Faculty Summer 2012 Travel and Study
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: Algebra Readiness Conference Teddi Longardt Bair The 2012 Algebra Readiness Institute was a phenomenal learning experience for teachers of mathematics in grades three through eight. The two and one-half day institute consisted of keynote speakers, breakout sessions pertaining to specific grade level content, and reflection meetings. The Institute also has a year-long online component, which provides access to videos and articles and allows for collaboration among participants. Studies have shown that success in algebra leads to success in professional careers. It is incumbent upon teachers to ensure that algebraic understanding begins in studentsâ€™ formative years, as early as kindergarten. This institute showed methods and strategies that will support our young learnersâ€™ readiness for algebra. The teachers who attended walked away with the latest research from NCTM and the Common Core Standards, as well as practical activities and manipulatives to use in the classroom.
Teddi Longardt Bair (left) pictured with Linda Gojak, President of NCTM, at the 2012 Algebra Readiness Institute in Atlanta, Ga.
Courtney Martin I believe that, in order for students to become lifelong learners, it is vital that they have a strong mathematical foundation. Attending the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Algebra Readiness conference provided me with the latest strategies to help prepare my students for middle school, high school and beyond. Through lectures, hands-on activities, and discussions with colleagues, I learned instructional strategies that will help my students develop strong algebraic reasoning skills, including questioning strategies that support studentsâ€™ development of problem solving and mathematical thinking. In addition, I also gained a better understanding of the Common Core Standards for 5th grade math. Putting these new strategies into practice with our current math curriculum will help my students develop the skills necessary for formal algebra in the years to come.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: Algebra Readiness Conference Jennifer Murphy Attending NCTMâ€™s Algebra Readiness Institute this summer was a great experience! As always, I learned a lot in the different sessions, from teaching new algorithms for fraction division to using number line balances to introduce the concept of variables. I gathered great strategies that I will put to use in my classroom this year. But perhaps the best part of the conference was the time I spent talking with colleagues from around the country about their experiences and best practices. I particularly enjoyed my conversations with a group of Middle School teachers from a school in Charlotte, N.C., that is very similar to Lovett. Their school has been teaching single-gender classes in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades for fifteen years, and they had wonderful insights on the power of teaching this way and some great book recommendations. I was thrilled to hear of their successes and hope to visit their school this year.
Reagan Costen Sixth grade is typically the first experience students have with abstract mathematical thought and problem solving. It is also typically when they begin to grapple with the notion that each problem might have only one answer, but many possible paths to that solution. The sessions at the NCTM Algebra Readiness Conference focused on helping students develop their ability to think, to solve problems abstractly, and to become comfortable with abstractness. They also provided tools to help students who are often challenged by the multiple strategies that can be used to solve a single problem. Building comfort helps create a resilient student who will persevere with a problem, which is needed to be successful with algebra. My experience at this conference will certainly help me support my students.
Columbia University’s Teachers College: Summer Writing Institute Courtney Martin The opportunity to attend The Teacher’s College Writing Institute was a truly wonderful experience for me and will serve as a benefit to my future students. The institute instructs teachers to tackle, headfirst, the central role of curriculum development and planning in the teaching of writing. It focused, among other things, on units of study in writing workshop; genre studies in reading and writing memoir, poetry and short fiction; the importance of assessment-based instruction; using literature to help students craft their writing; and classroom structures that support inquiry and collaboration. I was able to learn from specialists in the field such as Carl Anderson, Mary Ehrenworth, Lucy Calkins, and author Jack Gantos. The most important lesson I took away from the workshop was to teach the writer, not the writing. Every student has the ability to write well; my job is to help students, with support and guidance, reach their potential as writers. It was an honor to be able to attend The Teacher’s College Writing Institute. My goal is to help produce writers who are imaginative and are not afraid to take risks in their work. Attending the summer institute has provided me with the tools to create such an environment.
