This post was written by NCTE member Katie Papesh.
The beginning of the year is magical. You are ready to be back in a routine, ready to be back in the kids’ presence. Twenty-some new fabulous humans enter your room and, together, you begin to cultivate your classroom community. The energy is full and vibrant, everyone eager to settle in and find their rhythm, comfort, belonging.
And so you begin. You are rolling out workshops and your kids are exploring ways they want to communicate and share their ideas with each other. You are learning and the kids are learning to listen more carefully to each other, BUT: pause for state testing.
Then we get back to our listening and continue our learning together. And just when we get in the swing of things, PAUSE: we have to finish DSI’s, DRA’s, and MAP testing for all of our students. You get where I’m going with this?
By the time November hits, ya girl is tired. I am ready for the break coming at the end of the month so that I can have time to decompress and rejuvenate. My mind and my body are telling me that I need to slow down, to go inward and reconnect with my why.
I remember the first time I attended the NCTE Annual Convention. It was in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2019 and I was in my third year of teaching, so I felt like I had no clue what I was doing 90 percent of the time. I had heard teachers talking about the Annual Convention for a few years and finally decided to figure out what the hype was all about.
NCTE was the therapy I didn’t know I needed. I showed up tired, questioning if traveling and powering through was the best option for me at the time, when I was hit with the energy of thousands of other educators wanting to learn, think, and share in community.
I was able to listen to Tommy Orange, author of There, There, talk about how he was never handed a book that he could connect to. That was huge for me as an educator—I learned to always make sure my kids have books in front of them that speak to their hearts.
I remember jamming into one room, the doors propped wide open with humans crammed together out in the hallway trying to listen in. We hadn’t been early enough to sit in a seat, but we could still hear the speakers, so we were content.
I could feel the excitement and anticipation around the room for what was to come. Cornelius Minor was popping around the crowd checking in and connecting with the educators he was about to speak to. When he got up and joined Kyleen Beers and Stephanie Harvey to talk about “Inquiry as a Tool to Activism and Empowerment,” I knew I had found my people.
Since the Annual Convention in 2019, I have found a hub of resources for new learning. I am able to learn from and connect with other educators who want to think critically about our teaching practices. I went back to work reenergized and excited to share what I had learned with my colleagues and my kids. Most importantly, I found mentors who were creating spaces in education for liberation and freedom.
Katie Papesh is a third-grade teacher at Hopewell Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio. This is her fifth year as an elementary educator and she serves on the NCTE Build Your Stack Committee. Outside of teaching, Katie coaches high school cross country and track and field at Scioto High School.
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.