Sometimes, you find yourself working on a Tuesday night and realize that you haven’t blogged in a while. And if you happen to be me, that happened tonight. Now, I have a few things I’d like to blog about, and I will. But blogging has sort of taken a back seat to planning out lessons and assessments for the three levels of math I haven’t taught before. Side note, because I think this is kind of interesting: I have now taught math at every level my 6-12 certification allows me to teach. But I like this blog, and people are apparently still stopping by, so I ought to give them something to read.

Tonight’s thought: curveballs.

I was thinking I should blog about NCTE, my first time presenting at a national conference, and all kinds of good things from that. But then that got me thinking about my first NCTE. And I realized that I need to talk about curveballs.

You see, the first NCTE I attended was in 2012. It was awesome. I wrote about it here. But the first NCTE that affected me directly was in 2011. I did not attend. I asked my principal if there was money to send me, and she said no, there was not. I was bummed. I was getting into Twitter and had high hopes of collaborating with people in person. I knew if I wasn’t there, I’d be missing out on something. She suggested I attend MRA, the Michigan Reading Association conference, instead.


I was disappointed and upset. I didn’t want to go to a literacy conference. I was a literature teacher! Seriously, I actually said that to my teaching partner. I’ve since recanted. And I decided I should check out MRA. I stumbled upon a grant to attend, was awarded the grant, and was able to go.

While I was there, I met people who are still, to this day, changing my life. You see, MRA was in March 2012. The Nerdy Book Club was started in December 2011. Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, and many Michigan/Indiana/Illinois Nerdies were in attendance. I remember meeting Donalyn and Colby. I was walking with one of the other grant winners after the opening session. I saw them ahead of me and actually forgot to speak. I said something along the lines of “it’s…hey…buh…mahjongiternuh” to the person I had up to that point actually been saying intelligible things to. She wisely left me to myself, and I approached Colby and Donalyn, who were probably in the middle of hatching some plan to save the readers of the world (sorry for ruining that for everyone). When I shook their hands (and there was probably an embrace involved — I mean, who doesn’t Donalyn hug?), I remember saying their names to them. As if I needed to remind them of their names instead of introducing myself. Later on, I met many other Nerdy Book Club members, and remembered to give my name. I don’t remember everything I learned that weekend, but I do remember the connections that are still changing my life. I am a better teacher because of everyone I met at MRA. All because I was unable to find funding to go to NCTE.

Fast forward a couple months. I saw a Twitter conversation about something called Teachers Write! This was a summer writing project directed at teachers, especially those who are looking to write their own books. I decided to get involved, and it developed me tons as a writer and as a teacher of writing. I built relationships through this that led to me presenting with the organizers at NCTE this year. Did I intend for this to happen? Absolutely not. Am I glad it did and better off for it? Absolutely.


Fast forward…well, our timeline isn’t really in one piece right now, as we’re both in late spring of 2012 and in late fall of 2013, but fast forward/rewind to early fall of 2013. I find myself needing to leave one job, and I fortunately find another. I expected to teach high school English this year, and now I’m teaching middle school math.

Another curveball.

There are plenty of curveballs I’ve been thrown over my fairly young life, and they all have sent me to where I am now. But as I look back on them, I find that relationships are at the heart of them all. I don’t remember everything I learned. I don’t remember all the emotions. What has lasted for me are the relationships I’ve found and the community I have built around me. I can’t imagine my life without MRA. It would be far worse than it is. I can’t imagine my life without Teachers Write! and presenting at NCTE. Those are experiences I will always have to build upon, and have already been adding to my professional life. While it’s early in my time as a math teacher at Hale, I am excited about what this curveball will bring. Where will these relationships take me?


Coming up, which I’m posting here to get people thinking about it and to remind myself to blog about it: in what ways do curveballs affect our students?


5 thoughts on “Curveballs

  1. Such a great post, Brian, and an important life lesson. Just when you think life is taking you down one road that you thought was the right one, it veers off to another one, and that’s the one you needed to walk down all along. At one of these conferences, I hope I get a chance to sit down and really talk to you. 😉 I feel like I’m always just passing by. One day – one curveball. 😉

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