Over the weekend I traveled to Boston for the ILA Conference with three friends – a reading specialist, a fifth grade teacher, and a retiree. Since we drove, the long ride gave us lots of opportunity to chat, catch up, and reflect. On the way home, I posed the question, “What did you enjoy most about the conference? What was your biggest take away?”
For Glendia, the reading specialist, it was the opportunity to network and find resources in the exhibit hall. While it is easy to get lost in the sea of vendors and free offerings, Glendia had a purpose for each book or resource material she picked up. I would hear her say things like:
________would love these books when she does her unit on Native Americans.
I know ______________ (name of a student) would enjoy reading this!
Everything she collected will be used by her or the teachers she works with.
Mary Ann retired several years ago, but she continues to nurture her interest and involvement in literacy – a true life-long learner. So for her, it was the new learning that she will share in her many school-related volunteer opportunities.
Ro, the fifth grade teacher, was a first time attendee, so I was particularly interested in her answer. Her biggest take away was seeing thousands of educators coming together to learn and share ideas about literacy. I agree! It is hard to explain to someone outside of the field how important shared professional development is, how wonderful it is to see dedicated teachers working to better their practices.
And for me? This was definitely not my first ILA Conference, but it was the first one in many years where I was not presenting. That gave me some time to see the sights of Boston (Fenway Park, the Boston Commons, the North end), network with old friends and new (Two Writing Teachers breakfast, the Stenhouse party), and reflect on how my purposes in attending have changed over the years. I focused on sessions that would help me in some professional development I will be doing (thank you Paula Bourque, Janiel Wagstaff, Leslie Blauman), but my greatest take away was meeting or reconnecting with the authors who write the wonderful words in the books I love – Linda Mullaly Hunt, Jennifer Jacobson, Cynthia Lord, Steve Swinburne, Jerry Pallotta, David Biedrycki, Debbie S. Miller. I will admit I am a little star struck these days with authors. When I can soak in the tidbits of their backstories and their varied processes, I learn so much. I literally had tears in my eyes hearing Nikki Grimes and Tomie dePaola. They are such superstars in the world of children’s literature.
Thanks ILA and Boston for a wonderful experience! We should never underestimate the power of conferences and workshops to ignite the spark that energizes us as educators.