Hope and Highlights

NCTE 2013 Boston

Boston Bound

The anticipation of attending NCTE in Boston this November was well worth the wait. The excitement, positive energy, and wealth of creative ideas permeated the entire conference. Now that I have had some time to rest and reflect on my NCTE 13 experience, my thoughts are gaining clarity and I look forward to refining my teaching practices. Thanks to the energizing sessions and thoughtful collegial conversations I engaged in, I came back from NCTE feeling more hopeful than I have in a long time about the future of our profession.

Although I cannot possibly capture everything I gained in one post, I'll share some of my most memorable experiences and thoughts from the conference.

Donald Graves Legacy Breakfast

The research and work of Donald Graves had a profound impact on my teaching as a young educator. He taught me the importance of really listening to my student writers and letting them show me what they needed next for instruction. His methods have been proven and it is a testament to his achievements that his practices are thriving in classrooms of today. Many of Don's colleagues and mentors of mine, including Lucy Calkins, Nancie Atwell and Mary Ellen Giacobbe spoke eloquently about how he had helped shape their teaching lives. This event was a moving tribute to his amazing contributions to the literacy world and I strive to keep his legacy alive as I support young writers who have their own stories to tell.

Remembering Don Graves & his legacy

Twitter Power

Twitter continues to be a fantastic source of free professional development for educators. It has connected me with hundreds of passionate educators from all over the globe. One of the best parts of my NCTE experience was the opportunity to meet many of my "Tweeps" face to face and have conversations in real time. These meetings actually felt more like reunions than first time encounters because of the interactions we had already experienced virtually.

Thanks to Twitter, fellow Mainer Susan Dee and I collaborated virtually with Karen Terlecky, Cathy Mere, Deb Frazier, Katie Keier and we all came together in Boston for our "Kidwatching in a Digital World" roundtable session. We had a blast sharing how we use some of our favorite tech tools to inform our instruction and look forward to future virtual and face-to-face projects!
Link to our session: https://www.smore.com/3sxe

I have been a Franki Sibberson follower for quite a while. Her books have always influenced my thinking and teaching. I follow her on Twitter and was so excited to see her at our roundtable session! At her NCTE session, she and her colleagues Ann Marie Corgill and Bill Bass shared great examples of how they are inviting student choice to their workshops. Their session gave me much to consider around student voice and choice with technology integration in literacy workshop.

Falling In Love with Close Reading

Prior to NCTE, I had been reading Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts, so I really wanted to get into this session. Thanks to the kindness of another presenter who gave up his space, a large group of supporters packed the room for the close reading session with Kate, Chris and Maggie B. Roberts. The room buzzed with excitement while love themed music played in the background. The crowd was ready for a literacy treat.

The presenters set the stage by discussing close reading as something we love and want to do. They shared the steps they use with students when close reading: choose a purpose or lens for close reading, look for patterns and look for new understandings. We then practiced some close reading in small groups and saw first hand how their process might look with students. This was an energizing session and has given me much to digest and try with my staff and students!

Moving Forward

As I mentioned earlier, I left NCTE feeling hopeful. In an era of high stakes standardized testing and an overwhelming number of demands placed on teachers, I was pleased to hear so many rich conversations around student engagement, active listening and reading for the love of it. Teachers know how to connect with and reach their students. I am hopeful that our profession will be encouraged to share stories from the field, regroup and begin our journey back to a more balanced design around instruction and meaningful assessment for our learners. They deserve it.

Mary Bellavance

Mary has been a teacher for over 20 years. She has worked as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, workshop presenter and is currently an elementary instructional strategist in southern Maine. She is a facilitator for the Cross Disciplinary Literacy Network sponsored by the Maine Department of Education and is currently serving as President of Maine ASCD. She recently completed the Southern Maine Writing Project's Summer/Fall Institute where she was inspired to devote more time to professional writing.

Connect with her via email: mbellavance.journeys@gmail.com or Twitter: @MaryBellavance