Dublin Literacy Conference 2014

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

It’s been such a long winter with crazy low temperatures, mountains of snow, too many snow days, and on top of all the weather related issues, my husband, John had not just one, but two knee surgeries since just before Christmas. I know we’ll be saying in years to come, “Remember the winter of 2014?”  But this year, like every winter, I’ve had something to look forward to. One of my favorite literacy conferences, the Dublin Literacy Conference, comes at the end of February, right when I need a boost of positive energy. A day to remind me how important our work is as teachers and how honored we are to be working with students every day. I was catching up with my daughter, Kathryn on Friday night and was telling her how I’ve been going to this conference since she was in kindergarten – and she recently celebrated her 23rd birthday! This conference has been part of my teaching life for so many winters and it really feels like going to spend the day with an old friend.  The slide show at the start of the conference highlighting the authors who have been a part of this conference for the past 25 years was pretty amazing to see. Well done, Dublin!

This  year, I was happy to attend the conference as a classroom teacher once again. For the past five years, I’ve attended the conference as a literacy coach and so my perspective was a little different this year.  Here are my big take-aways this year:

So can you think of a better way to start the day than a keynote by Penny Kittle talking about creating a passion for reading in your classroom? I’ve been lucky enough to see Penny a couple of other times but her success in turning busy, high school students into avid readers never ceases to dazzle me. As an elementary teacher, I know that we can get most kids hooked on books but how do we keep it going through high school? This drop-off in reading through middle school and high school tells us we cannot work in isolation from each other. Teachers from all levels need to collaborate together but how often does this happen in school districts? I’ve loved seeing this conference transform over the years and it truly is a K-12 conference.

So it’s a literacy conference but guess what? I spent much of my day learning about math! I have been frustrated this year with a math program our district is using. Too much testing, too many paper/pencil tasks, and too little real-life connections that will make kids love math. So I was thrilled to go to sessions on math workshop. Author and math coach, Kassia Omohundro Wedekind, approaches math workshop with the same philosophy that we do with reading and writing workshops. What are your building’s beliefs about math? This big picture is just what I needed to get back on track with my math teaching. Also, enjoyed a session by teacher, Meagan Erwin on ideas about writing about math and exploring multiple strategies. Glad to see this conference looking at literacy beyond the ELA classroom.

If you’re a lover of literature, there is nothing quite like listening to an author walk through the history of their books. Bryan Collier was amazing as he told the powerful story behind Dave the Potter and Knock, Knock. I don’t think anyone in that audience will read those books in the same way again.  Simply beautiful. (But I was so mad at myself this morning when I realized I bought one of his books and did not get it signed!)

Now that the conference is over, I am ready for spring … and it can’t come soon enough!