I did not sleep again. It wasn’t the noise this time but instead my anticipation of what was to come. Sunday had been filled with driving, exploring the area, and our short trip to Lake Michigan. It was a Father’s day to remember, one like we had never had before.
My family deposited me at the conference with well wishes and blurry eyes. It was dreary and cool, but I was full of smiles. I was finally here.I walked up to the registration desk and gave the lady my name “Klinger-with a K” I smiled. She handed me my folder and name tag and told me not to forget to register for the door prizes. “Door Prizes…” I started, but she had turned to talk to the lady beside her. I walked over to the next table to get my ticket for dinner, and to register for the “door prizes.” The lady with the tickets asked for my school, “McCord” I said, “in Oklahoma” and pointed to our schools’ name. She handed me my ticket, and said to make sure I registered for the door prizes.
The lack of familiarity was one of the first things I noticed that was different about this conference and the numerous of others I have been to in Oklahoma and Kansas. I saw educators everywhere, but I did not recognize or connect to any.
I looked around for the complimentary water, coffee, tea, muffins, mints… There were none to be found. Nothing to say “welcome” “we’re glad you’re here,” with words or actions. I ventured into the room of vendors. I scanned the room and paused at a few tables. I have never been to a conference that a vendor did not try to engage me in some way. Until this one.
I decided to grab my seat before the conference room filled for the key note speaker. Jeff Anderson; www.writeguy.net. As I sat I scanned the room and people. Some walked in alone like me, but quickly joined others. Many came in large groups happy to be together, and out of school.
It was an uncanny feeling to be there in a sea of educators, all with the same purpose, same goal, and yet not know or recognize anyone. I wanted to stand up and say “Hello!” “New girl in town!” “I know no one, will someone be my buddy?” I wish I had.
Jeff began to speak and right away I felt a connection. Yes! He’s from Texas. Someone close to home. His address was full of energy and positive thoughts. He engaged his audience and kept us that way. I felt more at ease and ready to learn. (That was what I had come for, not to be noticed…) The one glitch was when he asked us to “turn and talk” or “share our thinking.” I found myself looking at others; not looking at me. So I wrote.
Jeff spoke of writing, and the teaching of writing. He quoted text he had studied and read, and conclusions he has defined. He told us that writing is much like the scientific method in that you (or students)should; notice (observe, research) other writing-mentor text, try (hypothesize, test) your own writing, reread/revise (analyze) your writing and others, and finally celebrate (conclude) your completion. Like scientist we (and students) need to become exact in our writing. Gone are the days of “add more detail.” Our writing needs to be engaging, interesting, and to the point (oh boy I’m going to have trouble with that one).
He talked of the many resources and books he reads to help him in his writing. It hit me that this is what we should show our students. We need to “show” them the things we as teachers read and study to be better teachers; whether it’s a teacher manual (if that’s all you have) or a plethora of professional books (like me).
Before I had thought as “mentor text” as stories I read to my class to point out writing elements or author’s craft. But I see it now as more. They are books, text, writing, stories, articles, etc. we use every day to discover, learn, teach, stretch ourselves or hold us steady, and so should they be for our students.
I have many things to tuck in my bag of “AH-HA’S” after listening to Jeff. The first is my new thought on mentor text. Next is that I need to “curtail” my writing and details (ok I’ll try). My favorite quote; “The right answer is something you get on a worksheet, OWNING it is something that comes from a conversation.”
And finally the realization that for a girl that loves to write, and will show it to anyone; I have a hard time putting myself “out there” verbally in a room full of strangers.
I wonder how many of our students feel the same way. So this next year instead of just using “turn and talk” I will give the option of “writing (or drawing) your thoughts” OR “turn and talk” with a neighbor. My thinking being; what if that neighbor makes you feel unwelcome, or what if you are feeling insightful, but not ready to share? I thinking writing or talking may cover both bases.
Y’all come again tomorrow where you’ll meet Ann Marie Corgill, and I’ll meet a friend.