Fear and Loathing in St. Louis (#NCTE17)

I know that sounds terrible, but it was the only good title I could think of. (I’m writing on my phone at the airport, forgive the typos)

I had a great time at NCTE.

I saw old friends, made new friends, and we got Tracey to blog!!!!

That’s a lot of wins. And I like wins.

But my theme for this conference is authenticity, which means being real. And the real is I also heard some tough stuff at this conference.

We were talking at dinner on Friday and someone I really respect (Stevi Quate- check her out, she’s awesome) challenged me to really think through how I would encourage and advise a fellow teacher to start changing things in the classroom in the way that we’ve been advocating. I like being challenged and pushed and it was a fair call, especially knowing how hard it is to enact change under even the best of circumstances.

In our presentation on Saturday many teachers asked about how to do the things we do when there is either subtle or overt resistance to change in departments, schools and districts, and from colleagues, administrators, and communities. Those are serious questions that we are trying to answer (here’s one take from a while back- it’s hardly complete, but it’s a start).

At dinner I finally got the full story about a teacher who nearly lost a job because of what they posted online. It’s a long and interesting story, and I encouraged that teacher to write about it, because it’s a story that needs to be told.

Last night we went to Fountains of the Muse (holy crap people, why didn’t someone tell us about this, and why aren’t you ALL there. Never mind, next year I’m making you go). We got talking, near the end, about the challenge of being who we really are as teachers and people (I’m a musician, and I think that raised some questions, since I’m also a teacher). Several folks shared about the fear they feel around revealing parts of themselves as teachers. We shared a bit about our fears about blogging when we first started- and we did have fears.

And we are judged, and shamed, and silenced. Often. In our departments, in our schools, in our districts, and in our state and national politics. That is the real. That is one of our truths. And we need to speak that truth.

Here’s another truth. There are a lot of us. Together we have a big voice. A really big voice. NCTE is a way to connect with others, to amplify our voice. Find other ways. Make friends and allies. In your school. Your neighborhood. Your union. Your local politics. Your state association. Twitter (yes, it’s a cesspool, but it’s also a great way to connect). However you do it, find your people, find your voice, be heard. We need all of us to join in here. Even you.

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