The California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) had its annual conference in Sacramento, California February 11-13th. The theme of the event, which took place at the Sheraton Convention Center, was “Never More Crucial.” Presentation topics ranged from “Project Based Learning” to “Poetry: Finding Hope in Hard Times” to “Strategies for EL and Struggling Learners.” The sessions were packed with eager teachers ready to absorb the best practices of their peers.
Carol Jago kicked off the event Friday morning with a general session. Carol shared some of the experience gained teaching English at the secondary level for 32 years and directing the California Reading and Literature Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Mahbod Seraji, author of Rooftops of Tehran, spoke at a special luncheon Friday to discuss the unprecedented time we find ourselves in with the revolution in Egypt and the changes taking place in the Middle East. In his talk he spoke about some of the reasons he wrote his first novel- one of which was to dispel some of the stereotypes so common in literature focused on the Middle East.
Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, spoke on Saturday afternoon sharing his passion for literature and language. Drawing on his experience as a writer of poetry, short stories and novels, he inspired his listeners.
The major speakers combined with the excited, experienced teachers leading specialized sessions created an atmosphere of hope in a time when schools in California are facing crippling budget cuts.
My own session titled “Ditch Dull Discussions: Get Students Talking about Literature and Language” was a huge success. I was thrilled with the large turn out, enthusiasm for my topic and eager questions about my teaching methodology. Attendees were excited to hear about the easy to implement daily routines I use to get students engaged in face-to-face conversations. The most popular part of my talk was my explanation of how I use my Collaborize Classroom site to facilitate online discussions related to our work in the classroom. [p.s. If any attendees are reading this and did not get materials because I ran out, feel free to send me a message and I will get them to you!]
The idea that there has never been a more crucial time to teach or to further one’s own knowledge and expertise in the hopes of reaching more students was present in each moment of the event.