The theme of the 2016 National Council of Teachers of English was Faces of Advocacy. A theme that couldn’t have been more timely. NCTE’s call for proposals included the following: “Many times as educators, we feel defeated and incapable of making change of any sort. This [NCTE] conference is your opportunity to rise to the challenge of who you are as a teacher or teacher leader – celebrate and discuss the possibilities that lie ahead of us.” There was definitely celebration in finding a COMMUNITY of educators dedicated to a shared purpose – literacy, freedom, and agency for all. Advocacy. What are we doing to advocate and to inspire advocacy in our classrooms, buildings, community, and the world?
L to R: Mary Buckelew, Lynne Dorfman, Rita Sorrentino, Janice Ewing, Tricia Ebarvia, and Kelly Virgin
In this post, PAWLP Fellows Rita Sorrentino, Janice Ewing, Pauline Schmidt, Kelly Virgin, Patty Koller, and Tricia Ebarvia share some of their takeaways from this year’s NWP and NCTE conferences. We encourage readers to respond. Please share your strategies for teaching and inspiring advocacy and service. We also urge teachers to attend and present at local, regional, and national conferences to renew the professional spirit.
– Mary Buckelew Read more
A few years ago, I started to rethink my classroom space. I wondered, What does this room say about me as a teacher, or my students as learners? Is the space working in the best ways it can? Here are 16 ways we can reimagine our learning spaces - with pictures!
By Kelly Virgin
A few years back one of my real life friends asked me to be her virtual friend on yet another social media site. I was already lagging with my tweets, feeling overwhelmed by my newsfeed, and completely out of touch with current hashtags, so I was leery of signing up for anymore social media tasks. However, when she described it as “a Facebook for readers,” I knew I had to give it a shot. Since I accepted her invitation to join Goodreads.com in February of 2009, I have extended that same invitation year after year to over 300 of my students.
By Tricia Ebarvia
“What conference is it again?”
“Pic TELL ah,” I said more slowly.
“Really? That’s not a real conference,” my colleague teased.
All I could do was smile.
To the uninitiated, PCTELA―short for the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English Language Arts―might sound like something you would make up. Or, at the very least, just another one of the many educational acronyms in our lives: SAT, ACT, PVAAS, IEP, GIEP, RTI. I have to admit that until a few years ago, I had never heard of PCTELA either. In fact, when I first started teaching in 2001, I don’t think I had heard of many professional teacher organizations, if any. Or, if I did, they didn’t register with me. I was probably too busy just trying to stay afloat in the happy chaos of teaching.
Soon enough—and thankfully—other acronyms became part of my teaching life. NCTE, NWP, PAWLP—these were the acronyms that mattered. And now, of course, I can add PCTELA to that list. Read more
By Janice Ewing
In a recent post on this blog, guest poster Stacey Shubitz talked about the values of ‘mirrors and windows’ in children’s books, specifically in relation to their use as mentor texts. Stacey also expressed the view that books dealing with diverse characters and families should not be reserved for special months. I strongly agree, although I also feel that there can be value in highlighting particular groups at certain times, especially if it gives us, as teachers, the motivation to explore new texts, authors, or genres. Stacey also shared a list of excellent titles that may provide mirrors to some, windows to others, great readalouds/mentor texts for many.
So here’s something I’ve been thinking about – what are some strategies for the teacher who wants to embed more diversity into the classroom library, readaloud, and/or writers’ workshop, but has concerns about taking the leap into topics that might be controversial or out of his/her comfort zone? For most teachers in today’s climate, I would think (hope) that books featuring racial or religious diversity would not be cause for concern, other than that they portray authentic portraits, without stereotypes or tokenism. Can we say the same for books that portray non-traditional families, or explore sexual orientation? I think for many teachers, these are more complicated issues.
*** This week we decided go back to archives and reshare this wonderful post by librarian Chris Kehan, which originally appeared on our blog two years ago. Below, Chris shares how community is something that can be nurtured and grow beyond the classroom walls―and especially how our libraries can be at the center of that growth.
By Chris Kehan
For the past four years, setting up my classroom has been different than it was for the previous nineteen years. Having taught in the regular education classroom for those nineteen years, I made the leap into library media specialist. While I still see myself as a classroom teacher, my classroom just grew in size and so did my number of students. Creating a space where students, teachers, and parents feel welcome and safe to take risks is extremely important for librarians. Most libraries are situated in the center of the school; hence it’s the hub of activity. “Entrance through our doors admits one to infinite worlds, magical kingdoms, and the treasure trove of knowledge created by our world’s best thinkers, artists, and scientists.” (Grimes, 2006) Read more