Editor’s Note: The Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg Board of Directors occasionally has the opportunity to support other members' participation in professional development events. In this article, board member Michelle Wolf shares her experience at the annual Reading for the Love Of It Conference, hosted February 2017 in Toronto. Registration is currently open for the 2018 conference, to be held February 22 and 23 in Toronto.
Being selected by the RCGW Board to attend Reading for the Love Of It last February came at the best time in my year. I have always found February and March to be the months where I struggle to engage and stay engaged, becoming less likely to try new strategies for my struggling readers. Being able to attend this conference gave me the much needed professional push. It also gave me a few days to focus not only on my life of reading but also just time to focus on myself.
I was pleasantly impressed by keynote speaker Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation. I will be honest that I was not initially looking forward his presentation. Living in a world of feel-good reality TV shows and immediate gratification via social media, I was expecting the same motivational talk that we have all heard a thousand times. I was so impressed by what Neil had to say that I not only bought all his books but stood in line for 45 minutes to get them autographed. As a teacher in a Catholic School, I was thrilled when Neil shared a lesson that he had learned from a group of Catholic nuns, which he has incorporated into his equation of happiness. The nuns see how we, as a society, work backwards; we put in long hours and dedicate ourselves to our jobs and then expect that to be enough to make us happy. But if we go in as happy, everything else will fall into place.
Listening to the meal keynote speakers were life changing experiences for me. Deborah Ellis is such an inspiration to me and should be to all women within our “first world.” She challenges teachers to love what they do: If there comes a point where we stop loving what we do, then we need to find another profession. Teaching is such an important and vital part of our evolving society that we cannot expect children to become engaged member of our international community if they are being taught by someone who is in it for the wrong reasons. I found her presentation refreshing and a call to attention. Several people left while she was speaking; some told me it was because of the challenge Deborah offered and also because of her comments about our responsibility as first-world citizens. But Deborah Ellis is an invaluable advocate for the rights of exploited people around the world. Knowing that I was going to see her speak, I bought all my personal books for her to autograph. Her books should be in every middle years classroom across this country.
Listening to Margaret Trudeau speak was a roller coaster of emotions for me. She is full of witty comments and her intelligence is obvious to all those around her. She is a voice of mental illness and speaks from a place of truth without shame. As the evening went on and she spoke in depth about her dedication to education and mental health, it became apparent that, as funny and witty as she is, there was also a sadness at how the world did and how we still do view mental illnesses.
There were so many sessions and so much information to take in. I left some sessions disappointed. When I attend Keynotes, I expect to learn more than what I can find on the Internet. I expect personal stories, challenging thoughts, and unfortunately I did not leave one session with any sense of professional satisfaction or inspiration.
But when it came to Katie Garner and Pat Johnson, they were just as good as I had hoped they would be. I found myself leaving some of the sessions early to try and get a seat at another session. I am grateful for being able to go to this conference and am planning on attending next year as well.
About the Author – Michelle Wolf serves as the MYRCA representative on the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg's Board of Directors. She is the Resource Teacher at St. Alphonsus Catholic School in Winnipeg. As a child, Michelle struggled as a reader. She hopes to empower struggling readers to achieve the same love of literacy that she was taught.