My Fall Conference Experience

by Carolyn Atchue

I am a high school English teacher with over 15 years of experience. I have worked in a traditional high school classroom for the majority of that time, and I currently teach 150 students at a virtual high school. As I have a wide range of experience as a teacher, and because I utilize technology on a daily basis, I knew the MassCUE conference would be an appropriate professional fit for me. After attending the conference, I can honestly say that the MassCue Fall Conference was by far the best educational conference that I have ever attended. From the communication prior to attending (encouraging attendees to download the app that lists the conference topics, providing the wifi password in advance, as well as specific directions for parking at Gillette), to the wide variety of offerings, everything about this conference was impressive. Once I arrived, the keynote speaker, Tara Martin, helped set the tone at the conference by relaying her inspiring story about her struggles in school and how her second grade teacher believed in her, gave her individualized attention, and set the course for success for the rest of her life. After this inspiring message, I was excited to attend various sessions that related specifically to my teaching instruction, as well as attending sessions that address students’ social and emotional needs. While technology is appearing more prevalently in classrooms across the country, students still need to learn the basics of reading and writing. As we know, spell check will not catch the difference between there, their and they’re. A computer is also unable to check in with a student when he or she is having a bad day. Overall, being around such lively and enthusiastic educators was inspiring. There was such a wealth of knowledge that I wanted to take it all in.  

Always Learning

I learned techniques that will benefit my teaching of literature.  For example, in Inspiring Young Writers with Making, Coding and Digital Tools, I learned how to make a meme.  Having students make memes is as a creative way to show how they understood the material. I immediately thought about teaching The Catcher in the Rye when using memes in the classroom was introduced. Holden Caulfield is such a sarcastic character, and using a meme to show his outlook on a particular situation, or his outlook on the world, would be appropriate for this task.  Also, the presenters reinforced the idea of having students create storyboards or comics to show mastery of literature. This can be through technological tools or by hand. For example, when teaching Oedipus Rex, students often struggle with placing the events of the curse on Oedipus in order, so using these techniques would be an asset to my students.  

In addition, I also learned techniques that will be beneficial for the teaching of writing: In Teaching Writing in the 21st century, the speaker, Tom Varnum, identified that teachers of writing are often overwhelmed by the volume of writing. He suggested color coding student work in order. For example, using three different colors to identify the attention-grabbing opener, information, and thesis.

Inspiration for My Classroom

Finally, I attended Books Build Bridges,Using Young Adult Literature to Support Social Emotional Learning. This session gave examples of texts to include that address different aspects of adolescent life, such as novels that support self-awareness, self-management, societal awareness, and relationship skills. One novel that I would like to include in my teaching is a Restart by Gordon Kolman. It’s about a boy who bullies others, but then has an accident which causes memory loss. Told from the bully’s perspective, he learns how horribly he has treated others and has to decide what to do with this information. This novel is great to use with teens of any age as a chance to talk about teen issues and second chances. 

Overall, I learned so much from my two days at the conference, and I look forward to attending the conference next year, too.

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