A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Today, I am headed to Denver for the Colorado Council International Reading Association conference. This will be a new conference for me too, though it will be my second conference as a real teacher and my 13th conference since I began my college career. I’m excited to continue to learn more about teaching reading and how to keep making literacy relevant to my students. I am also traveling with my mentor teacher and another first year teacher and am looking forward to getting to know them better. My first year has been a little overwhelming at times and I feel like I constantly don’t have enough time, so I am going to enjoy the time that I have with these other young women without the press of papers to grade and lesson plans to write bearing down on me. It will be a nice break and I hope it will also re-energize me so I can make it through PAWS testing and to spring break while still being excited by English and less worried about if my students are getting enough test prep.
Thinking back on my other conferences, I was suddenly struck at how similar they are to running long distances. They can be overwhelming and hard; they tax not only your physical stamina, but also your mental strength. I know that at the first conference I ever attended, the Geological Society of America’s national conference in Minneapolis in 2011, I was not prepared and was completely overwhelmed. There were so many sessions to listen to and many of them had names I could only kind of put together and comprehend and they were even more confusing to listen to. Halfway through the second day of the conference, I skipped out to go walk around Minneapolis and get my hair cut because I was in information overload. My geology professor and adviser kept inviting me along though and I kept taking the invitation, adding two more conferences to list by the end of my freshman year. I had finally gained enough information that by the time I was at the GSA regional conference in Albuquerque that summer, I could begin to understand what the presenters were talking about.
Fast forward a few years and I had met a professor who embraced technology and social media as though it was the next logical step to breathing. She taught me how to use twitter. Through suggestion, she taught me how to blog. Those semesters between my first conference and my first NCTE conference also helped me gain the knowledge I needed to make sense of the sessions I was attending. I could start to process the information, but I also knew how to start sharing that information. I learned how to network digitally and how to listen for soundbites and tweet while taking notes and listening and deepening my own understanding of what it means to teach English. I knew how to write a blog about my experiences and how to condense the massive outpouring of ideas into easy to read 700 word essays.
It’s thanks to these two professors that I am eager to attend more conferences, such as the one that begins tomorrow, but it is also thanks to these two professors that I fully intend on presenting at these conferences in the future. Perhaps more importantly than taking me to conferences in the first place, these two professors also invited me to be part of the conversations going on in science and in education. They left me with the impression that I can and should be presenting at these conferences and conventions because I have something to say that is worth sharing. Hopefully, in the next year or two, I’ll be able to present something of my own. Hopefully, I’ll be able to influence someone like those two influenced me.
In short, I am looking forward to learning something new and all of the other fun pieces that come with a conference this weekend, but I am also looking forward to becoming a more active participant at these events in the not so distant future.
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Stefan Falke photographs artists who live and work along the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region on both sides. All photos © Stefan Falke (use with written permission by the author only)