Tag Archives: NCTE

NCTE 2018 Ah-has and Oh-Yeahs

When I can’t attend a conference (and that is most of the time) I like to learn vicariously img_0221.jpgthrough other attendees. I follow hashtags on Twitter, I look at posts of Facebook or Instagram, and I read the blogs of those who share out. I think it is only fair to reciprocate whenever I can. Last week I attended NCTE18 in Houston and tried to tweet out quotes and highlights as well as my sketchnotes. (You can see all of my #NCTE18 sketchnotes HERE)

So what did I take away from this conference (other than dozens of books for my TBR stacks?) Here are some of my Ah-ha’s and Oh-yeah’s in sketchnote form…

Raising Student Voice: What is our Role in Equity and Justice in the Classroom?

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 9.10.03 AM

Cornelius Minor gave me lots of food for thought:

Oppression can be pervasive in seemingly innocuous practices that our privilege blinds us to. Open our minds and eyes to how others may feel left out or less-than with the systems we consider ‘normal’.

There is a big difference between DIVERSITY (“all the people are at my table“) and INCLUSIVITY (“I change the rules for all”).  Where do my beliefs and actions fall?




Sharpening the Intervention Lens Through Responsive Conversations

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 9.15.30 AM

Dr. Mary Howard always provides me with ample Ah-ha moments and she didn’t disappoint this time.

She challenges us to rethink interventions-that sometimes 1 minute could be the most powerful in a child’s day if we are responsive to their needs.

The best teachers do more writing after teaching than before.

Interventions should be JOYFUL, not PAINFUL.

We can’t TEACH kids we don’t know! Look in their eyes and show them how important they are!


Enacting Sustainable Teaching: How Mindfulness, Embodiment, and Literacy Practices Can Help You Stay in the Profession for the Long Haul

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 9.20.58 AM

Teaching is one of the few professions that intersects professional and private lives. We need to embrace Sustainable Teaching Practices. The presenters from CSU Writing Project shared some of their research and understanding.

I will definitely be revisiting these ideas in future posts. You can check out their website at https://www.csuwritingproject.net/what-is-sustainable-teaching.html

If we don’t find a sustainable balance between our professional and personal lives, we are destined for burnout and stress-and that doesn’t allow us to be the best teachers, parents, spouses, friends, or family-members we can be.


Keepin’ it Real: Authentic Responses to Reading

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.03.44 AM

I appreciate that each of these panelists (several from Maine) are in the classroom everyday and using these practices.

Though many were not new ideas they offered ideas for rubrics  and reflection that teachers could use in assessing student responses that are more authentic than tests, quizzes, and response logs.

They reminded us that we can’t just assign these approaches, but that we have to explicitly teach students how to use them, and scaffold them as needed. If kids aren’t ‘getting it’ then it is on us to reteach, provide feedback, and model for them.


Writers’ Notebooks: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.45.25 AMMichelle Haseltine, Linda Urban, and Amy Ludwig VanDerWater are my go-tos when it comes to writers notebooks, so when they were scheduled to present a session I was gobsmacked!

I love the idea that our notebooks are gifts to our future selves. Author Anne Nesbet talked about this in a session I moderated as well. She suggested entries and documents that balance LARGE (world events) with LOCAL (community or personal) to write about.

Also-don’t be intimidated by perfect- be messy and raw. These aren’t published pieces they are an exploration of our heart and soul on paper.  Surprise yourself!

There were more take-aways that I’ll explore in future posts, but these were some sessions that will resonate with me for a long time. Of course, the sessions I presented with others shaped my teaching in profound ways as I prepared, reflected, and practiced more mindfully what I planned to ‘preach’. You can see those presentations here:


Anytime we plan to teach others, we enhance our own practice and deepen our own understandings. If you have never thought about being a presenter, I would strongly encourage you to try it. You will definitely come away a stronger teacher and more reflective practitioner. Call for NCTE 2019 proposals are open now https://convention.ncte.org/2019-convention/call-for-proposals/

One More Off My TBR Stack!


SHOUTING AT THE RAIN by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I have been waiting so long to get my hands on this book and all I can say is that it’s worth the wait!
Lynda Mullaly Hunt actually threw out her first manuscript and started all over with a new setting-Cape Cod and the story poured right out of her heart and onto the page.
We meet Delsie living on the Cape with her Grammy, abandoned by her mother and never knowing her father. Until this summer she has never given the situation much thought, but as some friends rehearse for Annie at the summer playhouse, she realizes she, too, is an orphan. She feels an even keener sense of loss when her best friend, Brandy, chooses a self-centered summer visitor, over their longstanding friendship. Along comes a new kid, Ronan, who is sharing some of the same struggles as Delsie, but handles his frustration in more destructive ways. Together they confront challenges we hope our children never have to weather, and make some discoveries about themselves and what family really means. So glad I finished this on Thanksgiving-a perfect way to celebrate the day!


IMG_2430I just got back from the National Council of Teachers of English 2014 national conference in Washington D.C. (technically National Harbor, MD).  If you can overlook the fact that technology/internet was an issue with the facility, it was a beautiful venue near the heart of our nation’s capitol.

