Tag Archives: conferences

NCTE Assembly for Research Materials

Headed to Elmhurst College for the NCTE-AR Midwinter conference — looking forward to it! This is actually the second time I will have been to a conference at Elmhurst College; I attended CEE 2009 there as well. I don’t know if I’ve ever been to the same place twice for a conference. This career first goes to Elmhurst!

I wanted to provide conference participants with my talk materials in case they find them helpful. I also link to these materials in my CV. I made a Prezi for the first time for this conference — don’t judge my Prezi skills. The non-linear presentation is one digital literacy I am definitely still working on.

And here is a link to my talk transcript, as well.

(One More) NCTE Thought: the common core

I didn’t capitalize the second half of the title out of solidarity. As Mr. S from TPG points out, the common core don’t deserve the status nod of capital letters.

In the days since the convention, I’ve been desperately trying to catch up with my life, which left me behind for two weeks as I first went to NCTE and then came home to a turkey, stuffing, and a couple much-needed days off. Because I’ve been trying to grade unit calendars that my pre-service teachers just turned in, and because I need… need… NEED! to finish this memo so that I can be done with the prospectus, I haven’t been following my feeds or blogs besides an occasional check here and there to see what’s new. But today, it’s back to the normal routine, which means Monday lunch at home in front of my RSS feeds, which usually means a blog post. What I’m noticing today? A lot of frustration with the common core standards. If you don’t know about them… you should. Click here.

Note: as I’m writing this, an email came into my inbox from the NCTE teaching and learning forum entitled “Deadline for Commentaries on the Common Core Extended…” I can’t seem to escape these standards this week.

Mitch Nobis’s post on the ccss and their prevalence at the conference caught my attention, along with Mr. S’s post above. Mr. S came away with a slightly more upbeat take on the standards rhetoric from the conference, but I have to say, like Nobis, I was pretty startled by the prevalence of talk about the common core and the degree to which common core rhetoric is becoming so prevalent in conversations about English teaching. Nearly every third session at NCTE this year was about the common core. What is going on here, folks?

But, on the other hand, it sort of makes sense. This is what teachers are doing in their classrooms and departments right now, and those are the voices we hear at NCTE. And I regret to admit I’m part of the problem. I participated in a group here at UM that put together a common core book series, Supporting Students, with NCTE. I’ve given presentations at CEE and NCTE on working within and beyond the common core in the ELA classroom. When I struggle with my own demons, I usually end up concluding that things like standards and tests are (or at least appear to be) here to stay, so what else can I do but figure out how to work with (around?) them?

As soon as I think that (or worse — as soon as it come out of my mouth), I get angry. Nobis voiced his frustration with the thousands of people who keep saying “I know they’re standards, but they’re not that bad.” I’ve said that, and the fact that I’ve said it makes me mad. At myself. At textbook companies and corporate lobbyists who convinced the federal government that tying these standards to important funding was an ethical thing to do (see post from last week). At myself again. Because isn’t it my job to draw on research and what we know about teaching and learning in my work — not on the common core? Isn’t it my job to push the frontiers of education forward… isn’t that what research is for? By the time it’s all said and done, I’m just mad at everything. I sort of want to scream “WHY ISN’T ANYONE LISTENING TO US?”

So that’s where I am with things this Monday. Now on to this memo, which I really, really, REALLY! need to finish.

(More) Reflections from NCTE: Evolving Experiences

I’m going to do something in this post that I usually reserve for my other blog, The FYEwhich is reflect on my own development/thoughts/work. This blog is typically a space to post all the stuff others are up to, things I find, and my opinions about issues in education that come across my feeds. But today, folks, I’ll be talking about me. Me and NCTE, that is.

This past trip to Vegas was not a vacation, that’s for sure. I didn’t really get to “do” or “see” Vegas at all (well, except for the evening walk up the strip with some amazing and hysterical teachers from Boulder… ThePaperGraders themselves, to be exact, and a couple of their other colleagues).

