All posts by Lu Ann McNabb

avatar

About Lu Ann McNabb

Lu Ann Maciulla McNabb is the Policy & Alliances Associate for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Lu Ann has long been an advocate for teachers, students and education. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently said, "Education is the anvil upon which democracy is forged."

Collaboration, Innovation, and Contextualization: Enduring Themes in an Era of Digital Literacy

This post, written by members Julie Gorlewski and David Gorlewski, is a reprint of “From the Editors” from the January 2017 English Journal.

ejjan17coverOne of the benefits of editing English Journal is that we are entrusted with bound copies of every issue ever printed. These journals, displayed in shelves in the journal office, remind us of the constancy and the relentless change that marks our field. Times have changed; that is certain. In some ways, contemporary classrooms would be unrecognizable to educators teaching English in 1911, when the journal was established. And yet many of the debates and challenges prevalent in classrooms 100 years ago remain relevant today. Our work still centers on learners, teacher, and texts.

This remarkable collection of articles, curated by Suzanne Miller and David Bruce, attests to the complexity of this work as well as our need to adapt and evolve even as we sustain our principles and vision. Throughout this issue, the guest editors and authors remind us that we consume and produce various kinds of media on a daily basis.
Acts of consumption and production are mutually influential; what we consume affects what (and how) we produce, and what we produce affects what (and how) we consume. Moreover, contributors inspire us to extend our own learning in order to model for students the importance of stretching past comfortable practices and materials.

As we read and thought about the articles, with a century’s worth of EJ infusing the air that we breathed, three themes emerged. These themes reflect the intersections of innovation and tradition, and are as present in the bound journals as they are in the 21st century literacies emphasized in this issue. The first theme is collaboration. Teachers and students thrive in environments when collaborative opportunities abound. Multimodal literacies are particularly well-suited for students and teachers to become partnered in the learning process, and for teachers to experience the joys and frustrations of exploring new media and technologies. The second theme, innovation, is generally associated with bold new initiatives. While such initiatives are seductive, it is instructive to note that the word “innovation” is not defined strictly as a product; it is also a process – a process that builds upon what already exists. The third theme we noted is contextualization. Now, as always, the contexts in which teaching and learning occurs are critical. As our lives, inside and outside of the classroom, become increasingly digital, we must maintain our focus on learners and teachers as embodied human and social creatures.

We deeply appreciate the generosity of Suzanne Miller and David Bruce in developing this special issue. We trust that readers will be inspired, exhilarated, and revitalized by the ideas shared throughout. Educators who embrace the principles of collaboration, innovation, and contextualization flourished in 1911 and, with luck, will be flourishing still in 3011.

JulieGorlewskiJulie Gorlewski is chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

 

DavidGorlewskiDavid Gorlewski works with preservice and practicing teachers and conducts research on professional dispositions. Both are former secondary English teachers and members of NCTE.

Ah, a New Year: Iowa Report

This post is written by NCTE’s Iowa P12 policy analyst James Davis. 

JimDavis200607 Holding Journal - chestIn November and December, education organizations prepared for a daunting 2017; while not prescient, their work was warranted. Iowa’s November elections had substantial implications for pre-K through higher education, especially for teacher retention and recruitment. Legislative targets include dismantling a collective bargaining law in effect since 1975 (health care, contract arbitration, and job-performance grievance procedures are at risk); limiting fiscal responsibility to the public employee retirement system; teacher licensure and credentialing.

Many educators, including those in teacher preparation, see the last-mentioned–an attack on teacher licensure and credentialing–as something that could lead to lower quality staffing (including the possibility of long-term substitutes), and ultimately, to privatization of schools. Budget shortfalls, even with the existence of a robust “rainy day fund,” are the handy rationale. As Iowa and surrounding states face teacher shortages, making the profession less desirable hardly seems a logical strategy.

The same budget rationale affects other matters, including “initiatives once touted as ways to better Iowa schools” (DMR 1/17/17). A controversial third-grade retention law is to take effect in 2018, but the Iowa Department of Education has not requested funding for the intensive summer-reading program alternative specified in the statute. Educators have questioned the efficacy of the approach, which could be pushed back (likely), seriously reconsidered, and perhaps repealed. A second initiative was to replace the Iowa Assessment Program with Smarter Balanced Assessments in the 2017-18 school year. Legislators question availability of funding for the computer-based exams, even as some lawmakers and educators question the way the Smarter Balanced program was selected. Despite alleged commitment to alignment between Iowa Core standards and state assessment, the program seems to be in jeopardy—the Governor has asked the Department to put a hold on implementation, and has requested fewer state budget provisions for a start in fiscal year 2019 than the Department had requested for 2018.

On a less gloomy note, implementation continues for support of teacher leaders and leadership. Social Studies standards are near implementation. Many teachers maintain professional grounding in the presence of an Iowa Core. Good work continues in schools and classrooms, even with the legislature in session!

One change will occur when the current Iowa Governor begins service as the US Ambassador to China. The current Lieutenant Governor will become the first woman Governor in Iowa history. Educators struggle to find reason to believe it will make any difference.

Jim Davis began teaching in southwest Missouri as an NCTE and affiliate member, attending his first annual convention in Milwaukee in 1968. Now in his 50th year in our profession, he teaches English education and directs the Iowa Writing Project at the University of Northern Iowa.

