There comes a tiredness with having attended a big conference, a sense of exhilarated exhaustion that inevitably catches up to almost all attendees that do not live in the host city.
However, it’s the good kind of “spent”, the kind that comes with having tapped into a host of personal reserves.
For me, the draining derives as a result of a few different things.
- All the energy inside the conference itself. You can just feel the buzz on Day 1. By Sunday, a great many tanks have been tapped.
- Trying to attend as many sessions and listen to as many speakers as possible. NCTE starts early (well, not as early as school, but early), ends late (school doesn’t end til holiday/summer breaks – that works knows no boundaries like weekends, night and so on) and is pretty much wall-to-wall. There’s always more stuff to do and see and hear than there are hours in the day and taking advantage of all the goodies is something I always strive to do.
- All the interactions with people. There are so many keen minds, great spirits, wonderfully generous and thoughtful and dedicated people inside the conference hall that it feels as if you are on non-stop communication bender from the moment your feet touch the ground.
- The deep thinking. Every part of my thought process abut teaching gets challenged the more immersed I am as a teacher at NCTE. The things I think I believe have their mettle tested, the things I am seeking to learn get pumped full of juice and the things I didn’t even know I needed to know get introduced and expounded upon in a way that makes my brain feel as if it has just spent a heck of a long time at a delicious restaurant… and when I rise from the table, I recognize that, “Wow, I am really full.”
Additionally, for me, as a presenter at these big conferences, I give a lot of energy to my sessions, both in the preparation as well as in the delivery.
I also try and give a lotta love to all my book signings. Plus, I will stay in that chair and sign and sign and sign until every last person has had their book autographed. I mean I can’t tell you how long it’s been a dream of mine to become a professional author and the truth is, I still can’t believe people will wait in line to get my signature in a book so hey, if you are gonna wait, I will, too. (But really, seeing lines snake around the corner all patiently waiting to get a signature or grab a photo with lil’ ol’ me, well… it never gets old, I tell ya that.” And then to learn that Homeboyz sold out all across the conference on Day 1 in the first three hours, well… stuff like that just blows me away. I mean I have no control over how many copies of my books the publishers and sales people will bring to any event but this is now the third year in a row that Homeboyz has been flying off the shelves and I gotta say, it’s deeply gratifying – so if other folks are gonna wait in line, I am gonna sit and sign til midnight if I have to.
At the end of the day, there’s a tiredness that attends to almost any experience in life into which you deeply throw yourself. At NCTE, you work hard, you laugh hard, you play hard, you think hard (often about the people that seem to be hardly thinking when they make educational policy and top-down management decisions) and you push the pedal to the metal.
It creates deep yawns in so many, many people… but they are the satisfying kind that comes from the spirit of honest, hard, genuine, rewarding, meaningful work.
Orlando 2010. NCTE will be 100 years old. Can you say “Off the hook?”
(A special thanks to Carol Jago – though thousands busted their tails to make NCTE 2009 the magical event that it was, did anyone else work harder? You rock, Carol… and you are a gift to all of us!)