On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Connecticut Reading Association’s Fall Conference. It had an all star line up. Dave Burgess, Jen Seravallo, Gravity Goldberg, and Nancy Boyles to name a few. It was beyond difficult to even decide who to see as each presenter is rockstar. My teaching buddy and I decided that we would watch Dave Burgess as the keynote and then go see another presenter to increase and diversify our learning. For those of you who don’t know, Dave Burgess is single handedly revolutionizing professional development for teachers. He is the writer of an amazing book called Teach Like a Pirate. But he didn’t stop there. He created his own publishing company where current teachers and adminstrators write books that are timely and practical. All of the books are amazing (and I personally own about 10 of them). They are written for teachers by teachers. They are practical and doable. They are on the cutting edge of what is best for kids. I read Dave’s book a few years back and since then have been a loyal follower of anything that has Dave Burgess Publication on it.
Anyways, back to the conference. We saw Dave walking around the conference, so I just had to meet him face to face. After all, I had created the Iwanicki Book Awards because of him! (Also see Here) He was just as kind in person as I expected him to be and allowed me to gush and get a selfie. (I am such a nerd) So, we went to the keynote. It was honestly nothing I had ever seen before. He was dressed in a pirate outfit, ran around the room and talked a hundred miles a minute. I was completely hooked! (Pardon the pun). I started to take notes, but quickly put them away to be in the moment and just listen. Dave’s keynote was about engaging kids, being creative and pushing limits. He wasn’t just another presenter lecturing us on what to do. He has talked the talk and walked the walk. The hooks he discussed, he used in his classroom. He pushed us as teachers to think outside the box and do our very best to engage kids.
We knew then that we had to hear more. We had to get to his break out session. However, I am a rule follower. I don’t break the rules. I think I had a mini heart attack even thinking about it! But we did! (My heart is still racing thinking about it). I kept looking around afraid that there wasn’t going to be enough chairs and the PD police would come in and take me away. You laugh, but this is true story. It is so hard living in my brain. However, I don’t regret it for a minute, even if I felt like one of those hippy protestors. (Seriously, what is wrong with me?)
His message is clear. We need to engage kids. We need to be creative. We need to push ourselves. This is not just another person telling us what to do. In my mind he has street cred because it is what he does. He would give us small little problems and then 90 seconds to come up with something creative. It is amazing what you can do in 90 seconds. He also said what I believe is true, teaching this way smashes the core standards. It also makes kids want to come to school and want to work.
I walked away from that energize and yet completely exhausted. My brain was on fire and yet it was telling me to stop. But, at lunch, my buddy and I came up with a better way to end the Global Read Aloud than we had originally planned. I dropped a hook in my class the next day as teaser. Then during lunch recess, I said to the kids, “I have a crazy idea, anyone want to stay in and see what happens?” I had about 9/16 kids stay in.
So, here is to keep improving, keep getting better, not sleeping through the night but engaging kids and showing them the magic of learning.