Friday, November 25, 2011

Kellee's NCTE/ALAN 2011 Fun!

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual conference followed by the Assembly of Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) post-workshop has quickly become one of my favorite weeks of the year.  First, one thing that made this year even better was that it was being held in my favorite city in the nation, CHICAGO! Although I didn't get much time to wander, it being there just made it that much better.

The Experience

While I am at NCTE/ALAN I feel like I am surrounded by people who are all as passionate about teaching and reading as I am.  Going to this conference is like being given a shot of adrenaline that will help me make it until the next year. It is amazing to be in an environment where becoming the best professional you can be is the most important thing.  It is an experience like no other. 

I wanted to share with you the experience I had, because it is something worth sharing (also, I took LOTS of pictures because I always make a PowerPoint to share with my students).  

NCTE Sessions

Throughout NCTE you get to chose from 1,000s of sessions that deal with every aspect of teaching English or reading that you can think of. AND some of the sessions you can chose from are presented by some of the most well-known national educators including Kelly Gallagher, Jim Burke, Teri Lesesne, Donalyn Miller, Kylene Beers, Bob Probst and Linda Rief.  Authors such as John Green and Chris Crutcher present as well. You even have the option of going to meals with speakers like Sharon Draper and Anthony Horowitz! 

Some highlights from my sessions were: 
  • Chris Crutcher at the Secondary Get Together
    • "There are certain books you can put into the hands of a kid and it'll change how they look at things." 
  • Linda Darling-Hammond 
    • "Greatest obstacle to learning is poverty.  Schools reflect society and reinforce it.  We must fight poverty, not beat up our schools." 
    • "Can't fire our way to Finland.  We need to do what Finland does." 
  • A technology session presented by Donalyn Miller, Franki Sibberson, Teri Lesesne, and Sara Kajder
    • Don't schoolify technology! 
  • John Green's session on Intellectual Freedom
    • "Public schools exist for the benefit of the social order. An educated society benefits us all." 
    • "Anti-censorship is not giving up on your beliefs and what is good for your students." 
    • "Reading can be a way of not feeling alone, but it is also important to read about those not like us." 
    • "We need to trust teachers.  When we don't, we do ourselves a great disservice." 
  • Session on working with struggling readers with Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, and Linda Rief
    • "Many of the problems in education will go away if we focused on engagement." -Beers
    • "How will kids grow as learners if they are not given challenges? Opportunities?" -Rief
    • "We have segregation by intellectual rigor in our schools." -Beers
    • "Life is about reprocessing information and reshaping it." -Probst
  • Anthony Horowitz talking about the importance of reading during the Secondary Luncheon
    • "Reading is a muscle- you just have to start somewhere and work at it." 
    • "Books give you a civilized outlook. They give you empathy for other people and color for the world."
John Green (swoon!) presenting about Intellectual Freedom.
Meeting Anthony Horowitz (swoon again!) after seeing him talk at the Secondary Luncheon.

NCTE Exhibition Hall

Also, on top of that, you can visit the exhibit hall to receive Advance Reader's Copies (ARCs) of books and meet authors to get your books signed. The exhibit hall is a book nerd's dream! Over the 3 days that the exhibit hall was open, I got to meet and get signatures of some amazing authors. 

Kate Messner with her new book Eye of the Storm which I am so excited to read. 
Jim Murphy, my favorite nonfiction author.
The award winning, book legend Katherine Paterson
Allan Wolf with one of my favorite books of the year, The Watch that Ends the Night. 
Bill Willingham with Down the Mysterly River an under-hyped, fun fantasy novel.
Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher, the authors of The Future of Us
I was lucky enough to meet Laurie Halse Anderson 3 times while at ALAN/NCTE and she was so nice every time.  She even asked for a link to my blog when I told her I'd reviewed Forge. She also made me cry when I saw her at ALAN.  She is such an amazing advocate for education. 
Kenneth Oppel with Silverwing his middle grade adventure book that I'm excited to read after recently listening to Airborn 
Sara Zarr signing her newest novel, How to Save a Life.

ALAN Cocktail Party

Then when NCTE's convention ends, the ALAN post-workshop begins.  ALAN is like nothing else I've ever experienced. The first event of ALAN is the cocktail party where all the authors come and hang out with everyone attending ALAN.  

