Last Monday I made my way up to school fearing the worst. Missing one day of school is stressful for most of us, but missing two days meant that I needed to prepare myself to return to a classroom that needed to be reassembled. I imagined paper strewn floors, piles of books randomly placed around the room, and desks askew if not overturned. I must have had the two best substitute teachers of all time. The room looked immaculate, the work I’d left for the students sat neatly stacked on my desk. Both notes reported students who worked hard and followed instructions. I can’t say enough about how much returning to a well run classroom helps me feel better about missing work to attend a conference.
The 2020 TCTELA Conference left me feeling empowered and excited to return to my classroom stronger than I left it.
Oh, and I got to meet Rebekah O’dell.
Several of us on the board agreed that we would answer Rebekah’s call to share our voices through our writing.
Thus, these are the top five takeaways from the 2020 TCTELA Conference
One of my goals for this conference was to visit as many sessions as possible. I bounced in and out of the morning workshops and the concurrent sessions, and almost every speaker talked about or touched on the idea of clarity. This subject, one I’m learning more and more about each week, is emerging as an area of interest for many of us. Research tells us that teacher clarity has a huge effect size, and I’m excited to see this shift in focus moving forward. The clearer we are in our interactions with our students, the greater our chances of helping them grow in their literacy.
Saturday morning, sitting at the High School section meet-up area, I kept noticing teachers filtering past with the same maroon t-shirts. Later that morning, I saw them sitting a few rows behind me at the general session. As evening approached, I saw this group presenting at the round table sessions. Their presentation shared their experience with FlipGrid, and it just about floored me. I sat in awe of how many amazing ideas they brought to their session and how they made this technology work for them at every level of high school English. The most impressive part of their presentation wasn’t their understanding of this teaching tool, rather, it was the mutual commitment to their shared goals. The collective efficacy that they brought to the conference impressed me so much that my instructional coach team and I waited only 3 days before meeting with them online to talk about how I could bring their experience into my classroom. No offense to all my friends out there, but the English department at Silsbee High School is my second favorite.
Practices based in Research
Over and over again presenters reached beyond their own experience to support their claims. Our understanding of research continues to grow in importance, and our capacity to fold that understanding into instructional practices must grow as well. The research piece can be daunting for teachers because we have limited time and energy beyond those factors that immediately affect our students. However, the shift to incorporate research based practices into our instructional methodology will affect the learning of our students as much as anything else.
Service over Self
My role at this conference differed greatly from conferences in the past. Typically, I’ve focused on presenting with or learning from others, but this time my position as high school section chair meant that more would be required of me. I talked to so many people on Friday morning that my voice failed me by lunch. I handed out buttons and invited people to join the various sections for meet-ups. I visited with presenters to make sure they had what they needed. I shook more hands than ever before. One of my goals for the conference was to help our attendees feel like they had a connection to the organization, and I did my best to make those connections happen. This idea is one that we often preach to our students, and it felt so rewarding to live that message.
Choice remains at the top of the list of discussion topics. Besides being a keyword in the title of the conference, every presentation that I saw touched on the importance of choice. I hope this concept continues to spread to classrooms across out state and empower all students to find themselves as readers and writers. My first adventure into the world of AP Lang has only strengthened my resolve to advocate for student choice and I know that the support for that commitment continues to grow.
Charles Moore looks forward to his new role as VP-Elect for TCTELA. Every day he looks forward to bringing his very best to his students and his school. He’s excited to finish up graduate school and continue to build his professional learning network one conversation at a time.