Editor's Note: Today's KATE UPDATE post is from Mary Harrison
The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of conflicting emotions, particularly of eager anticipation and of bowel-liquefying anxiety. Too much information? Let’s see, where’s my thesaurus…How about of eager anticipation and of knee-knocking dread? You get the idea. As I prepared for my very first KATE Conference, I couldn’t wait to see the keynote speakers. I was excited to hear famous storyteller Laura Packer, and I collected a stack of Jaqueline Woodson novels to bring for the signing. But even more so, I couldn’t wait to spend two days among my people: English teachers. I couldn’t wait to attend their breakout sessions and hear about their tried and true practices. I couldn’t wait to grill them between sessions for more information. I couldn’t wait for them to pump me up with inspiration and motivation. So why the fear?
I too would be presenting at this conference. That’s right; little old preservice teacher ME would be standing in front of these seasoned teachers, trying to tell THEM what I believe is important to classroom instruction. As the conference approached, I felt more and more inadequate and became more and more intimidated by the prospect. Unlike me, these weren’t just realteachers, but they were the cream of the crop. These were not the teachers who roll their eyes all through inservices and go to the teacher lounges to complain about students and colleagues. These were the teachers who voluntarily paid to attend a professional development conference. These were teachers who truly love learning. What in the world could I possibly teach them, though? I felt like such a farce.
As I nervously prepared the room for my presentation, participants filed in. Hands shaking, heart racing, I stumbled around the room giving out handouts and willing my breakfast to stay inside of me. Before I knew it, the room was packed and I was out of handouts. “Well, I wrote a catchy sounding title for my presentation, and that’s why they’ve come. Let’s see how much I disappoint them” I thought to myself. Just before I began, I took inventory. I saw several of my classmates, and felt some relief. I also saw a teacher that I’d recently met at Watermark, and she flashed a warm smile at me. I felt more relief. I took a deep breath and began.
I am happy to report that I not only survived my presentation, but also that the real teachers seemed interested in and receptive to my materials. As the next two days unfolded, I was struck by what seemed to be their mantra when speaking to me and my classmates: “YOU ARE real teachers!” There wasn’t anything patronizing or disingenuous in their tone, either. They actually regarded us as professionals and they visibly enjoyed learning from us as much as they loved giving us advice. In the end, I feel like this trait of humility may be a defining characteristic for effective teachers. These people truly model learning as an exchange. These people do not insist that they have all the answers. These people know that being a teacher means being a student.
At the end of the second day, Laura Packer emceed a storytelling session in which several teachers regaled the crowd with their stories. These stories overflowed with the bittersweet triumphs of teaching and of life in general. My eyes welled up and a steady stream of tears marked my cheeks as these women bravely stood in front of us, vulnerable and exposed. I cried for their losses. I cried for their victories. I cried for my own relief. Most of all, however, I cried because I felt so overwhelmingly validated in my career choice. Without reservation, I can now say it: I am a teacher.
Re-blogged with kind permission of the author from: http://msmaryharrison.blogspot.com/2015/10/catharsis-and-validation-at-kate.html