Reflections from NCTE18: Part Two

The National Council of Teachers of English Conference is such a complex undertaking and often times overwhelming experience that I decided to split my observation into three parts. Part One focused on resources while Part Two will focus on my overall takeaways. Part Three will be a recommended reading list from #NCTE18.

  1. We must TEACH writing, not just assign it.

This idea cycled itself over and over in various ways throughout the conference. We must increase low stakes writing opportunities, build up kids’ writing stamina, and incorporate mini-lessons to focus on certain elements. From David Miller and Kathy Keyes presenting on behalf of the College Board to Kelly Gallagher, who I was able to see speak for the first time, teachers expressed these same points. Our Write This, Not That session also brought in practical ways to make mini-lessons EPIC (experiential, participatory, image rich, content driven).

  1. We must continue to complicate and disrupt the canon.

The #DisruptTexts presenters encourage teachers to examine closely the gender, ethnicity and sexuality which are represented in our required reading list and essentially “disrupt” these texts by representing other voices. I am especially planning to read and incorporate Reading Jane Eyre while Black  and The Things They Make Me Carry from the blog Teaching While White.

Teach Living Poets encourages complicating the canon through teaching works by living poets, either independently or as a collection.  The benefits are so numerous, including an opportunity to connect with these living, working poets who are writing about the world as our students see it–right now.

  1. Speakers Chris Emdin, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Chimamanda Adichie, made me NCTE adichieproud to be a teacher. They spoke of teachers who influenced them in both good and bad ways and the important role that educators hold.   

Emdin’s mantra continues to echo in my mind: “The only one better than me is embedded in me.” If I can teach my students that then I have really done something. He describes teaching as the “art of the remix” and defines a teacher as “a rebel, a revolutionary, an activist, and a truth teller.” If that doesn’t get you ready for Monday morning, I’m not sure what will.

  1. Connecting with other teachers is essential. I was so happy to meet teachers for the first time in real life who have virtually influenced my teaching through Twitter and Voxer for many years such as Elizabeth Matheney. It felt like meeting old friends when I was able to meet to Joel Garza and Scott Bayer whom I refer to as the #thebookchat guys. And the conversations don’t have to stop at a conference in Houston, join the #teachlivingpoets chat on Tuesday, November 27 at 8:30pm EST as we discuss the title poem of the collection “If They Should Come For Us” by Fatima Asghar. Also consider reading Octavia Butler’s short story “Bloodchild” which will be the discussion of #thebookchat on December 16 at 9pm EST.

Part three, will include my detailed reading recommendations list from NCTE 2018. So many books, so little time, but when Carol Jago tells you read them…well, then you try to make time!

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