My sister @sralph31 recently blogged about her Nerd Camp heroes @pernilleripp, @donalynbooks, @colbysharp, and @MrSchuReads. She also briefly talked about how Nerd Camp helped me. She asked me to share my story because it is mine to tell. So here goes:
Have you ever felt alone? I don’t mean personally, I mean professionally? That is how I felt before I went to Nerd Camp. When I graduated with my Masters in Library Science I could not find a position as a Media Coordinator so I became a Technology Facilitator at a school I loved. After 2 1/2 years I was called to central office where our new superintendent told all the Tech Facilitators they would not have our jobs for the 2015-2016 school year. A media coordinator position came open so I took it. I spent the rest of the year feeling out of place, not respected, and frustrated about my job. I felt alone professionally because I was the only media coordinator at my school and I did not communicate with the other media coordinators in the district enough. I also seemed to be the only one who hated how reading worked at my school. A system where you are not awarded for how many books you read that you want to, but for how many RC points you get. A system where a student’s reading is labeled by a dot color and a lexile level. A system where all the kids are aware who can read and who can’t because their dot color tells everyone how smart they are. I entered summer wanting to switch schools and thinking I couldn’t stay. I needed help.
Sara had talked to me about going to Nerd Camp already but I was skeptical. I thought to myself “we are going a long way for another professional development”. I decided it would be fun to spend time with her and get free books so it could be worth the drive. Of course I did not know the magic of Nerd Camp until I got there.
The magic started our first night in Michigan. We went to have dinner at Olive Garden with a bunch of Sara’s Twitter friends. I did not talk much because I did not know anyone but I was amazed at how nice everyone was I also thought it was pretty cool to be having dinner with @joshfunkbooks, @Jess_Keating, and @debbieohi. They were creators of children’s books who were happy to talk to the rest of us non-writers.
The magic continued our first day. We rolled up to Nerd Camp and Sara was a total celebrity. She knew tons of people and they knew her. She hugged Colby Sharp and Donalyn Miller while I sat there with her. I remember saying something to Sara about how popular she was. I felt slightly alone so I planned to attend every session that Sara went too. I was also still worried that this might be just another conference.
The opening session was when I started to realize that Nerd Camp was not just another conference. Authors and teachers were talking about how important it was for kids to read and to have reading choice. After hearing Donalyn Miller and Pernille Ripp speak I knew that I was going to get something more out of this. I had finally found some other professionals who felt the same way I did about reading.
The day continued with great sessions where I heard authors telling me that if I wanted to write I could and I should. Many of them were just regular people who wrote about what they loved or what they knew and turned it into a book. I left those sessions thinking that maybe I could write a book in the future. Then I met Mr. Schu who wanted me to smell and undress books. I soon became aware of his contagious love of students, books, and children’s authors. I left day one thinking that I wanted to be as awesome a librarian as Mr. Schu and an author like the authors on the author’s panels.
When day two came I was super excited to go back to Nerd Camp. I made Sara get there super early. I was excited not just for the Swag of Crenshaw but also to see what else I could learn. Even though I had a great first day I realized that I was still alone. I still needed help professionally and I did not know how to get it. Donalyn and Pernille decided to lead a session on “Breaking the Rules Gently”. I was determined to attend because I thought that the session would be small and I could finally get some answers. Boy was I wrong.
So many people wanted to be in the session that we had to go back to the auditorium to fit everyone. I was intimidated about saying anything but a voice inside said “you came for help so ask for it”. I stood up in front of everyone and asked for help. I told everyone in that room that we were killing the love of reading and that my student’s did not know how to pick books for choice. I cried too. I cried out of frustration and because of my passion for teaching and reading. What did I get in response? I got respect and I got support. My Twitter page blew up with people telling me that I was brave and that they supported me. I went from 6 followers to 60 before I left Michigan. I felt popular but what I needed most was to stop feeling alone professionally. I needed to feel supported and network with other people and that is just what I got.
Have you figured out how Nerd Camp changed my life yet? I have. It has made me feel like I can do anything. I can write a book and get it published. I can become an awesome librarian who fights for her students and supports her teachers. I can do these things because I am not alone professionally anymore. I have the support of hundereds of Nerd Campers who told me on day 2 that I can do this. I have the support of authors, teachers, and librarians who make me feel supported on Twitter. I feel like I can ask questions and get answers. I have a network of wonderful educators who tell me we are all in this together and I believe them. I feel more confident and positive because I feel supported.
So please do yourself a favor. If you have not attended Nerd Camp please go especially if you are feeling lost or alone like I was. If you open yourself up to the experience then Nerd Camp will change your life too.