Tag Archives: NCTE Annual Convention

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Who am I becoming through my fellowship with CNV?

This post is by member Marcus Croom. 

A common technique for measuring change is to take a snapshot of something at one point (pre-) and examine it against another comparable snapshot taken at some later point (post-). As a newcomer to the CNV fellowship, I decided to create some early snapshots to which I can return at the end of this unique opportunity. My question: Who am I becoming through my fellowship with CNV? Following are three recalled snapshots that are important to me now. Toward the end of my fellowship, I’d like to revisit these snapshots and add new ones in order to document and describe my development. Because of my own interest in genre, I have thought about the genre I am using here and how to describe it. I regard this text as the opening episode of a micro-comparative memoir, a genre with at least two meaningfully comparative discourses. I create this genre to help me answer a significant question in my life.

Click: George Kamberelis emails me to introduce himself as my mentor and I’m geeked! I chose him as one of several potential mentors because his work focuses on philosophic issues, genre, and the nature and effects of different modes of classroom discourse. That’s exactly the kind of thinking partner I need for my work. Man, he’s published so much stuff! His CV is like a scroll. It seems like we are both in the field of literacy because our careers unexpectedly unfolded into literacy research. I think we might be able to relate through our less-affluent backgrounds and our less-traditional journeys into the field. We also share a background in religious studies. Hmm, he seems to be a White guy with convictions about racial justice. It’s always heartening to detect White folks who are not in racial darkness. George and I schedule a talk and we hangout via Google. He’s an intellectual heavyweight, yet he seems like such a cool guy. He’s already sharing ideas that are moving me forward in my thinking. Wow, George Kamberelis is my CNV mentor. This is going to be great!

Click: At our first CNV 2016–18 cohort Fall Institute at the NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta, each mentor and fellow shares their story. One-by-one we solo, with a full soul, to our caring choir of color. I realize that I’m more impressed with who these amazing people are than withtheir scholarship and accomplishments.

These mentors and fellows are uplifting people, people who are resolved to doing good work in the world. I’m awestruck by their generosity and transparency. In so many ways, our times have tested these women and men, yet as scholars, they have remained true to the good fight of justice.

As I collect the contours of these scholars’ particular experiences, I also realize the terror of choosing a career path that is routinely and stubbornly anti-egalitarian, unmeritocratic, and constrained by the racially White superordinate assumption. Note for readers: Don’t misunderstand, I already knew this. Each story we heard raised themes that were familiar to me. Understand that I’ve been cross-training for an anti-Black world since at least Goldsboro High School (in North Carolina) and at each HBCU (Historically Black College or University) from which I have graduated. The terror did not come from surprise, rather from proximity. Notwithstanding all else, including Trump’s approaching presidency, here I am choosing our mentors’ well-worn journey: tenure-track professorship in a research-intensive institution. In this cohort moment, I feel like I’m standing in the hypogeum of higher education’s savage arena. In this close dialogue with the mentors of our cohort, I feel the weight of this savage arena—we all got next. Also close to me, though not present, are my beloved ones at home in Oak Park (Illinois). Come what may, and however I manage to navigate this savage arena, my path will impact my family’s future; including retiring my old student loans, retiring the soon-to-be mortgage of our second purchased house, and even retiring from the labor market altogether. As if I were nearing another African door of no return, I ask aloud, “What am I doing?” Hearing me, George supportively looks on as another CNV mentor at our table replies in a sisterly tone, “The right thing.”

Click: I’m at the NCTE Annual Convention for the very first time because of CNV. I’ve heard about this conference and have wanted to go, but the LRA (Literacy Research Association) conference is the annual gathering for my field and AERA is THE research conference, so I’ve had to choose carefully which conferences to attend as a doc student. The struggle is real. Without CNV, I wouldn’t be here this week. Glancing at the program, the sessions at NCTE seem outstanding. I’m glad NCTE provided the conference schedule through an app, the same way that the International Conference on Urban Education also did two weeks ago. It’s so hard to pick sessions. Each of the sessions I found (using a keyword search for race) sound amazing.

Time for our CNV Poster Session (p. 29). Dang, I forgot to bring push-pins! Never mind, I’m good. There’s a brand new box of clear ones under the boards set up by the Convention Center. The questions and feedback mentioned during the poster session are so helpful. I’ve gotta keep in touch with the folks who signed up for my contact list. I want to make the most of the network that CNV is offering me. By the time I graduate, I gotta have a job lined up. It looks like all of the fellows are having a great time and are connecting with a lot of passersby. After our CNV Poster Session, I head to “Supporting the Academic Achievement and Cultural Identity of Black Adolescent Males.”(p.41) I’m liking, and learning from, the way one of the researchers used “racial storylines.” Good thing I got to hear this sister’s presentation. Oh my goodness: A high school classmate I haven’t seen in years and George were both in this session too! I didn’t even see them until we were walking out. I introduce my classmate to George, and the three of us stand talking for a few moments about the fiery exchanges we heard. My nine-nickel classmate, an English teacher in Atlanta, is singing at a gig in Stone Mountain tonight and she invites me to come. That’s wild—what are the odds? Goldsboro is in the building, NCTE!

