I just returned home from the 2015 Michigan Reading Association Conference in Grand Rapids and, as always, had a wonderful time.
It began on Friday with a great kick-off party co-hosted by Colby Sharp. The party included Ignite sessions and epic lip-sync battles.
On Saturday I presented two sessions, one with my friend and former colleague Kirsten LeBlanc called Students CAN Write. We presented this session at MCTE in October and NCTE in November with Kevin English, but unfortunately Kevin couldn't make it to MRA this year and it quickly became apparent to me that this presentation was missing his passion and energy. Not that Kirsten and I aren't passionate about this topic, but for some reason my words were just not coming to me. I obsessed over this disappointment for the rest of the morning but quickly had to let it go, as I was also presenting that afternoon with my friend Michael Stohrer in a session called Originality, Emulation, and Theft: A Plagiarism Manifesto. Thankfully, I was able to shake off my disappointment from earlier in the day and sound somewhat coherent with Michael. My lack of finding the right zone in the morning resulted in a fluid and seamless performance in the afternoon. I thankfully redeemed myself.
If you're interested in seeing slides from either one of my presentations, follow the links:
Students CAN Write: Changing the Narrative of a Deficit Model
Originality, Emulation, and Theft: A Plagiarism Manifesto
Between my morning and afternoon presentations I happened upon Teri Lesesne, Kristin McIlhagga, Donalyn Miller, Katherine Sokolowski, Colby Sharp, and Tobey Antao. Instead of going to a session, we formed our own session as we sat around and talked books as well as authentic classroom practices. It just proves you don't have to always be in sessions to be learning at conferences. Sometimes the best learning happens in those hallway, hotel room, and mealtime conversations.
Speaking of mealtimes, one of my favorite memories from MRA this year will be having dinner with Lindsay Grady, Sarah Andersen, Cheryl Mizerney, Kelly Vorhis, Kathy Burnette, Jessica Crawford, Erica Beaton, and Brian Wyzlic at San Chez, a Spanish tapas restaurant that has become an MRA tradition. This year though, we brought even more celebration to dinner by throwing Brian an impromptu baby book shower since he and his wife Lisa are expecting at the end of June. We can't let a Nerdy baby come into the world without celebrating with books!
Overall, MRA was a great conference again this year. I'm glad I had the chance to present with two friends and colleagues, but more importantly, I was able to feed my teacher soul by surrounding myself with the people in my field that I admire most. They keep me going and passionate about my craft. I'm happy I've found and sustained my tribe.
Here's a Storify of Tweets I curated from #mra15