Speaking of The Paper Graders, one of them (Doc Z) wrote this haiku on their blog:

Don’t you dare count up

my haiku syllables okay?

must. Go. To. Sleep. Now.

I told her while we were walking the strip that I count her haiku syllables. Ha. (Yes, Doc Z, I did count your syllables, and there are eight in the middle row. Way to be a rebel.)

And speaking of Doc Z, here we are waiting for the fountain at the Bellagio to spill thousands of gallons of water into the middle of the desert air:

Anyway, this trip was intense. I spent most of it running around like a crazy person because I wanted to see everyone I never get to see when I’m in Michigan, because I wanted to network, because I wanted to make sure I got to a couple key sessions, because I wanted to introduce some people to some other people, because I left late so was only there for two nights… you get my drift. On the last day, I presented, gobbled down some lunch, and jumped onto a shuttle to the airport. I was operating at mach schnell from the minute I got there to the minute I left. Exhausting.

But also: awesome, and awesomely different from previous go-rounds…

The first time I attended NCTE four years ago in Philly, I had finished up my master’s degree and was teaching high school in Indiana. It wasn’t my first conference ever, but it was my first national conference and my first NCTE, and it was overwhelming. I was unable to focus on the conference until after I presented on Saturday afternoon due to nerves. The only people I hung out with were my fellow presenters. I missed some important things because I was trying to figure out how to navigate the program (and the gigantic convention center).

As I move through this process, though, I meet new people in other places — people I need to catch up with at NCTE, when we all descend upon a single city. NCTE becomes less about my session (I barely thought about it while I was there) and more about all the people I want to learn from, catch up with, and meet.

Oh right — I presented. You can link to my slides here and my talk (with click cues and everything) here. My co-presenter, Tiffany Sedberry, went first and talked about how beginning, experienced, and veteran teachers narrate their experiences with teaching in different ways. I followed and talked about identity binaries in the media and in the literature. The basic argument: stop essentializing teachers by placing them into categorical bins. no really. stop it.

The presentation went really well, was well attended (a minor miracle since we were last day, last session), and made me realize how far my work, thinking, and ability to present at conferences has come in the past four years. Looking back on my experience in Philly, I can tell that not only my delivery but also my background knowledge has come a long way since then. So I guess this PhD thing I’m doing is actually resulting in some growth. Good to know, since almost everything I do nowadays makes me realize how much I don’t know.

On the plane ride home, I sat next to a teacher from the suburbs of Chicago. We had never met before, but we talked to each other for the entirety of that 4-hour flight. About teaching. About teaching English. But also about her dog, her husband, my husband, her kid, her pregnancy, marriage in general, our travels, great books, and many other topics. The perfect way to end my NCTE experience. I’ll probably never see her again — her name was Amy — but I hope I do. Because like everyone at NCTE, like most teachers I’ve met, she’s good people.

Looking forward to Boston, that’s for sure.

NCTE 2012 Reflections: The Corporatization of the American Classroom

I went to a session this morning that featured Linda Christensen (chair), Troy Hicks, Jory Brass, and Allen Webb, entitled “School TM: Teacher Decision Making in the Era of the (For-Profit) Corporate Classroom.” The conversation got heated and emotional very quickly, and I want to use this space to make the comments that I was going to make in the session (but we ran out of time).

Before I reflect, though, here is a link to a wiki the panelists set up describing the corporate invasion taking place in America’s schools. As one of the panelists noted today, if you enter at any point in the corporate network, you’re basically talking to the same group of people; Pearson meets Gates meets ETS… it’s all one big beast.

Click here to see their Wiki and learn more about the corporate culture of American schooling.

Click here to view the backchannel that the panelists set up on TodaysMeet.com.

