Category Archives: Uncategorized

4 Quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Full view of the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DCIn honor and celebration of a writer and orator whose words changed the world, we offer four short quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The links go to the full texts from which these quotes were drawn as well as some resources that you may find useful for the classroom.

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

From “The Purpose of Education” in the February 1947 edition of the Morehouse College student newspaper, the Maroon Tiger.

This quote and others are also explored in this Answer Sheet blog post from Valerie Strauss.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

From “A Proper Sense of Priorities” delivered February 6, 1968, Washington, D.C.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

From: Strength to Love (1963)

Explore many more original texts by Martin Luther King, Jr. in this digital archive.

“I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.”

From “Where Do We Go From Here?,” delivered at the 11th Annual SCLC Convention
Atlanta, Ga.  August 16, 1967.

You can listen Dr. King deliver the last 16 minutes of this speech here.



Students’ Voices Need to Be Heard

This post is written by Joanne Yatvin, NCTE’s P12 policy analyst for Oregon. 


A few days ago, I read an article about education that really irritated me.  Although I’d read similar articles before without any reaction, this one was about a plan for schools in our state of Oregon that sounded wrong-headed to me, and was going to cost 3.5 million dollars a year.

According to the article, the Oregon Department of Education and the Chief Education Office have devised a plan that would deploy a team of “on-the-ground experts” to help schools that have a record of severe student absenteeism. That team would be composed of 20 coaches who would receive training, then be placed in selected schools to work on alleviating the problem.

What I saw was another top-down pipe dream, welcomed by school principals who had been unsuccessful in curbing absenteeism themselves, and meant to be implemented by newly hatched experts called “coaches.” Teachers and parents of chronically absent students would be informed about the new plan and asked to cooperate. The only people left out would be the ones who know the most about the causes of student absenteeism and how to reduce them: students.

My argument this time is the same as it has been in regard to other school problems: students should be active players in the planning and execution of any change in school operations—not only because they have firsthand knowledge of the problems and clear views of the causes, effects, and possible solutions, but also because their cooperation is essential if anything positive is to be achieved.

Over her 45 year career Joanne Yatvin was a teacher of almost all grades 1-12, an elementary and middle school principal, and a member of The National Reading Panel.  Since retiring she has done independent research in high poverty schools, written three books for teachers, and served as president of NCTE. Joanne Yatvin is a lifetime member of NCTE.

The Morning After

This is a guest post written by Kathryn McCalla. 

kathrynmccallaGetting only about two hours of sleep allows a person more conscious time to process things overnight. Such was my experience in the early hours of Wednesday, November 9th. A pressing thought came to mind: What do I say to the students?

I am very aware that each of my classes has Hillary and Trump supporters and my intent wasn’t to get into a political discussion, but because of some of the language used during the campaign, I felt I had to let students know that bullying is never okay.

I did not open it up to discussion. I simply stated that we are better than what we have heard these past several months—that in these walls, in these halls, in this community, we protect each other. We stand up for each other. We are loyal to each other, no matter our race, sexual orientation, background, political, or religious beliefs.

My students were very quiet. Some had heads down. Some looked a little in shock. Some nodded. Some wept. And yes, some rolled their eyes.

Thankfully, our class is nearing the end of a unit reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Also thankfully, my wonderful colleague Alex Stacy had sent me a TED video to show: Elizabeth Lesser’s “Take the ‘Other’ to Lunch.” It advises us to get to know someone we see as the “other,” to hopefully have our eyes opened, our hearts softened, even if just a little bit. After watching, students wrote about what may have happened had Ponyboy (a Greaser) had taken Bob (a Soc) to lunch before the fight that culminated in Bob’s death. They envisioned better, brighter things in their journals: an end to fighting, lives saved, friendships formed. We were able to move on from there.

Feeling sad, or angry, or worried at this point can’t get in the way of being a teacher. It cannot, and it will not, get in the way of doing what’s right.

Kathryn McCalla is a middle school ELA and Leadership teacher working in Chelsea, Michigan.

“Connecting People to Their Natural Love of Stories”

elacabIn the upper Northwest, above the borders of Idaho and Montana, lies the Alberta English Language Arts Council whose mission reads, “Connecting people to their natural love of stories & sharing that passion with others.”


If you follow the link from the homepage of their website, you can read the November 2016 Alberta Voices, featuring an article beginning on page 19, “Missing the Mark in Cross-Cultural Communication: A Case Study of a Stoney Nakoda Sioux Community.”

According to the authors, John W. Friesen and John D. Snow, “This article demonstrates why meaningful communication is sometimes difficult to attain between people who hold to significantly different value systems.”