Brooke Cash This summer I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience in leading Writing Workshop in my classroom and evaluating student writing. I attended Columbia University’s Teachers College Summer Writing Institute, run by world renowned elementary educator Lucy Calkins. One of the most inspiring moments of the institute was Lucy’s keynote address. During her speech, she shared the ins and outs of the workshop method and gave writing examples from a student at the beginning of his writing career (1st grade) and again after 3 years of Writing Workshop instruction. The change in his writing structure and in his ability to convey his thoughts and closely describe a “small moment” was incredible. She then gave sugges-
tions to up our methods and see real progression in student work. One major item she covered was a problem I have seen in many of our Lovett young writers: children who tend to write too little or slide from one random subject to another. She gave ways to teach conversational prompts to help them elaborate on and connect their thoughts. I also enjoyed how each workshop, small group session, and seminar included hands-on modeling of the workshop method. Throughout the week, we kept our own writer’s notebook and examined our thoughts in the ways that we wanted our students to try. We jotted notes, drafted, and created a published piece by the end of the week. It was a great way to see the methods and try them before introducing them into our classroom.
Columbia University’s Teachers College: Summer Writing Institute Kristina Mills This summer, I was given the opportunity to spend five days at the writing institute held at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Lucy Calkins and her elite team of staff developers offered new insight into the murky waters of writer’s workshop, sending me away with loads of new strategies, skills, and useful tips to further develop my teaching of writing. Much of my week at Teachers College was spent in large and small group sessions learning ways to ramp up the writing my third graders are doing. We talked about the power of writing every day and how writers can make dramatic leaps in proficiency when they write with volume and stamina. We also discussed the power of the reading and writing connection, teaching our writers to look to authors as mentors, asking themselves, “How did this author do that,” considering craft, structure, and audience.
Teaching children to read like writers is one of the most powerful ways to raise their level of writing. Just think of the last time you laughed out loud in a book—now go back and think of how the author made that reaction leap off the page and into your body. It’s an incredible skill that changes the way you read a text. This year I will continue my quest to encourage my writers to fall in love with a mentor, to become mentors to their peers, and to live a writerly life. While there are so many, many more things I have brought back from this incredible week in New York, I think the most rewarding aspect of it all was to be with my colleagues, side-by-side, discussing ways to transfer this knowledge into our classrooms and continue our mission as a Lower School, not just to teach writing, but also to create writers. Thank you, Lovett, for making professional development like this a priority for the faculty.
Kyleen Davis Peter Elbow, author of Ranking, Evaluating and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment states: The old story goes like this: We write something. We read it over and we say, “This is terrible. I hate it. I’ve got to work on it and improve it.” And we do, and it gets better, and this happens again and again and before long we have become a wonderful writer. But that’s not really what happens. Yes, we vow to work on it—but we don’t. And next time we have the impulse to write, we’re just a bit less likely to start. What really happens when people learn to write better is more like this: We write something. We read it over and say, “This is terrible…But I like it…I’m going to get it good enough so that others will like it, too.” And this time we don’t just put it in a drawer; we actually work hard on it. And then we try it out on other people too—not just to get
feedback and advice but…to find someone else who will like it too. The second story may sound odd when stated so badly, but really it’s common sense. Only if we like something will we get involved enough to work and struggle with it. Only if we like what we write will we write again and again by choice—which is the only way we get better. This quote was given to me during one of my sessions at the teaching of writing institute. I believe it is the single most important thing I took away from the course. The first thing that we need to do is show students the importance of being invested in what it is that they are doing, to see the value in the work they produce. Only then will the most important part come through, which is their voice, their heart.
Columbia University’s Teachers College: Summer Writing Institute Sarah Raymer This summer, I had the privilege of attending Teacher’s College Summer Writing Institute in New York City, an annual event hosted by Lucy Calkins. I have been using the Reading and Writing Project’s (RWP) curriculum for the past eight years. The summer experience gave me the opportunity to be refreshed and rejuvenated with the training from the educators and developers themselves. As the new school year begins, I look forward to implementing many of the skills, teaching points, and rubrics that were taught to us. In my morning session, I learned how to effectively teach editing and revision strategies with my first graders. We also explored making our own rubrics to help each student see “What I did, what I need to do, and how I can make it better,” based on “on-demand” pieces from the beginning of the unit, throughout the unit, and, finally, to the published piece. My Lovett workshops will begin with
a goal and the workshop will end with the rubric for selfreflection. Using checklists and rubrics will keep students accountable as well as empower them for growth. The afternoon session focused on word study, phonics, and punctuation for kindergarteners and first graders. We reviewed spelling stages, how to use student work to confirm spelling stages, and how to move students to the next stage. I learned how to scaffold my strategy lessons in order to help the students work from being dependent to becoming independent in skills that need more practice. We also examined the Common Core Standards for grammar and punctuation for kindergarten and first grade. There were other mini-sessions that I attended throughout the institute. With the new knowledge I have gained, I am looking forward to implementing as much as I can in my teaching and conferring this year.
