NCTE Experience #1: Words of Wisdom from Writers

I have spent the last two and a half days surrounded by thousands of English teachers from around the country at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention and I don’t even have words. I have learned so much from all the teachers around me, through conversation, unsolicited eavesdropping, presentations and just by simply watching what goes on around me.

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I have attended quite a few sessions, too many to blog about all at once. This post will follow the beginning of my experience.

The first evening I went to a section specifically for secondary educators. In just the introduction alone, I pulled out three important pieces that can help form a respectful classroom atmosphere.

  1. There are no ‘sensitive issues’ in a classroom if the teacher handles them well.
  2. Depth + Respect = Ideal Conversations
  3. Teach your students “self-censorship” awareness.

The keynote speaker was Laurie Halse Anderson, author of the popular novel Speak. I just finished Speak for the first time a couple weeks ago. To me, it was a novel of symbolism, grief and confrontation. I don’t know if I will teach in a classroom, that decision will depend on so many other factors. However, I will keep Anderson’s advice in mind, no matter what classroom.

  • Books challengers were never totally secure or confident in the area of concern they’re challenging.
  • Things that make kids think get challenged.
  • Whatever the reader discovers in a text or takes away from it > author intent

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    Image from goodreads


Another speaker I had the privilege of listening to was Jimmy Santiago Baca, a poet, father, and writer of so many forms. I had never heard of Baca before this weekend, but I am glad I did because he is a beautiful inspiration for a variety of students. Here are some notable takeaways from his talk:

  • “The only thing that works is knowledge. The only thing that cures ignorance is knowledge.”
  • We need to write to keep the love of literature burning bright
  • “You can teach brains all day long, but the heart is where you need to reach.”
    • Words are good, but they are nothing without emotion behind them
  • The classroom is a battlefield for minds, for hearts, for souls.


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Image from

Lastly, Mr. Baca showed appreciation. Like me, he was in complete awe of the people clutching their overpriced coffee that filled the room. These are the ones who show kids how to create their own magic, their own words. These are the dream makers. I teared up thinking how I want to be a dream maker. I want to help my future students realize what they are capable of, that all they need is a voice and drive to get where they want to be.


Dream makers share stories of wonderful journeys and tragic heroes. Dream makers share love and a passion for humanity under the influence of language and craft. They are the lessons you remember with no face or ears or eyes, only a voice and a heart, like a dream.

           I am one step closer to becoming a dream maker.


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