Tag Archives: Teachers

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: The Last Word

Before I begin my tour of the museums here in DC, I want to take a minute to extend my utmost gratitude to a few people. First, the NCTE team in the DC office, Jenna Fournel and Lu Ann McNabb, for being gracious and welcoming. I will miss our little office camaraderie. Second, my family. I was only able to have this incredible experience only because of the support of my amazing mother-in-law, who came down to DC to watch the kids for three weeks, and my sweet parents, who flew out for grandparent duty for the remainder of the time. Finally, my darling husband, who has been alone at home with a screaming cat for over a month. My deepest thanks to you all.

It’s tough to explain to a twelve-year-old the sheer power of words. Ironically, words don’t do themselves justice. As I made my way around the sights in DC, I found myself constantly in awe of the words all around me and the way in which they have shaped, and continue to shape, our country. Below is a collection of my thoughts, lesson ideas, and reflections on five museums, in the order in which I viewed them.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

As a teacher of the Diary of a Young Girl, the Holocaust is a topic I discuss with eighth graders every year. The main exhibit experience begins with a large group of people packed into a steel elevator, that makes you instantly uncomfortable. When you exit, you are met with videos taken during concentration camp liberation, and a giant photograph of burnt corpses. The silence in the museum is overwhelming. Two areas in particular spoke to me. The first was the section on propaganda. This year I would like to have students analyze the rhetoric of Joseph Goebbels to answer a common question: Why were people angry at Jewish people? How did Goebbels use words to confuse and deceive? The second section I found interesting was about the League of German Girls. During our unit study, we cover Hitler Youth, but I didn’t know about its female counterpart. Finally, I have tried researching contemporary genocides in the past, but I would like to revisit that this year. The USHMM website has a rich library of educator resources, including a couple of interesting professional learning opportunities.

National Museum of American History

I uncovered a few neat ideas here. Most important is Wonderplace, a super awesome play space complete with a climbing structure, and kitchen with fake fruit, and the Spark!Lab where kids can be inventors and make stuff.  Kiddos were happy for hours. The exhibit Many Voices, One Nation made me think, How do the words of many people, across time, unite to form a country? I could have my students look at the works of the authors we study, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Wright, Daniel Keyes, and whoever else gets tossed in there this year-to see how each of their unique voices became a part of the narrative of America.

Executive Order 9066 got me thinking about how words can used to strip people of their liberties.

I also saw Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt, which resulted in the removal of over 110,000 Japanese Americans from their West Coast homes. Another question to pose to students: How have people used words to deprive others of their freedoms? (Check out the Smithsonian’s History Explorer for educator resources. You can search by grade level, time period and/or subject you teach.)

Folger Shakespeare Library
Life imitating art. The exhibit had cute interactive elements.

I’ve been a fan of these guys since I met them at NCTE’s Annual Convention in 2014. I’ve used their incredible resources for teaching Shakespeare, and they also offer professional learning opportunities,  including a month-long stay here in DC to study Shakespeare in depth. Of course I had to visit! The current exhibit showcased paintings of Shakespeare, the man himself and the scenes from the plays. The library is home to the largest collection of Shakespeare works, as well as other rare Renaissance works. Since I took the tour, I got to peek in the reading room. Swoon. During the tour, our guide mentioned that Shakespeare was not wholly original and that he took many of his stories from other authors. How can words be refashioned into something new and exciting?  On an unrelated note, while at Folger I enjoyed learning about Project Dustbunny, dirt from the gutters of books analyzed for past readers’ DNA – wild.

First Folio! First Folio!
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The abolitionist paper, The North Star, was founded by Frederick Douglass. My kids will love seeing the actual paper.

This museum is the newest, opening in September 2016. I noticed a few different ways in which words were important, especially for someone who teaches Richard Wright’s, Black Boy. First, Nat Turner’s Bible and Harriet Tubman’s hymnal were on display. Both struck me, and I thought, How do people find strength and comfort in words during times of pain and turmoil? I look forward to examining this question with my students; it’s a topic that pairs nicely with Anne Frank finding solace in books.

Finding comfort in words can be a common thread throughout history.

Alongside the reading of Black Boy, my students and I read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. A question for my students will be, How can we use words to fight for change? This question will be especially useful as we follow Wright on his journey of discovering how authors used words to fight against racism.


The California paper posted outside the day I visited.

