I had arrived early for a session, and asked a young man if I could share his bench outside the room where an earlier session was still going on. We fell into conversation and I quickly learned that his name was Brian and that not only was he from my area of Pennsylvania, but he also was a graduate of the school district where I had taught for twenty-seven years. Brian was going to be student teaching in the spring, and NCTE was his first conference. I could tell by the number of notes already jotted down in his notebook that he wanted to take everything in. His face lit up when he started to tell me how much he had learned already at the conference, how he looked forward to teaching poetry to middle school students, and how he enjoyed the work he did in the writing center at his university. As we talked I managed to point out a few of our educational “rock stars” as they walked by. Brian immediately wanted to know about them and what books they had written. He was a sponge!
As I listened to the enthusiasm in Brian’s voice, I knew I was listening to the next generation of teachers who will put the right book into the hands of a student, or who will make just the right suggestion during a writing conference. Brian and I continued to talk about the teachers who had influenced him, about his fellow students (whom he said were pretty much all as excited about teaching as he was), and about books he wanted to read.
The fifteen minutes I spent with this young man are among my fondest memories of NCTE 14. They filled me with hope for the future of education. They filled me with hope for the beginning teachers who already understand the importance of growing professionally through the sharing of ideas. And they filled me with hope that it doesn’t change for them or for us.