It’s so hard to set that alarm clock on Saturday morning, and even harder to get up. Today was the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) Spring Conference, and despite how hard it was to get up, I knew that once I signed on and engaged that I would enjoy the experience. And my colleagues didn’t let me down.
As the SDAWP director, a lot of the work for the conference was already done. But today I still had some responsibilities to get the conference started and I had also agreed to introduce some of my colleagues and their work in the first and second sessions. I’m always nervous when I have to be in charge of Zoom stuff…luckily I was able to make my colleagues co-hosts and they took care of themselves. There were small glitches along the way–one of the Zoom rooms for the concurrent sessions wouldn’t work and we had to move it to another Zoom. But in spite of the technical difficulties, overall, things turn out well.
I so appreciate the SDAWP teachers who stretched themselves to present today. It’s such a hard time for teachers. We are tired and not feeling like our best selves in the classroom. It takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable to share your practice with your peers in a conference setting. Our keynote by Christine reminded the teacher audience about the importance of teachers and their role in our society. She reminded us of Robert Fulghum’s credo All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten from 1990 and shared an update from 2003. We spent a couple of minutes reading the two and noting some of the important concepts like clean up your own mess (seems like some corporations might need this reminder) and don’t take things that aren’t yours (hmmm…some powerful people might need to hear this message again). She ended with some data about what parents say about teachers and their effectiveness during the pandemic (a lot of positive numbers)–some things that are not what we continually hear in our mainstream media. That short keynote session with uplifting messages for teachers set the tone for the three rounds of teacher-led sessions.
I was inspired by beautiful short-form writing (Haiku and 6-word compositions) written by students about nature and protecting the environment, I learned about the ways teachers were finding relevant texts to help their students see themselves and the diversity of voices in our world, I saw examples of students using writing and their voices to influence change in their community, and I walked away with a renewed commitment to the power of education to make a difference in the lives of our students and in our communities.
I was also reminded that the work of teachers will never be done. Sometimes successes are hard to see and some days do not go as we plan or as we would like. Some gains are baby steps, finding a glimmer of hope in students’ early attempts to put new learning into written form. Some wins are obvious–like the teacher sharing her student’s essay about the need to ban “lighter than air” balloons and a news clip of the student speaking at a local city council meeting where after she spoke it was announced that the ban was passed unanimously. But even with that obvious win…you’ll still find balloons on the beach, like I did on my walk after the conference.
I’m glad I got up early this morning and learned with and from my colleagues. I left the conference with more energy than I had when it started, which is good since there is still so much work to be done.