500 Characters

Remember when essay requirements included word counts. Now it’s characters, and I think that’s better. Should “I” count as equal to identity? I don’t think so. What I have discovered is that putting boundaries on writing ups my game; there’s great power in small, in succinct, in the struggle to economize—at least for me.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

― Mark Twain

Mark Twain was right! So when I apply for the NCTE scholarship offered to members wishing to attend the Homecoming conference in Louisville this July, I know that the 500 characters must be well-chosen—they come at a cost.

This meeting is the first in-person event NCTE has offered since the world stuttered to a stop in March 2020. Yes, the organization has continued to offer high-quality professional development, to leverage the power of virtual engagement, but …if you have ever attended an in-person conference, then you are aware of the difference (and at this point, we all are).

This will be my first “Affiliate Leadership Meeting.” I’m new to leadership, and frankly, new to this state and its branch—OCTE. But I am president-elect, and “programs” chair. Through the pandemic I have worked with our amazing OCTE president to learn the ropes, make some connections, and coordinate efforts for online conferences and book clubs. It has forced me to grow.

This marks a giant step outside my comfort zone. Louisville will challenge me in new ways. And because I am being sponsored by OCTE, I feel added weight, so when I get the chance to contribute, I take it; the scholarship application grants me 500 characters to plead my case. These are the ones that make the cut:

On Friday I learn that I have received the scholarship! Does it pay for ridiculously high airfare? No. Does it defray hotel expenses? No. It does, however, pay for my registration and two meals. Most importantly, it proves that the right characters, those small marks that embody thoughts, can make a difference.

4 thoughts on “500 Characters”

  1. Congratulations on receiving the scholarship. Your are so right about how having constraints on words or characters makes us more aware of the words we choose and the thoughts and ideas we want to convey. I am sure this will be an invaluable experience for you. You will take so much to the meeting and come away with much as well. Safe travels.

  2. Thanks. Have you been to this type of meeting? I have to give a report—and complete a newsletter article—when I return. I’m a bit daunted.

  3. Congratulations on the scholarship. It’s going to be awesome. You will show up, inquire, shine, learn, enjoy, create. You’ll keep growing. This is a fabulous state to be in.

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