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Story as the Landscape of Knowing: Reflections on NCTE

NCTE 1This past weekend, several PAWLPers had the opportunity to attend the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention in Washington DC. Below are a handful of reflections from what was a truly amazing experience.

On Balance

The theme of NCTE14 was Story as the Landscape of Knowing. My personal theme this year, at NWP and NCTE, was a search for balance. Throughout both conferences, which merged almost seamlessly, I found myself seeking new ideas at times and deeper understanding of existing ones at other times. I felt the need to balance periods of experiencing and processing ideas with colleagues with time for individual reflection. It was great to reconnect with friends, but equally valuable to meet new people. The pleasure of listening to literacy gurus’ presentations was matched by having some of those same folks take a seat next to me in other sessions. I will never forget the beauty and power of Marian Wright Edelman’s words in her opening address. I will also remember that Yetta Goodman sat beside me and we basked in those words together.

– Janice Ewing

What do I want to be open to this year?

I heard the Donald Graves award winner ask this question. She told the large room full of teachers that her word last year was “open” and because of that word she was “open” to applying for the grant and there she stood, humbly accepting the award. After attending so many great sessions, and listening to so many fantastic, enthusiastic teachers, I come back to that one word – open. What will I be open to doing this year? Where will my curiosity and need to know lead me and my students? As Ralph Fletcher said, “Cast a wide net, talk to people, soak it up. Fall in love with an idea.” He was talking about gathering ideas for writing, but it seems to apply to being open to finding ideas to move our teaching forward as well.

– Brenda Krupp

On Geeking Out

Gaetan Pappalardo with Tom Newkirk

Geeking out while Newkirk signed my books. Smartest man alive. – Gaetan Pappalardo

Barry Lane, Gaetan Pappalardo

Barry Lane and Gaetan rocking it out at NCTE

On Surprises

I was very fortunate to have been invited to an intimate dinner hosted by Random House Books there, celebrating five of its nonfiction picture book and middle grade authors. . . Dinner was great, and the conversation interesting. The Random Houses representatives knew what every good hostess does – sitting people with whom they do not know makes for some interesting conversations. I was seated beside Emily Jenkins, a picture book author, who I found witty and thoughtful in our chatting with those sitting nearby, ruminating on the value of single sex education, on the best way to aid less skilled readers with read alouds, and how to best encourage alliterate preservice teachers. I discovered the next morning that Emily also writes YA under another name – E. Lockhart. You may have read her fabulous We Were Liars last spring or one of her Boyfriend List books.

– Judy Jester
Read more of Judy’s NCTE reflections here.

What I Took from NCTE

At 5 o’clock on Saturday morning the elevator stopped and a poet stepped on. Paul Janeczko spoke in an earlier session with poets Georgia Heard and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. At the end of the session I asked a question about conferring with students about poetry–about easing my mind about how I tread so much more lightly than when we confer about an essay.

Janeczko was great. My favorite insight of his was his response to the question of when did he know he was a poet. He quoted William Stafford on being asked, “When did you start becoming a poet?” Stafford replied, “The real question is: when did you stop?”

But here we were twelve hours later on an elevator together, and Paul Janeczko and his great, grey Walt Whitmanesque beard, said good morning–calling me by my name–and then he said, “I am going to pee.”

Reading this as Janeczko willingly engaging me in a verbal joust, I couldn’t help raising an eyebrow.

He clarified, “Level P. I’m going to Level P, but I’m having trouble finding it.” We made more small talk and shared a laugh.

And then the elevator doors opened and we stepped into an arrest. Two policemen ushered a handcuffed woman into the cold morning just as we reached the lobby. We paused.

I paused to gawkat the arrest. He paused to ask a hotel employee near the arrest about Level P.

And off we went agreeing on the confusing layout of the hotel and conference center. He walked much faster than I did. He inched ahead of me. I had to pick up the pace in order to wish him a good day, before he turned right toward Level P and I turned left in search of a cup of coffee.

And I thought for a bit about how lucky I was to be at the NCTE convention.

– Brian Kelley
Read more of Brian’s reflections from NCTE here.

Notes & Quotables

Of the many wonderful things I heard during the NCTE conference, one that stood out was when Penny Kittle, in a session on “Literacy for Democracy,” quoted author Stephen King—”I did it for the pure joy. And if you do it for joy, you can do it forever.” When I first started teaching, I never imagined myself as one of those teachers—the ones who end up spending 30+ years in the classroom. But now that I’m almost halfway to those 30 years, I realize that there isn’t much else I’d rather be doing, especially because there is so much joy to be found in the classroom.

The same, I think, can be said of reading. Many of the sessions I attended centered on how to nurture a love for reading in our students. Time and again, educators—from Penny Kittle to Barry Gilmore, from Jeff Wilhelm to Donalyn Miller—emphasized that when we give students the choice and opportunity to discover what they love to read, they can find the joy that will spark a lifelong love of reading. As Penny Kittle reminded us in her session, “Choice and opportunity are the bridge to a habit and love for reading. . . and there is no higher standard than love.”

Click on any image above to enlarge.

– from Tricia Ebarvia’s Writer’s Notebook

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