Building Bridges: SCCTE Conference 2011

Got in last night from the SCCTE conference–the theme this year was “Building Bridges.” I presented with a wonderful panel: Matt Fowler, Cameron Wright, Vivian McCain, Allison Faix, and Denise Paster–all great people and even greater scholars/colleagues. Needless to say, our presentation ROCKED! (Even though our title–“The Troll Under the Bridge: A Multipositional Discussion of Contemporary Composition, Ideology, and the Toll of Writing Instruction”–didn’t win. Yes, DP, I think we were robbed…). My portion was titled “From the Outside Looking In: On Teaching and Writing from Poverty,” and went hand in hand with the message of the two general sessions I attended.

I hit a few break-out sessions in the AM, but the real meat for Friday was, for me, the general session by Randy Bomer from the University of Texas. Author of Time for Meaning and For a Better World, Randy’s presentation was “Appreciative Teaching vs. Deficit Thinking: Supporting All Students in Claiming Their Literate Lives,” and the past NCTE president took negative and deficit thinking  (and Ruby Payne) to task. Granted, since both are based in Texas–Randy in Austin; Ruby in Houston–there is bound to be some friction and competitiveness. Texas is, after all, an educational battleground. But I found it interesting that Randy didn’t hit Ruby on the points where I agree with her, but on the issues that were already giving me some trouble. On the reading list this week will be another look at Framework, but it’s nice to hear that others (in the nation) are thinking along the same lines I am…

Speaking of same lines, the presentation by Kylene Beers on Saturday was electrifying and didn’t steer away from political issues which, I think, need addressing. She worked from a quote from Daniel Pink’s Drive–about how when profit is disconnected from purpose, bad things happen. In a time when many are looking to business models to change the broken education system, it’s a good place to start the discussion. Beers received a standing ovation after her stirring examples (including student writing that was so powerful the audience gasped and  an example of the concept of “pushables” and “slipables”) and shocking suggestions for reform…She’s also a past president of NCTE, and you can look for her books When Kids Can’t Read/What Teachers Can Do and Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice.

So all in all, a fabulous weekend of stimulating conversation and a recharging and affirmation that we are all continuing to fight the good fight–advocating for students, against high-stakes testing that has come unmoored from learning, and for teachers who are passionate about the possibilities of their profession. It’s so easy to burn out–we have to stick together and encourage one another. 

I can’t wait to do this again, and (thanks to the interest from a writing coordinator from a Lexington school district) I may not have to. She’s supposed to be pushing her district to bring us in for a professional development workshop. Cross your fingers–the show could be going on the road 🙂

And just let me say, the weather coming back yesterday was AMAZING! It is always good to get back to Mount Pleasant, Charleston, and especially Johns Island and James Island. None of my co-presenters had seen the Angel Oak, so I provided directions and was pleased to see many actually went. Nothing like a dose of history where the trees are big big and the houses trimmed in haint blue…

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