Columbia University’s Teachers College: Summer Reading Institute Diane MacEwen This summer I had the opportunity to attend the Reading Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, with four of my Lovett colleagues: Colleen Baily, Nikki Livingston, Mary Stark, and Mary Baldwin. This was my fourth Teachers College institute and, once again, I came away with new knowledge and understandings about how to empower our young students to become more thoughtful and skillful readers. It is so inspiring to participate in these institutes with teachers from all over the country and all around the world. For five packed days we met from 8:00 am until 3:30 pm, with only a short break for lunch. In our small group sessions and large group gatherings we heard about the latest thinking on reading instruction and were given many opportunities to practice strategies with our colleagues. Much of the talk centered on aligning our practice with the Common Core Standards. When we were not in our group sessions, we had the opportunity to hear well-renown keynote speakers, like authors Lois Lowery, (Number the Stars), Christopher Paul Curtis (Bud, Not
Buddy) and Kathy Collins (Growing Readers) talk about their craft, and we attended small group strategy workshops tucked in around our lunchtime breaks. I always come back from these weeks renewed and energized, anxious to get in the classroom and try out my new thinking.
Nueva School Design Thinking Institute Ben Posten and Todd Wass Ben: Just a year ago, my teaching partner, Todd Wass, and I were challenged with restructuring and revamping the 7th grade social studies curriculum. We began by asking ourselves the question, “ What are the essential skills our students will need to master in order to be successful in an ever-changing, competitive, and global world?” The skills of adaptability, creativity, and problem solving always seemed to be at the head of the list. Todd and I did some research on the design-thinking model and one of its leading academic proponents, The Nueva School in San Francisco. From that work came our participation in Nueva’s Design Thinking Institute. Todd: Fireside chats and innovative design challenges with David Kelley, founder of IDEO, and Kim Saxe, director of the Innovation Lab and Design Thinking Program at The Nueva School, were just two of the highlights from this summer! At the Design Institute, we immersed ourselves in the broad implications of design thinking as a curricular and educational philosophy and its ability to create a student-centered classroom where students seek out relevant, human-centered problems, generate empathy for the user, and create human-centered solutions. During our week at the institute, we had the opportunity to hone our craft as facilitators of design thinking. Perhaps the biggest ah-ha moment of the conference was the realization that
design thinking is a model that the Lovett Middle School could use to achieve its vision of learning. Ben: Key to understanding design thinking was the use of Nueva’s Innovation Lab (I-Lab). The I-Lab, a building housing a 3-room work space for students and teachers, helped to advance the concepts, teaching, and application of design thinking in the classroom. After completing the 4-day workshop, we feel more comfortable in the work we have accomplished thus far and are inspired to implement the innovative and creative ideas we learned.
Paige Hager I attended the Nueva School’s Design Thinking Institute in San Francisco, California. The Nueva School houses an Innovation Lab that was created in partnership with Stanford University in an effort to facilitate design thinking and design engineering in forward-minded classrooms. This design lab allows students to utilize design skills in an effort to enhance inquiry-based learning and to provide students with a richer academic experience. The conference armed educators with extensive information on why this type of forward thinking is critical to our students’ cognitive development and academic success. The conference also highlighted the fact that design thinking encourages students to use numerous types of cognitive skills to deepen their
overall comprehension of complex material. Perhaps most important, we were able to understand that this teaching methodology fosters creativity while simultaneously helping students’ develop empathy for others—an increasingly important skill in our complex world. The Nueva School also provided educators the opportunity to engage directly in a hands-on, project-based, designthinking project in an effort to support the implementation of similar programs in our own schools. I am confident that what I learned this summer will enable me to further develop my own project-based curricula and to create meaningful projects that will foster our students’ critical thinking skills, best preparing them for their futures.
Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education: The Future of Learning Institute Agnes Browning Globalization, the digital revolution, and the recent advancements in human biology have raised many questions in the world of education, as they have tremendously affected the way we learn and teach. The Future of Learning Institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education was an opportunity to examine these changing forces and the way they have reshaped the role of educators and learners. Daily plenary sessions led by experts in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, education, and philosophy mapped the future of learning and the emerging profile of the “global learner.” Courses in each of the three strands (globalization, digital revolution, mind-brain education) allowed participants to explore various areas of interest in depth. Courses I selected include: “Collaborative Learning in the Work Place,” “The Role of Working Memory,” and “The Interaction between Neurobiology and Culture.” Assigned learning groups allowed for a synthesis at the end of the day of the information presented during lectures and in core readings. As the week progressed, participants got a better grasp of what the future of learning will look like and synthesized key ideas and concepts in a product taking various forms.
Howard Gardner during his lecture “Five Minds for the Future” As a foreign language teacher, I went to the Future of Learning institute with many questions, ranging from the role of technology in the classroom to meaningful curriculum choices. I came back to Lovett with answers and a clear understanding of what tools and knowledge my students need in order to thrive in a dynamic world.
Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education: The Arts and Passion Driven Learning Anna Sterne “The Arts and Passion Driven Learning” at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education was an incredible opportunity to be surrounded by passionate and inspiring teachers, artists, and musicians who all care about the same thing: igniting a passion for learning in ourselves and our students. During the conference, I was able to meet and listen to the one and only Yo-Yo Ma talk about his passions for music and education. I listened to the acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble, who shared their music and also talked about their experiences as practicing artists and collaborators. I participated in an “arts experience” workshop in which we, as participants, created our own story through music. It was my first time in a music class since middle school! Other sessions focused on how to infuse the arts into the academic curriculum through projects, practicing critique, and making thinking visible.
This conference was significant to my own professional growth for a few reasons. One, I left feeling inspired by the incredible speakers and other participants in the conference. I also reflected on the need for creating trust and a safe collaborative environment in order to foster growth and creativity. Finally, I left with ideas and resources for infusing the arts more deliberately into my curriculum.
Trip to Spain Diana Quezada I had the opportunity this summer to visit Spain, a country I knew before my trip only from books and other people’s experiences. Having the opportunity to see first-hand some of the masterpieces of artists I’ll be teaching in my Spanish classes this year made this trip worthwhile. I am planning on extending the material we usually cover in class with information I got from the museums I visited. For example, Las Meninas by Velazquez is a piece I will teach for the first time in Spanish III Honors. Another great discovery was to see Picasso’s Las Meninas study, in which he painted more than fifty interpretations of this piece. As you view these paintings, you can see both the playful and serious sides of Picasso as he deconstructs Velazquez’s masterpiece into cubist pieces.
The Infanta Margarita, daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, is made the most central figure in Las Meninas. In my class, I would also like to talk about the current political and economical situation, as well as how the Royal family’s significance has diminished over time. I was submerged deeply in a sea of new and old words. Sometimes I had a hard time understanding certain sayings or expressions that carried unknown words to me or that simply had a different connotation. For example bocadillo means a baguette sandwich in Spain, but in Latin America it means a “little bite.” As an Ecuadorian, I had several misconceptions of the Spanish culture. Before taking this trip, Spaniards seemed very different and very “European” to me; once in Spain, however, I felt at home.
2012 International Learning Styles Conference Joye Callaway The 2012 International Learning Styles Conference, held at Hostos Community College in Bronx, New York, emphasized the significant impact that learning styles have on students, particularly those with learning differences. One of the most enlightening sessions I attended looked at the integral relationship between “Universal Design for Learning” and “Learning Styles.” When teachers deliver content in multiple ways, allowing students to be active learners who engage and analyze the content, learning can occur. Teachers who consider volume and rate when speaking, who make connections to other areas of the curriculum, and who utilize formative assessments increase the likelihood that learning takes place. A flexible learning environment provides students the opportunity to explore information using their preferences, interests, and abilities, while demonstrating knowledge using one of many possible methods. Lovett’s model classroom will certainly be the perfect setting for a flexible learning environment. The Learning Styles Conference affirmed Lovett’s school-wide emphasis on learning styles, our continued implementation of formative assessment in all divisions, and our new vision for our learning environments.
