Slice of Life: NCTE Edition

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“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”

 ~Muriel Rukeyser~

I arrived at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Thursday evening for my first NCTE Convention filled with anticipation about the upcoming three days. To say my expectations were fulfilled is an understatement! From meeting authors Jane Yolen, Gae Polisner, and Kate Messner, to having breakfast with fellow Slicers, to learning so much from all the amazing presenters, it was a weekend I will long remember.

My head is still filled with the wise words shared not only by the teachers, authors, and poets in front of the conference rooms, but with everyone I chatted with throughout the day. How to share all these thoughts swirling around my brain, like the leaves on the streets of Boston Sunday morning? As I pored over my notes, a pattern of recurring words and phrases began to emerge, and I “found” this poem:

Open the door…

welcome to this safe space.

A space to share our voices,

and tell our stories,

through poetry,


and art.

A place to explore,



and connect.

A space to find surprises,



and trust.

This place is a source of joy.

It has the power to change us; to

help us discover what’s in our heart.

It gives us the courage

to take our message

out into the world.

Thank you to Judy Blume, Nancie Atwell, Helene Coffin, Georgia Heard, Linda Rief, Tom Romano, Chris Leheman, Kate Roberts, Maggie Beattie Roberts, Joyce Sidman, Jane Yolen, Jerry Spinelli, Glenda Funk, Cherylann Schmidt, Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, Jo Knowles, Jen Vincent, Brian Wyzlic, Sara Egan, Brian Fizer, Sean Ruday, and Miriam Kopelow for so generously sharing these words, your experiences and your insights with teachers; for giving us the knowledge and the courage and the power to change our students’ lives.

Please visit Two Writing Teachers, where many wonderful and courageous teachers share their stories each week.

18 thoughts on “Slice of Life: NCTE Edition

  1. A superstar conference you’ve managed to concentrate into this lovely slice. These words ring for me now– “power to change”-“trust”-“courage”. I think this is something to save and notice what words pop out as time goes on. Thank you for “finding” this.


  2. Hi,
    I did not meet up with you there, but I was at the CTL session with the lovely Helene Coffin. I was an intern there and she is just wonderful, wise and kind with the children. Also at Kate and Gae, Brian, Jen and Jo’s. You may have been behind me I am thinking. I sat next to Ruth Ayres and Linda Baie. Also was at the jam-packed poetry session with Georgia, Tom and Linda. Now that was my happiest moment. And at Nancie Atwell’s wonderful talk on writing. I had to miss Chris Lehman’s session to attend my own! And his was the one I wanted to hear the most, I think. I like how you saw the conference as a poem. We need more poetry. NCTE is a powerful experience. I was sad I had to miss so many incredible sessions but blessed to connect with friends old and new and to gain hope for the future. Hope to do what is right for kids. And as I heard or read on Twitter Chris Lehman said: engagement is everything. If they are not listening to you, nothing else matters. We want powerful kids telling their powerful stories and learning with intention and dare I say it, joy.
    Janet F.

    PPS I am the one who knows NE Ct very well having been in the Sharon, Lakeville, Salisbury, Kent, Millerton, G. Barrington area for many summers. It is a wonderful area in every season. See you next year? I enjoyed seeing Linda B. and meeting Tara. Both are amazing teachers and lovely people. Isn’t great to feel part of such a wonderful community of educators?


  3. I loved sitting next you and chatting at the Slicer Breakfast. I loved my time in Boston but I had a very different experience. All good, right?
    So glad we had time to connect.


  4. I love this! I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the Slicer Breakfast. Since it was my first time at NCTE, I had to learn the ins and outs. I’ll be better next year about making sure I’m where I want to be and when. Love your recap!


  5. I am so thankful for all of you who are sharing your wise words heard at NCTE. Although I was not there, I continue to learn through all of you. Thank you and I look forward to hearing more.


  6. Speaking of Judy Blume, I almost passed out when I found myself standing next to her in the exhibit hall. I was there talking to someone from her publisher’s marketing department when I realized that there she was! (Just thought I’d share that.)

    It was wonderful to meet you in person, Catherine!


  7. I love that you collected all this into a poem, Catherine! And that your poem includes the word, ‘story’ which I think sums it all up well. We heard, shared, gave stories & what a good thing it was. So happy to have finally met! Happy Thanksgiving!


  8. So wonderful to meet you, at long last. I loved these lines from your poem:
    A place to explore,



    and connect.

    That’s what it was all about, right? Enjoy your Thanksgiving!


  9. Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for sharing! I feel like this poem captures so much of the world of literacy I have found myself embraced by. It makes me think of NCTE, the Nerdy Book Club, Slice of Life, Teachers Write and just the people who come and interact with me on my blog and Twitter. It’s such an amazing community. I’m going to print out your poem and put it up in my office. I think it would make a great opening to a Nerdy Book Club post. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing! *hugs*


  10. I have been experiencing NCTE through many posts. Sad I missed it, but mostly sad I missed meeting so many of my virtual friends. Your poem is a beautiful reflection of all a conference should be. Actually, what a classroom should be. I have a painting I did in a creativity class that hangs in my classroom sharing my philosophy. It is a door opening!


  11. Oh, Catherine,
    It was so nice to meet you! And I’m glad we got in touch through tweets at the conference. I feel like your poem captures so much of what the conference was about…could have kept learning for days!


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