[Editor's Note: We will be featuring the thoughts of the 2015 KATE Conference attendees. This one comes from Keely Tolbert]
The KATE conference was unlike anything I could have anticipated. There was the inherent awkwardness of feeling like the new kid on the block as a pre-service student teacher among those who are far more experienced in the classroom. Then there was the sheer audacity of leading a break-out session at this point in my career that seemed almost laughable to me and terrifying as the minutes ticked ever closer to the conference.
Thankfully, the conference was nothing like I imagined. There was no judgement - there was acceptance, support and a tremendous sharing of ideas and comradery. There was conversation, nodding of heads and this great give and take as we all participated as educators with a shared passion for our job and our students. During my own session, I heard several wonderful ideas from other teachers who had incorporated art into their curriculum with great success (filed those away for future use of course).
My favorite session taught by two first year teachers who I had the good fortune to meet during their final year at WSU who talked to us about using music in the ELA classroom – such great energy during that session and so many wonderful ideas from the presenters and the other teachers present that the hour flew by and I honestly wished we had had more time to collaborate as a group.
One thing that would be so fantastic, would be if KATE would set-up a wiki where all the presenters could post their notes and/or PowerPoints after the conference so that all of us could benefit from all the great information presented especially if we had a hard time choosing between sessions. I feel like there was so much I gained, but also this sense of missing out on a lot too – it says a lot when you sit down with a conference guide and have such a hard time deciding what to go see because they all sound so good!
Getting the chance to hear Jacqueline Woodson was definitely a highlight. She is so down to earth and her reading voice is almost heart breaking it is so lovely. I appreciated the chance to have a couple seconds of conversation with her during the book signing and I know I will find a way to incorporate her writing into my curriculum at some point.
There are few words for getting the chance to work with Laura Packer on storytelling. I will admit that I almost lamented my decision to tell a story on Friday until my final session with Laura. She is truly gifted in her art and I will be forever grateful that I took the leap and told a story. Honestly, it was harder than my session presentation, but it was incredibly empowering to spend those 5 minutes addressing the group on Friday. I plan to find a way to bring storytelling into my classroom, if nothing else to encourage a sense of safe community for my students – where they can share with one another and feel confident enough to do so.
Beyond the amazing ideas and the chance to meet and talk to dynamic teachers who inspire with their love for their craft and their willingness to embrace and encourage those of us at the start of our journey, I also had this tremendous sense of comradery among my WSU peers. Here we are in our final year together – running toward the light at the end of our time at WSU and our goal to be teachers – and we have so much to offer one another as burgeoning professionals, classmates, peers and friends. Being able to spend time outside of the classroom, away from our placements and sharing in the experience at KATE was a great opportunity to explore similar interests, share ideas and move beyond our teacher/student lives to really take time to talk and listen to each other.
I am incredibly thankful for my experience at KATE and the opportunities I took to push beyond my comfort zone in so many ways both professional and personal. I cannot wait to see what next year’s KATE might bring!
This post by Keely Tolbert is re-blogged, with kind permission, from http://labcoatsandbookjackets.blogspot.com/