Cultivating New Voices: A Model of True Academic Fellowship

This post is written by member Joanna Wong. 

joannawongAs a daughter of Chinese immigrants growing up in a working-class Oakland neighborhood in California, I learned to value cultural and linguistic diversity early in life. I also grew up keenly aware of racial and socioeconomic injustices and how these impacted my own and my peers’ schooling opportunities. This consciousness fueled in me a desire to positively affect educational opportunities and academic achievement for historically underserved communities. I began teaching elementary students and participating in educational reform efforts. Feeling as though I held too many unanswered questions, I pursued a PhD in language, literacy, and culture. My research addresses the writing opportunities and experiences of bilingual elementary students as well as teacher preparation to serve culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Days before walking across the University of California, Davis stage in my doctoral regalia, I received notification that I would be joining the 2014–2016 NCTE Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color cohort. While completion of my doctoral degree felt like a monumental achievement, the journey forward remained daunting. However, knowing that I would have the NCTE CNV program to support me over two critical years in my transition from newly minted PhD to (potentially) a new academic faculty member filled me with elation and eased many fears.

Over my fellowship years, this generous community of literacy scholars acted as a vital anchor for me. We convened twice each year, at the NCTE Annual Convention in the fall and on a university campus for the Spring Institute. Our meetings included forums for fellows’ research presentations as well as special topics presentations by mentors and other established scholars. These presentations helped to advance my understanding of research and theories in the field. I valued fellows’ and mentors’ advice, openness in sharing experiences and insights, and constructive feedback to advance fellows’ scholarship.

Another keystone of the CNV program is the partnering of a fellow with an established scholar in the field. Working with Dr. Sarah Warshauer Freedman was a dream come true. I had long admired her scholarship in the field of writing research and writing pedagogy. While I was on the job market during my first fellowship year, Dr. Freedman provided support at all phases of the job search, from reviewing teaching and research statements to helping me to prepare for campus interviews. By fellowship year 2, I had joined the Department of Education and Leadership at California State University, Monterey Bay. During that year, I turned to Dr. Freedman for advice on navigating professional relationships and balancing responsibilities within the university. She also supported me in developing a manuscript from my dissertation that examines the relationship between teacher expectations and fourth-grade bilingual Latinx students’ writing development.

CNV is a family of early and established scholars who actively manifest compassion and cultivate humanizing practices in teaching and learning, in scholarship, and within our academic lives. CNV is a model of true fellowship in the academy. I am so grateful to be part of the CNV family.

Dr. Joanna Wong, assistant professor in the CSUMB Elementary Education Program, is committed to preparing teachers to provide culturally and linguistically responsive language and literacy education to diverse students. She grounds her teaching and research in more than 14 years of experience working as an educator in the Oakland Unified School District. 

The Power of Song, or Is It Really the Lyrics?

Close-up a Heap of dirty utensil in the kitchen sink.He leaves his dishes in the sink, thinking leprechauns put them in the dishwasher. She wants to talk during the football game and stalks off when clearly that play is more important to him than listening to her.

Imagine if couples “sang” their arguments rather than actually fighting. Such is the theme of the hilarious film Band-Aid, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. A squabbling couple create a band, invite their neighbor to be the drummer, and proceed to sing their irritations and frustrations to each other.

While strumming their guitars, the couple have to dig deep and really think in order to convert their frustrations into poetry and song. In doing so, they de-escalate and temper their anger while at the same time creating music that others can relate to and enjoy.

In a tribute to Frank Sinatra, who could not read music, George Will wrote, “Before a song was music, it was words alone. He studied lyrics, internalized them, then sang, making music from poems.” So, for Frank Sinatra, the words mattered first, not the music. Will continues that Sinatra sang songs from the “Great American Songbook,” a compilation of songs written by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, and others. He compared the lyrics of Mercer’s “Summer Wind” (“Then softer than a piper man, one day it called to you; I lost you, I lost you to the summer wind”) to the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” I would argue a better comparison would be Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (“As the miller told his tale/that her face, at first just ghostly/turned a whiter shade of pale”) or Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” (“Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine.”)

Poetry has a natural musical cadence and demands to be read aloud, particularly William Shakespeare:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Does that phrase stand alone in its beauty? Does it need music? Or is the human voice, with its own modulated tones, sufficient? Music, however, enhances poetry and words and add a new dimension.

So, on this Valentine’s Day of sonnets and roses and crooning club singers, let us remember the power of words and lyrics and song and how important they are to each other. Or not.

VOTE on NCTE Resolutions!

During the Annual Business Meeting held at NCTE’s 2016 Convention in November, members approved the following resolutions:

  • Resolution on Contemporary Discourse and the English Language Arts Classroom
  • Resolution on Legislation to Protect the Rights of Student Journalists
  • Resolution Opposing High-Stakes Teacher Candidate Performance Assessments

The entire membership now has the opportunity to review the resolutions and the right to approve or disapprove them. If the membership votes to ratify these resolutions, they will become official NCTE positions. NCTE refers to and uses its many position statements to guide its policy and advocacy efforts with federal and state legislatures and agencies. NCTE’s position statements represent the voices of its members, reflect its values, and declare to the world what it believes.

NCTE is therefore asking each of its members to take a few minutes to vote. We rely on your experience as a literacy educator to help set the policy that will benefit all members and their students.

Members have been sent emails outlining the background, resolved statements, and brief pro and con summaries for each resolution. Members vote for just the resolutions; the background and pro and con summaries are informational. NCTE members who have not yet voted will receive another email on Sunday, February 12, with a link that will take them to the texts and voting buttons.

Thank you for sharing your opinion and helping us ensure that our resolutions reflect the sentiments of thousands of Council members.