Art. Is. Power.

Day one of #ncte13 and my mind is full, in that way that only happens here surrounded by my people. Thank you everyone who pushed my thinking today.

And thank you especially to First Wave’s hip hop art masterpiece at 8am and Chris Walker’s afternoon workshop. And thank you to Ernest Morrell for bringing them to us. They remind us all of the trenchant power of art. Though the words of First Wave are powerful alone and would evoke thinking from a static page, it was the ART of it all that made tears escape down my cheeks. It was the combination of the words and the performance, the repeating refrains, the music, the choreography, the bodies interacting with each other on stage–all together these things draw out emotion in ways a static page cannot. Art says things that we cannot access in any other venue. Art gives us critique and feeling, ideas argued through verse, don’t just think about it–know it in your complete person, art asks of us. We are humans and we feel. Attach emotions to ideas and we will never forget.

What is it that I’ll never forget from today? “You can make a world with all you know.” Schooling that makes no space for the narratives our students carry into our classrooms–no matter what those stories are–is schooling that minimizes, that oppresses, that fails to prepare students to read the world to write their own futures. Narrative, story, art–these things are as natural to us as breathing, yet we’ve gotten to a place where tests and grades and things that can be easily quantified stand in for the measure of success in a classroom, rather than success being measured by the degree to which our students are empowered as human beings to care for others with kindness and to build a healthy future for us all. What if the “test” was to recite a poem that communicates something that is real and true to you and to share it with an audience who needs to hear it? What if the test was to write a story about your life that helps others to know who you are? What if the test was to go into your community with what you’ve learned from books and stories about what it means to be a human being and make a difference in the lives of others? We need to fight for those kinds of tests.

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(Sorry for the relative silence over the last few months. We have stories we could tell you about why we haven’t been here. It started raining one day and it didn’t stop and it kind of shifted the ground beneath our feet in our community collectively. Rivers moved and ate roads. It’s been kind of a weird fall. We have been thinking big thoughts still, just not here on this blog. It’s nice to be back in this space, thinking deep thoughts with you. Thank you NCTE.)

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