The Georgia Council of Teachers of English (GCTE) annual conference once again re-energized and rejuvenated me as another spring semester begins. I love this conference for many reasons, but none more important to me than the conversations I have with fellow teachers outside of the school setting. The conference reminds me every year how much I take for granted teacher discourse across contexts and experiences, which is so valuable and energizing to my own practice.
This year Nick Thompson and I conducted a roundtable discussion with six of our original case writers for the Teacher Casebook project we launched just a few weeks ago. Inside the post is my reflection of the experience and what we hope are the next steps in the project.
First and foremost I have to express how floored I was with the discourse that occurred among our writers and our audience members. I also need to thank our partipants for spending months with us to get to GCTE and our very first roundtable discussion. We started eliciting participation in the Teacher Casebook back in August, 2018, and—through emails, drafts, commenting, and edit after edit—we compiled our first set of ten written cases and published them in mid-January, 2019. Nearly six months of work culminated in the discussion we had this past weekend. The payoff was clear—having a rich, dynamic, and even cathartic discourse. The seventy-five minutes of that session will stay with me for a long time. That all said, here are my ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ thoughts about the session and where the Teacher Casebook goes from here.
What Went Well:
1.) Teachers Showing Out!—At first, we thought we might only get 3 or 4 of our writers at the roundtable, but instead we got 6! They each articulated their cases with authority and authenticity, and asked one another thoughtful and resonating questions. This, in my eyes, is what made the discussion so rich. Our teacher-writers’ engagement was paramount in the session’s success.
2.) Audience Participation—You’ll see this in the ‘Missed Opportunities’ section as well. The main positive of our audience participation was having a few of them voicing their own experiences and making connections to their own practice. One teacher spoke up several times, empathizing and enthusiastically connecting her own experiences with our panel of writers’. We deeply appreciated her candor and willingness to share.
3.) Project Feedback—We recieved a very warm reception to the project, both as a concept and as something our audience could see themselves participating in. Only time will prove this, but we walked away feeling we had several educators who will become case writers themselves.
Missed Opportunities (A Heading Borrowed from Glenn, One of Our Writers):
1.) Audience Participation—While it was powerful to have a few audience members contribute to the broader discussion, the reality is most of our audience did not provide insight into their own stories. This is definitely on us as much as who was in our audience. I had intended to build in explicit time for teachers to share a few of their own stories, but the discussion just never allowed that happen at an intentional level. I feel we missed an opportunity to really draw our audience into the case experience.
2.) Contact Information—It seems so obvious now, but we completely forgot to get the contact information of our audience members. Now we have to rely on them reaching out to us, which they might, but we could have garaunted follow up contact. We won’t make that mistake again!
Overall Reflection—I could (and maybe will) write an entire chapter worth of reflections, including some wonderful vignettes worth sharing, but I will simply say I was moved by the experience. The discussion was emotional and powerful but also grounded, and I remember the room feeling almost electric. The moment reinforced in me that this project is worthwhile.
GCTE as a whole was truly wonderful this year, and not just because of our successful session. Overall the sessions were of higher quality and rooms were packed. The keynotes were wonderful and purposeful, and the conference felt like a community event.
I’ll end by encouraging anyone reading to also check out another project I had a chance to help out with as a respondent, “The Future is Now,” which was started at NCTE several years ago. The GCTE version is only two years old, but the preservice teachers who presented this year reminded me we still have a very bright future ahead in teaching.