Yesterday I attended my first ever Saturday Reunion. If you’ve never been to Teacher’s College to attend this bi-annual event, then I suggest you bookmark your calendar for March 3 (the next reunion).
The reunion is FREE, which should be music to most teachers’ ears. It’s jam-packed with invigorating ideas, teaching practices, and like-minded professionals such as yourself.
The reunion was the spark I needed after an especially tough week (year?)
The night before:
I almost called up my BFF and cancelled. It had been an exceptionally rough week and I was not looking forward to a 5:45am departure time on a Saturday morning. My exact thoughts were things like, “I am so fed-up with teaching. I don’t care to learn more. I can’t deal with parents anymore. What other jobs can I do with an education degree?”
If you’re an educator, you get my drift. I was done, mentally and physically.
The morning of:
I woke up at 4:45am. I guess I was doing this.
Columbia University (Teacher’s College)
After taking the 3 train (really, you should take the 1, unless you want to get in an insane hill workout) and climbing a ridiculous amount of winding stairs, we arrived. You must race to Riverside Church to obtain a program for the day’s events and then frantically peruse said program (preferably at a local coffee shop) and decide on which sessions you will attend. There are four sessions total and many, many offerings in each session. They are broken down by grade level, which makes choosing easier, especially for middle grades teachers, as the offerings are fewer for the upper grades.
*There are keynote speakers at 9:00, but we arrived late and decided to forego this part.
Session #1 – Beat the Clock: How Do We Possibly Fit It All into a Middle School Day?
This session was led by Tim Steffen, who is an amazing presenter. I learned so much in this session, probably the most out of all my sessions. Some of what Tim stated resonated with me, such as building routines in the classroom. He had fantastic ideas about how to structure class periods of varying lengths (from 40 minute to 80 minute periods). This is something I am currently struggling with and after attending this session, I plan to (once again) re-structure my classroom.
Session #2: Launching the Literary Essay: From Notes to Entries to Essays
Led by Laurie Burke, this session gave me some fantastic ideas for getting students to write those pesky literary analysis essays that they moan and groan about. Things such as taking a well-known children’s story (she used “The Three Little Pigs”) and having students create a claim and reasons. There was a great deal of partner work that Burke utilized, which I think could help my struggling writers. I definitely took away some tips from this session.
Session #3: Navigating Race in the Classroom: Leading Conversations about Racism and Privilege When Your Kids Don’t Look Like You
This session led by Katy Wischow piqued my interest since issues of social justice often come up in conversations, media, lessons, etc. The presenter had pieces of chart paper with quotes and ideas displayed in the middle. Participants did a “maker talk” and spent about 7 minutes silently walking around the room writing thoughts and responses on the papers. We then chose one idea to stand next to and had a brief conversation about it with our group. Overall, I liked the activity and could definitely use it with my students when introducing topics that may be sensitive and/or tough to discuss.
I went into the reunion feeling defeated as a teacher. I often feel this way due to the massive amount of stress that I’m under. From paperwork to emotionally abusive parent emails to grading and much more – it’s a lot to juggle.
However, when I left the reunion I felt revitalized. Ideas were swimming in my head of how I could transform my classroom and tweak things here and there to make the learning environment one that works better than what I currently have.
While I’m still figuring out my exact place in the world of education, attending the reunion allowed me to see past my struggles and I realized the following:
- All teachers are struggling
- The ideas the presenters had were some of the very ideas I already use in my classroom
- My teaching practices were validated
- I felt good
As a teacher, we don’t always get the praise we deserve. We are often made to feel as though we aren’t doing enough.
I am enough. I am doing enough. But there are things I can do better.
I needed to see, hear and feel this.
Thanks to the reunion, I was able to get some of my teaching mojo back.
Until next time.