The Newseum “promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.” Tons of great ideas here! Around the outside of the museum are front pages from each of the fifty states and around the world. What a great activity for teaching media literacy. I want to pull the day’s headlines from three papers and have students analyze the differences. How can we use the same words to paint a different picture? There was also a neat exhibit on each of the five freedoms. This might be interesting to explore as my students learn about the Bill of Rights in social studies. How are the words of the past relevant today? I want to explore the modern issues relating to each of the five freedoms.

This exhibit poses the question, what freedoms do students have at school?

There was also really cool display about the rights of students, which I know mine will enjoy talking about, especially the parts on dress code. A question I will ask is, How can you use words to fight for what you believe in?

And now I, NCTE’s 2017 Kent B. Williamson Policy Fellow, am signing off. I hope you enjoyed following along as much as I enjoyed the journey. Please contact me, I’d love to connect and chat. Peace.

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: Teacher Preparation, Global Education and CA Senators

Is there a better way to kick off the week than by spending time with pre-service teachers?The NCTE team (Jenna Fournel, Lu Ann McNabb and Felice Kaufmann) and I took a field trip to Capital City Public Charter School where Inspired Teaching hosts a summer program. Inspired Teaching is a “professional learning community of master teachers and teacher residents that  ensures that a diverse group of students achieves their potential as accomplished learners, thoughtful citizens, and imaginative and inquisitive problem solvers through a demanding, inquiry-based curriculum.”

Seated in a circle, teachers were doing an exercise that examined the different roles that students tend to play in the classroom, e.g., mean girl, class clown, etc. After the discussion, teachers used chart paper to write down both positives and negatives of each of the roles. Then we divided into teams and brainstormed ways to break students of these roles.I loved the insightfulness of the group, one teacher remarked that students can “go invisible” in some roles. Another pointed out these roles teach students that they as a person are static, and not dynamic. When chatting with Mara Duquette, Senior Manager, Strategic Engagement, she talked about the importance of these experiences- by saying, “We teach them to discover who I am as a learner, because I need to know that before I can become a teacher.” 

NCTE’s Felice Kaufmann and I discuss some of the strategies Inspired Teaching uses with their pre-service teachers. I loved the quotes about education, and I plan to use them as an opening activity to get my students thinking about why they are in school.

Global Education

I had no idea that the US Department of Education had an International Affairs Office. Since I am a Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow (see P&O below for more details), I was eager to learn more. Maureen McLaughlin, who is a senior advisor to Secretary DeVos and the Director of International Affairs, was gracious enough to meet with me to talk global education. She shared with me the department’s strategy, created under Arne Duncan, to succeed globally through international education and engagement. They have three objectives: increase global competencies, learn from other countries, and engage in education diplomacy. Recently, Maureen was on a team that created a Framework for Developing Global and Cultural Competencies to Advance Equity, Excellence and Economic Competence. This is a great tool for those looking to start embedding global competencies in their curriculum.

This framework is a great way to start thinking about ways to incorporate global education in the classroom.

California Delegation

Midweek I met with both of my California senators’ offices. Small world: Brett Rosenberg, the legislative aide in Senator Kamala Harris’s office, actually received an NCTE Achievement Award in Writing when she was in high school. I shared with Brett NCTE’s policy recommendations, and she shared with me the senator’s education passions (DACA, combating sexual assault on campus, gainful employment). At Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office I met with education legislative aide Crystal Martinez. She anticipates the Senate will preserve Title I funding at equal or increased levels, and that Title II and LEARN will be preserved in some fashion. That was good news! Check out last week’s post for a refresher on ESSA funding. Senator Feinstein’s interests are access to high-quality education for all students, ensuring California receives its due share of federal funding, and accountability and transparency for all schools.

My traditional selfies with the plaques.










I Really Love Global Education

Never felt more secure in my life! I also enjoyed the alumni ribbon, as it got people chatting with me about my experience with Teachers for Global Classrooms.

Friday brought me to the Department of State for the Annual Global Teaching Dialogue to continue my learning on global education. As a Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow, it was exciting to hear all the phenomenal work that both the TGC and Fulbright Fellows are doing in their schools with global education. Mark Taplin, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, opened the dialogue, pointing out that investing in teachers is critical to our nation’s future.  Andy Rabens, the special advisor for global youth issues, wrapped up the evening by talking about the three areas of focus for youth issues: youth and economic opportunity (jobs of the future), youth and the political process (getting them involved, young women especially) and youth and violent extremism (understanding how and why youth are vulnerable). There is a great video he did on the Global Youth Issues website which can tell you more about why young people matter. I think I’ll use this video in my classroom to kick off the year to show my kids why they are important.

