Teachers Know Redux - National Council of Teachers of English
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Teachers illuminate with their abilities, skills, and knowledge.

Teachers Know Redux

This blog is an updated version of the 2018 blog Teachers Know.

I have to say up front that teachers need appreciation all year long. However, in the spirit of this week’s celebration, I have a few things to say. Today, NCTE’s Teacher Appreciation Week calendar of recognition events suggests you, “Deepen your practice with professional texts written by your peers with curated chapters of professional learning books.” Why? Because teachers know; because learning from one another is our best way of learning and of sharing what we know.

You, just as the three 2018 Teachers of the Year describe, have much education and training to prepare you for the job. You’ve content knowledge, English teaching expertise, and kid savvy. You are the one best prepared to select the texts for students to use to meet the course curricula and local and state standards. You know the texts and your students and what the perfect match will be.

Most schools rely upon your expertise in this area, and, when there are challenges, everyone involved needs a reminder of this.

You’re resourceful. So, if a parent objects to her student reading a certain text, you can and should provide an alternative. BUT, that parent is not on legal footing with an objection to all students reading the text. If the parent persists, hopefully your school has a policy for handling such challenges (have a look at the Board of Education policies listed on your school’s website or at the policy outlined in NCTE’s The Students’ Right to Read) and, hopefully, the school follows the policy.

Throughout any challenge, remember your expertise and don’t be shy about reminding others of it!

Following are selected words from two NCTE policies to help you do just that.

From Guidelines for Selection of Materials in English Language Arts Programs:

Selecting materials requires in-depth knowledge: not just of students’ backgrounds and learning experiences, but also of their abilities and interests; not just of educational objectives, but of the best practices and range and quality of materials for meeting them; not just of the particular work being considered, but of its place within the medium, genre, epoch, etc., it represents. In short, responsible selection demands not only the experience and education needed to make sound choices but also the ability to defend the choices made.

This level of expertise can be found in the English language arts professional.

From The Students’ Right to Read:

In selecting books for reading by young people, English teachers consider the contribution which each work may make to the education of the reader, its aesthetic value, its honesty, its readability for a particular group of students, and its appeal to adolescents…

English teachers are better qualified to choose and recommend books for their classes than persons not prepared in the field.

And share with challengers that

English teachers forced through the pressures of censorship to use only safe or antiseptic works are placed in the morally and intellectually untenable position of lying to their students about the nature and condition of humankind…

With much appreciation for you and your educator expertise!