From the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship 

This post was written by NCTE member Michael Seward, a member of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship. 

“It takes strength to be gentle and kind.”
—Morrissey (the Smiths “I Know It’s Over,” from The Queen Is Dead)

As a committee member, a queer man, a longtime English teacher, and a white resident of north Minneapolis, I am wondering about strength. How will I find the strength to again enter the classroom to teach composition?
After more than thirty years of teaching, after over a year of a global pandemic with its attendant isolation and emergency online teaching and deeply inequitable devastation, after the horror of George Floyd’s murder, after the violence and rage that erupted across my city, after the vicious insurrection in the capitol, after the lengthy trial of Derek Chauvin with its excruciating videos and testimony, after the senseless shooting of Daunte Wright only miles from my home—after all of this, I fear I might not have the strength to stand again in front of the students of Minneapolis College and act as if I have anything to teach them.
When I was growing up in rural Wisconsin in the 1980s, I was the only person I knew to be queer. And in that isolated state, I looked to Morrissey’s witty, vulnerable lyrics to understand not only that I was not alone, but that I might find ways to thrive . . . and to be strong. And the strength that Morrissey challenged me to embody was a particularly queer strength: a strength that was “gentle and kind.”
I have been trying to live up to that challenge for most of my teaching career.
But I have come to have profound doubts about the act of teaching English. Is it possible to teach English with kindness and gentleness? Whose English am I teaching? Whose standards am I enforcing? Who is the beneficiary of my teaching academic composition? What is the impact on my students—most of whom come from marginalized groups—of my perpetuating on them (and in their minds) the language and structures of the system that might have already traumatized them? How can I promote system change, when the purpose of my teaching is to inculcate students into the system that has been judging, harming and marginalizing them all along?
The position statement of the CCCC, “This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice,” captures in stark and clear language the harmful nature of the ways that English has historically been taught.
I teach English in an institution that is designed around structures not intended to promote learning but rather its own perpetuation: the 16-week semester, the three-credit class, the letter grade—what does any of this have to do with learning?
More importantly, how does trying to force a student’s learning experience into these structures risk damaging the student? The assigning of grades, in particular—the fitting of students into a preordained hierarchy—seems a sexist, racist, and classist act, an act of violation.
The community college owes its existence, in part, to the desire to open up academia—to provide access to the supposed benefits of higher learning to members of those groups who had historically been excluded from it. But did the creation of the many community colleges across the country do anything to alter the nature of the institution that was supposedly being opened?
My charge, as an English instructor at a community college, is to provide students from marginalized groups the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the standards that academia requires. Yet those very standards are intended as the mechanism that will be used to make determinations around who is included and who is excluded. So . . . my job is to include those the system intends to exclude?
After thirty years of teaching, I have come to wonder if my real job hasn’t been, all along, simply to provide an excuse to the oligarchy of the hyper-wealthy and to perpetuate the cruelty of blaming poverty on the poor:  The existence of the community college allows the system to claim that it has provided the poor and the marginalized the opportunity to succeed, so that when they “fail” (as many often do), their failure can be blamed on them:  “We gave you the chance; you failed!”
I have become acutely aware of the demands of my students’ lives:  their children; their multiple jobs; their precarious housing situations; their mental health challenges (often related to the traumas of poverty, racism, sexism, violence, transphobia, mass incarceration, sexual assault, etc.); their transportation challenges; their health concerns . . . The list of the obstacles and barriers to their learning is long.
When these demands prevent, for some students, the demonstration of the mastery of learning outcomes, my job is to grade them accordingly: We wouldn’t want an unprepared student moving to the next level, would we? I have come to wonder how those of my students who face multiple challenges might fare in academia if they had access to the conditions of those for whom academia was designed: comfortable housing, adequate nutrition, access to child care and health care, effective transportation, time to think and focus solely on academic work, social support, and so on.
Over my thirty years of teaching, I have come to understand that I have been the one in need of an education. I needed to be educated on how education has been used—globally—as a means not of growth and improvement but as a tool for exclusion and oppression. My students, often, have been those who have had to educate me—and for their trouble, they got a grade; I got a paycheck.
I want to find the strength to face these students again. But I can no longer look to Morrissey. Like so many of the things I used to believe in, Morrissey, too, has let me down. (Here’s an article that lists some of the things he’s said.)
So I have looked elsewhere to learn ways of finding the strength I need to be gentle and kind. Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability has been beneficial. And I have found inspiration from another queer voice: Tennessee Williams. During the course of the pandemic and the unrest, I have returned again and again to his poem, “Your Blinded Hand,” for it captures both the pain and the strength of the past year. I have come to understand that mine is indeed a “blinded hand,” and that “in a city of fire when the earth is afire,” the greatest source of strength might be my finding and grasping another “blinded hand” . . . perhaps that of a student.
For over 30 years Michael Seward has been teaching a variety of subjects at various levels, from eighth grade to post-graduate. He has been involved in global education in a number of capacities (including two Fulbright teaching exchanges) and countries (including England, Germany, Slovakia, Costa Rica and Poland). Currently he teaches English and serves as an assessment coordinator at Minneapolis College.