AH!!!!! I got to meet John Green!!! However he was so swarmed I didn't get to talk to him much :(
Neal Shusterman, author of the Everlost trilogy, Unwind, and many others
Sharon Draper, author of many amazing books including Out of my Mind
Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss, a fellow member of Dumbledore's Army
Yay! Heather Brewer! She is one of my favorite people that I get to see at ALAN and I was so glad that I got to see her again :) She is a really down to earth person who is a good someone to have on your side. 

 Oh, and the pajants made multiple appearances during ALAN. First on Megan McCafferty, then on Kazu Kibuishi and finally on David MacGinnis Gill.  They are magical.

ALAN Workshop

ALAN then is 2 days of presentations by authors focusing on everything from censorship to the publication process. You also get a box of books that you can get signed by the authors after they speak.  

Some of the highlights during ALAN for me were: 
  • The breakout session on bullying, domestic abuse, self harm and eating disorders with A.S. King, Heather Brewer, and Jackie Kessler. 
    • "Turning your head is the worst thing you can do." (re: bullying) -Heather Brewer 
    • "Be a positive ripple in the pond of life." -Heather Brewer
  • Laurie Halse Anderson fighting through her food poisoning to give a speech that will stay with me forever. 
    • "You did not become a teacher so that you could teach children to pass tests. You are a teacher to help students forge their future." 
    • "Be the beat that you can dance to." 
    • "Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes." 
  • Andrew Smith, Paul Yee, Cheryl Rainfield, and Lauren Myracle talking about challenged books
    • "Try to break the silence of things that aren't talked about." -Rainfield
    • "If kids are at school and don't feel safe, we've failed them." -Yee
    • "The biggest challenge that teens are facing are the institutionalized idea that all teans fit a cookie cutter idea. The standardized teen." -Smith
    • "You don't know what's inside the person next to you." -Myracle
  • Chris Crutcher, again, who is an amazing advocate for education and anti-censorship. 
    • "I believe that if we don't fix public education, we are done." 
    • "The idea that you can keep people safe by keeping them ignorant is ignorant."
    • "We need heroes now more than ever."
  • Neal Shusterman sharing a letter a letter from a reader who lost a best friend and found faith in Everlost
  • Matt de la Pena's story about his father
    • "Hand a kid a book and you can give them a life." 
  • David Levithan building up his Army of Empathy
    • "Single most important thing to teach is empathy." 
    • "These stories will make them a better person." 
Below are some of the authors that made appearances: 

M.T. Anderson who was the keynote speaker for the workshop and has some majorly cool glasses
Angela Johnson
Matt de la Pena, an Amelia Walden Award finalist and such an articulate speaker. Also, a great person to use when talking to reluctant readers as he was one himself. 

James Dashner who shared with us that he is writing a prequel for the Maze Runner series!
Rita Williams-Garcia with her award winning novel 
Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher (again!)
David Levithan- the leader of the Army of Empathy
Katie Alender who wrote a hello note to a social studies teacher in my book because the teacher loves her novel so much
Jordan Sonnenblick, also an Amelia Walden Award finalist and used to be a teacher!
The brilliant, funny, down to earth, amazing Chris Crutcher
Kazu Kibuishi, many of my students' favorite author because he writes Amulet
The beautiful Sarah Dessen who was so forgiving after I elbowed her at the ALAN cocktail party
National Book Award Winner Thanhha Lai
Veronica Roth, author of another one of my favorite books of last year


Another amazing part of this experience is seeing many members of my PLN from Twitter. (All names will link you to their Twitter account.)
In my matching shirt with Jennie


Jen (yes our Jen) showing her rabbit pride at the Candlewick booth (Go #teamreabbit!)
John (Mr. Schu) and Alyson

With my roomies Kim and Jennie
At ALAN with Aly, Lea, Jillian, Teresa, Jennie and Lee Ann
A bunch of us at Gino's including Aly, Kathy, Alethea, Sandi, Teresa, Jennie, Vanessa, Kim, Jessica, Tracy and Cathy
Other tweeps I met, but don't have a picture of were: 

So, overall- NCTE/ALAN was epic!  I cannot wait for next year and the experiences that will come with it.

Happy learning,

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