Field Notes: Increasing Access to Primary Sources, and More! - National Council of Teachers of English
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Field Notes: Increasing Access to Primary Sources, and More!

NCTE continues to create more opportunities for teachers and educators—opportunities to explore new things, meet new people, and create expanded voice and influence through the combined voice of our community.

Earlier this year, you may recall an exciting event hosted alongside colleagues from the Library of Congress that included review and dissection of a number of newly released primary sources from their Walt Whitman collection. The online webinar, led by NCTE Vice President Alfredo Celedón Luján, engaged over 100 teachers in reviewing Whitman’s writing process and also hearing from one of Alfredo’s current students. The student shared a personal work inspired by Whitman that moved the audience of secondary, middle, community college, college, and preservice teachers to tears. It turns out this was just the beginning of what is now ongoing work with the Library of Congress.

It is especially thrilling to share a new focus, courtesy of a significant grant, and many more opportunities to come with the Library of Congress. NCTE will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching. While several other disciplines have participated in this work in the past, this is a groundbreaking opportunity to add the perspectives and practices of language arts and literacy teachers.

This project will expand and renew our already robust ReadWriteThink platform. We will begin adding new peer-reviewed content developed by teachers. We will also have fresh opportunities to engage constituencies, including our state and regional affiliate network. This includes supporting the African American Read-In in innovative and exciting ways.

In September we attended the Library of Congress’s Life of a Poet program for the first time. Debuting the 2019–2020 season was an interview of Carmen Giménez Smith by Ron Charles, book critic at The Washington Post. Events like this and many others throughout the year are recorded for sharing with the public, but how many of us knew they existed? This grant and the growing connections it is making possible mean we have an ever-expanding number of ways to bring primary sources, literature, poetry, and more to you. This also means we will have many opportunities for you to co-create useful classroom resources with us. Stay tuned for invitations!

Collaborative conversations continue to accelerate, and I’m always surprised when potential partners tell me they never dreamed of working with us before. In the NCTE community we know connections to literacy are universal, so it’s been exciting to help others come to see this as true. It makes me wonder what else we might do! I’d love to hear from you if there are collaborations that you think could create compelling opportunities for the NCTE village. Please send your thoughts to