This post was written by NCTE member Darius Phelps.
Becoming a member of NCTE has been a life-changing experience for me. As both an educator and a writer, I am determined never to become stagnant, and crave an opportunity to increase my knowledge, experience, and love. From attending the Conventions, whether in person or virtual, I have been fortunate to make lifelong connections; expand my knowledge, professional growth, and mentorship; and find a safe haven to call home.
Each year, there is a phenomenal lineup of workshops and roundtable discussions aimed at teaching effective educators how to use various strategies to improve their pedagogy and how they reach their children across the English/Language Arts curriculum. It is crucial for teachers to not only understand where their students come from culturally, but also to truly see them as individuals and learn how to cater to their diverse needs.
The NCTE Convention also offers many opportunities to step into leadership positions. I have been very fortunate to serve on the NCTE Early Childhood (NCTE) Assembly board of directors and on the ELATE board, to become a committee member for the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children, and recently, to became the first African American co-chair of the English Language Arts Teacher Educators Graduate Strand (ELATE-GS). I also mentor novice teachers with the ELATE “The Future is Now” sessions.
In addition to these opportunities, what has been the most impactful for me as I progress along my journey is hearing from inspirational one-of-a-kind advocates, leaders, and veteran teachers in the field, such as my mentor/advisor Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, as well as Dr. Betina Hsieh, Dr. Marcelle Mentor, and Dr. Antero Garcia, to name a few. After fellowshipping with my colleagues, authors, faculty, and leaders in the field of English Education, I walk away both nourished and inspired to make that change; to be that voice of reason that amplifies equity, inclusion, diversity, and antiracist pedagogy.
NCTE has taught me that we, as both educators and as people, must embrace our authentic selves, including our flaws.
In a world full of hatred and racism, we should be spreading the message of love, community, and strength while fostering identity and cultural representation. Through our presentations, workshops, membership gatherings, and other events, NCTE encourages and fosters these goals and so much more. These messages could very well be something that our students, fellow educators, and community have yet to experience in their lifetime, and attending these Conventions each year has fostered my love for advocating for these issues.
Our curriculum also deserves to reflect the progressicve vision and values that are carried out each year at the NCTE Conventions. I cannot wait to dive into all that is planned with this year’s Annual Convention!
Darius Phelps has been teaching for a bit over ten years; his students have ranged from birth through PreKindergarten and in recent years has taught across the elementary grades.Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Darius has given a TEDx talk titled, “Fingerprints upon My Heart: Lessons on Life, Love, and Play,” chronicling his teaching philosophy and how meeting one student in particular changed his life for the better. His ultimate dream is to become a children’s book writer and illustrator, focusing on subjects such as anxiety, depression, and grief.
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.
*Early-bird registration closes 11/1!