NCTE 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota seems like it happened a long time ago and I haven’t had time to organize my notes, handouts, or anything else since then. Driving over 5,000 miles in ten days for crazy circumstances, being on the school board in the midst of a superintendent search, taking 18 college credits and not completely neglecting four kids will mess with your life that way.
My time at NCTE was so much more than I expected. I took in so much information and learned so much about my classmates, that my brain exploded. I got to meet some of my idols and hear them speak. I discovered some new heroes. And as cliché as it sounds, I laughed and I cried. If I summarized all ten sessions I attended, this post would be long so here is the list of the top fifteen things I’m glad I got to experience at NCTE ’15, plus five extras, and the five things I could have done without.
NCTE ’15 Top 15
- “Matters of the Heart: An Intimate Conversation on Teaching Black Males” This session with David E. Kirkland was hands down the best one I attended. I had it marked on the schedule but Nicky and I ended up going to it almost by accident. I’m glad we did. Dr. Kirkland is an amazing and dynamic speaker. I cried a little. I was introduced to this slam poetry video by Javon Johnson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Wf8y_5Yn4
I dare you to watch it and feel nothing.
- I shook Jason Reynolds’ hand! He’s really tall. I heard him speak! He’s so well-spoken and smart. He said: “Literary documentation of my youth doesn’t exist.” And “Kids need a safe space to have hard conversations. To feel uncomfortable is good.” And “Problem is not with young people not reading books, it’s with reading in general. Words are all around us.” And “You will read anything I want to read if you believe in me at the end of the day.” Yes, I will, Jason. I certainly will. He had on the most beautiful blue wool coat and he complimented my scarf!!! Everyone needs to read All American Boys.
- The rest of the panelists in “Reaching Hard-to-Reach Students: Authors Tell Their Stories.” I’m not going to lie– I didn’t know who any of the other writers were when I went to this session to look at Jason Reynolds. (I couldn’t even see him from my seat because a lot of America’s English teachers are taller than me.) They are Soman Chainani, Jennifer Nielsen, Sara Zarr and Kevin Emerson, and they were all awesome! Most of their books now reside on my Amazon Wish List. I almost cried in this session too, but only because a panelist did first, twice. I especially thank the panelist that admitted that “Madame Bovary broke me” in high school and the one who said that ‘authors hate the kind of Lit Crit an English degree requires.’ (Twelve page Lit Crit paper breaking me right now.)
- The Read-Aloud session Jayden convinced me to go to. “In Defense of Read Aloud” Best out loud reading ever! I have another bunch of books added to my TBR list because of this presentation. Favorite quote: “Part of being an educator is waking people up”
- Alison Bechdel—I didn’t even know who she was in September. I was missing out.
- Dave Eggers—I did know who he was. I’ve loved McSweeney’s for years. Now I want a pirate supply shop. I almost cried during his speech too. My husband is getting one of his books for Christmas.
- Persona poems—thanks Linda Christensen, and not just for the poems.
- The extensive list of resources Laura Bolf-Beliveau and Timothy Petete handed out in the “Teaching Native American Speculative Fiction.” Tim Tingle is creepier than Edgar Allan Poe. More new authors to read.
- Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher presenting in the same room! ‘Nuff said.
- Three thoughts to always remember from David Kirkland. “80% of teaching is beyond cognitive.” “How do we get kids bubbles?” “Some students never experience quiet because of their home lives or experience humanity.”
- Teaching strategies for brainstorming and story structure given by Linda Rief and Gretchen Bernabei at a round table session.
- The research into rural education being done by Robert Petrone at Montana State University. Thanks for not forgetting about us.
- The different perspectives shown. Yes, New Hampshire residents, having a Walmart means you are not rural.
- Tim San Pedro’s presentation in the same session. I wish I had that Power Point.
- “Indian Jesus”
5 Extra Things (Because I’m Bad at Crossing Things Out & This is Like Getting 30% More Free)
- The red covered ARC with the tipping cow in the corner of each page.
- The Minneapolis Skywalk. So nice to not need a coat in the Minneapolis winter.
- Friendly Minnesotans: if you looked lost, someone would lead you where you needed to go.
- The parking garage one tube away from the hotel door.
- Jayden’s giant non-breakaway purse and the laughs.
5 Things I Could Have Done Without
- That one person in each session who was determined not to connect with ALL of their students.
- Leaving Chadron before the crack of dawn & hitting my own suitcase with my own car.
- 5! Skywalk exits in Macy’s! (Turn at Christian’s suit pajamas.)
- Following the lead Suburban through red lights (typing that feels a little like being a federal agent!) AND getting left behind by said Suburban after a potty stop
- The serious lack of octopus picture books. I’m going to have to make my own.