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13 July 2016 @ 09:53 am
Mind, spirit, heart  
In the 40 years I have been teaching, I have attended hundreds of conferences. Some were local, others state, and even more national and international. After a decade or so, I learned that there is a pattern, a conference trope if you will. Gather us all together too early in the morning. Crowd us into uncomfortable chairs, announce all sorts of things most of us miss during the announcements themselves. Then, the keynote speaker sets the tone for the conference (we hope) in a speech that is sometimes too long and sometimes too short. Then we are discharged into the larger facility to track down workshops and breakout sessions. If I am lucky, there is a break for coffee and sustenance at some point (but often there is no time for that). Repeat the process of tracking down sessions where you can squeeze into the room over and over again. Repeat the next day and the next ad infinite mad nauseum.

I love conference experiences that provide time to visit with colleagues, opportunities to exchange questions and ideas. Often these are snatched times between sessions. More often than not for me, I elect to sit out a block and talk to others.

And then there is nErDCAMPMI. This year was my first time he, but it will not be my last. Day 1 opened with Nerd Tlks. They are sort of like TEDTalks, but much shorter in duration. Yes, there were announcements, but all the information we were given took 2 minutes and then was made available at the conference site for easy access. Nerd Talks are 6-8 minutes. I was fortunate to be able to give one this year. Let me tell you how quickly time flies and how much I had to revise and edit to make sure I stayed thin time limits. This year's speakers included Kathy Burnette, Donalyn Miller, Pernille Ripp, and Raina Telgemeier. Tip: bring Kleenex to these talks as they ar all incredibly moving. And we had one more treat with a surprise appearance by Kate DiCamillo. In an hours, I had heard 5 other "keynotes." Then we were off to the breakouts but with a a 20 minute window to grab coffee and chat with folks. There were dozens of offerings each of the first two sessions. I listened to Katherine Sokolowski discuss school libraries then at out the next session so Donalyn Miller and I could tweak our presentation. W did our presentation (opposite John Schu and Pernile Ripp), and the official conference was ended. Many of us headed to the Nerdy Dinner where the conversation centered on books and reading and kids and ideas and questions. End Day 1.

Day 2 operated like EdCamp. Attendees offer sessions and folks "vote with their feet" by heading off to the one they think will be most beneficial. There are two sessions the morning and two in the afternoon; all are "pop-up." Donalyn Miller and I did one on t#wndb. The topi ranged from Pokemon Go to school libraries and writing and mentor texts. There was more time to lunch and for meet-ups, too. I spent some time catching up with some I folks I have not seen in a while: an agent, an author, a for,ever student.

What I particularly loved at the conference was how we were all connected by stories and how freely we shared stories with one another. Most of us we're there on our own diime, but since registration was free (!) and we could stay in dorms for reduced costs, the bulk of our $$$ was handed over to books. I suspect most of us had heavier bags going back home.

The diversity of attendees was also a plus for me. There were folks from 32 states outside of Michigan. They were new teachers and veterans of the classroom. Small, medium, and large schools, rural and urban and parochial and public. Did I mention men? I need to because so many conferences seem to be dominated by women. I don't know all the breakdown of attendees. I posted a video to Facebok of that first morning. Hundreds (and I actually think more than 1000) sat in bleachers in the "big" gym. The noise was incredible, a buzzing of excitement and expectation. And that buzz never faded over two days. After our second day ended, Nerd Camp Jr. began. I walked past 700 kids lined up to meet authors and get books. Talk about a high note.

Thanks to Colby Sharp and his colleagues who organize and run this conference. I can honestly say I am going back home with so many née ideas, with some new friendships, and with beautiful memories of my time at nErDCAMPMI. I look forward already to next year.

Please excuses typos. I am writing this on my iPad while sitting at the gate at the airport. I promise I will fx it once I am back in steamy Houston!