Confession: I’ve wanted to go to NCTE’s annual convention for years, but I never had the money to go. As a teacher, who has an extra couple hundred dollars to spend on airfare, hotel and convention registration? Not I.
However, this year I was presenting at the National Writing Project’s Annual meeting (the last one for awhile, sadly), so my only out-of-pocket expense was registration for NCTE. So, I bit the bullet and registered. And it was the best decision ever.
If you’re not a member of NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), then become one. Next year’s convention is in Houston, so go ahead and prepare for that (save money, ask your school if they’d be willing to fund some or all of your trip, write a proposal to present, etc.)
Now, you’re probably thinking NCTE is just like other boring conventions. If so, you’re 100% wrong. Even though I could only attend one day of the convention this year, I learned a TON, some of which is summarized below, but most of which I’m still processing:
- So. Many. Sessions. There are a variety of sessions for every level (elementary, middle, high school, college, etc.) The problem comes with choosing just one to attend for each time frame. When you check-in, you get a HUGE book that lists all the sessions. I chose several for each time frame and I’m glad I did. For instance, five minutes into the first session I attended, I realized it wasn’t what I thought it would be. So I left and went to another session, which was more useful to me. Some sessions will be better than others, but I think the more you get to know the presenters, the better you are at choosing sessions. Session highlights for me included:
- Hearing Nanci Atwell, Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher speak about reading and writing workshops.
- Sharon Draper’s energy and passion for reading spread like wildfire in one of her sessions.
- Witnessing Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin, converse with 8th graders from rural Illinois on an inquiry project about her book.
- Meeting Linda Christensen, and having a legit conversation with her as she signed my books. (I’ve loved and used her ideas since 2006)
- Meeting all the people. The opportunity for networking at NCTE is ridiculous. A word of advice: Get business cards made and pass them out! Not only did I meet some fabulous people in person, but I gained at least 20 new Twitter “friends.” While waiting in line for the Exhibit Hall, I chatted with a nice woman who gave me some very useful tips for next year’s convention. Don’t be afraid to make new friends and learn new things!
- The Exhibit Hall. FREE BOOKS!!!!! People weren’t lying about this. Bring an extra suitcase for books, or you’ll end up like I did, outside the airport security check trying to consolidate all of my bags and sitting on my suitcase willing it to close. Not only can you snag many, many free books, but there are author signings galore, so plan ahead once you get your program.
Overall, NCTE exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait until next year’s convention. Who wants to head to Houston with me?!