I think I can safely say that everyone who attends the Dublin Literacy Conference walks away with new learning. It could be about diverse books or about word learning strategies or about helping students find their identity or about how to confer with readers and writers or about the power of words or about learning progressions or about how to get to know students as people or about…you get my drift.
But one of the most important parts of Lit Conference, to me, might be considered a bonus. It is the chance for teachers to spend time with colleagues and friends and to “fill their cup” with other like-minded individuals. I am always amazed as I see smiles, hugs, and waves from across a crowded room. Who doesn’t love to catch up with a former colleague or have time to check in with someone from across a school district or across several states?
I was lucky enough to present a session with Kara Belden, a friend and one of the people who makes me glad to work in the Dublin school district. Kara’s part of the presentation was about how teachers need to find their tribe and their “true north”. I loved sitting and watching Kara speak so passionately about how teachers can find their own voice and their person or group of people to sustain and support them.
Pam Allyn, the keynote speaker, asked us to think about someone from our past who inspired us as educators. We pictured the person and silently gave them our gratitude for helping us become the person we are, and then, we said the names aloud. I immediately thought of about 10 people but settled on my first principal when I taught in the Cincinnati Public Schools, Dorothy Battle. I was an idealistic, naive 22-year-old who walked into an unknown setting. Mrs. Battle was my champion and supported me through some tough situations. I said her name aloud along with hundreds of others; it was amazing to hear so many names lifted in gratitude. What a wonderful sound!
I was thinking about my tribe going all the way back to my first-grade teacher, Mrs.Snyder, who first showed me how to build relationships between a student and a teacher. Then came Ms. Thomas, Mr. Taylor, Dr. Lucas, Stephanie Davis, Dr. Fenner, Dr. Stewart, Jill Reinhart, the women of this blog, and countless others whose names would fill this page and the next. Some of my tribe simply inspire me to be a better teacher. Some of them make me laugh, while others help me process and grow as a learner. Some of them make me question my daily practices which sometimes is the most important for my growth and psyche. (And Dr. Lucas had a bottle of bourbon sitting on the table at each of my Senior Seminar classes in college as inspiration as we tackled William Faulkner – including a shot or two on the last day of class.)
I’m so grateful for the Dublin Literacy Conference for the learning but more importantly, for the chance to hug, smile, and spend time with people who make up my tribe and renew my educational energy.