This week, my teacher life was changed.
The change was quick, swift, slightly unexpected, appreciated, and beautiful. Oh, so beautiful.
I embraced my inner book nerd and it was magical.
Two days of wonder.
I think that simply being in the presence of teachers, librarians, administrators, authors, and illustrators will fill you with a wonder so magical that there are few words to describe it.
Wonder because I was sitting in the same room as the author who wrote the book that touched my life as a middle schooler. The book that was published on my birthday. The author who has created so many masterpieces that have brought light into the lives of so many readers. Kate DiCamillo just has a way of making you cry tears of joy. You just want to squeeze her and tell her thank you.
Wonder because you are so honored to be in the presence of so many amazing individuals who are continuously making the world a better place through their work, their illustrations, their stories, their characters, their ideas, their passions.
I am in awe.
Two days of justification.
"Why is your library not leveled?"
"Why do you devote so much time to read alouds?"
"Why do you set aside 20 minutes for reading time in class?"
"Why do you read picture books to 5th graders?"
I have been asked these questions and many more.
Last year, I completely went out on a limb and defied my previous practices and the practices of others and went with what my heart and my gut were telling me in regards to reading in my 5th grade classroom. I was asked over and over questions about what I was doing and the constant questioning made me question myself a lot. Was I doing the right thing for my students? That was my goal! Every single thing that was going on in the classroom was for the kiddos. Nerd Camp helped remind me that I was on the right track. Everything was okay. Keep going, Mrs. Cooper. You and your kiddos have got this. Carry on.
Justification came in waves and waves at Nerd Camp. Every session, every Nerd Talk, every dinner meeting and teacher conversation was filled with moments of affirmation. Carry on, Mrs. Cooper. Keep going.
Two days of passion.
Passion for literacy.
Passion for teaching literacy the right way--without incentives.
Passion for giving our students access to the right books, diverse books, a massive selection of books just for them.
Passion for providing our kiddos with the best reading experience possible.
Passion for our jobs.
There were a lot of other places that I could have been this week, but months ago I told myself that Nerd Camp was where I needed/wanted to be. I don't regret that decision for a second, and I secretly wish that I could attend Nerd Camp every week for the rest of my life. I wish that I could walk into a room and Pernille Ripp could read to me again. I wish that I could walk down the hall and feel the electricity and excitement--the passion- for reading and teaching every day. I wish that I could sit down in the auditorium and listen to Kate DiCamillo talk.
While those are just wishes, the connections that I have made, the new ideas that I have gained, the books that are on my wish list and on my Donors Choose project, and the readiness to get back to school so I can share books with my students will hold me over until Nerd Camp 2017.
I left Nerd Camp with the realization that I have got to continue to build up my library. Not just with books that I think they want to/should read but also with the books that my students want to read. I am also going to walk straight into my room and pull all of my picture books that I use for mentor texts of my classroom bookshelf and put them on the kiddos' shelves. Stop hoarding all the picture books, Mrs. Cooper! Big kids don't just need them as read alouds. They need to read them on their own, too.
And, where are my diverse books? Seriously. Where are they? I have a few but I don't have enough. I teach in a school that is FULL of diversity. I have been missing out on the opportunity to provide my students with diverse books. That stops today.
I wish thank you was enough. It's not. But, thank you Colby and Alaina Sharp. Thank you to the rest of the Nerd Camp crew. Thank you authors. Thank you illustrators. Thank you publishers and agents. Thank you attendees.
You are all beautiful. I am grateful for you.
One Proud Nerd