The Standing Committee on Global Citizenship works to identify and address issues of broad concern to NCTE members interested in promoting global citizenship and connections across global contexts within the Council and within members’ teaching contexts.

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

Juneteenth, Freedom Day

“[W]hat does it all mean beyond a glad noise for Juneteenth Day?What does freedom, what does emancipation mean?”
—Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth (p. 137)
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, began on June 19, 1865, when the delayed news of emancipation was received by persons held in slavery in Galveston, Texas—long after an executive proclamation, the legislative crafting of a 13th Amendment, and the end of a Civil War had deemed it so.
On that day, Logan Stroud, one of the largest slave-owners in east Texas, walked to the front porch of his plantation home, which he called Pleasant Retreat. More than 150 of his enslaved workers gathered around to listen. He pulled out and read a dispatch from U.S. Major Gen  Gorden Granger—General Order Number 3—issued that very morning in Galveston from the Union Army’s Texas headquarters. The featured image is of the home of Logan Stroud.
The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation describes the observance of Juneteenth as being “about the journey and achievement of African Americans—from a horrific period of sanctioned enslavement to the pinnacle of human endeavors.”
The Library of Congress’s “Voices from the Days of Slavery” presentation contains several interviews with former enslaved Texans. This blog post from the Library profiles several of those stories.
Looking for additional resources? Check out this compilation from NCTE from 2020.
What happened on that front porch in Limestone County, Texas on June 19, 1865 marked the end of an era and the beginning of the celebrations of Juneteenth.
Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

Ungrading to Build Equity and Trust in Our Classrooms

This post was written by NCTE member Anthony Lince. 

