Category Archives: Affiliates

Why Students Should Read This Book

I just finished reading—actually listening to Sherman Alexie read—You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir. Not a YA book like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the memoir is an in-your face reminder of many of the events and themes that pervade Diary, themes and events that challengers of Diary call out and object to.

The National Book Award winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was THE most challenged book in the nation in 2014 and the mention of the novel on a school reading list today still elicits challenges from those who have heard about it but maybe not read it or read it well, as Alexie notes:

Here at NCTE, the Intellectual Freedom Center defends several Diary challenges a year—fortunately fewer than one a month in 2014—and still it’s a book we’re proud to defend.

But the more that we defend books like Diary, the more I think that maybe we educators would better argue with the reasons why our students should read the book rather than rebuttals to the challenge.

Kathryn Campbell, the Intellectual Freedom Chair for the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English,  recently wrote on their behalf to ask the the New London-Spicer School District to keep Diary in its curriculum. After giving all the regular reasons to teach the book—the awards won, recommendations, value for students of a certain age, and curricula developed around the book—Kathryn speaks from her heart as a parent and teacher, calling forth the core of what educators do:

“…As a mother, I can say that my own daughter was introduced to Alexie’s novel by her 8th grade teacher, then later read Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony as a sophomore, and Sherman Alexie’s Flight in a junior/senior elective. Having the foundation of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in middle school was central to her developing understanding of Native American culture, reservation life, and poverty. On a personal level, I appreciated the opportunities we had for conversations in our family about how Junior is candid and offensive in ways that provoke thinking and empathy; about how he uses humor to cope with grief; and about how the book made my child think through issues she would never experience. To this day, now as an adult, she talks about this novel as a cornerstone of her education, and her middle school copy still resides on her bookshelf…

“Reading Alexie’s book, with the guidance of thoughtful and qualified English teachers, provides students with one more tool that helps in the tremendous journey of growing up. It introduces them to behaviors, speech patterns, ways of seeing the world, ethics, and principles — some of which align with their values and culture, some of which are vastly different — and invites them to reflect on self-knowledge and unpack difference.

“That’s the kind of real world, critical thinking we want offered to all our students. Please defend the inclusion of Alexie’s novel in the 8th grade curriculum and empower your teachers to continue to use this incredible text in the classroom.”

Affiliate Super Power

Over 100 affiliate leaders from 39 different affiliates gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, last weekend. They came to learn from each other and from experts on topics pertinent to NCTE, NCTE affiliates and, most important, to their members and would-be members. Four NCTE presidents (and two former presidents), a few Policy Analysts, the 2017 Cohort of Early Career Educators of Color, and some NCTE staff members joined them.

The Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English Language Arts blog, anticipated the meeting with Friday Five: Reasons We’re Excited for the NCTE Affiliate Meeting. Reasons 2 and 5 capture the feeling:

“Informal conversations between affiliates. This, like those informal conversations at conferences, is often where we find out best ideas. Collaborations and conversations with other educators in other states is the goal here, and we’re excited to see what ideas the synergy of our conversations generate.”

“It feels like Thanksgiving in the summer! The energy and excitement of meeting other teachers and making connections in the summer is like attending the annual NCTE conference. We’re grateful to be a part of this organization and to add our voice to the conversation.”

Author, former English teacher and affiliate person, Sharon Draper reminded us we all possess super powers.

And calling upon our super powers, we listened, laughed, discussed, and worked our way through the weekend, documenting what we saw, heard, and said on Twitter to the hashtag #NCTEaffiliate.

I invite you to join and keep the conversation going!

Of Choice and Challenge and Superheroes


Shana Karnes writes about choice and challenge in her blog on the WVCTE affiliate’s blog site.  Shana refers to kids choosing the books they read and learning to choose challenging literature, too.

“I knew that all kids were capable of reading sophisticated texts, making complex choices about when and how and what to read, and that all readers have a hunger for a challenging, engaging read.”

Shana is right, of course, but it’s all-together too possible that “challenge” can mean something else. It can mean that the books students choose to read can be challenged by a parent or community member who doesn’t like their choices.

And that’s why schools need policies like the one described in the Students’ Right to Read  and why we need to know what those policies are.

medina_high07In her blog, Meg Medina describes a visit to a school whose educators used the school’s policy to advocate for keeping Yacqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass available for their students to read. And they won!

Meg Medina notes,

“That’s what a school visit looks like when the students are trusted to read. They have a chance to think about who they are and what they are living. They have a chance to consider all the ways they can respond to what comes their way. It gives them one more tool that helps in this long job of growing up.”

She goes on to say,

“To the faculty and leadership at South County, and to the School Board and to the PTO parents who stepped up for my novel, I want to say thank you. It would have been so easy to give up, to choose another book and move on to the next task on your list. Thank you for having courage to stand up for students’ right to read. Thank you for giving thought to how to include kids who did opt out. Thank you for modeling how to be strong. Courage and compassion are in ample supply at your school. For all the ways your students treated me as the star, I hope they never forget that the real superheroes in this have been in their building all along.”

An Affiliate Meeting Designed to Set a Precedent

This blog was written by NCTE President Susan Houser.

susanhouser3The power of NCTE’s affiliates has been an enduring part of our organization’s long and storied history, and affiliates have played a major role in my teaching career. Today, as NCTE’s president, I am honored that NCTE has committed to a redesigned leadership meeting this July 7-9 in Atlanta, Georgia: the leaders of all affiliates have been invited to participate in one meeting, at one time, to discuss and work towards common goals and NCTE initiatives.

NCTE’s officers and leadership are very excited about what we will strive to achieve together at this meeting and we hope you will consider joining us. We have a fantastic agenda and slate of speakers set for this meeting; remember the deadline to sign up is May 25.

We are coming together with several objectives in mind. We want to

• Discuss and plan future advocacy efforts with NCTE and between states, and develop plans together
• Equip state policy analysts and affiliate members with tools that can help in furthering advocacy efforts at local level through Everyday Advocacy strategies and ideas
• Develop new goals for leadership trainings and future online meetings with affiliates and their common interest/goals
• Discuss and plan membership initiatives and ways to involve more members in affiliate work, providing leadership models that work in today’s world with all members
• Provide affiliate journal editors with 21st century methods and engagement with their readers
• Provide networking opportunities for affiliate leaders and NCTE leaders to develop future programs

While these goals may seem lofty for one meeting in 3 days’ time, this meeting was developed to set a precedent. We are establishing a method for affiliate leaders to have direct contact with NCTE officers and staff as well as SCOA, with the end goal of finding new ways to reach more members through affiliates and the parent organization of NCTE. Working towards the same goals, our ideas will help move our organizations forward.

We hope this meeting becomes a catalyst for working together to plan and implement ways to help teachers at the local level advocate for what is important to all of us – the best literacy practices being supported and upheld in our schools and universities. The take-aways could be phenomenal: a networking of affiliates that is new and exciting, alongside NCTE officers, staff, and policy analysts, working in our local areas together to advocate for the best literacy practices.

To sustain this effort it will be essential to have follow up conversations and meetings in the next year, and facilitate more work together through NCTE-directed activities at our annual convention and in online meetings. While it may be difficult to actually have a measure of success for these efforts, the outcomes will be evident in the kinds of future meetings that affiliates wish to support and the overall support of NCTE goals and objectives. Sustained support from NCTE officers and staff will be essential to any groundwork laid by this meeting.affiliate-leadership-mtg-graphic-square_2-200-1
NCTE President Susan Houser retired in 2014 from the Pinellas County Schools, Florida, after teaching middle school reading, language arts, and gifted language arts for 14 years. She previously taught elementary and middle grade reading and language arts in the Duval County Public Schools, and recently taught courses in elementary education at Keiser University in Sarasota and general education English at Remington College in Tampa. From 2005 to 2014 she held a variety of committee and leadership positions with NCTE. Houser has also served as president and executive board member of the Florida Council of Teachers of English (FCTE) and coordinator of the FCTE Advocacy Team.


The Latest in NCTE Student Affiliates

asulogoIn February the NCTE Executive Committee approved our newest student affiliate, the National Council of English Teachers Conference on English Education—Graduate Student Affiliate (CEE-GSA) at Arizona State University. This is a unique group, as the long moniker might indicate. It’s the only current graduate student assembly and it has at least one foot in NCTE’s Conference on English Education.  Its mission is

“to promote graduate student interdisciplinary learning by providing professional development opportunities for graduate students interested in the English Education Department; in addition, to support for graduate student needs that promote an interdisciplinary learning environment.”

Sometimes a new arrival is the best time to take stock of the numbers. And, so, I began to count.

Did you know there are 36 NCTE Student Affiliates—groups of 10 or more NCTE student members plus a faculty sponsor?  You’ll find them listed by state with the other NCTE affiliates. If you were to read through the list you might note that Pennsylvania is replete with student affiliates—seven total—while Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan each have three; Indiana, Missouri, and South Carolina two; and the rest of the states that have them, one each.

Each of these groups has its own reason and way of being and is highly dependent on two things: 1) the continuity of the faculty sponsor and 2) the ability of fast changing leadership to plot a course for the year and then turn over the reins to the next leaders.

uofiastudentaffInterested in forming an NCTE Student Affiliate? You might want to check out this Affiliate Conversation on Forming an NCTE Student Affiliate featuring the student affiliate at the University of Iowa which is now 25 years old. (This is a link to a webinar recording which will take a few minutes to load. If you’re having trouble, take a look at their troubleshooting website.)




Bonnie Sunstein describes a number of activities the group does, but she adds,



“We do what we can do and we try to remember our history…[The students] get to do professional things that English teachers will be doing the rest of their lives…An organization like NCTE gives you the family, the cohort.”