Witnessing Growth (aka "the NCTE Hangover") - NCTE
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Witnessing Growth (aka “the NCTE Hangover”)

This post by NCTE member Donna Friend was reprinted with permission from her blog The Usual Chaos.  

 

Why should you attend the NCTE Convention this year? We’re sharing a series of reflections from teachers who attended the 2017 NCTE Annual Convention to help you answer this very question!

 

I’m still feeling it. Aching limbs. Dreamy, wistful staring. Frequent Twitter checking for inspiration. Frantic starting of too many books. Jotting of one more new classroom idea.

It’s the NCTE hangover.

 

I was extremely fortunate enough to attend the 2017 National Council of Teachers of English conference in St. Louis this year. It was my third conference and first time to present. I was anxious and nervous, excited and, to be honest, a little bit sweaty, and it was the coolest experience!

 

The books! The authors! The electric energy of thousands of giddy English teachers! Those teachers are the ones who made presenting a dream, smiling up at me and nodding as I told my stories and shared my students’ experiences.

But that wasn’t the best thing that happened. The best thing was my friends.

 

 

 

 

This year, I traveled with five colleagues, five amazingly intelligent, hilarious, witty women. We fit together nicely; two awaken before the roosters, two at a “normal” hour, and two of us sleep like teens. Sometimes we went faster, sometimes slower. Often in twos or threes. But we always ended up together, gawking at an author or holding down a book signing line. And we talked. I wish I had recorded all of our glorious conversations.

 

 

You see, I think that’s where some of the best professional—and often personal—development happens: in the conversations between.

We talked about continuing to grow real, life-long readers and how to inspire and foster a sincere comfort with writing in our students and ourselves. We discussed continuing to support the literacy life on our campus and possibly beginning a community effort. We debated and analyzed the philosophies of teaching the actual allusions versus teaching the discovery of allusions and teaching a whole class novel versus teaching novels in literature circles and book clubs. We thought long and hard about the complexities of young adult lit. We shared our family stories and our journeys to teaching. We revealed some of our life wishes and goals. We discussed race. And gender. And politics. And how all of it plays out in our student population and in ourselves.

 

Ever seen people grow and stretch in front of your eyes? I did.

 

 

I saw hearts swell and minds bend. When we listened to the powerful words of today’s authors and teachers, the tears flowed and eyes widened, and we grew even more.

Leaving the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, we were friends, some of us only acquaintances. Last Sunday, we returned a team, allies ready to support each other and our school to achieve all those things we know our students need. They need to read and write and read and write. And then read and write more. They need to talk and share and understand as well.

 

And, oh so importantly, they need us. Teachers who understand them and advocate for them and love them, no matter their status. Teachers who tackle risk and change and growth with grace and positivity. Teachers like my five friends.

Once again, thank you NCTE! You are still – hands down – the best training I’ve ever attended, and there’s just no other way to offer this kind of career and possibly life changing opportunity to teachers than to attend the annual conference.

See ya in Houston in 2018! We’ll be there, and we won’t have to worry about how many books we can carry on a plane this time; we’ll just fill my van and drive it home!

Donna Friend is an English teacher and department chair at Hebron High School, Carrollton, Texas. Reach her at frienddo@lisd.net or on Twitter at @mrs_friend.