In this post, transcribed from a 2021 NCTE Member Gathering (see details at end), Anne Elrod Whitney talks about why she wrote Growing Writers: Principles for High School Writers and Their Teachers (NCTE, 2021), and why she values NCTE’s Principles in Practice (PIP) imprint.
I can talk a little about how the book came to be . . . . This book is part of the Principles in Practice (PIP) series, edited by Cathy Fleischer, and I think these books are so good. . . . What I like about these books is what I like best about NCTE—and that is that rather than a book full of things to do, they are books full of ideas that are illustrated with things to do.
Does that difference make sense? I feel like as teachers, we are having no shortage of ideas about things we could be doing in the classroom—in fact there are way too many things to be doing in the classroom, and there are way too many people, and the wrong people, giving us ideas about what to do in the classroom. Here’s this binder provided by this set of stakeholders; here’s this website provided by this set of stakeholders; here’s this product my school has purchased; here’s this product my district has purchased; here’s what kids are saying they want; here’s what my colleague down the hall is doing. We have plenty of ideas and strategies but what we sometimes lack is either the discernment to know which of those things to use and how to adapt them, and/or sometimes we have the discernment but we don’t necessarily have the authority to do that.
In the 25 years that I’ve been a teacher I have seen so much change in the autonomy of teachers. We find it, we claim it, but it’s no longer offered to us as a matter of course. I find that, if you’re anything like me, teachers are increasingly having to fight for and/or work the cracks in order to claim the authority that they have, to choose what they want to do. So, many times, you know exactly what’s right, or what really might work, it’s just that there are barriers to it in place, whether those are barriers around authority and who’s making decisions, . . . or practical barriers, like time, space, number of students, and so on.
So these [PIP] books—what I like is that they take principles and findings from research that we as a Council, as a community of teachers, have already claimed as ours, and then they show, what does it look like?
That’s what I’ve always needed. I’ve had ideas but it’s a question of knowing why and whether those are the best ideas and where to go with them.
Anne Elrod Whitney is a former high school English teacher and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, focusing on writing education and teacher professional development in the department of curriculum and instruction. Whitney is the author of Growing Writers: Principles for High School Writers and Their Teachers (NCTE, 2021).
Anne Elrod Whitney was the featured guest for the NCTE Member Gathering on October 19, 2021, hosted by Sakeena Everett. Members can log in and view the archived recording from the NCTE Video Library here.
In Growing Writers: Principles for High School Writers and Their Teachers, a volume in the Principles in Practice imprint, Anne Whitney explores how the principles defined in NCTE’s Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing position statement can support high school writers and teachers of writing. Learn more about the book.
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.