Many educators around the US are having meaningful conversations about building inclusive classroom spaces. In English language arts and first-year-writing classrooms, I’ve noticed that the bulk of these discussions are focused on diversifying the texts that are taught and read.
As a Mexican American who rarely read diverse texts in school, this change makes me incredibly happy. Students of color are going to have a chance to see themselves reflected in the stories and texts they read. This is extremely important.
But the conversations and efforts to build inviting classroom spaces cannot stop there, not if our goal is to truly include and welcome all students and help them succeed—especially students who, historically, have been in the institutional margins. In speaking on the work of researcher James A. Banks, Tricia Ebarvia notes that diverse texts do little to change the inequities in our schools. In fact, Ebarvia further contends, diverse curriculum might just mask larger systemic issues that need to be resolved.
This isn’t to say that diverse texts aren’t important. They are. But we simply must do more. We need to challenge harmful systems that continually exclude and harm our students of color and multilingual students. And what has hurt these readers and writers the most in our classrooms? Grades.
In talking about the barriers that students of color and multilingual students often face, Mike Rose points out that grades pass “judgments about [students’] ability . . . at a very young age, and those judgments, accurate or not, affect the curriculum they receive, their place in the school, the way they’re defined institutionally.” Eventually, students internalize the judgments passed down by their schools, an issue that is particularly problematic for students of color and multilingual students, as they are disproportionately assigned low grades (even more so now during the pandemic).
Those low marks, then, aren’t just a judgment on the work and ability of particular students in a given class, but rather a judgment on who these students are as people—and they are, if their grades are taken as the indicator, failures.
To make matters worse, traditional grading systems don’t just affect students’ perceptions of themselves; teachers, too, start to hold negative beliefs about students of color and multilingual students and their ability to succeed in school. We might say that our grading systems are fair and objective, but biases often enter our evaluation practices. For instance, a recent study conducted by David M. Quinn suggests that “racial stereotypes can influence the scores teachers assign to student work.”
Thus, when marginalized students reach our classrooms, it’s no wonder if they have negative relationships, identities, and emotions related to reading and writing. Though we say, “Our classrooms are inclusive spaces, and everyone has the chance to succeed,” our assessment practices indicate otherwise, which leads students to not believe us. Our judgments, accompanied by letters and numbers that mark students as deficient, have destroyed students’ faith in the educational system.
So, what can we do to build trust in our classrooms? I think we need to stop grading our students.
But we can’t just stop grading our students on their assignments, can we? Actually, we can. In fact, many educators are currently not grading (or are ungrading) in their classrooms. There are a lot of options to choose from when deciding to ungrade, including labor-based grading and mastery-based grading.
In my first-year-writing courses at the university level, I’ve chosen to use a labor-based grading model (based on the work of Asao Inoue, whose scholarship focuses on antiracist assessment practices). I chose this route because “labor-based grading contracts,” as Inoue asserts, “attempt to form an inclusive, more diverse ecological place, one that can be antiracist and anti–White supremacist by its nature.” With this methodology, only measurable labor is used to calculate a student’s final course grade, and no letters or numbers are placed on student writing or other work.
Many educators report that, without grades, students are able to focus on their learning in meaningful ways and put forth much more effort in their work. In my courses, I’ve noticed that too. I’ve also noticed that going gradeless can lead to a classroom environment that fosters trust—trust in the teacher and trust in peer-to-peer relationships. In this piece, I won’t speak much about the numerous other benefits that ungrading leads to in our classrooms. That’s because, first and foremost, we need to focus on gaining our students’ trust, especially when we’ve lost it from our most vulnerable students. Only when every student feels that the classroom is an equitable, safe space can we focus on learning.
These days, when I provide feedback on writing, I don’t have to worry about assigning a grade that gives no substantive information, and I don’t mark students down for not meeting a single dominant standard, one that often disadvantages multilingual students and students of color. Instead, I focus exclusively on giving useful feedback during the writing process, on building meaningful connections with my students, and on having genuine conversations that engage with their ideas. No longer do I see student writing with a deficit lens; rather, I look at it for what it was trying to accomplish in that moment and what it could accomplish.
With this approach, students who have been hurt the most by traditional grading practices are able to come into our classrooms knowing that they can trust our feedback, trust our words, to help them improve as writers. They can let go of those past judgments and just focus on the productive labor that will lead to learning. Diverse students will also feel comfortable knowing that the many Englishes they bring to our classrooms (for example, African American English) are embraced, not turned away, because the dominant standard is not a barrier anymore. This gradeless environment allows the teacher-student relationship to flourish in authentic ways.
Student-teacher relationships aren’t the only dynamics that improve in our classrooms. The classroom environment as a whole improves as well. Grades usually lead to partitions among our students; they create detrimental hierarchies. Because low grades are more often given to students of color and multilingual students, these structures and divisions in our classes often grow along racial and linguistic lines, which could perpetuate negative assumptions and beliefs about the ability of these students to succeed. When there are no grades on assignments—especially on essays—there’s an opportunity for those hierarchies to come tumbling down.
In my classes, I’ve seen that students don’t divide themselves by arbitrary standards. They are able to focus on their peers’ ideas and writing without those marks and judgments getting in the way of the dialogue. In an end-of-semester survey on labor-based grading, one of my students said, “Working with peers felt more real than in other English classes with grades. We weren’t focused on standards, on who’s better, just on the writing and how to help each other improve.”
The entire classroom community, then, benefits from not having grades in the class. In many ways, labor-based grading sets the foundation for a positive classroom community, one that can be built on trust.
Because grading practices have gone mainly unquestioned, our students have suffered, and many continue to suffer today. It’s time to end the harm that grades cause. All of our students deserve to have meaningful, equitable places of learning, strong classroom relationships, and classroom communities that are truly inclusive and supportive.
As Adam Rosenblatt has commented, if we choose to ungrade in our classrooms, we can finally start challenging “one of the academy’s most pervasive and unquestioned forms of structural injustice.” Let’s ungrade, so we can make that happen today.

Anthony Lince is a writer, Latinx scholar, husband, and dad. He’s pursuing a master’s degree in English with an emphasis in rhetoric, and he’s also teaching first-year-writing at San Diego State University. His research centers on antiracist assessment practices. Twitter: @LinceAnthony

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified. 

Bilingual Books for Emergent Bilinguals

This post was written by NCTE member Dorian Harrison.

As a literacy and language professor, I know from my own research that bilingual books offer both a cultural and a linguistic experience for all readers. Children experience the joys of learning about cultures and languages that are near to and distant from their own.
As educators, we know that our classrooms embody a repertoire of languages that are not often privileged in curricula. However, we have the power to invite and challenge these curricula by exposing our students to the exciting world of bilingual books.
There is a wide range of complexities when considering bilingual books in your classroom. In my teaching of K–6 and preservice teachers, I provide examples of Spanish-English texts to use.
If you are just entering the world of bilingual texts, I suggest authors such as Duncan Tonatiuh, who offers in-text pronunciations.