I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of branded water bottles, especially ones that say Department of State.

If you are interested in learning more about global education, check out the State Department’s programs for teachers and students (spoiler alert, there are a lot), The Diplomacy Center for educating students about diplomacy,  or reach out to me and I can help guide you. Also, follow #NCTEcitizen to join in the conversation on creating global citizens. This recent blog post entitled “Putting Citizenship in Global Perspective in the ELA Classroom” is a great place to get started. Being in DC during a tumultuous time in world news has only strengthened my resolve that if we want our students to be successful in college, career and beyond, it is our responsibility as educators to help them explore how they fit into a global society.

P&O (People and Opportunities) There were a lot this week, so I’ll keep this list to stuff I didn’t mention above.

Celeste Rodriguez, Teacher Liaison, Department of Education: Lu Ann and I had lunch with Celeste. Taco truck lunch, sitting outside, chatting teacher leadership – what more can a gal ask for? Just because there has been a change in administration, it doesn’t mean the department isn’t listening. Celeste is working hard, continuing to incorporate teacher voice at all levels. Big shout out to her and all she does for teachers and students. 

Felice Kaufmann, Publications Developer, NCTE: Felice, based at the NCTE office in Urbana, Illinois, was in DC this week. I was lucky enough to spend time with her and get to know her a bit. You can check out our membership magazine, The Council Chronicle, which Felice manages, and also follow her on Twitter. 

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, CHCI: I ran into this group while I was waiting in Senator Harris’s office. I encourage you to check out this program, which “places Latino youth on a new trajectory by inspiring high school and college completion, and then providing programs to explore public policy and leadership in our nation’s capital.” The group of kids I saw were giddy after meeting the senator, and I loved seeing students so inspired by our government.

Teachers for Global Classrooms: This is a great program for teachers to start or continue their global education journey. It consists of a graduate-level 10-week online course on global education, a symposium in DC, and it culminates in a 2-3 week study abroad. I am looking forward to doing my travel piece this spring!


Teachers to Whom I Am Grateful

Thank you multilanguage wordcloud background conceptAn important part of advocacy is to thank the stakeholders, policymakers, and staff with whom one meets, especially if they introduce or pass legislation or an agency rule that is beneficial to you. But today, it seems appropriate to thank the educators we have had, educators we know, and educators all over the world who devote their time, energy, and joy to teaching young people and adults.

Mother Mouton, headmistress of my all-girl Catholic K–12 school, was the epitome of gentle kindness. We all revered her. Mrs. Koss made American history come alive, and Madame Green had no tolerance for us hide-in-the-back, hoping-she-won’t see us students, forcing us to speak French and only French. The professors and graduate assistants at the University of Virginia challenged, encouraged, and believed in us, for which I will always be grateful.

I am grateful for my children’s teachers: Mrs. DeFilippo, who scheduled a two-hour block every Tuesday morning for her third-grade students to write and only write; Mr. Butterfield, my son’s English teacher, who worked with him every day his senior year when he was homebound with a debilitating illness; and the George Mason University Art Department, who enveloped my daughter with unbelievable compassion and understanding when her close friend was gunned down at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.

I am amazed by the energy of our policy analysts, who, although they are teaching and researching and writing, still manage to analyze the issues throughout the United States and policy analyses. I appreciate the NCTE board members and staff, who, in addition to teaching in the classroom, still dedicate time to running this organization; the state teachers of the year who choose to advocate beyond their classrooms in the state and national arenas; and the teacher ambassadors who travel to the United States Department of Education to make sure Congress and agency officials hear the voices of teachers.

Most of all, I am grateful to the teachers who show up every day to wipe little noses, patiently conduct grating violins, secretly slip gift cards into the backpack of a teen who has been kicked out of his house; those teachers who seek every avenue to incite a love of reading in a recalcitrant youth or who inspire a child to pursue a dream or who shadow those who may fall to make sure they stand up straight.

This Thanksgiving, I am remembering those who helped guide me to be the person I am today.

With gratitude – Lu Ann Maciulla McNabb


We Need To Invest In Teachers

The following post was written by NCTE staff member Kelly Searsmith. Read her bio here.

