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Posts from the ‘Sustaining Positive Energy’ Category

NCTE November: A Compilation of Experiences

Things You Learn as a First-Timer at NCTE 2019 by Courtney Knowlton

1. If you coincidentally find yourself in an elevator with Kelly Gallagher, don’t be afraid to tell him that Reading Reasons made you a better teacher.

2. Ideas and books will fly at you in every direction. Make a quick note of things, like ‘Read Woke,’ that you want to look into more later.

3. Stock up on the playful badge ribbons, such as “I’m a page turner” and “Word Nerd.” They will go fast!

4. Standing in line at George Takei’s book signing is more than worth it for the chance to listen to his husband’s quips and to experience George’s appreciation for teachers firsthand.

5. Make use of group texts to plan meals together. It is an ideal time to reflect and to hear stories about that time in New Orleans when a writing marathon included a carousel.

6. Download the NCTE conference app. You’re going to need your own “personal assistant” to keep all those times and room numbers straight. You do not want to miss Ralph Fletcher discussing visual literacies using a zoomed in puffin photo.

7. Listen to your mentor when she tells you to wear comfortable shoes. Don’t let blisters slow you down when you’re trying to get from that poster session regarding video grading to a translanguaging presentation several city blocks away within the convention center.

8. Also, listen to her when she tells you to bring an extra suitcase for all the books you will receive for free/purchase. No one wants to be the person sitting on the ground surrounded by her toppled stack of titles because she didn’t come prepared. 

9. Make time for decompressing and processing, maybe in the hotel hot tub.

10. Attend the NWP Brunch. It helps you remember that you are truly part of a writing movement.


A first experience perspective of NCTE by Sharon Williams

In the weeks leading up to attending NCTE for the first time, I considered each session carefully as I perused through the offerings posted in the online schedule for each day. I honestly thought that I would be attending professional development workshops that would offer me ideas on how to enhance my teaching practices in my classroom. And, while this was one of the ultimate aftereffects of attending, NCTE was so much more.  For me, the conference not only offered me the benefit of useful tools that can readily be implemented into my classroom, but it also afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with peers, meet with mentors known personally and from afar, and to reflect upon inclusiveness and social justice in my own practices. 

One session, in particular, that stands out to me is YA Literature and Teaching Poverty. The presenters were dynamic and passionate about the subject of childhood poverty and hunger and the impact that it has upon the learning environment. They created and shared a unit with attendees that included book speed dating, a poverty simulation, and argument essays. Students chose novels addressing the topic of poverty and its impact on not only individuals but also society as a whole.  The chosen novels were read in literature circles. Students were required to write an analysis of their novels with a focus on various themes such as the relationship between poverty and power. 

In addition, the teachers utilized the PBS Series, Poor Kids to drive home the effects of poverty and hunger in the lives of children prior to participating in the simulation and reflection activity. Finally, students were asked to choose a social justice issue related to poverty, craft a claim, and develop an argumentative essay upon that claim. 

At the end of the presentation, the presenters shared student writings crafted during the implementation of this unit. As an attendee, I found it to be very moving. In the samples share, students were thoughtful and reflective in their arguments. 

Even though the unit presented in this session is for 10th-grade, it is my intention to collaborate with my 8th-grade LA department team to include portions of the unit in our hero’s journey unit in January. 


Standout Speakers by Janice Ewing

Three standout speakers for me were Tommy Orange at NCTE, and Dr. Dana Stachowiak and Dr. Kim Parker at CEL. They were all passionate and memorable. I’ll be sharing more about  their presentations in my blog post on December 4th.


What if… by Kelly Virgin

At the very end of a long and packed four-day conference, I attended the NWP brunch and was invited to spend some time reflecting through a What if poem:

What if...
I'd said I'm too busy
this year?
I don't want to spend the money
the professional days
the time
the energy
to travel to NCTE.
I wouldn't have gathered
around tables
and talked with educators from
as far as the West Indies
and near as "a few blocks down the road."
I wouldn't have shaken the hand
of a mentor idol and thanked him for his inspiration.
I wouldn't have rekindled old friendships
and sparked new ones.
I wouldn't have written
poetry
and inquiry questions
and personal narratives
and new plans for Monday.
I wouldn't have opened my eyes
and my heart
and my mind
to a wealth of innovative and imperative ideas.
What if
I'd stayed home instead?

I hope to see you all at NCTE in Denver next fall!

Faces of Advocacy: Reflections on the 2016 NWP and the NCTE Conferences

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?

pawlp dinner

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

Teacher-to-Teacher: Poetry as Noticing

By Janice Ewing

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Mary Oliver (from “Sometimes”)

These are among my favorite lines from Mary Oliver, and I think that these “instructions” apply to poetry, too.  Once again we find ourselves in April, Poetry Month. Many of us have considered the value of giving poetry its special twelfth of the year, versus reading, writing and enjoying it all the time. This year, I’m feeling a little more mellow about that issue. I’ve come to believe that we can immerse ourselves and our students in poetry through all seasons, and still take the month of April to celebrate it with fun and fanfare. Read more

Books on the Blog: Ready, Player One, and Buck

By Bob Zakrzewski

readyplayeroneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

I became aware of Cline’s first novel a few years ago when a close friend and fellow English teacher raved about it.  His rare enthusiasm made Ready Player One a title I kept stashed away in my memory, but also contributed to my falling into the dangerous trap of judging a book by its fanbase.

When this particular friend went on and on about this bildungsroman, dystopian, virtual-reality video-gamer adventure tale, I dismissed it.  He is a gamer, and I am not.  He loves Star Wars, obscure comics, and prog rock.  I can appreciate these, but nowhere near the extent he or many of their avid enthusiasts do.  This book sounded like something right up his alley, and something several blocks away from mine.

Last year, my curriculum supervisor sent out a message that she read the book and loved it, asking if any teacher would want to use it in class.  Always open to trying new books with my students, I reconsidered the text. Read more

Writing Resolutions from PAWLP

What's your writing resolution-By Janice Ewing

Most PAWLPers don’t wait until New Year’s to engage in reflection and goal-setting; nevertheless, this time of year especially lends itself to those pursuits. For example, one PAWLPer said, “I firmly resolve to write something every day that is not just a compilation of events, but actual insights of life that I’ve noticed and contemplated.”

Here’s a sampling of some more of our Writing Resolutions, collected at our December Continuity and Leadership meetings: Read more

From the Classroom: Notes from PCTELA

By Tricia Ebarvia

pctela“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