Debut: In Autumn, age 40 awaits. For now, an unsettling haze wafts between this last leg to commencement and my treasured definition of success. It hovers and occasionally wrinkles, making the specific steps I should take appear and disappear like drifting clouds. I wonder: Does it profit to have a better understanding of race or to develop racial literacies? Yes, this is significant, justice-minded work. But will my costly justice work profit (the university I work for, the schools I work with, the family I live for)? I don’t yet have the answers I want. Still urgently, at every possible moment, I move forward and work thoughtfully within my immediate clear view. When I must pause, I stand trusting. Make no mistake, I am not the trusting type. I’m learning to stand trusting at forced pauses because of defining moments that have left me no other choice. As it turns out, I am the situated captain of my fate. Remembering my peaks and valleys, I look back now and marvel with gratitude. I was brought this far by caring collaborators, helpful hardships, and immortal love. If it had not been for all that was on my side in this anti-Black world, where would I be? Now, with the added support of CNV, who am I becoming?

Marcus Croom is currently a doctoral candidate of Literacy, Language, and Culture at University of Illinois at Chicago. Within his broader interest in literacies and race, Croom’s research will continue to document teachers’ understandings of race and examine the influence these understandings may have on teacher efficacy, student identification, pedagogical reasoning, and teaching practices in literacy instruction.

Conference Conversations: Reflecting on the 2016 NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta

This post was written by member Kate Walker. 

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This photo was taken at the 2016 NCTE Annual Convention when Kate pretended to be a Spelling Bee Champion.

Attending NCTE Conventions has become a favorite activity of mine, and not just because the event falls near my birthday. I love the serendipitous conversations in the airport with other attendees (you can usually identify English teachers by their comfortable shoes, cardigan sweaters, or canvas shoulder bags). I love the facilitated discussions during presentations about issues important to teachers from around the country and the world. I love the meaningful talks with strangers who have become instant friends while waiting in line to talk to a favorite author. Clearly, I like talking, but what I like even more are the meaningful connections these conversations create and how they eventually impact my students in a positive way.

When I meet people attending the Convention for the first time, I like to tell them the biggest secret of longtime convention attendees: the publishers in the Exhibit Hall want to have conversations with you. Real, meaningful conversations about the books you teach. For example, after telling a publisher I wanted to find a modern companion piece for Their Eyes Were Watching God, she pointed me to Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn, which is also a bildungsroman exploring women’s friendships. (The accuracy of her suggestion prompted me to buy a few more copies of Another Brooklyn to pass along to students for choice reads.)

The NCTE Convention also allows me to talk to all kinds of writers: famous authors, new authors, academic writers, blog writers, and people hoping to someday have the time to sit down and write between all the grading and lesson planning. I fangirled about S. E. Hinton with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, I talked to Sharon Draper about recent reads (and dropped off a copy of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing for her), and I talked shop with Jim Burke about teaching seniors. These conversations would probably not have been possible for me at my first NCTE Convention, when I felt insecure about meeting authors. At the New York Convention in 2007, starstruck, I literally walked into Louise Erdrich when she left an escalator, and I couldn’t even summon words when I had Dave Barry sign a book for me. But NCTE Conventions have helped me understand the human side of authors I’d previously idolized–they, too, have favorite authors, have favorite books, and have classroom stories.

While talking to publishers and authors constitutes a huge reason I attend the NCTE Convention, ultimately, the conversations with other teachers are the reason I return year after year. Other teachers provide me with the best ideas. Sometimes a presenter introduces me to a new poem or article that worked well for their students, and sometimes an impromptu conversation with a teacher over lunch generates new ideas for writing exercises. Attending the Convention offers me professional development from the best resource: other teachers. So every year, around November, I gather my comfortable shoes, my cozy sweater, and my canvas shoulder bag, and I prepare to talk to anyone who’s willing to answer my various questions about becoming a better teacher.

Kate Walker teaches in State College, PA, and edits the Pennsylvania State Affiliate (PCTELA) blog.  She was the 2014 NCTE Secondary Teacher of Excellence for Pennsylvania.

This photo was taken at the 2016 NCTE Annual Convention when Kate pretended to be a Spelling Bee Champion.

NCTE Award-Winning Publications

ncteawardwinners2016A number of teachers, authors, and researchers were presented with awards recently during NCTE’s Annual Convention in Atlanta. Here, we feature some of the awards for books, journal articles, and publications.

Fiction: The NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder. Learn more about Charlotte Huck, the inspiration for the award. This year’s winner is Ghost by Jason Reynolds.

Nonfiction: Look to the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children to find the best nonfiction titles for your students. Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet was this year’s winner. Learn more about teaching with content-rich nonfiction and informational texts.

Poetry: NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her aggregate work for children ages 3–13. This year’s winner is Marilyn Nelson. She is the author of many award-winning books. View more about teaching poetry.

