This year I was lucky enough to attend NCTE for the second time. It was a key component to my independent study on graphic novels that I’m taking this semester. I tried to balance my sessions with my interests and with the graphic novel component.
A few of my favorite takeaways from NCTE:
Some students live in fear and it is our job as educators to make sure we are there to comfort and support. I also learned from a session on Emmett Till, that though some of us might not have students who are the minority in some school districts, we may have some students with biased attitudes towards certain races and cultures. It is our job to challenge ideas and teach new perspectives.
Reading saves lives. This was a theme that was weaved all throughout NCTE. The main speakers answered this question, and every session I went to did as well. Not one speaker said reading didn’t have a profound impact. Several of my speakers were from war-torn countries and writing helped them grow, even in such a places of desperate turmoil. Books change lives.
A few of my favorite quotes:
“When we gives poems in the classroom, we get to the hearts of our children.”
“Children are students much of the time, but they are human beings all the time.”
“A poet’s job is to bear witness.”
“Do not assume that your students are doing just fine. Ask them.”
“A good story goes a long way. Readers become the character.”
“We have the ability to not be affected. We must share our power with others.”
“They will never define our classrooms unless we let them.”
“Never use the phrase, ‘These kids’.”
“Books touch people in ways we don’t expect.”
These are just a few of my favorite parts of all the sessions I went to. I was lucky enough to accidentally discover an incredible session on what I thought was just banned books. Turns out, it was focused on banned graphic novels, which was greatly relieving because up until then, I had not been able to find one session on just graphic novels.
The session was called Power and Peril of Banned books and focused on “comic books” in the classroom. The panelists used this term as a blanket statement for all the different forms of graphic novels. My TBR list grew exponentially, but perhaps my favorite part of that session were the resources given.
The session focused on how graphic novels find themselves the targets of challenges and book bans. Many people do not see them as having academic merit (which they presented some interesting research to counter). Other people are bothered by the content portrayed in some of the illustrations since graphic novels are obviously much more visual than the traditional novel.
The panelists consisted of a teacher using graphic novels in the classroom, one graphic novelist, and an individual who works for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fun. They provided examples of challenges, dialogue on how to avoid challenges on books, and resources on how to fight challenges when they are made. In my YA lit class, we had a section dedicated to banned books and I was fascinated with the process of fighting the banning of books. This session helped me take my knowledge a step further by showing what it actually looks like to fight against bans and challenges.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to have learned more about students teachers, and what can be done to strengthen the relationship between both. I’m also so incredibly excited this semester my passion for graphic novels went from a zero to a ten. The flames were stoked at NCTE.