Friday, May 30, 2014

New Orleans International Reading Association Annual Convention-

When I attended the International Reading Association Convention in San Antonio last year, my friend Donna and I made a plan to come to New Orleans this year. We hadn't been to this wonderful city in a long time.  And I looked forward to not worrying how I was going to manage to get leave to go to a conference.   Last year I had wanted to go as it was my last year as a classroom teacher.  And going to a convention this time of the year is always such a shot in the arm for inspiring your last few weeks with your students.  Also it was in San Antonio which I love.  I had been there twice for IRA conventions and once for a NCTE conference.  And it is just a great city.  I love the River Walk and the whole atmosphere, and we had a great time despite my unplanned overnight stay in Dallas on the way home!

But this time it would be different.  My teaching this year has been mainly been limited to volunteering with the first graders, which has actually been just fine.  As you know I honestly love doing this.  So I decided that my focus for the conference would be sessions focused at this level.  One of the great things about the conferences has been that having taught at different levels and with different focuses I was always able to find sessions that were applicable.  For instance, last year my focus had been at the middle school level since I was teaching grade seven.  Other times it has been primary or high school or sessions for literacy coaches or reading specialists or sessions on technology.

I think it's the 21th one that I have been to.  The first one I attended was in St. Louis, Missouri in 1980.  I literally won a trip there from the Montreal Reading Council and then my school board gave me leave to attend etc.  It was wonderful as I had gotten married that year, bought a house with many expenses, had to buy a new car, been on strike with a husband doing a Phd on a Canada Council.  Money was tight so this was wonderful!  It was an unbelievable experience and  was responsible for getting me really involved with the local reading association, LOMCIRA, when I moved  to Vancouver a few months later.  My involvement has lasted more or less for the next 34 years.

It's amazing just to be with up to 20000 people who are enthused about teaching reading.  It is an amazing opportunity to hear the latest research, see the most wonderful authors, get to pick up books before they are released etc.  In the past there have also been some rather amazing parties and has taken me from Toronto to Chicago to Atlanta to Orlando to San Antonio, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Anaheim, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Vegas, and Reno.

The last few years have been difficult for the association and the conventions don't generate the income they once did.  The economy has limited the number of teachers able to attend such conferences and there may have been 10000 teachers who attended all or part of this conference.  This convention ran over the weekend from Friday to Monday, I think for the second time to make it easier for teachers to attend.  Next year the conference will be held in the summer in St. Louis, where I went to my first conference.  This is because it is increasingly difficult for teachers now to get leave to attend during the school year.  And many do so by paying their own way.  I have even paid for the cost of substitution to do so.

I always brought an extra suitcase so that I could carry home books.  I loved the feel of those advance copies of new novels to bring to my classroom.  And often there are great new books signed by the authors.  This year I tried to carefully pack and only brought an extra bag that folded up in my carry on luggage on the way there.  I still came home with lots of books even without needing to stock my own classroom anymore!

We were in New Orleans for six full days-three were spent at the conference and the other three devoted to serious sightseeing documented in my travel blog.

I honestly plan to write up some of the great sessions I attended but in my next blog entry  I am going to talk about some of the young adult books I picked up and have been reading.

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