I first attended the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English in 1989, as a second year high school English teacher. It was like a nerdy dream come true! Thousands of fellow teachers passionate, good-humored, and smart about teaching English. I discovered aspects of the field I had no idea existed. I got to listen to talks by dozens of the most famous teachers in the field, shake hands with some of my favorite authors, and meet colleagues from across the country, many of whom have since become good friends. I have missed very few of the conventions since then. It is my absolute favorite professional event every year. (I put “professional” in there only in case a family member reads this post. Shh!)
You know those writers in English Journal and in the books about teaching English you have come to love? Those authors will be right there. You can talk with them–they are approachable and very gracious–and they will appreciate hearing how you’ve used their work. Many of them will also help you become such an author yourself, if you’re so inclined. In fact, NCTE hosts more than one venue that allows teachers to learn more about how to become an author. See especially the “Meet the Editors” session, usually on Saturday morning, where the editors of NCTE’s many journals will meet with small groups of prospective published writers.
I am speaking at two sessions this year:
- I am giving a talk called “Take My Advice: Learning from a Veteran Teacher’s Mistakes,” in which I share some funny (and some very not-funny) fails from my first years of teaching and discuss what newer teachers can learn from them. In this session, I co-present with the lovely and talented Leila Christenbury. Leila and I recently co-authored Making the Journey: Being and Becoming a Teacher of English Language Arts. We’ll be signing copies of the new book at the Heinemann booth in the book exhibit from 10:30-11:30 on Saturday. We’re honored that Penny Kittle will serve as our session chair.
- On Sunday morning, I am leading a round table discussion on “Managing the Grading Grind” as part of a session sponsored by the NCTE Emeritus Assembly. It’s a session for new teachers, and lots of veteran teachers will be there with advice and big ears for listening to new teachers’ needs. For a sneak peak of my talk, see my 5 Tips for Managing the Grading Grind.
Some of my favorite sessions are the luncheons. Each year I attend the CEE Luncheon and the Secondary Section Luncheon, both of which bring dynamic speakers and give me a chance to have extended conversations with old and new friends in the field. This year’s Secondary Section speaker, Leila Christenbury, is a special favorite!
And finally, the thing not to be missed is NCTE’s massive book exhibit! Picture a BJ’s Warehouse with nothing but books about teaching English and Young Adult and Children’s Literature (at a discount). Any many of the authors are there signing or just wandering around buying their own books.
I hope to see you in Atlanta!