Catalyst for change: invest in teachers.At two and a half years old, my son begged to be allowed to go to school. I had planned to stay home with him until kindergarten, but his eagerness to be immersed in the dynamic, creative, hands-on environment of school that he saw in popular children’s shows led us to send him early. Now thirteen, he would love nothing more than to stop going. Since at least the third grade, school has seemed to him an endless stream of worksheets and testing, more busywork than inquiry, exploration, or discovery. The PARCC testing he’s experienced this year seems to him no different.

As Quinn has gotten older, he has become increasingly cynical about the ability of school to transform itself. Over the last couple of years, his teachers have been telling him that change for the better is just around the corner. This year it arrived. As part of Common Core practice, his math class is now taught entirely in cooperative learning groups and his English class often uses small groups in place of guided, whole-class discussion. He describes these as painful social encounters where other students seem uninterested in the work, have difficulty pulling together to discuss the material, do so only superficially, and go off task more than they stay on it, even when assigned roles or assisted with process instructions. His standardized test has become the PARCC, which for him seems much the same as earlier forms of standardized testing, and therefore much less about his learning than about some attempt at accountability that has no direct benefit for him.

Quinn still loves to learn, but he does not feel that he is doing most of his learning in school or that his school experiences are designed to motivate learning or provide him with truly engaging experiences—few are tailored to his interests or preferences about learning. As our son’s disappointment with his educational experiences has grown, only one dimension of school seems to have made any difference to his quality of experience from year to year, then or now: teachers.

Whether Quinn learns richly from a class, engages deeply with the material, and expresses any excitement about school-based learning depends entirely on his teachers: their relationship with him and the other students, their own excitement and knowledge of the material, the kinds of learning experiences they design, the very atmosphere they create in the room.

When will we learn that the best investment we can make in our students is to invest in teachers?

We need to give teachers the time to continue to learn in their subjects and explore best approaches to teaching them; to design materials, curricula, and learning experiences; and to collaborate with one another in local and national professional learning communities. We need to invest in teachers so that they have the resources to get inspired, experiment, reflect, and contribute as experts and leaders in education. When that becomes our emphasis in education reform, I believe we will finally see a real transformation in education.

Kelly Searsmith holds a doctorate in Victorian literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, taught at the college level for twenty years, and has served as Assistant Director for the eDream Institute (in emerging digital arts media) at the University of Illinois and Director of Research and Development for the Scholar learning environment, an IES-funded project developed by a University of Illinois College of Education research group and Common Ground Publishing. She is a member of NCTE.




The Story of One is the Story of Many

Your 2014 Year in Stories: #NCTEChat 12.21 8pmBeth Shaum currently teaches 8th grade in Michigan and is a social media coordinator for NCTE. Among her many tasks in that role is planning #NCTEChat. Next Sunday, December 21 at 8 pm the chat will focus on your stories from the past year. Below Beth shares her own. 

On the first evening of Annual Convention in Washington DC, I sat in the dimly lit ballroom enraptured in Enrique’s Journey. Here was Sonia Nazario, telling the story of one to give voice and credence to the story of many. Which got me thinking: Isn’t that what we are looking for as teachers? Don’t we want our voices to be heard so others will assure us that our own journeys have not been in vain?

My journey as a teacher came close to ending a couple years ago. Burnt out from the rigors of this profession, I was ready to throw in the towel. But rarely do things in life just happen by accident as I soon discovered when I registered for a graduate class with Dr. Cathy Fleischer at Eastern Michigan University entitled Public Policy and Public Writing. Cathy designed the course as way to help educators find their voices.

Since I was on the brink of leaving the profession, I decided that part of my final project for the class would be to find out why other teachers stay. I took to social media and asked my Twitter and Facebook PLN to participate. The result was this video.

That video led to my current position as social media coordinator for NCTE. And while I took last school year off to focus on my social media position, I am happy to say I am now back in the classroom, teaching 8th grade English at my alma mater.

My desire to return to the classroom would have never happened had I not been part of the inspiring community of teachers who are NCTE members. Being with my people, my tribe, sustains me, and for that I am ever grateful.

Ernest Morrell asked NCTE Convention first-time attendees this year how they could be the face of NCTE every day, not just at Annual Convention. So I’m offering up that challenge to you, dear reader. How can you be the voice of NCTE in your own communities? Because you never know when that lifeline just might keep a passionate teacher in the classroom.