Oh, yes, there is nothing like a conference to rejuvenate the teacher soul!
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the spring conference of the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, a seven-hour experience extraordinaire.I enjoyed talks by authors:
• David Lubar reminded us, “I write stuff all the time,” and reminded us how our personal experiences can expand into stories teens can identify with —even humorous stories though they weren’t so at the time.
• Dan-el Padilla-Perolta described his journey as an undocumented student, emphasizing that “Black and brown lives matter, not only in the context of the US but also with immigrants legal and not,” and regarding this, “Complexity is daunting.”
• Matt de la Pen͂a told us of his journey from basketball-playing youngster to becoming a writer and then a reader, “Reading became my secret place to feel,” and “Writing is a tool that doesn’t come to life until readers put their flesh and bones in it.”
And, there were also great sessions by New Jersey teachers in three blocks. I attended:
• “A Successful Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration and the Common Core” during which English teachers Steve Gavrielatos and Susan Chenelle joined math teacher Edwin Rivera and college professor Audrey Fisch to explain, “Incorporating cross-disciplinary lessons helps students develop metacognition/meta-memory” and “numbers are arguments.”
• Erika Robinson, during her session on “Race in the ELA Classroom: A Subject That Can’t Be Checked at the Door,” pointed out that “You can change laws; it’s a little harder to change hearts.”
• In “Teaching Mockingbird and A Raisin in the Sun in (Not-So) Post-Racial Times,” Susan Chenelle and Audrey Fisch brought us inside several live history sources that Susan’s students used and we did, too, to enhance and make real to the students the times of these texts.
Planning a conference is a labor of love—a labor all NCTE affiliates perform at least annually. For those who attend—in the New Jersey case, more teachers and pre-service teachers than the affiliate had on its rolls—the collegiality, the learning, the time to remember the importance of our work provide essential rejuvenation for what we do daily in our work with students.