Saturday, August 19, 2006

Playing "Catch Up" in Nashville

I just realized that I didn't write a thing about my trip to Nashville two weeks ago for the North American Division Teachers' Convention (August 6-9). I've hard had time to catch my breath since I came back, so it's no surprise it's slipped my mind. It was a good experience, though. One I don't want to forget about.

The purpose of doing something like that is to help Adventist teachers know they don't teach in a vacuum, that they are not alone, and that they are appreciated. Given how isolated many of us are in our all-consuming career, I think it's a great idea to do this every now and again (every 6 years, actually) so we can literally see the great company of teachers we belong to. The numbers vary some, depnding on who is reporting them, but at one point, there were as many as 7,000 Adventist educators in one room praising God and gaining inspiration and encouragement for the year ahead. Unless you were there, you can't imagine what that feels look around you and see all those colleagues who have the same values, the same intentions as you do.

That's the first thing that was great about the convention. The sheer numbers. But then there were the individuals, the old friends, the former classmates, students, and colleagues that I saw. I kept a list, but after awhile I couldn't keep up. I think the students made the most impact on me, although I had more to say to colleagues since I've kept in better touch with many of them. But to have a "kid" now all grown up and teaching somewhere because he/she wanted to be a teacher like me discover that was overwhelming.

One "kid" said I was on their list to look up and thank for teaching the most practical class he ever took: Advance Composition (the first time I ever taught that!). Another just gave me a hug and said it was so good to see me (after 24 years). Another wanted his picture taken with me (it's here). And another was totally blown away because I could still tell her her name (although I don't remember where I taught her) without any hints from her! I saw some I wouldn't have recognized if I hadn't seen their name tags. And then there was my 10th grade English teacher who looks exactly the same, down to the clothes, hair style and glasses!!!

I had a room to myself, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It had a balcony that I liked to go out on watch the people go by below. The Gaylord Opryland Resort was huge and beautiful...with everything under a glass dome, kind of like a biosphere. I was staying in the "Cascades" section that had a 40 foot waterfall flowing into a tropical garden. It was all really beautiful.

I had the luxury of attending a number of the general sessions with one of my dearest friends (we started teaching together in Michigan). We also went out to eat one night and wandered an enormous shopping mall just talking and staying cool (it was 100+ outside). It is always good to walk and talk with her. I met another friend and her husband (we taught together at both SLA and GBA) for dinner another night. They had driven up from Collegedale just to see me...and his daughter.

The last day I attended the Shop Talk for English teachers and had the privilege of sharing a story about how John Donne's Meditation #17 served as a major comfort this past January to my seniors who had learned the "No man is an island" meditation just days before three of their friends from SLA were killed in a car accident. The fascillitator of the session was another dear friend of mine and he purposely saved me for last because he was so touched by the story. What was amazing to me was after I shared, the woman sitting next to me (I don't even know where she teaches) leaned over and said "We heard about your loss. We prayed for you." That was almost the best moment among all the other best moments. To know strangers have prayed for you...that's empowering.

One of the speakers on Monday was Ron Clark, the Disney Teacher of the Year for 2000. He's written a couple of books--The Essential 55 and The Excellent 11--and was the subject of a TNT movie just last Sunday starring Matthew Perry as Ron. His is an amazing and inspiring story of a young man who got in his car and drove from Atlanta to Harlem and begged for the worst class in one of the worst schools there and how he brought them from pure failures to pure successes in just one school year. Go here to read more about him.

If you want to see more pictures than I've put here, go to my other blog and check out the photos there. Even so, they don't capture the feel of being there. The feel of singing hymns with thousands of people. The feel of purpose and passion and power that comes with knowing you are doing the right thing with your life...


Sunny said...

I'm so jealous. I would LOVE to go to Nashville and stay in the opryland resort. Have heard so much about it. And, of course, for a country music lover like myself, the Grand Old Opry itself would be a great experience. Years ago when I was teaching some Chinese acrobatics in my ESL class at the local community college they had to be absent from class because they were performing at a place called "Nastyville". They made the mistake in innocense but we had a good howl when we figured it out. The truth is, they hated the humidity there! And, it was hot! Meanwhile I was GREEN with envy! Later, I saw on television their performance down there. I also went to see them locally of course. That is the closest I've ever gotten to Opry land.

Rondi said...

Some Chinese acrobats performed one of the nights we were there. They were fantastic!!! Another night there was a lady, I guess a trapeze artist, performed from a rope hanging not too far out from my balcony. I watched from there witha very interesting perspective that the groundlings didn't have! Then, over on the Delta Island, there was a "Vine Lady" who was covered with fines and who performed on stilts, also covered with vines. She had the traditional stilts for her feet, but also had them on her arms and used them as if she had four legs, doing walkovers and handstands on them!!! Quite spectacular...and a little creepy as well.

I'm sorry to say I did not go to the Grand Old Opry itself, although I did walk by it...twice. They got tickets for everyone who wanted to go, but I'm not a country music fan, and they weren't featuring any familiar names, so I went out with one of my friends instead...

Patty said...

Wow, looks like a great convention.
BTW, you look so good. Not a wrinkle in sight.
Its always good to go to something like that kind of program to get you all fired up, refreshed with new ideas and concepts.
New school year full steam ahead !