be myself with them.
The major take-away for me after attending NCTE is that there are literally hundreds of teachers like me. In fact there are people that make me look like I never crack the spine of a book or think about new ways to inspire kids. Meeting and learning from people who live in a world filled with the richness of reading and learning was both ridiculously rewarding and humbling.
Creating a list of all the people who welcomed and inspired me at NCTE would make this post about 3,000 words and it would become dreadfully boring, but I feel the need to say thank you to a few old and new friends that helped create the wonderful time that I had. So thank you very much Franki, Katie, Cathy, Karen, Mandy, Donalyn, Jeff, Terry, Mindi, Katherine, Teresa, Brenda, Bill, Troy, Laura, Ann Marie, Jen, Cindi, Ellie and Colby (who rescued me with a place to stay).
In different sessions, both Kathy Short and Sara Kajder spoke to the idea that NCTE was home or family to them. If I hadn't gone, I am not sure I would have completely understood what they both meant. Their vision of family is probably not the same as mine, but I do think I found a community of fellow travelers at NCTE. And it sure beats the idea of walking down the path without some company.
image credit: m3cfa