Monday, March 19, 2007

Weekend Conference

On Saturday, I attended a conference hosted by Teachers Network.
The conference was very interesting, for many reasons.

--One, Deborah Meier, famous teacher and author, was the keynote speaker. She had some very interesting things to talk about, but unfortunately I had a hard time focusing. She spoke quietly, and there was lots of ambient noise in the auditorium as well what sounded like a drum workshop somewhere upstairs. And some woman kept taking these flash pictures; it took an hour for my right eye to feel normal again!

So, sadly, I wasn't able to take too much away after her speech. But I do remember her talking about control--all the layers of bureaucracy are just to control each level, not to empower the children. She also talked about collaboration, how it used to be a dirty word, and now people know that it's really important to education.

Mostly, I decided that I should definitely pick up one of her books!

--Two, Carmen Farina led one of the workshop sessions. I'd never heard her speak before, but I'd heard vague good things about her. And at the workshop, I loved her immediately. She was warm but firm, knowledgeable but not haughty. Best of all, she was passionate.

One thing she mentioned was that our definition of literacy, and the way we teach it, must encompass speaking, listening, reading and writing. And that vocabulary is essential!

Her main point was Book of the Month, a project she's been involved with for years. She chooses books for a specific reason that the audience can relate to, and writes a letter so that all the teachers understand the reason and can feel some ownership. The point is to open a discussion and exchange, between parents, students, teachers, and administrators, NOT to skill-build. Wow! That's a pretty radical thing in this test-madness day and age, and I LOVE it.

At the end, as an aside, she mentioned how idiotic balanced literacy is, and how no teacher should stay at a school that employs it. Hurrah!

--Three, I met a fellow NYC teacher blogger, Nicole! I recognized her name and had to introduce myself. It's so cool to meet people face to face after reading a blog. I made sure to invite her to our teacher-blogger get-togethers. She showed me some really neat examples of 3-D graphic organizers that I hope she posts on her blog!

--Four, we got complimentary copies of An Inconvenient Truth. I haven't seen it yet, and it's free.

--Fifth, the "Lunch with an Author" was really fun. I chose to go to the session with Caroline Hickey. She's got her first novel coming out soon, and she was candid about her experience as a writer. It was really interesting! Even better, she does author visits, and I think that could be a great tool not only for my kids, but for me, to re-focus and re-excite me about writing.

The 'digital storytelling' workshop also got me re-interested in writing and fun projects to do. Using iMovie or Photo Story 3, that kind of thing. I hope I can follow up on that kind of stuff.

--The other day, Nancy posted a comment about this Saturday's NYCWP Teacher-to-Teacher conference. Very cool!)


X said...

Oh man! Nicole and I were classmates in grad school. I would have gone if I'd know you were going!

Schoolgal said...

Carmen was my Social Studies/Reading staff developer when she worked in Brooklyn. Her workshops were always the best.
But my best memory was when she came to visit me and worked with my class. I still employ her techniques today.

If Klein couldn't appreciate her, how can we expect him to appreciate the rest of us.

Nicole said...

Hi Julie,

It was really nice to meet you too! (and to be recognized from my blog). I've been feeling kind of famous all week...

I will definitely come to the teacher-blogger get-togethers next time, although I may leave my 3-D graphic organizers at home.

Caroline Hickey said...

Hi Julie,
I enjoyed meeting you at our lunch session. You forgot to tell me that you had a blog! I found it in the referrals to my site. I wish I'd known you were a fellow blogger -- we could have talked shop. I have a blog I share with 7 other children's and YA writers called The Longstockings.