Saturday, November 10, 2007

National Middle School Conference Report

9000 middle school teachers and administrators. Hundreds of workshops stuffed into 2 1/2 days. Ten enormous rows of vendors selling everything from excellent writing lessons plans Maupin House to interactive maps Rand McNally, to spicy popcorn used for fundraising, to worldwide travel experiences for students. Add several roving reporters for The Conference Insider who desipte being dwarfed by the adults swarming around them navigated the exhibit halls as if they were in middle school....and you have the 2007 National Middle School Conference in Houston.

Was I overwhelmed? Slightly.
Stimulated? Without a doubt.
Excited to be a part of an event that drew educators from as far away as Seoul and as close as Louisiana? You bet.

Hands down this was the largest conference I have participated in and was rewarded by the opportunity to speak with dozens of educators about Teaching the Story. The response to my question, "Do you have time to teach creative writing?" was mixed. Many shook their heads sadly and admitted that preparing for standardized testing and or district mandated curriculum precluded time for creative writing. Others were excited about finding a book like mine and commented that they'd never seen anything like it (always heartening for an author to hear!) and were looking forward to using it. One teacher declared that she didn't care about the test: she taught what her she thought was important and her students consistently performed well. A seventh grade teacher said that in an exit poll her students invariably wished they had written a short story. A school outside Wilmington, NC offers creative writing in the 9th block; although the instructor admitted that gothic poetry was the frequent genre of choice.

I discovered that 7th graders in Kentucky and 9th graders in Canada had to write short stories. (Frankfort and Alberta here I come!)

I was tutored throughout the conference by my roommate and fellow Maupin House author, Jane Kiester (pictured above). Random gleanings from her 30+ years of experience:

  • Middle school teachers love to have fun by working together. They love to laugh, giggle, sing, and do calisthenics while they're learning. It's important they do some type of activity every 10 minutes. No wonder they are so high energy!
  • Make back-up overhead transparencies of all powerpoint presentations. Glad I listened!
  • I have a found a way to make revision (usually a boring and dreaded chore) fun.

What can I say? I'm addicted to wordplay and now to blogging and sharing this experience with all of you!

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