Now for my two cents…

I wonder about the impact of this corporatization on teacher education and how we can fight back against it. It came up briefly during the discussion, but then fizzled. However, I see some of the effects of this corporatization, though delayed (as always), starting to trickle into our teacher education classrooms as students become concerned about whether or not they are going to be “good enough” at teaching. This pressing question isn’t problematic (it has haunted the minds of pre-service teachers for centuries, I’m sure)… at least, not until “good enough” comes to mean their students’ scores on standardized tests are “good enough” for them to keep their jobs. My pre-service students worry about test scores in the same way juniors in high school have increasingly worried about their scores on the SAT and ACT over the past few years. And I can’t blame them. These early career teachers are receiving very mixed messages about the role of tests and corporate-sponsored technologies and texts in their teaching.

At one point during the session, someone noted that it is the express goal of these corporate networks to decrease enrollment in teacher education in the coming years by something on the order of 30%. Well, it’s working; I’m starting to see the impact in my own school of education. Our last three cohorts have totaled 27 students (this is down from years when we would have multiple cohorts of 18+). This, I believe, is the compounded result of many factors, not least of which include negative portrayals of teaching in the media and the recent upswing in TFA recruits from our university. Each of these things are products of this corporatization of American schooling. Don’t believe me? Read the arguments on the panelists’ wiki.

I left this session fired up. Frustrated. Shaking a little bit (though that could’ve been the double-shot latte I downed beforehand). Which one participant argued was exactly what we should be feeling — angry. Angry that our system is so heavily influenced by people who know nothing about education or the important role of differentiation (not sameness) in educational equity.

But anger never got me very far, so here, I’m trying to consider ways in which to respond positively and productively to this discussion. I think step number one, at least as far as teacher education is concerned, is to make visible to our pre-service teachers the role that corporatization is likely to play in their professional lives such that they can resist it by relying on their (and others’) professional knowledge. Knowledge gained from working with kids, with other teachers, and with individuals who understand what is best for our nation’s schools.

More reflections to come, I’m sure, as I wrap up my weekend in Vegas.

NCTE Gear-Up

This weekend, I need to start gearing up for my trip to NCTE’s national convention in Las Vegas. This year will be different from last year… first of all, I’m the only one in my program (besides my adviser) who is heading to NCTE this year. Last year, I was there with most of my current cohort and the cohort one year ahead of me, and we were promoting and presenting our book series on the Common Core. I was participating in multiple sessions and was hanging out in my favorite city — Chicago —  with people from Georgia, Indiana, and Colorado who I never get to see enough of.

This year will likely be a little more chill. Due to plane fares being through the roof and the timing of our presentation, I am leaving on Friday (I always leave on Thursday) and coming back on Sunday, late. I’m presenting on only one panel this year (our title: ‘I am a Teacher’: Teacher Identity, Agency, and Action in the 21st Century Classroom), with a group of graduate students from Purdue, my alma mater. My fellow panelists are good friends who I make it a point to reconnect with every year at NCTE, when we are all there. Our panel’s time slot is less than ideal — we’re the last session on Sunday, after most people head home, so it’s very possible that we’ll be speaking to an empty room.

I don’t mean to sound glum about what is shaping up to be a slightly less crazy trip; I’m in fact quite thrilled that I will get to spend a couple days attending sessions that interest me instead of an entire day attending obligatory sessions like last time. In particular, a few of the sessions Troy Hicks describes on his blog sound very relevant to my work. The featured sessions on Saturday morning caught my eye: “Tuning Teachers’ Voice,” which will include Sonia Nieto, Carol Jago, and Anne Gere (said adviser, above). I can’t wait to spend a couple days surrounded by people who are dedicated to improving the instruction of English and the profession of teaching!

It will be good to get away for a few days in Sin City (though I’m hoping to keep the sinning to a minimum) as I approach the end of what has been an insane semester of proposal writing, defending, IRBing, and methods teaching. This has easily been my craziest semester of graduate school yet, so I’m glad it is met with a trip to NCTE that I can tailor to include my own passions, interests, and friends. Vegas, here I come.