NCTE was a flood of information. Seriously, I was drowning in a sea of knowledge. I wanted desperately to absorb absolutely everything I heard, but I quickly realized that just wasn’t feasible. I wrote down everything I possibly could, but three separate lines marked with poorly drawn stars continue to stand out.
1. I must have a contagious cold.
According to Donalyn Miller, “Students can’t catch a cold from someone who doesn’t have one.” She was referring to igniting passion in readers, but I realized that this related to so much more for me. If I am not a passionate reader, why should my students be? If I am not a passionate writer, why should my students be? If I am not positive, why should my students be? If I am not actively engaged, why should my students be? If I am not hungry for knowledge, why should my students be?
2. I want to show my students the beauty of my content.
In his session, Kelly Gallagher talked about Nancy Atwell, winner of the Global Teacher Prize (basically the best English teacher in the world), has not graded a paper in over 40 years. When we stamp a grade on a paper—especially the beginning stages of a paper—we are marking the student’s writing as pass or fail. Obviously grades are something any school requires, so I’m currently trying to reconcile a balance between allowing my students to grow and assigning a grade.
3. I need to find a way to get bubbles for each of my students.
My favorite session from NCTE was Matters of the Heart: An Intimate Conversation on Teaching Black Males. David Kirkland shared a time he went into a prison to visit black youth. At the end of his time, he was stopped by an intimidating young man. Instead of the violence David anticipated, the man pulled out a bottle of bubbles and began to blow out the small, iridescent spheres. The young man explained that the bubbles helped him to calm down and see the world in a beautiful way. We need to find a way to get our students bubbles.