Jul 17, 2010

things I learned in New Mexico

I spent the last five days in Montezuma, New Mexico, attending an IB conference at UWC-USA. In five days of classes, meals, road trips, and bull sessions, I learned a few things.

1. My students are even more competent than I imagine. When it comes to IB rubrics, I tend to be stingy with 5's, and now I know why: I expect a 5 to be like the writing of an accomplished graduate of a top-tier university English program. After eight sessions focusing on English assessment, I realize that a 5 isn't perfection.

2. Moderating my assessment doesn't mean I'm going to change how I teach. Big, big difference.

3. They call New Mexico "The Land of Enchantment" for a reason. The reason involves scorpions, brown bears, skunks, wildflowers, piny woods, sage, rock outcroppings, mosquitoes, and thunderstorms.

4. Teachers dance. I was not mentally (or spiritually?) prepared for that.

5. Every education workshop should start with a two hour bus ride and should be hosted in a building that necessitates having a roommate. Nothing better for socializing--more on this in a bit.

6. I am a natural introvert, although I've figured out how to overcome my extreme discomfort while mingling, or when scanning a cafeteria for an open seat. On the first day I resolved to sit at a new table each day, introduce myself, and then--and this is key, introverts--let the extroverts take over from there. They tend to draw you in to the conversation and draw you out of yourself.

7. People seem to appreciate it when you do the right thing without making a fuss.

8. I can't write an ode on command.

9. I felt most like a true student when learning the art of the cowboy hat in the Popular Dry Goods on Bridge Street in Las Vegas, New Mexico. (The one featured in No Country for Old Men, as the owner, a lifelong local who, sadly, wasn't featured in the film, was happy to share. Under his guidance, I stood where Josh Brolin stood. Not usually a fanboy, but come on, it's the Coen brothers.) The sales assistant, the owner's daughter, provided the lesson, patiently waiting as I dithered over styles and materials and colors. Hope you like the hat, Dad.

10. I didn't get to say this to everyone I met, but: thanks.

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