5 Favorite Things about NCTE: Slice of Life #ncte18 #sol18

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ALL THE BOOKS. And not just the free and discounted ones in the Exhibit Hall. All the ones I learn about at different sessions. All the ones by authors who present. All the ones I spy fellow English teachers reading in the halls in between sessions. I don’t travel with an extra empty suitcase as I know some attendees do. I’ve never paid to ship books home. I try to be choosy–knowing the limits of my suitcase and knowing my readers and what they will like. I also try to limit my time in the Exhibit Hall. If I’m wandering the aisles in search of free books, I’m not learning or connecting with other teachers. But it turns out that wandering the aisles of the Exhibit Hall is the perfect thing to do when I’m too tired to sit through another session but not tired enough to go back to my hotel to rest. I’m rarely organized enough to schedule the author signings I’m most interested in, so I depend on serendipity. I also don’t like waiting in long lines, so if it’s too long, I usually skip it. That’s why I don’t have any signed books from Laurie Anderson or Jason Reynolds or Angie Thomas. But that’s ok. I don’t really understand the appeal of the signed book anyway.

SPONTANEOUS CONVERSATIONS. I’m an introvert. A very introverted introvert. Who also happens to love people and small talk. So if you find yourself standing next to me in line anywhere, I’m going to be eyeing you and trying to figure out how to strike up a conversation. Since many of my fellow English teachers are also introverted, it can make for an awkward few moments as we try to find some way to connect but can’t think of anything to say. But I’ll still be making the effort because I want to hear what your biggest insight was today or what your favorite presentation was or what book you’re most excited about getting.

TRAVEL. For various reasons, I don’t travel as much as I’d like to, and I really, really love to travel. I love walking through airports and people watching. I love figuring out public transportation. I love being surprised by a new place. Las Vegas was my first NCTE Convention, and I almost chose not to go because it seemed like such an undesirable location to travel to. But Las Vegas is a hoot. And now I try to keep an open mind. There’s not really much time to sightsee, so it helps when a major attraction is literally right outside my hotel window.

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I do try to make time to visit a museum if my visit happens to coincide with extended opening hours. Houston has the Menil Collection, which I’ve always wanted to visit for the Renzo Piano building, as well as a Fine Arts Museum that sounds excellent, and both are open late on Thursdays (the Fine Arts Museum until 9 pm!). I also try to find a good local independent coffee shop, which can sometimes be challenging in the areas where convention centers tend to be located. And I walk as much as possible to get a feel for the city.

ALL THE TOTE BAGS. I’ve got to be honest: I’m a little bit obsessed with the free tote bags distributed by publishers in the Exhibit Hall. Of course the Scholastic Bags are the gold standard of conference swag, and I’m afraid I totally join the stampede when news travels that Scholastic is distributing bags. They’re roomy, sturdy, comfortable, stylish. In short, best tote ever. But I’ll take basically anything that’s offered. Sometimes I leave the Exhibit Hall with a tote bag full of tote bags. (I carried all three of these to work this morning!)

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LEARNING. Of course this really goes without saying, but the learning is the best part of NCTE. I try to identify one or two areas for growth and attend a few sessions about those topics. Last year, I focused on drawing and mindfulness. This year, I want to learn more about culturally responsive teaching. I also like to attend what I call reminder sessions. These are sessions where I probably know everything that is going to be said, but it’s a good reminder of why I teach and what I try to be about in the classroom. Do I really need to attend another session about writer’s notebooks or reader’s workshop? Probably not, but those are often the sessions I find most nourishing. There are some speakers that I’ll go see no matter what they’re taking about or how often I’ve heard the message. Although I have a master list of sessions to attend with (many!) alternates for each time slot, serendipity does drive a few choices. There’s always one session I attend simply because I’m tired and I don’t feel like getting up and moving to a different room.

What I haven’t been as good about is figuring out how to apply the learning once I get home. How to get the notes out of the notebook and into practice. I always come home with good intentions but little follow through. So that’s a new area for learning.

