I sat at a table in a great Italian joint this evening with some of my favorite people. I am so lucky that some of my favorite people also happen to be my colleagues at my school. I am so lucky that perfectly acceptable dinner time entertainment for us was drawing out on the table how we would love to redesign our school. We were so lucky that our assistant principal/former teacher of science was there to figure out the bill; the rest of us just don’t like numbers. We can do numbers, just prefer to talk about metaphors and stuff while someone else deals with numbers.
I wish we could all get together like this at home. It shouldn’t take a four-hour plane ride to Boston to get us all around a table sharing a meal, but that is how it goes when we’re at home in our lives and back in the daily routine with the families we’re all anxious to see tomorrow.
But that’s the beauty of conferences like this–the space to connect with colleagues, the ones you brought with you, the one who moved across the country a few years ago, the ones you see here every year, the new ones you meet. This conference creates space to steep in ideas. It provides the ability to be in the same room as the people who wrote all the books sitting in a tall stack on my desk at school, the ones I open frequently as I’m figuring out what my students and I will do together to explore ideas and words and books.
Today was a magical day for me in that space cultivated only by the confluence of people brought together by NCTE. it started with a brisk walk with my colleagues from home, through Copley Square and up to the State House. I never get to start a day with a walk with them, let alone doing that while exploring this awesome city. My first session today was with Alfie Kohn, and his talk was the push I needed to really, truly say I’m done with grading. (I will write more about this and my journey to here in the time ahead). Then was Sarah Brown Wessling’s eloquent reminder that if we hold on too tight to our students, they will be unable to see things for themselves. Then was a great opportunity to catch up with a colleague over a slice of pizza. Then being wowed as usual by all the digital possibilities put before me by Troy Hicks and Sara Kajder, a session I took in sitting next to a former high school student of mine who is now a teacher educator and researcher, here this year with two of her former methods students who are now first year teachers (#thecircleoflife #thingsthatcanonlyhappenatNCTE). And the encouraging conversation with Penny Kittle by the elevators was just exactly the perfect end to this magical day. Only at NCTE can this kind of thing happen.
After our adventure to the North End for dinner, with each train ride and block we walked an opportunity for lively recounting of the sessions we each attended today, we talked out tomorrow’s presentation yet one more time, staying up way too late yet again.
But it all ends tomorrow.
We leave on flights or on the train or in a rental car at different times to different places to join our families for the holiday week. And in just over a week we’ll be back at school, back in the busy, back fighting for the space to connect and reflect–and looking forward to next year.