Mme Ann Sunderland, President of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), peering at my name badge at the exhibit hall opening reception: Have we met? Your name sounds so familiar to me!
Me: No, I don't believe so, but I certainly recognize your name. It's nice to meet you.
Mme Sunderland: Oh, I know! You're from the library. We sure don't get many librarians at this conference!
Me, to myself: And I bet that when you do, they haven't dragged their whole family along. 6:00 already? Oh, I'd better chug this wine--it's time to go feed Gwyneth!
Oui, here I am attending my first teachers' conference in a year and a half, the first national one since before Griffin was born (I'm not counting ACTFL in Denver in November, where I put in an appearance for an hour to give a last-minute presentation and then left without seeing anything else).
Since we spend Fourth of July with my extended family every year in Wisconsin, when I learned that the AATF convention would be in Chicago this year, I talked my husband into concluding our trip with a couple of days in the Windy City. "You can take the kids to museums! The hotel pool! Chicago-style pizzerias! Chicago-style, um, hot-dog-erias! It would be sooooo helpful for my French and my efforts to teach it to our children if I could spend a few days speaking French with other grown-ups--and a whole lot easier and cheaper than taking the family to Europe! Or even Quebec!"
After I promised not to fill up an entire suitcase with purchases from the exhibits hall, we decided to fly from Denver to Chicago, rent a car, drive to Green Bay, spend the week with my parents, and then return to Chicago, where we are now after a challenging day traveling with two little ones.
While I ended up missing the sessions this afternoon, I so enjoyed roaming the exhibits hall this evening, glass of wine in hand, looking at materials that I never even knew existed, like a board game reminiscent of Chutes and Ladders but set in Paris. (Links to come later.)
And to my surprise (and perhaps Mme Sunderland's), I ended up meeting a man who works at a library in Queens (New York City) who is in charge of their programming for immigrants and acquisitions (purchases) in 30 languages! Turns out that his library even offers a Reading Buddies program similar to the one I coordinate back home.
We're probably the only two library employees here, though.
I did like being able to tell people that I helped create and run our library's first French storytime! The approval-from-strangers rate is quite high at a French teachers' conference.
I will also mention that it was a relief to be able to walk past the booths selling middle and high school textbooks or study abroad and class trips programs, things that I simply don't need to know about any more.
Vendor 1: Excuse me! What level do you teach?
Moi: Preschoolers. Do you have any materials for children who don't read yet?
Vendor 1: Quoi? Non!
Vendor 2: Excuse me! Are you interested in taking your students to Morocco?
Vendor 2: Fantastique!
Moi: Do you have programs for preschoolers?
Vendor 2: Quoi? Non!
I got a few funny looks, but it's more efficient not to have to engage in small talk and then walk away with brochures that I end up toting home from the conference since there's never a place to recyle paper at hotels.
Tomorrow morning: my presentation, Francais a la maison!
*The conference theme is "French on the shores of the Great Lakes": we're in Chicago on Lake Michigan. I'll post about the second and third days when I get a chance to catch my breath and catch up on work now that we're back home.