Here comes another school year. How was your summer?
Sara and I kept busy paying visits to educators across the country. We worked with principals In Ohio and Utah – giving keynotes and breakout sessions at their annual conferences – we unfortunately did not visit Iowa – and were therefor unable to claim the 4-letter state trifecta.
It was the first time I had spent any real time in Utah and I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape. The conference was held in a resort about a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City and the drive was breathtaking. Of course, our principals were attentive as we did a double keynote, morning and afternoon. Keynotes are a different beast to a breakout session and Sara and I are still wrapping our arms around the format – but I think we dialed it in pretty well. You need to hit that balance between practicality and inspiration in a keynote whereas in a breakout we focus much more on strategies that can be implemented in the classroom immediately.
In Ohio I came across an interesting realization that was echoed in our visit to Utah. During our sessions Sara and I often remark that we are educators by way of second careers – that we have both held various jobs for decades before becoming full time authors and educators. I’ll ask our session attendees how many educators as a second career also. With teachers I usually get 20 -25% of the audience raising their hands. With the principals – between the two conference we saw around 700 – we had maybe three people raise their hands total. I’m not forming any hypothesis over this anecdotal sampling – but, it could be fodder for though.
Sara did her yearly gig with Judson University outside of Chicago. She works with the kid’s lit doctoral candidates under the guiding wing of Steven Layne. Steve has this idea that if you’re gonna teach kid lit you should try your hand at writing it – so all his PHD candidates do just that. Part of their program requires them to write and submit an original piece for publication – pretty good idea. I act as chauffeur and bring my bike along to get in some miles in the flat flat flat Illinois farmland outside of Elgin.
We participated in our first Scholastic Reading Summit in Denver Colorado where we got to work alongside such luminaries as Jason Reynolds, Colby Sharpe, Mr. Schue and Donalyn Miller. This was a magnificent event – it was more like a pep rally for reading than a conference. Sara and I presented twice on our book From Striving to Thriving Writers and were well received. We did receive a comment that we tend to talk over each other at time and this led Sara and I to decide that in all future sessions we will share the fact that we are not only co-authors, but cohabitators and have been a couple for over twenty years which leads to us finishing each other’s sentences and nudging each other along depending on which one of us has glanced at their watch most recently. It was valuable feedback and we don’t want folks getting the wrong idea.
Michigan Readings Summer conference is always one of our favorites – way up there in Bellaire, Michigan. We’ve made this an annual event the last five years or so and love working with our neighbors to the north.
And then, Just because it wasn’t hot enough in Ohio we travelled down to Brownsville Texas to work with middle and high school language arts teachers. We gave six hour presentation for each on consecutive days. And to round things off nicely – I got to see my forst wild armadillo. Well the armadillo was pretty calm really – but he lived outside on his own.
We’ve also been working on a new resource aimed at students who are learning English as an additional language – focusing on upper Elementary and Middle School. We will be talking more about this in the coming months. We think it’ll fit into a nice little niche – we want to create a resource that understands our older language learners need content that honors their age and maturity. &th graders are not going to be engages with lessons aimed at early elementary kids. These kids are just as bright and mature as their native speaking English cohorts – they are just learning a new language.
But – the Earth keeps on circling the sun and it’s time to get back into the classroom – our first work with students is in just a couple weeks down I Hilliard, Ohio.
Let’s hear it for another stellar year of working in the classroom with students and teachers.