Sunday, November 9, 2008

Does this mean I can't achieve NaMoBloPo perfection?

I’m sorry I haven’t posted since Friday. I left Friday morning for Charlotte, NC, and only returned early this morning. My hotel, as nice as it was, wanted to nickel-and-dime me for everything and $20 per day for Internet access just seemed over the top. The Internet is supposed to be FREE people! Put it into the room charge, if you must. I’m not paying for the damned room!

I was in Charlotte to speak at the Coalition for Essential Schools’ annual Fall Forum event. I wrote an entry some time ago about this. It’s a national conference at which teachers, administrators, specialists and others from all over the country listen and share from their own practice. I went to speak about how to create a state of high focus and energy in the classroom using a unique spiraling approach, but I got to attend a number of extraordinary workshops, discussion groups and lectures while I was there. It really was an enriching experience, and I walked away from it with a full brain and an eagerness to share a lot of valuable information.

The highlight of the conference for me was getting to converse with some of the people who inspired and validated me as I worked to develop my rather unique teaching style. Particularly, it was special to share some time with Ted Sizer, the founder of CES. I was first introduced to his work when I was in college and, even then when I was just beginning to explore what kind of teacher I wanted to be, I remember feeling a deep and abiding connection to his work. I actually got to meet him once before, at a charter school conference a few years ago, but I didn’t get to actually sit and chat. I did on Friday, and it was wonderful! He’s in ailing health now, so it was hard not to feel a sense of poignancy while I was there, but I was grateful for the chance to at least say, “Thank you.”

I also had the privilege to hear Carol Ann Tomlinson speak, and to work with Deborah Meier. I was first introduced to Ms. Tomlinson’s work about 10 years ago, but really dove into her books during graduate school. I wanted to truly understand differentiation as a concept so I could see it work in my own classes. It’s taken some time to properly integrate it, and I was excited to see just how well, from an objective point of view, this work is progressing. Ms. Meier was known to me only peripherally through my exposure to CES, but I recently read her book “In Schools We Trust” and was excited to have the chance to work and share stories with her. I was honored when she asked to be invited to my school, so she could continue the discussion we started during our little discussion group.

During the entire day on Friday my heart was with my soccer team. They were piling into cars to go to the game site (the finals game is held at a neutral field) as I was setting up to speak. They were supposed to be finished at about 4:30, when I was in a workgroup, and I prepared myself to make a silent, unobtrusive exit so I could take the call. 4:30 came, and went, with no call. So did 4:40. At 4:50 I was feeling all manner of emotions. Why hadn’t anyone called? What happened, anyway? At 4:55, my phone finally went off and I scrambled out to answer it. What I heard was the most beautiful cacophony I could have imagined. There was screaming and shouting and laughing, and when I tried to get someone, anyone on the other end of the line to tell me what was going on, all I got was, “You wouldn’t believe it!” and “You would have died!” and “It was awesome!” Eventually a parent managed to wrest control of the phone from the teenagers to pass along the details while the trophy presentation was going on: The game was 0 – 0 at the half. It was 0 – 0 at the end of full time. It was 0 – 0 after the first overtime, and 0 – 0 after the second. During the first set of 5 penalty kicks, we were down 2 – 1 with our last kick to go, and Rose, the anchor of the team, made the clutch shot to extend the game. During the second set of 5 penalty kicks, it was a freshman and first-year player, Raffi, who took what proved to be the winning kick. His shot, hit solidly to just off center, was deflected by the goalie, but hit the post and spun in. He was the ninth player to kick. Even as I’m writing it, I can’t believe it! A scoreless game that goes past double overtime and 9 penalties to get a winner? I would have exploded had I been there. I would simply have combusted. I am so very proud of my crew! I’m still waiting for the rest of the story but from what I have been told, there was some special honor placed on one of my players by the other team, among other special moments. I hope they were able to videotape everything!

Apropos of nothing discussed so far, we had a celebrity sighting in Charlotte. One of my colleagues and I were taking the elevator down Friday morning when it stopped to allow a tall African-American gentleman to get on. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but Lewis recognized him instantly. It wasn’t until after he started nudging me to take closer notice that I realized who was standing next to us. We didn’t say anything to him (what do you say to Michael Jordan, anyway?), and he seemed quite content to be left alone, so the encounter was quite benign. Still, I can add MJ to my list of celebrities encountered. We actually saw him again the next day as he was rushing out to his trademark yellow Ferrari, leading a wake of excited and curious spectators behind him. I can’t imagine how he doesn’t go crazy.

Further apropos of nothing, we heard about this place on public radio (I’m still looking for the link) and decided to eat there Friday night. The place is not fine dining. It’s local food, with plastic forks and cheesy restaurant booths. It’s soul food, and that means comfort food when you’re on the road. I had the homemade meatloaf, with beans and rice and peach cobbler for dessert. It was enough food to last me most of Saturday, and it was lip-smacking good! Plus, Abdullah is a riot! He played “alive or dead” with us while we were waiting for our food, and shared stories about all the famous people who’ve eaten at the restaurant (there are tons of photos on the walls of all the notables). A wonderful experience, and a great way to end a very full day.

Speaking of a very full day, this one has exhausted me. I’m going to bed. It’s nice to be home!


Kizz said...

Oh good god, I couldn't physically have stood being a parent or coach. That's unreal!

Mrs. Chili said...

No, you can't achieve NaBloPoMo perfection. Dude, you dropped the ball. You know you can schedule posts, right?

I'd have been interested to join your conference. There are a few points on which you and I disagree philosophically, and I'm still interested in trying to get underneath your thinking on those points.