These three awards are given at the Children’s Book Awards Luncheon. Watch a slideshow of the winners.

Diverse Books: The Alan C. Purves Award for an article in Research in the Teaching of English is presented annually to the author(s) from the previous year’s volume judged as likely to have the greatest impact on educational practice. The 2016 award went to Denise Dávila for the article “#WhoNeedsDiverseBooks?: Preservice Teachers and Religious Neutrality with Children’s Literature“. Dávila’s research examines the sociocultural contexts in which preservice teachers and underrepresented groups of children and families engage with diverse works of children’s literature.

Secondary Classrooms: The Paul and Kate Farmer Writing Award is given for articles in English Journal written by classroom teachers. In the first timely article, “Using Memorials to Build Critical Thinking Skills and Empathy“, Jennifer Ansbach asks students to challenge their views of iconic memorials and guides students through the challenges of creating a memorial that represents all. Her work demonstrates the important role English teachers play in helping students develop empathy.

In the second award-winning article, “Photos as Witness: Teaching Visual Literacy for Research and Social Action“, Kiran Subhani helps students position themselves in both recognition of and creating a call to action using visual literacy. Subhani emphasizes the importance of visual literacy in today’s world as students are bombarded and bombard others with visual images.

Professional Learning: This year the CEL English Leadership Quarterly Best Article Award went to Christina Saidy for “Moving from Them to Us: Making New Arguments about Teaching and Learning via Teacher Inquiry“. By telling one teacher’s story of professional growth, Saidy explores the power of effective teacher inquiry groups.

See the NCTE website for information on all of the awards and a complete list of winners. View the slideshow to see the winners with their awards.

What Follows Professional Learning? Staying Connected

2015-ac-logoAfter returning from a professional learning experience like the NCTE Annual Convention, attendees are often energized and reinvigorated. They want to keep the excitement going and continue the conversations that began at the event. What if you can’t attend a conference in person? These resources from NCTE will provide ideas for staying connected after a professional learning experience.

Convention presenters were encouraged to upload their handouts to the 2015 NCTE Annual Convention Online Program. If you searched and found a session of interest for you, there’s a chance you can also find the support materials for that session.

Conversations and discussions about Convention and other NCTE happenings take place in the NCTE Connected Community. Folks also connect via the NCTE Facebook page and NCTE Twitter, using the Convention hashtag #NCTE15. Follow along on Instagram to see photos and videos from the Convention and other gatherings.

There’s now a playlist on YouTube of interviews with NCTE leaders discussing this year’s
Annual Convention. The videos include convention highlights from each individual, as well as their tips for first-time attendees. Don’t miss the Annual Convention 2015 playlist! NCTE also occasionally hosts live events for members and nonmembers.

To maximize the 2015 NCTE Annual Convention experience, folks downloaded the Mobile App to easily view sessions, exhibitors, speakers, floor plans, alerts, and more! You can peek in to see what is there and plan ahead for next year! Download the iOS or Android version.

How do you maintain the momentum after a professional learning experience? Are you inspired to be part of the next NCTE Annual Convention? Read the 2016 Call for Proposals and submit a program proposal for the Atlanta Convention by January 13.

Creative Walls That Speak

Catchwords design elements set. And, with, the, in, from, to, foSpeaking in public spaces has long been a popular form of advocacy. But speech is not necessarily oral: It can be visual, too. Think graffiti, signage, slogans, banners, or any other types of words written on walls and buildings.

In his call for proposals for this November’s NCTE Annual Convention, president-elect Doug Hesse challenged all of us to rethink the role the arts of language play in our work and in our world. This theme will play out in concrete ways throughout that meeting.

In addition to its many convention sessions linking the arts of language to literacy, we’ve designed several public spaces that encourage participants to write, build, construct, and reflect. You’ll be invited to write on the walls as you answer questions, offer suggestions, and share ideas. In this public writing forum you’ll be able to express yourself while learning from the expressions of others.

The prospect of NCTE’s interactive walls reminded me of visiting South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, a number of years ago.  Breathtaking paintings and drawings lined the hallway entrances. In the front corner, there was a glass-enclosed room with sculptures and art. It was clear that the creative expressions of the community were cherished here, and this sent a strong message that they were a valued component of this academic environment.

In Walls Talk (September/October 2014 Principal Special Supplement), the National Association of Elementary School Principals suggest that one can assess school culture by what is hanging on the walls of classrooms and hallways. They ask, “Is original student work hung prominently . . . or are walls filled with cookie cutter images? Are descriptive essays or reflective responses displayed that show . . . deepened student understanding? Or is art hung simply to beautify the space?” Walls can communicate a school’s priorities through the work they share.

This month, we’re inviting attendees at the Annual Convention to communicate their priorities through what they share on the walls we’ve erected for this purpose. If you can’t attend, we still want to hear from you. Share your thoughts about what it means to be part of NCTE and what you’d like to see the organization do and become in the future by commenting below. After all, the comment section on a blog is also a virtual wall that speaks.