Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Out of My League

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief about my day. There are many days of my life where I feel like I’m living an out of body experience. It’s just not possible that I could have orchestrated anything in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord for your loving direction. I can only point to you when things happen that are too crazy to explain any other way.

I’m currently sitting in the Atlanta airport awaiting my 10:00 pm flight home. I left Houston this morning at 5:30, so it’s been a looooong day. Despite the fact that it was a day off of school, I was nerding it up devoting my entire day to discussing the teaching of writing.

A few weeks ago, one of my bosses asked me if I would be interested in going to a “writing think tank” to discuss what could be done to improve writing instruction in middle schools. She had barely finished her sentence when I said YES. Then I started finding out more about what I would be doing and got a little nervous. I was to fly to Atlanta to a meeting of the SREB (Southern Region Educational Board). The SREB works with policymakers in all of the southern states and makes recommendations for public education. They are starting a new writing initiative and are creating a report for policymakers (think governors, senators, congressmen, state school board members, etc.) They wanted to gather a group of people together to discuss writing in middle school. Present at the meeting were: the President of SREB, the #1 educational researcher in the country, the #2 educational researcher in the country, the #3 educational researcher in the country, a 20 year veteran administrator, and the head education for the entire state of Alabama. Oh… and me. You can start laughing and/or shaking your head right about now.

So I hopped off the plane at ATL with a dream and my cardigan… (I really did have a cardigan….)

Right away, I was like: this is WAY over my head! And I had done my homework, too. I researched all of the researchers (irony there). I knew what they were famous for and even pored over about a hundred pages of their research. I investigated all of the acronyms I knew would be thrown around, and I still didn’t know like 50 of them. (I discreetly wrote some down to look up later.) I learned how studies are conducted – I can now explain effect size and what’s significant and explain meta-analysis of data. I knew a good bit… BUT NOWHERE NEAR WHAT THEY DID! The day was five hours around a board room table. No agenda. No notes. No presentations. We just talked for 5 hours.

It quickly became apparent that these people were not only very smart, they knew they were very smart. And they liked to hear themselves explain how smart they were. I’m not naturally an outgoing type, and these people never. stopped. talking. The last person was not even done with their sentence when someone else was jumping in. I could not get a word in edgewise. Finally I was like, OK… they flew me here, I’ve gotta say something… so I did try to jump in a few times. Thankfully, one of the ladies in charge knew I was having difficulty (as was another quiet guy), so she kept saying, “Now, Katie, tell us how this works on the ground.” My job was basically to say how we have done things at YES, and then make recommendations on how more people could do it on a larger scale. But I mostly listened a lot and learned a lot.

It was bizarre, being with all these old men talking in such academic terms about teaching. I’m almost never in a setting where the men outnumber the women in education, and I’m never in a situation where I’m the youngest by a good 25 years. But these people are the ones making policies and running things, essentially. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I’m sure that every single person was thinking, “What is she doing here?” But oh well.

It gets better. When 5:00 came, the was meeting over. My flight didn't leave until 10:00, and everyone knew it. At that point, half of the people left for the airport to catch earlier flights. That left me with one older lady and four men… going to the hotel bar. I was giving myself a pep talk like, “You can do this! Network!” So I sat at the bar, ordered a glass of wine, and proceeded to talk about weather, colleges, and sports (yep… grasping at straws) with these men. So funny. One of the men is a professor at Vanderbilt (the #1 researcher guy). He and I randomly started talking at the end of our conversation, he said, “OK, well I take a few doctoral students a year, so if you’re looking to get a masters or PhD at Vanderbilt, just give me a call.” Just give you a call??? Um…OK? So then, all the men left for the airport, and I went, too. We got to the airport and had dinner together and just parted ways. We are maybe BFF now.

I will probably get to go back when the group meets again. I may even have my name on a report that gets sent to all of the southern states. Not that I deserve it for my 1.25 comments, but who knows. In summary: today was wild and crazy, and did that really happen??

Thank you Lord. You have amazed me yet again.


1 comment:

Kate and Zach said...

That is amazing!!!!!!!! What a cool experience. There is definitely a reason you were invited to go! Congrats girl!

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