Tag Archives: Diversity

Theme IV: Diversifying through Professionalization

Early Childhood
Lily Jimenez, Early Childhood

Last month, 24 teachers and school leaders, mostly NCTE members and ranging from early childhood educators to high school technology coaches, gathered at NCTE Headquarters in Urbana, Illinois to share their concerns. They were joined by one of the US Department of Education’s Teacher Ambassadors, Matt Presser, a literacy instructional coach from New Haven, Connecticut, who was in town as part of the Secretary of Education’s annual Back-to-School Bus Tour. (See the third blog,  Barriers to Innovation and Improvement. )

Many of the schools in the communities the teachers serve have a majority of students of color and large numbers of students for whom English is not their native language. In contrast, the vast majority of educators in these schools are white. Many of the teachers pointed to a need to develop an educational workforce that better reflects the makeup of the students it serves.

Laura Koritz, High School Teacher

Students share this concern. In Laura Koritz’ social justice class at Urbana High School, students researched the lack of teacher diversity. Because most teachers in the district were trained at the University of Illinois, the students examined the demographics of students within the teacher education program there and found the same lack of diversity they observed in their school. Noting that many students in the program came from the region, they surveyed their peers, asking them if they were interested in becoming teachers and coming back to their hometown to teach, and, if not, why not.

Most of the students who expressed such an interest looked like the existing staff of the school. Students who could contribute to diversifying it explained their reluctance to embark on a career in education by citing many of the same issues teachers highlighted throughout the night: a punitive, test-driven environment, scarcity of resources, low pay, and lack of respect.

NCTE recognizes that the educator workforce does not reflect the diversity of students they are teaching today, as reflected in its resolution “to expand its efforts to recruit, guide, and retain ethnically and culturally diverse group members, for example, Hispanic, African American, Asian American, and American Indian, who might enter the English language arts teaching profession.” Other NCTE position statements demonstrate the organization’s resolve to recognize students’ right to their own language, assign diverse literature and respect all students, no matter their background.

Rebecca Ramey, Elementary EBD Coordinator
Rebecca Ramey, Elementary EBD Coordinator

One of the ways NCTE is working to improve the professional environment for all teachers and to ensure that all students, particularly those in groups that have been historically underserved, are taught be excellent teachers is through its participation in the Coalition for Teaching Quality. NCTE is working with Coalition members from over 100 other educational organizations across the United States to develop and put into practice a Profession Ready Framework. The Framework charts a path for teacher and principal growth throughout their careers, beginning with recruitment and training, proceeding through induction into professional community as practicing educators, and proceeding to demonstration of mastery (such as through National Board Certification) and substantive opportunities for leadership.

The teachers who assembled at NCTE’s Urbana office, on their own time and at relatively short notice, made a powerful statement about how we ought to transform educational policy to better support literacy learning. Not only will the Teacher Ambassador carry that message back to Washington, but NCTE staff and members will do so throughout the year.






Will Poetry Be Done Tomorrow?

Woman walking through a book, a way to think about poetry opening doors.I was recently talking about Kwame Alexander’s Newbery-winning book The Crossover with my eighth graders. My students were really into the story and loved the rhythm of the poems.

It was one of my favorite books of 2014, but I waited until April to share it because, as I casually mentioned to one of my classes, it’s Poetry Month. One of my more vocal students retorted, “So in May are we just going to stop talking about poetry?”

I initially laughed off his comment but he would not be dissuaded. He said, “No I’m serious. That’s a legit question.”

His insistence gave me pause.

Have I, in my enthusiasm for all things poetry during the month of April, inadvertently communicated to my students that this genre of writing only deserves attention one month of the year? When May first rolls around, do I pack up the Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Sarah Kay, and Emily Dickinson until next year?

Is this a side effect of other month-long celebrations as well? Black History Month? Women’s History Month?

So this year, Sarah Kay’s beautiful new collection of poetry, No Matter the Wreckage, is not going into hibernation in my classroom on April 30th. I invite you to join me in making an effort to keep poetry alive even though “Poetry Month” is over. On February 28th, let’s not be done exploring African American literature even though the calendar says March is about to begin. And when March ends, let’s not stop reflecting on the role of women in history.

These month-long observations are meant to raise awareness in corners of our literary realm that are too often overlooked, but it would be even better if we found a way to turn that month-long awareness into a curiosity and passion that spans 365 days of the year.

Students’ Right to Their Own Language

"We need to ask ourselves whether the rejection of students who do not adopt the dialect most familiar to us is based on any real merit in our dialect or whether we are actually rejecting the students themselves, rejecting them because of their racial, social, and cultural origins." - Students' Right to Their Own Language, Conference on College Composition and Communication

In 1974 the Conference on College Composition and Communication first adopted a statement affirming students’ right to “their own patterns and varieties of language—the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style.”

Since that time this statement has gone through revisions, and related statements have been developed. If students’ right to their own language is challenged where you teach, consider sharing these resources with your colleagues and system leaders.

Celebrating Student Diversity

Image457383369_unity-handsTeachers need continued support and professional development to enable all their students, including their bilingual students, to succeed. Teaching linguistically diverse students requires a skill set which many teachers may lack. What supports does your school offer to help you build such skills? What supports do you still need?

“Ensure comprehensive literacy education that builds upon the cultural and linguistic experiences students bring to school.”
— 2015 NCTE Education Policy Platform

Read-Ins and Democracy

AARI_180The African American Read-In has been around for 25 years and over those years more than 5 million participants have taken part in events across the country that celebrate the work of African American authors. But as David Kirkland explains in this video, the Read-In is so much more than a simple celebration of books.

“The Read-In is beginning to add more voices into the conversation. . . . It’s taking the idea of democracy and it’s living it.”