AP Institute: Biology Jennifer Blake This summer I attended an AP Summer Institute for new and experienced teachers that emphasized the changes in the AP Biology curriculum going into effect this school year. A major focus of the Institute was the incorporation of inquiry into the classroom, especially in the laboratory context. We also explored different ways in which students can present their work and give constructive feedback to one another. I benefitted from getting to collaborate with other AP Biology teachers and got great ideas on how to incorporate more inquiry, as well as more student presentations and peer assessments, into my course. This was a fantastic experience, and I walked away with a number of concrete plans. For example, I learned how to present a lab technique to students through an initial experiment and have student groups use the technique to expand upon the original experiment in order to design their own investigation. Finally, I gained insight into how I might reduce the
breadth of coverage and focus more deliberately on developing student understandings of important biological themes. I was exposed to several ideas on how to tie together big concepts in order to illustrate the interconnected relationships in nature.
AP Institute: Latin Ken Rau This summer I spent a week at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, attending a Latin workshop that focused on the passages of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, which will be an integral part of the AP Latin syllabus beginning in the 2012–13 year. During the week of July 9–13, I read approximately 1,000 lines of Caesar and Vergil that were new to me. The workshop was led by a venerable icon of the high school world of Classics, Donald Connor of the Trinity School in New York City. Due to this experience, I made the acquaintance of 11 other Latin teachers from schools up and down the eastern seaboard. The exchange of ideas and preparation techniques was an invigorating and inspiring experience for me. I feel very much equipped to teach this new course and make the literature of both Caesar and Vergil come alive for my students. I also had the opportunity to explore Baltimore’s in-
ner harbor and eat dinner in Little Italy with my wife, an experience which reminded me of many a superb meal in Trastavere in Rome. Furthermore, one teacher from the Baltimore area led us to a genuine, hole-in-the wall crab shack where we gorged on huge Maryland blue crabs laden with layers of Chesapeake Old Bay seasoning. I don’t think I got the smell off my hands for several days! I want to thank Lovett for making the funds available to have this singular experience. This is my 30th year teaching at Lovett. Part of the reason I remain so committed to this school is that our leaders and Board put a priority on continued travel and experiential education for the faculty. I would urge others to apply for these monies next summer and pursue similar paths of intellectual and educational growth.
AP Institute: Art History at Manhatten College Sally Crouse This August I was thrilled to attend the AP Art History Institute at Manhattan College in New York City. Besides the opportunity to work with like-minded art historians (a rare occurrence, believe me!), I was able to stay in midtown Manhattan, minutes away from some of the country’s greatest museums. On my first day, I visited the Morgan Museum in Murray Hill, a small, perfectly proportioned space where visitors are able to walk in the rooms J. Pierpont Morgan called his home. The museum houses an incredible collection of antique bibles, and the interior decoration, punctuated with European masterpiece paintings and sculpture, is exquisitely designed to reflect Morgan’s Gilded Age sensibilities. What a gem! Later in the week, I went to the equally lovely and impressive Frick Collection, housed in a mansion on the Upper East Side overlooking Central Park. Here, very little has changed since Henry Clay Frick’s days as a steel industrialist with a passion for art and design. You walk through the rooms that look the same as when the Fricks lived there, filled with works about which the owner was passionate. In class, my fellow colleagues and I we inundated with new ways to prepare our students for the AP Art History exam. Note-taking strategies, technology, and the importance of linking themes throughout art history were all
The Empire State Building lit up for the Olympics. discussed in detail, and our instructor gave us an incredible amount of information to use in our classes. As an art historian, I was validated that my current way of teaching is effective and acceptable, but I also learned great, new ways to enliven my classes and prepare my students for the future.
Steve Spangler’s Science in the Rockies Sarah Spiers This summer, I attended the Steve Spangler Science in the Rockies training in Denver, Co., the best professional development experience I have ever had. For three days, I inquired, experimented, had discussions with fellow science teachers from around the U.S. and the world, tried new things that were in and out of my comfort zone (which included being vacuum packed and walking on glass), and laughed! I have new ideas for each grade level I teach and some amazing experiments and demonstrations to show my students, particularly in the areas of physical science. The focus of this experience was not just the experiments, but also how to inspire and excite young minds in science. I have brought back masses of materials that were included in the conference, and I cannot wait to get started on the new lessons I have planned. Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity.
