Blog: Milestones

Conference Nerd

26 Aug 2019

Conference Nerd

I'm a big planner, so changing what I was intent on writing about for this edition of "Milestones" is a bit surprising. However, if I've learned one thing over the years of being a writer, if you aren't feeling it, don't write it!

Instead, I've found myself preoccupied with thinking about AMLE in Nashville this fall ... I'm dreaming of my next "vacation" since I did summer school this year. This is my fifth year attending the annual AMLE conference, and I'm just as excited as the very first time. I'm looking forward to so many things, but I wanted to take a moment to share some of the "conference insider" tips that I've learned over the years!

Tip #1: Talk to the presenters

When I love a session, I make sure to introduce myself to the presenter and share my impressions of the session. As a presenter myself, I know it is great to get that honest, instant feedback, but it's also a great way to meet passionate educators like yourself. Several years ago I met Katie Powell, author of the brand new book Boredom Busters, after attending one of her sessions. Check out her website,, to find out more, and watch "Hungry Hippos for Back to School" to see how she engages students. She'll be presenting at #AMLE19 in Nashville, so stop by to learn from her. I've met Rick Wormeli, Rosalind Wiseman, and other #EduHeroes just by introducing myself.

Tip #2: Get social

Of course, when you're at a conference you should meet new people, socialize, and have fun. However, when I say "get social," I mean to take to social media and follow all the educators you meet and whose sessions you attend. Think about it this way: if you love the session or had a great conversation, social media is the way to keep the conversation going. We could all use a little more positive in our lives, right? Teaching can be an alienating experience, and it is crucial to put ourselves out there, sharing our own narrative, but it's also important to continue the learning. Here's a list of just some of the educators I've met at AMLE. You should follow them too, and you'll find them at #AMLE19:

Katie Powell: @Beyond_the_Desk
Todd Bloch: @blocht574
LaVonna Roth: @LaVonnaRoth
Jessica Lahey: @jesslahey
Dr. Debbie Silver: @DrDebbieSilver

Make sure you follow the presenters, but also walk right over to the table of people you don't know, and strike up conversation, even if it's awkward. We're used to awkward, right? We teach middle school! The connections you will make are worth it, and you'll keep learning long after you've left Nashville.

Tip #3: Enjoy the venue

I'm a conference nerd. I'll admit it. I've been to conferences where I literally didn't step outside of the hotel the entire time I was there--including last year's AMLE conference in Florida. The venue was so out-of-my-element that I spent my time wandering around inside. It looks like I'm outside in these pictures, but that's just the Gaylord Palms Resort and Conference Center. This year's conference is at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and I'm sure that even if I keep to my conference nerd trend, I'll be happy. It's not every day that I have the chance to stay at a luxury hotel, so that just might be enough for me. Let me know what it's like in the outside world!

Happy New School Year everyone. I look forward to seeing you in Nashville and on Twitter. Please come see my session, "Integrating Art to Activate the Magic Molecule," and say hi! (You can read about it here). Next month, let's explore this question: "How do you develop relationships with students and their families?" Look to participate in the conversation on Twitter (@MsAmberChandler) and Facebook (look for "The Flexible Classroom").

Who Are You Reading?

1 Aug 2019

Who Are You Reading?

As an English teacher, I tend to have imaginative relationships with authors. I dream up cross country road trips with some, dinner conversations with others, and my son's middle name is Holden, borrowed from our "long lost Uncle Salinger." Instead of asking you what you're reading, I'm liable to ask who you're reading. In this blog, I'm going to share who I've been reading—or in all three cases, listening to. Then, I'd love for you to answer these questions across social media platforms when you see them. Use the #AMLE and make sure you ask your friends too!

Author I'd love to go on a cross-country road trip with:
When I was 22, I took a cross-country road trip, and just like the good cliche that college students can sometimes be, I read Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac and carried my beat up copy of Leaves of Grass with me like a security blanket. My backpack screamed "English Major," and when I returned from Seattle, I brandished an ankle tattoo to solidify my rebelliousness. It was the mid-90s and this was what life was all about.

When I reflect how different the world was two decades ago, I'm amazed at how alone I was on that trip. There was no social media. There was no crowd of followers watching my every move. In fact, I don't have a single picture from that journey, but it is one of the most significant events of my life, and I am so pleased that it will always be just mine.

Given my brink-of-existential-crisis trying to reconcile the Amber-of-then with the Amber-of-now, I'd certainly want to re-read my old faves, but if I were taking an actual author with me, it would be with Hank Green, the author of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. I just listened to it in two days, unable to stop myself from slowly enjoying the book. Hank Green is an American video blogger turned author, and I loved this book for its philosophically meta look at the impact of social media on our current psyche.

My favorite quote from the book, and why it would take an entire cross-country road trip to discuss: "I'd heard all this before, but I also knew that this line of argument worked. If you tell people that they're being attacked for their beliefs, then suddenly they want to defend their beliefs, even if they didn't really believe them before. It's pretty amazing, really."

Author I'd love to have dinner with:
Audiobooks read by the author are my favorite. Perhaps it is simply my desire to live vicariously, but it is just so cool to me to hear an author intonate his words just as they should be. Bob Goff, author of the best-selling book Love, Does and the even more radically positive Everybody, Always, has a voice that smiles. He calls his wife Sweet Maria, so I'd invite her too. I am astounded by his straight up rebellious love. He says, in his smiling and joyful voice, "We don't need to spend as much time as we do telling people what we think about what they're doing. Loving people doesn't mean we need to control their conduct. There's a big difference between the two. Loving people means caring without an agenda. As soon as we have an agenda, it's not love anymore." I don't know about you, but I can always use a dose of radical positivity!

Author I'd love to have as a distant relative:
I listen to audiobooks with my son as he goes to sleep, and we are hooked on The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch. Our family would enjoy an uncle with this wisdom: "USE COMMON SENSE. If somebody offers you a thousand dollars for this book, chances are their motives are not pure. Then again, a thousand dollars is a lot of money. Take the money and run." A guy like this would always make family gatherings eventful, and anyone with a good nickname always sparks my interest, and a clever one like "Pseudonymous" is fabulous.

I hope this blog has given you a few ideas to round out your summer reading. Let's keep the suggestions coming! Follow me @MsAmberChandler and use #AMLE to join our cross-platform conversation.

Amber Chandler

Amber Chandler is an ELA teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, New York, a recipient of the 2018 AMLE Educator of the Year award, and author of the AMLE/Routledge book The Flexible SEL Classroom. In this blog, Amber examines milestones that make teaching in the middle a truly unique experience, and shares ideas from middle level educators that ensure we reach every student, no matter what it takes. < blog home