(inspired by Taylor Mali’s poem, “I Teach for the Fire”)
It seems only fitting to reflect on day one of NCTE with poetry inspired by Taylor Mali.
I come to NCTE for the moments.
For sitting down on the light rail at the airport and
realizing that Ralph Fletcher is sitting across the aisle from us, and
that the woman sitting behind me is Ruth Ayers (and
I’ve been reading the blog she started for a while now and
she lives in the small Indiana town where my husband grew up and
we have at least one common acquaintance).
For exploring another city (I had only ever before
been in the airport here), even in the bitter upper midwest wind,
navigating from light rail stop to hotel,
five newly acquainted English teachers and two iPhones mapping directions for us,
because the two of us from Colorado can’t find west without our trusty mountains.
For actually experiencing the Skyway–
it is everything I thought it would be, though
I did not realize how grateful I would be to have it.
For sharing a table with Jeff Scheur,
who started No Red Ink and
conversation about his software and the ways he’s working to
help students and teachers in the business of learning/teaching writing.
For finally getting a chance to meet Katie Wood Ray (and
telling her that I keep her book for K-2 writing workshop on
my desk–we high school teachers
can learn some things about teaching our older students to do workshop
by seeing the youngest ones navigate it).
For running into Colorado colleagues in the conference center hallways.
For hors d’oeuvres at the exact moment I needed a little something to eat.
For Taylor Mali, thrilled to be among his people. We
laughed in all the right places for him today, and he thanked us for that, and
when we asked to take a selfie with him, he looked the camera in the eye exactly perfectly.
For meeting new people who let us join them in long lines.
For hearing a teacher ask Chelsea Clinton
to get certain people she knows in Washington
to take on the problems their policy has caused in our public schools.
For running into Ernest Morrell on the escalator, whose fierce kindness
always inspires me. Remember last year he told us,
“What does love have to do with it?
Everything. Children deserve it 24/7.
It doesn’t work without love.”
For stumbling upon just the right restaurant at just the right moment,
for a great meal of blackened salmon, garlic mashed potatoes,
and roasted cauliflower.
For three full days yet ahead,
people yet to catch up with, a full list of sessions I want to attend,
plans to explore more of the city.
“I teach for the moment when everything catches fire and finally starts to burn,” says Mali.
I come to NCTE because things catch fire here:
ideas, connections, inspiration.
See you tomorrow.