NCTE convention back in November which was my first time attending a national teaching conference and while MRA was much smaller in scale since it was on the state level, it was by no means less valuable. I was able to see and meet respected speakers and teachers in the field of literacy and English education like Jeff Anderson, Donalyn Miller, and Penny Kittle.
Even if I had just gone to MRA to attend the sessions, it would have been a worthwhile experience. But one of my main reasons for wanting to go was due to my amazing Personal Learning Network (PLN) of educators, librarians, and readers on Twitter. Had it not been for the teachers on Twitter talking about going to MRA, it never would have entered my radar. So it was because of them that I asked my principal if I could attend, and even though she was gracious enough to send me to NCTE back in November, she agreed to let me go to MRA as well.
But back to my Twitter PLN. Normally when I attend conferences I live in this little bubble. I might talk to the person sitting next to me at a session, but no real connection is ever made and I never see them again. Because of Twitter, MRA was one of the most memorable conferences I've ever attended. I was able to meet and hang out with so many teachers I greatly admire and talk to on a daily basis through social media. This wasn't just an opportunity for professional development, but also for filling the bucket - surrounding myself with people who remind me that how I'm doing things in my classroom isn't so radical.
The Nerdy Book Club got together and stayed up way past our bed time. It was an evening of discussing books, classroom practices, and our passion for teaching. I'm normally someone who gets very cranky if I stay up too late and then has to get up early the next day, but I was so invigorated by our get together that I ended up waking up an hour before my alarm went off. I mean, how many times in your life do you get to say "I hung out with Donalyn Miller"? If you're not a teacher I realize her name might not mean much to you, but in the teaching world, she is a rock star of the teaching profession and I am so blessed to say I got to talk shop with her.
As someone who frequently gets discouraged at the state of the teaching profession in our country and how little we are respected as professionals, it's nice to go to conferences like MRA to help fill our empty buckets. Not only did I come back from the conference with lots of great ideas for my classroom, but it's one of those experiences that helps remind me that there are people out there who have the same beliefs as me and that change for the better is possible.