The Tribal Effect: NCTE

Sometimes you just have to know you are part of a tribe, a tribe who cares and supports your vision. This weekend I'm at NCTE in Atlanta.  And I am with my tribe.  I am surrounded by people who love
books, who love writing, who care passionately about kids and authentic learning.  I have run into authors - I met and HUGGED Jason Reynolds...JASON REYNOLDS!!  I have gone to sessions and listened to Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, Linda Rief.  I sat in the main hallway charging my iPad and watched Ralph Fletcher and Tanny McGregor walk by.  And that, friends, is just Day #1.  I have two more to go.  (Insert squeal here!)

I so needed this infusion of energy, this swaddling in the comfort of my people.  I needed to be part of a community where I feel taken care of, pumped up and nurtured, like I am in good, safe hands.  I needed to be around people that made me feel like I'm on the right track, like they've got my back. And, like if I get lost in this big thing called teaching, they're here for me and will help me find my way.  I have experts I can rely on.

So this morning, I woke up at 5am filled with the desire to write, like I haven't felt in weeks.  I knew I had something to say and I knew that it was OK for me to say it.

And then I thought about my students.  Do I make them feel taken care of like NCTE has made me feel? Do I make them feel like they're part of a safe tribe, warm, nurtured, pumped up? Have I created a space where they can take risks, where they can experiment and play, where they know it's OK to be themselves?  Am I the expert who's got their back, somewhere to turn when they get stuck?

I suspect that the month of October with its bone-tiring, we-have-come-a-long-way-but-we-still-have-so-far-to-go fatigue drained us a bit.  And, what we call No-School November with our choppy schedule filled with days off has disconnected us a bit more. But the tribal effect must kick in.

When I go back to school Monday, it's just two days until Thanksgiving, just 17 days until Winter Break.  But in many ways I know it's the most important time of the semester.  It's the time when my kids who have been less than enthusiastic will wake up, filled with passion.  They'll ask about extra credit (I'll say no).  They'll ask about making up work, redoing assignments, anything, please!

And, I will say yes. I will say absolutely.  I will say let's make a list; let's get started.  I will work hard right along side you.

This is what tribes do.  They don't say (in their best condescending voice), "You had all semester; you should have done that earlier; it's too late."  They nurture. They offer hope. They support.  They care and love each other, especially when things are tough.

We must be that hope for our kids.  Take that deep breath if you must, but be the hope.  If we help kids work hard, catch up, actually have a chance to grow, we become the tribe.  You never know when one little spark of caring might be the thing that turns someone's whole life around.

So, thank you, NCTE, for bringing my tribe together and infusing me with much needed energy. Now let's all go back and do the same for our kids.


  1. Looks like we were in the same room, part of the same tribe. What my husband says about NCTE is that I am hobnobbing with my fellow wizards. Wizards, indeed. And rock stars. What a wonderful conference!

    1. It was amazing, wasn't it? Thank you so much for reading - I always like to hear from members of the best tribe on the planet! Happy Thanksgiving!


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