Many of you know I just returned from NCTE last week. As a first time attendee I had high hopes, and it did not disappoint. It was all the things I needed it to be–revitalizing, soul-lifting, necessary, true.
Let me recap a few highlights.
In the Nerdy Book Club session, I was fortunate to enough to sit at a table that Jason Reynolds spoke to. In his all-too-short 12 minutes with us, his words became a sermon, worthy of a pulpit and place of worship.
“My books are love letters to kids. In each of them you will see characters who actualize an element of humility through moments of heightened emotions. We all want an opportunity to cry. Growing up I did not get that because of stereotypes placed on boys. When we strip kids of humanity we also strip them of humility. Labels and stereotypes do this. As adults we have to be humble too. Kids want to teach us. It’s time to let them.”
I don’t know who talked after that. It seemed there was nothing left to say. He’d said it all. In 12 minutes.
The next morning, Jacqueline Woodson set my mental state for the remainder of the conference with these words,
“Resistance has never been more important. Teaching resistance. Writing resistance. Acting resistance. You can choose right or choose kind. Kindness lets the relationship last another day. Enacting resistance does not mean letting go of kindness. In fact it’s the opposite. It’s demanding it, for all.”
Jeff Anderson shed light and laughter to the often daunting topic of grammar and punctuation. He expressed that when we teach grammar and punctuation through worksheets we perpetuate that there is one correct answer, which is incorrect. Punctuation is about creating patterns that bring power to the writing. He emphasized,
“It’s not an extra thing–its the meaning making of reading and writing. Therefore it must be analyzed in context for students to understand exactly how that works.”
Anderson speaks to this topic more extensively in his new text, Patterns of Power, written specifically for elementary writers
Sunday morning I only had time to attend one session before leaving, and I undoubtedly picked the right one.
This panel of women brought the damn house down.
Their session was on the power of storytelling and each shared deeply personal moments to a room of strangers. Their strength was palpable and unified the room in 75 minute in a way that only storytelling can.
Pernille Ripp began, sharing a moment of getting pulled over by the police and being terrified because she did not have her green card on her. She just knew she was going to get deported.
Now, look back at the picture. Which one is Pernille? The one on the far right? No, that’s Sara K. Ahmed. Oh, okay. It must be the one next to her? Nope. Not her either–that’s Katharine Hale. Both of these women are American, born in the United States, yet face situations each day in which they are treated as an ‘other’.
So, which one is she? Let me tell you. She’s the third one from the left, standing in the back. Her story speaks to the ultimate reason she was not deported that night–white privilege. You can read it at the link below, and I strongly urge you to do so.
Through the power of her story and work I’ve been doing in the arena of immigration and refugees, I’ll be doing a blog series this week that explores texts and ideas connected to these topics.
Here’s the schedule:
- Tuesday: Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai
- Wednesday: Mirror by Jeannie Baker
- Thursday: Stepping Stones by Margriet Ruurs
- Friday: “White Haze” and the Difference Between Equalization and Marginalization