I come to NCTE for the moments (#NCTE15 blog post for day one)

(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.

Sarah and Tracy with Taylor Mali


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.

Chelsea Clinton responds to questions from the audience.


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.

Thank you.

See you tomorrow.

This entry was posted in #NCTE15, 21st century teaching and learning, colleagues, gratitude, on the road again, poetry, professional development, reflections, things made of awesome. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to I come to NCTE for the moments (#NCTE15 blog post for day one)

  1. Deb Day says:

    Love this post. I didn’t have the energy to write one last night, but am writing this morning. Mine will deal a lot with finally meeting Ruth Ayres face to face and spending time with her. It will be the highlight of my #NCTE15 experience. Thanks for sharing the great quotes, I’m writing them down to savor later.

  2. Wonderful, Sarah! You remind me why I come to the conference every year. I think I should follow you around–you seem to know where the action is!

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