Today was cirrus clouds (though a cumulus is pictured here) and sunshine. A blue sky “what if” kind of day, a writing and drawing and talking and sharing push and pull of ideas kind of day I had at NCTE today.
It started in Ballroom M with Gary Anderson, Kim McColumn, Teresa Buner and the amazing Tony Romano (the most down to earth & gracious state teacher of the year I've ever met) talking about how to mentor, coach and care for new teachers. All but Tony I met first online via Twitter or the English Companion Ning community. Kim and I have Nerdfighter hearts. Connecting with virtual colleagues at NCTE gives the convention the celebratory feel of a reunion with friends .
The session got me thinking about how I interact with and nurture my own junior intern. Have I “given” too much in the way of lesson plans? Have I listened ? Coached enough with questions that will guide her thinking about issues like differentiation and assessment? Does she understand my model? Does she soak up the sequence and routine I run, an English class Iditarod with kids pulling me forward.
Gary Anderson always makes me smile , his facility with a group, the sparkle—yes actual sparkling—of a learner in his eye. He made be wonder about interview questions and the hiring sequence. ‘If you’re one of the folks cleaning up the mess at the end of a bad hire, then you should be involved on the front end too.” Makes sense as did the array of interview questions we shared and discussed with Gary giving nod to pre-service teachers in the room, “this is good stuff right here as you head into interviews.” Indeed it is good stuff. Tony Romano,
Gary’s partner in crime, Tony Romano, author, teacher, and mentor facilitates year 3 and 4 of his school’s mentoring program. Tony remembered me from last year saying “Oh, you’re the journal-er.” He told me he’s thought and talked about my journal many times this year. He has the link to my scanned pages favorited. I could sit at his feet and learn scads about public speaking. Both he and Gary have quite a presence. While Gary uses humor to engage, Tony more often uses puzzles. Yesterday’s puzzler involved roman numerals and re-creation. He’s like one of the Tapper brother’s. A voice of Chicago much like Click and Clack’s. His puzzle reminded me of their weekly “puzzler” on Car Talk.
Tony Romano’s school has a 4 year mentoring program for new teachers. Imagine that. Four years of someone looking out for you, feeding you nutritious teacher food (professional books, journal articles, good questions) and throwing in a bit of teacher bling (sticky notes, gel pens, highlighters). Year 3, I believe is backwards planning a la Heidi Jacobs for Tony’s new faculty and year 4 reflection. Do I even have a sequence I follow with new teachers I mentor? Am I purposefully in my talk with new teachers? Do I sequence their instruction in sense-making ways?
My Tech- to- Go session following theirs, so though Tony plugged my journaling and encouraged folks to talk to me about it (thanks Tony), I booked it back to the exhibit hall and to set up the laptop. There was some confusion with the tech kiosks, another presenter whom I do not know thought he should be at the kiosk where I was set up and thought I should be at the empty kiosk across the room. After much consternation (on he and his partner’s part) and much back and forth with the lovely NCTE Wireless Queen (again just them), he said I must move because my name was on the other side. Indeed it was not as I tried to explain, pointing to the Get Connected with Collaboration Tools, listed on the board behind me, mentioning the schedule shifting that happened with Friday’s kiosks. Mox nix, didn’t matter, I unplugged, disconnected, gathered-up and moved to the opposite kiosk. People are interesting.
The people I met at high school matters? Fascinating. Sharon’s table session on Manga stoked my curiosity. I have a student who’s not the others, a stand out student, a different student, a student who’s best friends are manga characters and books. I am trying to connect with that student and to do that, I need manga knowledge. Wait until you see what I learned! This post is entirely too long, so I’ll save that bit.
I’ll probably also save my thinking about this small world, this open global community. I sat down next to Katie McKnight at High School Matters. I had never met Katie in person, but the day before I tweeted her a compliment a principal bestowed after attending her session on literature circles. Her only reply to my tweet was @spillarke. Hmm... I wondered. Can you believe we were sitting next to each other at the manga table? What synchronicity.
I think my favorite part of the day was honoring Philippa Stratton.
I should have taken pictures: the wild mushroom tart, the Boursin cheese stuffed dates, shredded crab dressed in finely minced fresh salsa served in miniature martini glasses replete with cocktail spoons. But beyond the gourmet menu, beyond the sparkle of crystal and beauty of the Grand, I stood surrounded by teachers who are also writers. Kelly Gallagher, who’s working on a new book on teaching teenage writers; I talked with Ruth Ayers who pounced on my domino necklace when I first arrived. She delighted me by saying, "You're wearing one of those domino necklaces! When I told her I was the artist that made, she said well, I have your email then. I've given 3 as gifts here at NCTE. Can you believe she saw them? My favorite meet was Tim Gillespie who may skype into my classroom and talk criticism with my A.P. juniors. Imagine that!
I stood in awe of Philippa and the work she has brought to life –literally around the room—and wondered at the possibility of my own writing future. Not all of the folks under the trompe de l'oeil rotunda were Stenhouse authors, Stephanie Harvey publishes with Heinemann doesn’t she? There were editors circling, Bill Varner and marketing guru / Newslinks editor Chuck Lerch— behind the scenes gems—rock stars themselves who craft, push, question, critique, and edit their writers to greatness.
At the end of the day what can I say? What can I say to such a pink stone day*? Shakespeare, as always, said it first and best, “I can no other answer make, but, thanks and thanks.”
*To get the pink stone story think of Spinelli’s Star Girl and click here for the rest.