From the English Department at YCSC
Volume 3, Issue #1
My apologies that our first issue of the school year is only now arriving. Too many moving parts have intervened but, alas, Volume 3, Issue #1 is finally here. And what will you find? A few teachers talk about their experiences attending NCTE 2020, a virtual conference held in November. Can this department grow anymore? Yes, it can with the addition of Robert Montes. The late poet Robert Hayden shares a memory of his father. And, lastly, a short video to bring in a little holiday cheer.
Whether you plan to read a book, binge watch your favorite streaming show, or try out a new recipe, may you all have a restful holiday break.
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Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!
News & Updates
Confluencia: NCTE 2020 Virtual Convention
What is a panel you attended? A session centered on American Indian Literature reminded me that in navigating the confluence between cultures of people with "black" and "brown", I, like many others, represent both. Muskogee, not only a place my parents' parents were raised, is also a language and nation worthy of recognition in America' s literature collections. We with our students may need to be the authors. This session had me taking screenshot after screenshot of richly informative slides regarding university, high-school, and elementary erasure and/misrepresentation of Indigenous American culture and history.
What else can you share about NCTE 2020? Between the hilarious and heart-felt appreciation of teacher shared by Trevor Noah and a session that presented African-American authors sharing secrets of their professional practice, I was inspired to see students, co-workers, myself, and the communities we impact from the perspective of dreams for our best more often that from the perspective of nightmares of our worst. The variation of techniques for establishing a productive writing practice provides another reminder that we may learn from the practice of others yet our path will always be our own.
The engagement types discussed in the workshop were framed in the distance learning experience our students are experiencing. Behavioral Engagement is basically what students do, such as paying attention to details, study, complete their classwork. Cognitive engagement refers to students learning strategies and how they think about learning. Emotional Engagement is next, this is about student connections to learning; are they invested in their learning experience as well as how learning can even be an anxiety management strategy. Finally comes Agentic engagement. This asks teachers to seek constructive contributions to the learning community from students.
What else about NCTE 2020? In addition to the workshops, moments that were inspiring and rejuvenating were keynote speakers' Joy Haro's presentation about living Native American poets and the keynote speaker conversation between Jeff Chang and Patrisse Khan-Cullers. Joy Haro is the first Native American Poet Laureate. Go read her poems (right now!) and she is currently building a Living Native American poet database in the library of congress (check it out). Jeff Chang is author of Can't Stop Won't Stop, an amazing history of hip-hop that blends economics, politics, and race. There is not much I can say about Patrisse Khan-Cullers except that she is an amazing human being. Just thinking about her name brings me hope and peace of mind.
What did you think of the conference? Overall the experience was energizing. It was nice to be in an environment with other English teachers and to learn about and share our experiences.
What is one panel you attended? I attended the "Bridging Fiction and Contemporary Topics Through YAL" panel. Presenters discussed ways to incorporate nonfiction and YAL (Young Adult Literature) in the ELA classroom to allow students to be more active and critical in their communities and the world. The panelists discussed ways in which to use YA fiction texts with related topics like Internment and Islamophobia, for example. They also shared how they guided students to interact with different texts and with one another. Lessons and graphics organizers were also shared by the panelists, which I found was extra helpful.
What is a key takeaway from NCTE 2020? A Key Note conversation between Jeff Chang (Can't Stop, Won't Stop) and Patrice Khan-Cullers (BLMLA) was amazing. This was mostly about the role of educators as social justice workers and the importance of self-care in a pandemic era. As an activist and educator she reminds said of herself as a teacher speaking to students, "I am not here just to teach you, we are here to teach each other."
Welcome to the English Department Robert Montes
Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?