Thursday, November 28, 2013
Reflecting on NCTE 2013
I can't find the one perfect metaphor to describe what it's like to attend NCTE's annual convention.
There's the obvious -- NCTE is a family reunion. Not your biological family, your professional family: your peeps, your tweeps, your colleagues; your blog followers and blog idols; the authors whose books you've read and read aloud and used to grow readers and used to grow yourself as a teacher. Like a family reunion, NCTE is full of joyful squeals, warm hugs and handshakes, food and drink, and conversation long into the night.
But NCTE is more than just a family reunion.
NCTE is the loom where we weave the tapestry of our professional life. The people we meet there and the people we reconnect with there are certainly threads that make up part of who we are as teachers, but so are the ideas that we explore in our sessions (both giving and receiving). Our committees and groups and affiliations are also threads in our cloth. For the week we are at NCTE, we weave like crazy -- sometimes outlining a basic pattern we'll fill in once we return to our lives and our work, sometimes adding detail to an existing pattern.
But NCTE is more than just a loom.
I imagine all of the teachers who attend NCTE as glass jars. Some are fancy, others are plain and functional. All are filled with marbles that represent who they are and all they do in their lives. Every jar is filled to the top with marbles: family, teaching, writing, reading, friends, hobbies. Every life is filled to the top, and yet here they all are, at NCTE. NCTE is like a fine sand that can fill the spaces between the marbles. The thinking, the learning, the connections to teachers and authors -- all of that filters in and surrounds the rest of who we are. Instead of empty spaces between our marbles, there are people and ideas and books we can lean on throughout the year.
But NCTE is more than fine sand.
My professional life is one room in the house of Me. Actually, my professional life wants to be the whole house, but for right now, I'm just giving it one room. It's a big room, spacious enough to fit all of the people who help me to be a better teacher. The ceiling is high, to accommodate lofty ideas and ideals. The walls are lined with books that grow me and that grow my students. There's a large wooden table in this room (probably as filled with stacks of papers and books as the table before me right now), and there's a lamp in this room, shedding light on it all.
NCTE is the lamp in the room of my professional life.