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Teaching the Lessons of #NCTE13

ocsBeing in Boston with all of these excellent minds has been a balm for my bedraggled teaching soul.  Something about November wears me down every year, as both my students and I yearn for the holiday breaks that are dangling just out of our reach.  Every year, I just pray for the second quarter to speed by so it’s out of the way and over with, but this year, that is not the case.  Reinvigorated by NCTE, I’m now filled with wonderful new ideas that I can’t wait to introduce my students to, and I’m wishing for more time before winter break so I can squeeze more of them in!!  I know without a doubt that my winter is now going to be much more pleasant, but it’s no longer me I’m worried about–it’s all the other teachers, those who are still suffering in the winters of their discontent.

According to the census bureau, as of last year there were 3.3 million public school teachers in America.  Three million, and that’s not including private and charter schools.  Yet, I’ve heard that only around 10,000 of us will attend the NCTE Annual Convention.  That’s an abysmally low percentage, and even assuming there are another 10,000 out there who will access the materials on the Connected Community, that’s still not enough.  We need more teachers aware of the best practices shared here, more educators experiencing the energy of this conference, and more students benefiting from the meetings of great minds.

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Teachers converse between talks by Carol Jago and Kelly Gallagher

I’m normally a very optimistic person, but I really don’t think enough people know about some of the wonderful teaching mentors in our country.  Yesterday while walking through the Heinemann booth, I watched a woman pick up Penny Kittle’s Book Love, glance at the back, and then replace it on the shelf.  WHAT??!!  I simply had to intervene.  “That’s an amazing book,” I told her, and she turned toward me, interested.  “It completely changed the way I teach, and my students are reading more now than they ever have.”

“Really?” she said. “Well, that’s a ringing endorsement.”  I smiled and urged, “Read it.”  She added the book to her little pile.

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Nancie Atwell sits on the floor to listen to Romano, Rief, and Heard

I felt a small sense of victory–I’d introduced her to a new mentor!  A wonderful set of best practices!  A beautiful book about the love of reading!!  But over the next few hours, the sense of discomfort returned to me.  There are still far too many teachers clinging to antiquated, alienating practices.  There are still too many teacher education programs whose students have never heard of Cris Tovani, Louise Rosenblatt, or Ralph Fletcher.  There are still too many attendees of this conference, even, who don’t understand the elation I felt as I sat on the floor beside Nancie Atwell, Tom Newkirk, and Katie Wood Ray while listening to a talk by Linda Rief, Tom Romano, and Georgia Heard.

Why do so few people know about the insane genius of Penny Kittle? Don Graves? Peter Johnston? Teri Lesesne, Richard Kent, Jim Burke?  These, my teacher heroes, are unknowns to too many.  How can we spread their ideas around?

My hope is that others will do what I’m going to do, and share these findings formally with our departments, districts, and colleagues.  We’ll blog about them, and tweet about them, and most importantly, practice them, so that they spread as rapidly as possible.  So if you’re here at #NCTE13, share these ideas.  Spread the love.  And enjoy the rush that you will ride on for weeks to come.

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4 thoughts on “Teaching the Lessons of #NCTE13

  1. Cindy Schnellbach November 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm Reply

    I wish that I could be experiencing NCTE first hand with you. But this year I will have to do it from afar. Airfare, hotel, food, fees, etc. weren’t in the budget. But through blogs, tweets, instagram and other media I feel like I am still connected. I am an avid reader of professional books and like you it saddens me when others are not seizing the wealth of knowledge that all of these books contain.

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  2. Amy November 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm Reply

    You are so right: we have to help others know of the genius of these inspiring mentors. We have to advocate for the change that helps more students become successful readers, writers, thinkers. Thanks for being one person who inspires me to keep getting better.

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  3. Katie S. November 23, 2013 at 8:39 am Reply

    Like you, I’m usually a pretty optimistic person, but this does get discouraging after 25 or 30 years! I went to UNH in the era of the Dons and was out of teaching raising my family for a long time. Imagine my surprise when I got back into teaching and found how few teachers were aware of their worthy successors like Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher and Carol Jago. Enjoy NCTE and many of us will follow online.

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  4. Kristin S. November 23, 2013 at 8:20 am Reply

    Love your post! I often wonder how people back at my school don’t know about about NCTE or brilliant educators like Kittle, Burke, Jago! I guess it’s up to us to educate 🙂

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