It is an experience I wish each teacher I work with could have.  I have already contacted my administration to begin brainstorming ways to make it happen.  We all need those opportunities to connect in a more global way with teachers and educators that can influence practice and enhance our lives.

You meet the people who are your “heroes” when you are immersed in books and texts and writing.  You hear froIMG_2388m those who can speak what is in your heart better than you can begin to do.  You finally connect with the tweeps who have fed your professional soul for the past year (if you can recognize them from their teeny profile picture).

Rather than go on and on with how enriching the entire experience was, I put together a short video to share some images from my days at NCTE14.  I want to thank everyone who came up to say “hi”, signed my books, listened to my ideas or recommended some new titles.  Our interactions are what made the event profoundly meaningful and a powerful professional development opportunity.

When I sit down this Thanksgiving, here is something that I am incredibly thankful for…

 What’s On My Book Radar?

image-289ojfl-198x300I finally got my hands on an Advanced Uncorrected Galley of this gem at a book signing this week!  If you thought One For The Murphys was a great book, you are in for a real treat!  We get to meet substitute teacher, Mr. Daniels as he shows his students that great minds don’t think alike.  He celebrates the achievements of all his students, no matter how small and helps them to appreciate the uniqueness that makes them special.  Lynda has become one of my biggest heroes and I can’t recommend her latest offering enough.

The Fire and the Journey

The kindling (experience) has always been there.
The flint (ideas) and stone (desire) were at the ready.
It just required a spark to ignite this blog and bring it to life.

Attending the NCTE Conference in Boston this weekend provided the perfect spark to bring the smoldering writer in me to a blazing blogger.

Reconnecting with Laura Robb at NCTE 2013.
Reconnecting with Laura Robb at NCTE 2013.

I had the very good fortune to connect again with Laura Robb and she encouraged me to just write.  When she’s not on the road, she disciplines herself to write everyday.  I thought about her dedication to the craft of teaching and her contributions to teachers and felt very inspired.  Laura had faith in me.  I have faith in myself.

Linda Rief
Linda Rief

In another conversation with Linda Rief, she shared, “The biggest tip I can give them (teachers) is to start to write and read for yourself.  So many teachers read, but so many of them don’t write.  It’s hard, and it’s risky, but it’s so valuable because the kids really trust you as a writer, when YOU write.”  I thought about that exchange for quite awhile. I’m one of those teachers who reads prolifically, but not so much with the writing!  Time to change that.

I’ve always been fascinated by writers. I love the backstory of novels and books that I cherish.  Whenever I get an opportunity to hear authors describe their craft, their process, their thinking behind the story I am captivated.  While at NCTE I had several of those opportunities.  I sat in sessions with Kirby Larson (Hattie Big Sky), Barbara O’Connor (Greetings From Nowhere) and Karen Cushman  (Katherine, Called Birdy) as they discussed creating story worlds and the incredible degree to which they research their topics to create accurate portrayals of their characters and setting.

Kirby Larson
Barbara O’Connor

Creating Story Worlds
Creating Story Worlds
Karen Cushman

I was then treated to a presentation by Jarret Krosoczka (Lunch Lady) who shared his process behind creating his graphic novels and artwork.  We learned here he gets his ideas, how he develops his characters, and how he physically creates his books.   He let us in on some of his personal life and how his experiences and relationships have shaped the author/illustrator he has become. His TED Talk How a Boy Became an Artist is truly inspiring.

Jarrett Krosoczka

But one of my favorite encounters didn’t happen in a convention hall, it happened in the lobby of our hotel.  Meeting up with some other Maine educators, they introducedOne For the Murphys me to Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  My response…”Wait, One For the Murphys”?  I had just finished reading this brilliant book and couldn’t wait to talk with Lynda about why she ended it the way she had and to ask her what the epilogue might have been.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Lynda, a former 3rd grade teacher, was gracious and delightful to talk with.  She introduced me to the characters of Carley and Toni like they were her own children.  She shared her non-conventional writing process, which I encourage you to  ask her about! She inspired me take up the pen and just write!

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

So now, I need to step inside the shoes of a writer.  I need to walk around and get comfortable.  I need to break them in and not fear the blisters or aches.  I need to walk that mile.  I hope you’ll come along with me.  As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu reminds us ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I am ready to begin that journey.

What’s on my Book Radar!

Professionally speaking, I just picked up two books that I am dying to dive into:

Reading in the Wild 55411_9781452268637

I have had the very good fortune to converse on a few occasions  with Donalyn Miller and I must say her passion for books is totally contagious.  Her first book The Book Whisperer has been a staple on this literacy coach’s desk for quite awhile.  I can’t wait to venture into the wild with her to support  a lifelong habit of reading for our students.

I have long been a fan of Harvey (Smokey) Daniels and was so excited to see him speak at NCTE.  The title of his book The Best Kept Teaching Secret pulled me right in!  He demonstrated the power of some of these written conversations during one of our sessions.  I realized immediately the effect of shaping my thinking and not merely reflecting my thinking as I worked with a partner to dialogue about a topic.  Looking forward to implementing these strategies into classrooms and observing the thinking and learning that springs forth.

Hope you all have a safe, restful and reflective Thanksgiving.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson