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.
“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.”
This blog was written by NCTE President Susan Houser.
The 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.
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.
In 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.
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.”
He shared a dozen noteworthy ideas about literacy teaching and learning, but ever since I’ve been carrying around two about our students:
1) Our #1 problem in education is student engagement.
2) After next year, all our K-12 students will have been born in the 21st Century.
Ernest’s words echoed a talk he gave to affiliate leaders 4 ½ years ago at the Affiliate Breakfast at Convention.
During that talk, he asked
What will it mean to be literate?
What will it mean to teach literacy?
What is the role of the professional organization in this process?
What is the role of affiliates?
What should be our takeaways from this talk and this convention?
About professional organizations, he noted,
“Professional organizations will have to evolve to become places where people participate in a continual process of knowledge production…We speak more powerfully when we have a united presence, a solid research foundation, a strategy for advocacy, and 50,000 or so close friends to join in the chorus.”
“Affiliates can serve as the intellectual and ideological home for teachers who are trying to find their way in these conflicting times. Affiliates are physical and digital spaces for the playing with ideas, for asking big essential questions, and for being informed in our pursuit of learning, of doing what’s right, not just what is sanctioned.”
This blog is written by Dr. Kay J. Walter, active member of the Arkansas Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts and Associate Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
Our affiliate, Arkansas Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (ACTELA), has a board representing many areas of our state. From the agricultural fields of our east to the rolling hills of our west, our land demonstrates our diversity. Our affiliate members are just as diverse as our geography, and we are very proud of the strength such diversity gives our organization.
NCTE offers a Teacher for the Dream Grant Award to encourage affiliates to embrace diversity and welcome it. This grant provides matching funds for recruitment and professional development for teachers of color.
ACTELA has two grant recipients. Our first Teacher for the Dream, Brycial Williams, works as a kindergarten teacher in the Arkansas Delta. You must travel south nearly to Louisiana, where the University of Arkansas at Monticello stands in the midst of pine forests, to find our new Teacher for the Dream. Both have added a vibrant dimension to the work of our affiliate.
We have chosen Pamela Jones as our second Teacher for the Dream. Pamela was born in Anchorage, Alaska. She is a member of the Yupik tribe of indigenous Americans. Pamela migrated to Arkansas with her father when she was a child. Her education in Arkansas public schools and her studies at University of Arkansas at Monticello make her an Arkansan, but her Eskimo heritage through matrilineal descent defines her as a true minority in our state. She is a preservice member of our affiliate, and she anticipates a successful career in education.
Pamela is a strong advocate for ELA education. She aspires to a career enriching the literacy experiences of very young learners—birth through Pre-K. She sees clearly the need for children to grow up with enthusiastic and compassionate models of communication. She believes
“Literacy education begins at birth. When I brought my children home from the hospital, I decorated their nursery walls with the English alphabet in print and cursive. Their first toys were books!”
She champions inclusivity and knows that our state, nation, and world are strongest when we work together in harmony. Further, she represents the importance of lifelong learning. She is a nontraditional student, and she models the verity that it is never too late to want or seek an education.
Last summer, Pamela enrolled in my travel seminar to Great Britain to study British Authors. In Oxford, she found Inuit relics of her tribal heritage at the Pitt Rivers Museum. She has since added a focus on British literature to her areas of study, which include education and psychology. In December 2016 she completed her first college degree, an AA degree in General Studies and is currently enrolled in courses toward her BA degree.
Pamela’s presence in ACTELA makes clear several powerful statements:
• Culturally diverse perspectives strengthen ELA education.
• Diversity is an asset and all children are priceless to our future.
• Educators from diverse backgrounds can empower student thinking and communication to rise beyond any limitations of birth.
Such ideas are visible in Pamela’s life and ACTELA’s devotion to them is reflected more brilliantly through her.
Arkansas’s other Teacher for the Dream, Brycial Williams, sets an example as a male role model of color his students can trust and look up to. He reminds us often how important it is for children to see a strong, wise, compassionate man excited about learning. He says,
“As a child, I would gather my cousins, in my grandmother’s den and play school. My teachers knew that I wanted to be a teacher. They would give me papers and supplies from their classrooms so that I could take them home for my imaginary classroom.”
As a kindergarten teacher, Brycial is in an ideal position to inspire a positive impression of education. He encourages them to be active learners and communicators, and they quickly become invested in their own learning process.
ACTELA board members support ELA education across our state and nationally through NCTE initiatives and events. Through our own work at universities and schools, we also network abroad. As our interactions grow more global and our connections grow more diverse, our need to learn together expands. For this reason, Teachers for the Dream are ever more important to the success of education’s future.
Learners need to see themselves reflected in their teachers, and Arkansas is doing all it can to encourage our students to become effective communicators, advocates of literacy, and ELA teachers. Our Teachers for the Dream actively seek professional development through NCTE opportunities and take leadership roles in the recruitment of future teachers from all ethnic backgrounds. All affiliates can diversify their perspectives and membership by considering the NCTE Fund Teacher for the Dream Affiliate Award. The submission deadline each year is May 1st.
Dr. Kay J. Walter is a Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, her alma mater, and editor of The English Pub: ACTELA Newsletter. She is a lifemember of her affiliate and welcomes contact from all literacy enthusiasts at firstname.lastname@example.org