While the article focuses on the Nakoda Sioux Community—and what comes next is not intended to belittle this at all—it seems to me the premise of the article could generally apply to communication between educators and their students’ parents/guardians.

The article suggests how educators might handle cross-cultural situations:

“In one of his last essays, the late Cree elder and psychologist Joseph E Couture (2013, 293) suggested that those who function in cross-cultural situations should first come to grips with their own value system. This advice has particular relevance to such professions as social work, counselling and teaching. Once practitioners are firmly familiar with and appreciative of the limitations of their own value orientations, they may be able to avoid becoming cultural converts, unwarranted critics or value imperialists. Hopefully, practitioners will also realize that others value their own personal belief systems as much as the practitioners value theirs. This realization should provide a measure of objectivity and respect for diversity in cross-cultural functioning.”

bookbanninginamericaIn “Society, Institutions, and Common Sense: Themes in the Discourse of Book Challengers in 21st century United States,” NCTE member Emily J. M. Knox reported on conversations of book challengers about why they challenged books. She expands on this article in her book, Book Banning in 21st-Century America. In both she found that challengers’ worldviews and discourse fell into three themes that led to their challenging books:
• Society is on the decline and children’s innocence must be protected.
• Public institutions are public symbols of the community.
• Reading is a powerful practice with significant short- and long-term effects.

On the face of it, these three worldviews may not differ from what we believe as educators. But, as educators, we want students to read texts that broaden their worlds rather than restrict them, even when those texts are difficult and, perhaps, troubling—something often forbidden in challengers’ worlds. So, as right as we see our choices to be, it’s important that we see that challengers to texts are judging the value of texts through a completely different lens.

Listening can help “provide a measure of objectivity and respect for diversity in cross-cultural functioning”—can help us work through challenges before they blow up into community affairs.

There are—or should be—policies in place in schools to map out how to work through a challenge fairly and effectively. See “Defending the Books” in The Students’ Right to Read as a model. Check out the school board policies on your school/district website and look under “Instruction” to find the reconsideration or challenge policy.

2017 Convention Proposal FAQ

Are you considering submitting a proposal for the 2017 NCTE Annual Convention? You should!

We’ve been getting some questions about the process and thought it would be a good idea to address the most frequently asked ones below.

Read Jason Griffith’s 6 tips for crafting a proposal here. (He wrote it last year, but they’re still quite relevant!)

Is the proposal system live?

Yes! The proposal system went live on November 19 and can be accessed here. Full details on the word counts and fields you will have to fill in can be found here.

Why is the deadline January 5  January 12?

Your proposal goes through many review steps before a final determination is made about selection. In order to ensure that each proposal gets the time and attention it deserves, we selected a deadline that offers the maximum amount of time for review before our program selection meeting in February. Additionally, the timeline this year reflects a new plan to ensure announcements about the 2017 program go out in April and include schedule information so presenters can secure funding and make arrangements to attend earlier in the year. To accommodate these improvements to the overall process, we opened the proposal system four weeks earlier this year in an effort to provide you with as much time as possible for completion. NOTE: The deadline has just been extended by one week in response to feedback from our members. We have worked to adjust the review process so we can still address the needs outlined above within this new time frame. 

Can I get help with my proposal?

Yes! NCTE has online coaches whom you may contact to help you hone your proposal before you submit it. To give coaches time to work with proposers, please request assistance as soon as possible. Please indicate your reviewer level when emailing to request a coach.

What topics are being considered this year?

The selection committee is looking for work on a broad range of topics, including:

  • Advocacy
  • Argumentation
  • Assessment
  • Community/Public Literacy Efforts
  • Content Area Literacies/Writing across the Curriculum
  • Composition/Writing
  • Digital and Media Literacies
  • Early Literacies
  • Equity and Social Justice
  • Informational Text
  • Literature
  • Multilingualism
  • Narrative
  • Oral Language
  • Reading
  • Rhetoric
  • Teacher Education and Professional Development

What’s the criteria for selecting sessions?

You can read all about the criteria here. But here are some guiding ideas to help you:

  • Be clear and thoughtful. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for reviewers to imagine what this session might be like.
  • Think engagement. In her call, Jocelyn Chadwick explains that “all program proposals must be interactive, engaging the audience and providing clear takeaways.” Sessions that involve participants in activities, discussion, Q&A, or other kinds of interaction are often the most popular at the Convention, and program planning decisions around proposals are driven by that knowledge.
  • Make it relevant. There is so much going on in education right now that it’s likely any of your ideas will fit in, but bear in mind that attendees come from all over the country, from classrooms of every shape and size. Think about how what you’re thinking and doing in your local context could resonate with folks from lots of different contexts.

The NCTE offices will be closed December 23–January 2. We’ll make sure to answer any additional questions as soon as we get back.