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Sometimes adding just that little bit more makes everything perfect. You want that perfect last bite, or adding just that one last slide to make a presentation even better. That last little bit becomes the icing on the cake.

Having Saturday morning for the IATE Fall 2013 conference was that icing on the cake for me this weekend. Friday was absolutely spectacular (in my weird, nerdy, English teacher sort of way). I know that I alluded to this experience in my previous post, “Teachers Never Stop Learning,” but the true magic isn’t found in just the presentations themselves – it’s also found in the way that I am able to connect with fellow English teachers.

There were so many great ideas that I was able to take away from these presentations and I can’t wait to start implementing some ideas into my own classroom.  One of the biggest takeaways that I had this weekend was to give students choice in the classroom. When it comes to writing and projects, when students have choice, their creativity is then able to come through. I think there are certain things about this concept that teachers struggle with because we want to be so sure that our students succeed that we want to help them as much as we can. In wanting to help them so much though, sometimes we hinder or stifle their creativity as we over-structure plans and assignments.

However, classroom ideas weren’t the only things that I came away with this weekend. Another one of my takeaways was all of the connections that I was able to make with other educators. Many of these other English teachers I had already connected with through Twitter, but this weekend I was able to meet many of them in person and make new connections to other teachers as we tweeted about the conference using the hashtag #iate13. Getting to meet @AndersonGL after at least of year of sharing journal prompts and ideas through Twitter was great, along with his colleagues. Also meeting @JoyKirr and @mrpiper76 throughout the day was a great way to exchange ideas and find out more about what others were doing in their own classrooms.

What was left of my chocolate cake and milk

I must say though, that I have not enjoyed myself as much as I did at dinner on Friday night after a fantastic day of hearing from authors like Geoff Herbach and Ilsa J. Bick. (Both of whom have books that my students are currently reading – and they loved hearing about it at school.) What made dinner special was being able to laugh and get to know all of my table-mates and when dessert came – an amazing chocolate fudge cake – I was with kindred souls who believed that this dessert could only be enjoyed with a wonderfully tall, cold glass of milk. The great part was that our server agreed with us and we became the only table at dinner that night to have a perfect dessert.

Last year I left this conference with a lot of great ideas to take back to my classroom. This year, I once again had great ideas and information to take back with me – but even more importantly, I made connections with other educators that I know will be even more beneficial. I hope that every teacher has the ability to make the same types of connections that I made this past weekend at the IATE 2013 Conference.