NCTE Day 2: Everyone has a story to tell

And it’s true. I do. You do. Our students do, too.

The day started off with the opening session highlighting Erin Gruwell which was pretty neat for me considering I loved the movie. Her talk was very inspiring for all of the teachers in the room; she reminded us to never say never and be sure that each of our own stories (and our students’ stories) were heard.

Another talk I visited talked about strategies to get kids reading more and ultimately “reading their lives.” I liked the idea of generating questions from each student’s own life that he/she uses while reading text. I think that it would certainly make texts more engaging to have kids read (consciously) through a lens that made them think critically about how the book applies to them personally.

I also visited a talk about service learning and social justice (awareness). I particularly thought about how this could tie into my school’s service component (which is a requirement of graduation) and my sophomore level class research component (not to mention the sophomore class is focused on service too). The idea that it all starts with research, leading to advocacy and indirect impact, and finally ending with a direct impact of whatever that research focused on would work well with the setup we currently have. It’s something I hope to look into during spring semester and talk to our service coordinator to see what we can come up with!

The next talk I visited I didn’t necessarily agree with 100%. I think the first speaker hit a nerve when he mentioned “Virginia Tech” and how its citizens were citizens (rather victims) of “privatization” (the question posed was how can one have empathy for others if he/she is privatized i.e. growing up online..but to be honest, I’m not really sure what the point was, I was out after the VT comment, so I may have missed something??? I hope, at least). In addition, it was stated that the humanities classroom is pointless now within the public sphere…another point I’m not necessarily fond of simply because I feel the direction of humanities classes and the purpose behind them greatly impact the public sphere we participate in today. Thus, what we do within the humanities classroom IS very relevant today…at least in my opinion.

The final point I walked away with from this talk (which was one I did agree with to an extent) was that within our field, we our in a culture that works against collaboration. I thought about this point and how it affects me. In order to collaborate, I have to take it upon myself to branch out, form my PLN, ask for help, suggest ideas, etc. And I know a lot of other teachers who also actively engage with their collaboration and learning as well. However, I see a lot of teachers who are still apart from this active participation for a myriad of reasons even though we have a HUGE amount of resources to help aid in collaboration. Also, I think face-to-face collaboration is sometimes the hardest because there often is not always a lot of time to talk. The bottom line is that we have to make time to collaborate.

Drawing off the last line here about making time to collaborate, I particularly enjoyed the talk “Teachers as Writers” because I do feel that we have to make time for it (did I mention this is one of my biggest goals for the next semester?). I am constantly reminding my students that writing is a skill; everyone becomes a better writer by practicing.

Finally, I was fortunate to sit in on the talk with Ellen Hopkins and David Levithan. Both of these authors were such moving speakers and truly drove home today’s tag line that everyone has a story to tell. (And I’d add to that everyone DESERVES to tell his/her story.) Their talk focused on defending intellectual freedom and the fact that every person is equal to another — that’s what this “fight” is all about. And perhaps even more important, the stuff people feel uncomfortable with, that people feel the need to ban, well that is the stuff that are actually going on with many kids today. Thus, why should we deny them their right to feel validated? To feel connected? To feel understood?

Everyone has a story to tell. And everyone deserves to tell his or her story. (Be sure to check out this too).



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