Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Final Thoughts on Louisville

I'm back home, overseeing a lab of students taking summer school online. A group of kids who somehow, be it lack of attendance or lack of interest, couldn't see their way fit to pass a 9th or 10th grade English class, despite the begging and pleading and wheedling and offers of help from their teachers.

Such a far cry from the time I spent last week. People seem dumbstruck when I tell them that I enjoy going to the AP reading where I'll read around 1500 essays on the exact same subject. That I'm sitting in a cavernous convention center hall with several hundred other people hunched over tables trying to decipher the handwriting of student who were rushing to write three well-developed essays in two hours. That for seven days, I have to wait in line for everything, from elevators, to coffee, to elevators, to snacks, to elevators. Did I mention waiting for elevators?

People ask me if I get paid. Yes, and all my expenses are paid and I'm fed quite well. But that's not why I do it. They ask if I get to do fun stuff in the evenings. Yes, Louisville's a fun place. I saw a baseball game, a roller derby bout, went to dinner with delightful people, and took walks and runs along one of the most scenic riverfronts in the country. But that's not why I do it either.

Contrary to what I thought, Roller Derby is still alive and well. Corinne, who is on a team in
 Marietta insisted that we go see a bout. It was hard to follow at first,
but once I got the rules figured out, it was an amazingly fun, fast sport to watch.

So why do I do it? Don't get me wrong--those things are all great. I definitely won't give the money back and would never do it for free, but that's just because my time and expertise is worth the money to them and I'd be cheating myself if I didn't get paid. And I do love Louisville and all the fun I have there. But the real reasons I do it are two: it's the hardest professional development I've ever loved and I'm surrounded by other people who love literature and words and ideas just as much as I do.

How is reading 1500 essays professional development? Well, I learned a lot of things to tell my kids NOT to do. But it's just as much about the discussions we have over the essays before, during, and after the reading itself. We exchange ideas. How do we fix this issue with our kids? How do we get them to care as much as we do?

And, even if I don't get specific methods or ideas, I get a shot of enthusiasm that will carry over into next year. These are, bar none, the best teachers in the country. And a big part of the reason for that is their passion. Believe it or not, some teachers aren't in it for the love of what they do. But for a week each summer, I bask in the glow of hundreds who are. And it almost makes it worth telling them they don't need to pay me.


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