Saturday, November 29, 2008

NWP National Conference 2008

I started to write a blog entry about being at the NWP national conference in San Antonio several times. And, to be brutally honest, they all sucked. Big time.

I read and reread them trying to figure out why they sucked so much. Basically it came down to all of them being some variation of a report of my notes taken in various sessions. And those notes, in contrast to most of the sessions, were boring. I wanted a blog entry that was something more than a dry report of my sessions. That kind of recap will be done in a different forum.

I thought about writing about my time spent with friends from my writing project. Then I rethought that. We had a lot of intensely personal discussions that are not fodder for a public blog posting. I will say that we need to work on getting everyone to row in the same direction. Also, an end to the circular firing squads would be a positive step as well.

So, what to write about? I decided to go meta. I asked the big question to myself and now will try to work out the answer. The big question(s): Why do I come to these conferences? What do I get out of them?

Being a teacher can be a lonely job. I am surrounded by students all day and rarely get to interact with my peers on a professional level (Let’s face it, most school conversations quickly devolve into bitching sessions.). Being at these conferences lets me interact more professionally. I am seen as a valued, knowledgeable colleague and treated that way. I get to talk about deeper educational issues than I do at home. At this conference in particular, I was able to not just express my personal interest in social justice issues, but share with a tableful of people who all shared that common interest. And to discuss ways of integrating these ideals into a classroom setting.

Every year I get to meet with friends from previous years and friends from a listserv I am a member of. I get to socialize and be a grown-up, no mean trick if you are the father of a rambunctious five year old. I can have some time to try to concentrate for more than a few minutes.

I get a feeling of renewal attending these events. I feel a little more charged up, a little more optimistic, a little more eager to try different ideas and approaches in the classroom.

I also regain a deeper appreciation of my wife and daughter. I love them dearly, but sometimes get so absorbed in my teaching I take them for granted. Being away from them for several days reminds me on a visceral level now much they mean to me and how much their absence hurts.

So I get some professional insights, some site work done, some socializing, and a renewed appreciation of family right before Thanksgiving. Not a bad pay back for my attendance.


Dogtrax said...

Thanks for your reflections. I agree that coming to a conference like NWP allows me to feel connected to something larger and also, meeting up with folks whom I only work with online through the course of the year reminds me that we, eh, real people and not just words dancing across the screen.
If you are interested, I have a network of NWP/techies at that I invite you into (you're not there yet, are you?)

Kevin Hodgson
Western Mass Writing Project

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been thinking that I need to write something substantive about the conference. I have been thinking about it but got sidetracked by a road trip to California. Maybe tomorrow...

I couldn't agree more, though, that it was a wonderful opportunity to really talk education and writing as a professional with professionals. It made me want to see more of that on a regular basis on a local level. Let's see if some of the others were as inspired as I was!

Art said...

First off, to Kevin, I went and joined the ning. Thanks for the invite! I am in the process of seeing if a ning is something that might be valued in my writing project.

To both Kevin and Nancy, thanks for the comments. It is all to rare we are treated as professionals. I tend to revel in those chances I get.

PoetLady said...

Sounds like this conference was really valuable for you. I'm glad you got to go!

Alyson Whyte said...

Hi Art. Alyson here. I had always meant to read your blog and our Sun Belt Ning brought me to it.

debrennersmith said...

I had a similiar experience at a different conference, so sorry it happened to you too.