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Reflections: One Week After #NCTEAR18

I've been home for almost a week from the National Council of Teachers of English Assembly for Research winter conference, which was held at Towson University outside of Baltimore, Maryland. It's been almost a week and I have finally found time to go through my notes. (That should show you how crazy my schedule is!) The Assembly for Research is such a great (small) conference where just as much is gained from the conversations at lunch as from the sessions. NCTEAR17 was my first, and I was hooked! It is also a safe space for talking about topics than academics are often not excited about discussing.

My notes are not organized in any way and they're not written/composed in a linear fashion, which makes reflecting on them difficult, but once I start reading what I wrote I start to understand (usually) where my head/brain/mind was at while I was writing them... for example, this is the first page of my notes. This is a mix of Day One and Day Two of the conference:

I was definitely still thinking about my own research with the Teaching Multicultural Literature course, which my research partner and I presented in the morning of Day One, but I am also always thinking about my teacher education students at all of the colleges/universities at which I work. The quote/question at the top (Agar, 2016) and the Identity Texts (as well as the Collaborative Coding) is obviously about my research. Would Languacultures describe the participants in my study and/or the members of my online course? The presenter explained that one "learns/knows more about a culture by understanding their language" so being in a private, online space, aren't these folks speaking their own language, so to speak? Are members of an online class or master's level course their own culture? Wenger (1998) writes that members of a community of practice are all in a simple social system. That's just a different way of saying culture, yes?

The term Identity texts really jumped out at me because I feel like some of the pieces we read in my Multicultural Literature course could be defined as identity texts? Or the products my students compose are identity texts? Something is there. I need to tease it out a little more.

If you know anything about me, you know that anything about direct action or disruption or protesting is important to me, as long as there is feeling and emotion behind it. Much of the work I do as the co-chair of the Conference of English Education's Commission on Social Justice in Teacher Education is associated with supporting my students' or pre-service teachers' voices as well as the voices of K-12 teachers and teacher educators. We've marched, we've written letters, we've taken a knee, and we've even protested certain educational test-makers at national teacher conferences. Thus the constructive disruptions note. I would love to teach a course with the same name. Or Constructive Disruptions for Future Teachers. Imagine that!

My teacher candidates are always on my mind. I'm always trying to find ways to give them more either through conversations in my methods courses or through resources. But I do not want to inundate them with so much information that they become overwhelmed. I also do not want to accidentally model an over-use of specialized language. There are plenty of push-backs against education and teachers and learning; the last thing we need is relational distancing by the use of jargon by educators. The keynote during breakfast on Day Two helped me consider better ways of supporting my pre-service teachers as they prepare to spend time in classrooms of their own. Teaching is improv. It seems simple enough, but it is not something I've thought about directly. As teachers we can plan and plan and plan but in the end, we can never truly plan for everything. Especially when we work with adolescents! We need to be able to think quick on our feet and be ready for anything.

Some other notes I made during the conference:

  • Look into "disciplines as subcultures" from O'Brien, 1989. Is there something more recent or is this the seminal piece on this topic?

  • Great quote from a presenter who was explaining that he uses a dialogic approach in his class: "My students change my mind all the time!"

  • "Although race is a social construct, there are very real consequences due to one's race" - Dr. Tonya Perry, keynote discussant

  • "Participants were found to post happy/good memories or events on social media." How does this connect to being a member of an online course? Online students revise/edit their reading reflections/comments before they post them to a discussion board. Is this similar to what happens on social media? [more fun --> smarter?] CRAFTING MY UTTERANCE

So much happened at this conference that I didn't get a chance to discuss all the great, amazing, and super helpful feedback my research partner and I received at our work-in-progress session. I will include it in a later post, for sure.

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