Project-Based Learning Conference Michelle Murphy In June, I had the privilege of attending the first annual PBL World Conference held at New Technology High School in the heart of Napa, Ca. Approximately 450 educators from around the country were in attendance, all of us eager to learn how to begin using project-based learning (PBL) in our classrooms or to improve our understanding of PBL and how to use it effectively. By attending the conference, I was finally able to see the difference between planning a project and using projectbased learning as a teaching strategy. For example, I now understand the importance of establishing a clear “driving question” that will engage students and get them interested in the project and content. I understand the importance of building in multiple formative assessment opportunities throughout the project. Finally, I see that incorporating a public audience into the project at some point helps students grasp the relevance of their work. These changes mean that students see a real-life use for the content, play the role of someone in society using these skills, and come out with a product that they would show and explain to others. At the end of the year, I hope the students who leave my classroom are excited about science, about learning, and about creating, and are confident in their abilities to use sources around them to make their ideas happen!
Slide showing the state of education in the U.S. and how students are feeling about the way we are teaching them. Videos Creating a driving question: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2CAmW7c-Ow>. Learning why problem-solveing and applying one’s knowledge are important: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXCuGvsThEw>.
Physical Education Conference Lance Oubs and Jill Melito The Physical Education Conference in Asheville, NC was stimulating, engaging and definitely educational. As we all know, today’s children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents. The biggest culprit of this decrease in life expectancy is the lack of physical activity in many children’s lives. Technology yields a more sedentary life-style, consequently increasing the risk of life altering diseases. This conference gave us new and innovative ideas to
help kids learn to move proficiently and to instill in them a love of movement. Cardiovascular exercise and total body strength workouts are necessary to improve children’s overall health. However, the key to success is making it enjoyable so that they will remain active outside of physical education class. We are now armed with new equipment, new ideas and, yes, new technology that will aid us in improving Lovett Lower School PE and, subsequently, our students’ overall health.
New Chaucer Society Mary Kay Waterman I am deeply grateful for the Ford grant I received to present at the Eighteenth Biennial Congress of the New Chaucer Society in Portland, Oregon. The experience was intellectually inspiring and has given me multiple ideas for future classroom work and study. In the summer of 2010, with fifteen other secondary teachers, I received an NEH Grant to study Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in London with David Raybin and Susanna Fein, editors of the New Chaucer Society Journal. Reading Chaucer in Middle English, examining centuries-old texts with manuscript scholars, and visiting sites in Southwark and Canterbury were life-changing experiences. However, what has most impacted my teaching was the opportunity to learn from a group of dynamic teachers; we have formed an organic learning community. Our discussions about teaching Chaucer since 2010 led us to organize a Roundtable at this summer’s Congress. Our Roundtable considered the theory and practice of teaching Chaucer to high school students and the links between secondary and college-level teaching of medieval literature and culture. Cristin VanderPlas of Seattle’s John F. Kennedy Catholic High School and I presented on “The Social World of the Canterbury Tales: Connecting Critical Thinking, Social Commentary, and Ethical Citizenship.” We addressed how and why today’s students can benefit
from reading the Tales, posing the question, “How do we teach students to read critically and to engage in social criticism in humane and empathetic ways?” We discussed how Chaucer’s satire challenges students to critique their own social worlds and to examine their own ethics and biases. We also provided tactical strategies and activities we have used in our classrooms to teach the Tales from this perspective. We received overwhelmingly positive support from university-level medievalists. We plan to continue our research with an article or conference presentation, and to develop new technology-based activities for students.
Sewanee Writers Conference Julia Franks The Sewanee Writers Conference is a twelve-day nerd fest at the beautiful University of the South on the Tennessee plateau. Attendance is by application and invitation only, so the people who attend are serious about literature and writing. Each day starts with lectures by outstanding authors like Mark Strand, Tim O’Brien, John Casey, Tony Early, and Alice McDermott. The afternoons are all about workshops, reading and reviewing one another’s fiction or poetry in small-groups. Then comes a really geeky happy hour in which attendees are hashing out the books they’ve read, or speculating on the thousands of others they
haven’t, or gossiping about authors or poets or teachers, or recommending the stuff they’re doing in the classroom. You meet dozens of really smart people, most of whom are teachers and professors and writers, but some of whom are soldiers or dentists, too, and all of whom are talking about authors or poetry or novels or teaching, and you stay up later and later every night, going to impromptu readings and having intellectual conversations. The conference is also a great bargain: two weeks of lectures, workshops, and instruction subsidized by the venerable Tennessee Williams Foundation.