Observations from the 2017 National Council of Teachers of English Conference – By Tim Cross, Business Development Manager
Tyler Carey and I enjoyed attending the NCTE conference in St. Louis, MO last week. The shuttle buses from the airport were packed with English teachers from around the country, making you feel like the conference had taken over St. Louis. Indeed wherever you went, there were teachers talking about their experiences and pedagogy in the Starbucks and hotel lobbies throughout Downtown. Being in such an active and enthusiastic group of 7,000+ professionals that are all so passionate about their vocation was inspiring. To understand how NCTE works with educators to improve the learning of English language arts at all education levels, here’s a link to their website.
Especially inspiring was the keynote from famous poet and educator Jimmy Santiago Baca. Baca discussed his history as an orphan in New Mexico who was inspired by a teacher who told him he could write poetry, when he was having many challenges in the systems he grew up in. Baca encouraged the teachers to think of ways to better engage their students in ways that mattered to them – teaching them about poetry that bore a cultural relevance rather than sticking to a curriculum that may not be accessible. “You are more than dragon slayers,” he told the teachers, “you are dream makers.” After reading a poem he had written especially for the teachers, he took questions from the audience and in response to some similar questions, he told teachers to make their classrooms reflect their own individuality so that students felt they had someone real they could engage with and learn from. One teacher asked him how he made time to write, what with having five kids, two dogs, and a day-to-day life like we all do. Baca said, “Take yourself serious but have a lot of fun…Dive into life,” continuing on to say that there will always be the things that happen in our day to day life that are a distraction from our plans and are part of living. While many of us have heard the ‘write when you can’ advice from authors before, Baca made that advice seem more possible and achievable. If you’re interested in learning more about Baca’s remarkable story, visit his website.
The conference was packed with sessions in many tracks, making the general trend of sessions difficult to pinpoint. The overall energy at the conference reflected educators and publishers who are ready to explore new avenues and already setting the path for all of us. From innovative digital products to print products that reflect refinements and new approaches to teaching literacy, one felt ready to arm the students of today with the ideas of tomorrow. My colleagues at Westchester K-12 Publishing Services and I are proud to be a part of that effort, supporting our clients through content development, editorial services, production, and more, helping our clients create innovative and effective products for ELA, Math, Social Studies, and Science education. Contact Us to discuss your program and explore ways we can help you.