Spotting an English teacher in the crowds moving through the glitzy MGM Conference Center in Las Vegas is easy. Just look for the sensible shoes.
English teacher stamina is the stuff of legend, built up through hours of standing in front of a class, negotiating the space between groups of students and book bags tossed casually on the classroom floor. We have perfected the quick sprint down a hallway to the copier for extra copies of a quiz or test. Yes, we have learned from experience the necessitiy of wearing sensible, comfortable shoes. Our footwear choices came from our hard fought classroom experience, and that training was key to participation at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference (NCTE) since the MGM conference center has cavernous corridors and sessions are scattered over several acres of property. We walk, we walk, and we walk…quickly! There are hundreds of sessions, and only a few days to share new ideas and improvements to pedagogy.
“Dreams. Connect. Ignite.” is the motto of this NCTE 102nd Conference. While I have not personally witnessed much in the way of dreaming, the igniting is thankfully limited to the videos of pyrotechnics that are an element in the Cirque de Soleil show “Ka.”. But I have participated in and witnessed plenty of connecting. My year of tweeting on Twitter has paid off!
Twitter gives teachers the opportunity to communicate with other teachers; to form communities of educators who ” follow” other educators. This is a very individualized form of professional development since I can pick those educators who are most helpful to me in helping me improve my practice. While I am attending sessions, I tweet what I am learning as notes to myself and to others.I use the hashtag #NCTE12 to share my thoughts with other attendees. I have discovered many educators through the English Companion Ning and specific Twitter streams with hashtags such as #engchat, #edchat, and #sschat. I follow the Twitter stream of conferences I attend, and my own school district’s stream #rsd6.
Here at the conference I have met other educators with whom I have been communicating over the past year, and the conversations we have had face to face are simply an extention of what we have been saying online. I have enthusiastically shared my use of Twitter with other attendees; “Look, you have to get on Twitter and follow this (speaker, educator)!” I greet those who tweet to me or follow me with the same enthusiasm I would greet old teaching companions. Meeting at this conference, we are free of the 140 character limit, the constant trimming of thought. Face to face we can complete a sentence without an abbreviation or a hashtag.
There are so many offerings at this conference that am I rushing from session to session. I do try and pay attention, however, to those who pass me in the maze of hallways and lobbies, scanning a name tag looking to see if one of attendees passing me might be one of my twitter “friends.” How do I know who to look at? Well, first, I look at the shoes.