After breakfast and a quick chat with my husband and my mom, I went to the Alamo. The tour interested me a great deal, and if you go, it’s worth it to rent the mp3 player for the audio tour. The guy running the booth for the audio tour also said nice things about my hair, which is always a nice way to start the day.
I went to a preconference session on teaching tone, and it was very interesting and encouraging. Carol Jago and John Golden presented. Carol had some really snazzy boots, but aside from that, she is a warm and engaging speaker, and she shared some solid ideas about teaching tone. John Golden is very funny. I’m not sure I would have thought of using some of his techniques for teaching tone, which include use of images and creating multimedia projects, but they were really good ideas.
After that session, I went to the Secondary Level Get-Together. I met Penny Kittle (who is very tall and very nice), and I saw Mike LoMonico again (who is always lovely to see). The featured speaker was Francine Prose. I had read her article “I Know Why the Caged Bird Can’t Read” not too long ago (Nancy sent it to me), and it challenged my thinking, but I also disagreed with parts of it. Prose spoke about that article and some of the backlash it has received and mentioned that over time, she has come to change some of the views she expressed in that article. She felt that many teachers saw the article as an attack, and she explained that she values what English teachers do and did not mean for anyone to take her criticism about how she saw some works of literature being taught as an indictment of teachers. When I met her to get my books signed (we received copies of Reading Like a Writer and Goldengrove), I told her about how the article had challenged my thinking, but also that I found her comments about revisiting her views interesting in light of the fact that we readers tend to see writers’ viewpoints as fixed and unchanging because the print is always there. It’s something I haven’t given much thought to, considering I’m an English teacher. What Prose said in response really struck me, and I’ll paraphrase it here because I didn’t write her words down immediately after. She said that if you really want to know what you think about something, try publishing it and revisiting it through the feedback you get from others. That sounds like blogging to me, although I’m sure she wasn’t thinking of blogging when she said it. I know blogging has certainly made me think more about everything I teach and read and think, and the feedback from others, whether agreeing with me or challenging me, has made me think about it even more.
I wish it were possible for me to attend this conference every year. It’s got to be the most valuable interaction I can have with my peers outside of blogging (which has a smaller audience and can sometimes feel like an echo chamber).