WRITTEN BY LESLIE DICKSON
Editor's Note: The Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg is pleased to support board members with professional development opportunities. The report below, submitted by member-at-large Leslie Dickson, tells of her experience at the Reading for the Love of It conference in Toronto, February 23 and 24, 2017. The event was hosted by the East York-Scarborough Reading Association.
Reading for the Love of It was an exhausting but invigorating two-day professional development opportunity in beautiful downtown Toronto. Originally unsure what to expect, I was surprised by the scope and scale of this conference. There was an excellent publisher’s display with a huge range of literacy materials across grade and subject areas, four amazing keynotes, and a truly moving speaker for the opening ceremony. It was not possible to attend all the sessions that interested me, but the ones I attended were inspirational, and the speakers were extremely knowledgeable about their specific topics. I left the conference at the end of two days with a plethora of ideas, strategies and lessons to use immediately in my senior-high English classes.
The opening ceremony began with a rousing, toe-tapping performance by Toronto’s award winning show choir from the Etobicoke School for the Arts. They were followed by an exceptional keynote address that set the stage for the remainder of the conference. Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation used humour and real-life experience to deliver his “happiness” message. The overall theme of his talk was that managing ourselves must come before managing our classrooms and that the single biggest differentiator is happiness levels. He reported that “happy people are 31% more productive, have 37% higher sales, and are 3 times more creative than their peers.” Furthermore, “50% of our happiness is genetics, 10% circumstance, and 40% is intentional activity.” It is the intentional activity that was the focus of his presentation. For fans of Ted Talks, he has filmed several for publication.
Of the four Meal Keynotes offered, I attended two: Margaret Trudeau and Marie-Louise Gay. Margaret Trudeau’s presentation, Changing My Mind, shared her story of what it was like to grow up and live with bi-polar disorder. Her goal was to help inspire others and to erase the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Her presentation was charming, funny and completely honest. She shared her story from being the youngest First Lady of Canada, who was unprepared for public life, to the tragic loss of her son, Michel and Pierre Elliot Trudeau a few years later. Hers is a story of resilience and rebuild. She reminded us of the importance of nurturing the body, mind and spirit.
Marie-Louise Gay, writer and/or illustrator of over sixty books for children, focused on the importance of visual and verbal literacy. She stressed the importance of teachers carrying their own childhood with them throughout their lives and the importance of holding on to those moments of wonder to help us understand how kids think. Through this, teachers can inspire children to create their own stories, to explore their ideas and to read books in a different way.
My list of general sessions attended over the two days included:
The level of information I received from all of these sessions was both awe-inspiring and encouraging. It validated paths I’m already on, provided me with new ideas, and re-enforced the importance of literacy.
There were a number of sessions I was disappointed I couldn’t get to. Mary Bigler, Barbara Reid, Rachel Cooke, and Adrienne Gear, to name a few, all presented at the same time as the other sessions I ultimately attended. Hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to return to the 2018 conference and target a few of these speakers.
Attending Reading for the Love of It was a wonderful way to brighten my February and inspire me at the start of a new semester. I highly recommend this conference to any teacher of literacy. I am sincerely thankful to the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg for this amazing professional development opportunity. I will definitely attend again!
About the Author – Leslie Dickson serves as a member-at-large on the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg's board of directors. She is the Social Studies Department Head, ELA Teacher, and Lead Literacy Teacher at Elmwood High School in Winnipeg. She is the recent winner of the RCGW Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Literacy.
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