A Seat at the Table
“Do you feel safe and invited to learning’s table?” This is a question Rick Wormeli posed at #CCIRA19 in his session, Cultivating Tenacity and Engagement in Students. This question is still swirling for me as I reflect on not only this year’s annual conference, but also on the learning communities in our classrooms, schools, and communities.
I’m thinking about kids, but I’m thinking about adults, too.
As a young teacher, Debbie Miller’s
Reading With Meaning
was the first professional book I remember reading cover to cover. It spoke to me—first grade teacher to first grade teacher—in a way that I had not experienced up until that point. That book (and the conversations I had with colleagues who were also reading that book) made me a better Reading teacher.
Those colleagues were the same educators who introduced me to CCIRA. They insisted that I needed to go to the conference, and they were right. That first conference many years ago—and all the conferences since—lit a fire for professional learning that fuels me (and occasionally threatens to burn the metaphorical house down, if I’m being honest).
This year Debbie Miller was at #CCIRA19, and I had the opportunity to hear her speak about her newest book,
What’s the Best That Could Happen?
She was exactly as I imagined she would be: authentic, full of questions, and so insightful as she made her thinking process visible. She was thinking beside us, inviting us in to wrestle with what she’s wrestling with. I was inspired to reconnect with someone who had (unknowingly) mentored me early in my career—and to discover that her latest thinking is just as compelling for my current work as
Reading With Meaning
was to me as a baby teacher.
It was one of those closing-the-loop experiences that reminded me how important CCIRA is in my professional life.
The conditions Rick Wormeli described in his session, the one around making sure our kids feel welcome at learning’s table, those are the same conditions we need as adult learners. The need to belong is powerful. As learners ourselves, we need to build relationships with other learners and with our teachers. Sometimes those relationships are built person to person, and sometimes those relationships are built reading those teacher’s books or sitting in their sessions at a conference. A skilled presenter and writer can make us feel as if we are side by side in the work.
There has always been something about CCIRA that has made me feel welcome at the table—whether that table is the conference, a local council event, or simply a group of colleagues learning together across the year and encouraging each other to join in. Professional community is a necessity in education, where the work is so complex and challenging.
Seeing Debbie Miller this year at #CCIRA19 brought this all full circle for me. I’m so appreciative of the colleagues who invited me to the table way back in the day. I know this experience is not unique; I would imagine that most educators who regularly attend CCIRA can name the colleagues who encouraged them to attend for the first time. Most educators can talk about the first professional books or sessions at a conference that inspired them to keep reading and keep learning.
According to Rick Wormeli, the greatest motivator for adults in the workplace is making progress. I would argue that the best way to make our own progress visible is to be active members of a community in which we are continuously learning and reflecting. Sounds like CCIRA to me. . .
I hope you feel welcome at learning’s table, whether that table is the CCIRA Conference, your local council, your school, your team, or your PLN. When we find those places where we belong and we connect, we are ready to learn (just like our students). Please reach out if you’d like to learn more about the many learning tables open through involvement with CCIRA, and please continue to welcome others to the table.