What are your favorite things about NCTE?

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16 thoughts on “5 Favorite Things about NCTE: Slice of Life #ncte18 #sol18

  1. If you make it to the Menil collection, I hope you’ll find a few moments to spend in the Rothko chapel. I still remember meeting you at NCTE 2014, my one and only NCTE until this one! Hope our paths cross. Happy learning!

    • I will be sure to look for the Rothko Chapel! I am DETERMINED to make it out there, even though it may mean some late afternoon coffee to stay awake long enough to do it. I remember meeting you too! One real treat of NCTE is running into teacher bloggers. It’s really fun to look at the name tag next to me and realize I just commented on that teacher’s blog!

  2. I’ve been so busy trying to get well (an incessant sinus infection) that I haven’t allowed myself time to get excited until I read your post. I love all the same things about NCTE that you named. All of them! Can’t wait to see you. Introverts Unite!

    • YES! Can’t wait to see you too (and really looking forward to your two Friday sessions). I’m so sorry you’ve been sick. Sinus infections can be so hard to get rid of–and hard to travel with. I really hope you’re well by tomorrow, Margaret!

  3. For about a year I wanted to get my favorite books signed. When I examined this desire I determined I was wasting my time. Was I more interested in a signature or in the story? I haven’t had a book signed since. Occasionally, I go to bookstores where authors will be signing books, but I’d rather listen to them talk. I could listen to Maggie Stiefvater talk for hours. Last time I listened to her she even played the bagpipes. I also loved listening to Jackie Woodson, Rebecca Solnit,and Kelly Barnhill at different events. Unfortunately, author events and book festivals are so time-limited in terms of conversations Right now, the book I’m most excited to read is Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of Night, but it won’t be released until February. I’m also a ” very introverted introvert,” so I’m especially enjoying your slices and looking at the books you read. Thank you.

    • Scott, the same thing happened to me. The very first author signing line I ever waited in at NCTE was Sherman Alexie. Waited FOREVER to get a book signed and then realized it didn’t feel special or necessary to me. I know that getting signed books is really meaningful and special for many readers, but I also found I don’t care a thing about it! My students do enjoy opening a book from my lending library and seeing the signature, so if the lines aren’t too long or if it’s a free book (seems rude to get a free book and then not wait for the author to sign it!), I do get it signed. But it’s definitely not the thrill for me that it is for others, and it does feel like a waste of valuable time (though the lines are a great place for small talk!). I still need to read All the Birds in the Sky. It’s around here somewhere! And totally agree with you about Jackie Woodson! I also could listen to Jason Reynolds talk forever! I often skip the author talks at NCTE but I actually really enjoy them, so I’m going to try to prioritize those a little more. I think Kelly Barnhill is there so will look for her!

  4. The NCTE conference is on my professional bucket list:) Although I haven’t attended an NCTE conference, but I found myself nodding in agreement as I read your post, especially about being an introverted introvert:) I find myself experiencing that same feeling when I go to conferences.

    I look forward to reading posts about your experiences at NCTE!

  5. I hope to run into you again at NCTE. Let me know about the coffee shop. I have not planned my calendar yet except for the two presentations I am presenting and attending the poetry session by my Poetry Friday friends after my session on Friday. It is all such a fast-paced but absolutely wonderful time that I need to catch my breath on the long flight to Houston (2 planes).

    • I hope to see you too! I’ll definitely be doing some research on coffee shops before I get there. Though I also really appreciate the coffee bar at the Heinemann booth and do sometimes rely on a tiny latte to get me through the afternoon! Yet another reason Heinemann is my favorite PD publisher! I’m looking forward to some reading time on my flights, though they aren’t too long (though I do have 3 different planes to catch!). Ordered a couple of books special just for traveling!

  6. For me, being at NCTE has always allowed me to reconnect and connect with the essential elements of teaching: the defining and redefining of best practices, the sincere kindness and nurturing force of teachers who care deeply. And of course, those tote bags. Can’t wait to see you!

  7. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/19/18 | the dirigible plum

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