Yuyi Morales uses multiple cognates and writes in such a way that readers can easily infer the meanings.

Adam Rubin, in El Chupacabras (illustrated by Crash McCreery), challenges readers’ knowledge of two languages, both Spanish and English, with mid-sentence language shifts.

Bilingual books build engaged readers who feel at home and challenged by the texts. They offer students a richer literary experience when readers can immerse themselves in the language of others. Dr. Rudine Sims-Bishop writes that we must seek to include literature that shapes and forms windows onto the world. The move toward bringing bilingual books into the curriculum is one way to accomplish this goal.
Bilingual books are not about simply placing the books in your library and hoping they will get utilized by your students. Likewise, the books are not an answer to diversity issues in your classroom teaching. Bilingual books deal with the same issues that monolingual books address: colorism, gender, and more. These social issues are global, so similar themes may be observed within these texts as well. However, when bilingual books are woven into the classroom in authentic and critical ways, the classroom culture and environment grow in ways that cannot be measured.
There are several ways you can use bilingual books in your classroom.

Library Section: You can highlight having a bilingual text set in your classroom library. Make use of the books during read-alouds or shared reading. Then make sure you highlight where students can locate the books after you are finished.
Multiple Perspectives: Bilingual books can highlight historical journeys in American history from new perspectives and often add authentic voices to your classroom. In other words, build a text set that includes Sylvia and Aki as well as Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation.
Home-to-School Connection: Bilingual books can be used as a bridge between your classroom and your students’ homes. Families whose first language is not English may appreciate the bilingual books being used and your highlighting of those texts. However, note that not all families want their children focused on the home language while in school.
Cultural and Global Knowledge: Bilingual books can be used to enhance your students’ cultural and linguistic knowledge of languages around the world. From the alphabetic systems to characters, students learn various modes of communicating across countries and continents.
A Love of Language: While every school cannot be a dual immersion program, students can still be exposed to various languages and begin to learn those words and phrases. This could spark a continued love and passion for a particular language that could last a lifetime.
Empathy Building: At times, students are not aware of the struggles our English language learner (ELL) students experience learning English. When you use bilingual books that connect to your ELL students’ home languages, you place them in a position of power and expertise. They know how the language should sound and how to assist others with pronunciation. This creates an environment of understanding for all involved.

Many of these suggestions and benefits come with the understanding that culturally responsive teaching efforts must be paired with these texts. Before you can assign books that are relevant, you must first learn what is linguistically relevant in the lives of students and the community.
Below are some additional resources for creating your own book stack in various languages:
Colorín Colorado 
Worlds of Words Libros 
ALA Bilingual Booklist 
School Library Journal’s Fuse 8 Production Blog (featuring a Spanish-English booklist) 
Bringing bilingual books into your classroom is an application of culturally and linguistically responsive teaching to your everyday activities for students and their families. In this way, students feel valued and respected and grow in their knowledge of the world.

Dorian Harrison is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University at Newark. Her research interests focus on equity issues in literacy education, paying particular attention to how race, class, and language impact teaching and learning. Harrison is a member of the NCTE Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. Currently, she teaches literacy courses aimed at developing students’ awareness and use of diverse literature in their classrooms and theories of comprehension and writing for K–8 teachers. Twitter: @dr_dorih
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

The Promise of a Humanizing Writing Pedagogy for Black Students

This is an excerpt from the article “Revealing the Human and the Writer: The Promise of a Humanizing Writing Pedagogy for Black Students” by Latrise P. Johnson and Hannah Sullivan, which appeared in the May 2020 issue of Research in the Teaching of English, and for which the authors received the 2020 Alan C. Purves Award. 

Using a critical stance on place, literacy, and humanity in order to examine how the literacy learning and practices of ELA classrooms/schools might (de)humanize and (de)culturize Black students, this study examines the writing pedagogy of a professor who taught a semester-long creative writing class for students at West High School. Through a humanizing approach to teaching writing, the professor and students engaged in writing and being in ways that honored—as well as centered and supported—their individual, cultural, and writerly identities. This article offers ways that teachers of writing might tap into Black intellectual traditions and invite students to use writing as a way to connect to what they do and learn while at school.

Historical perspectives of Black conceptions of literacy position Black people as demanders, creators, funders, and maintainers of educational institutions that have (a) provided literacy for all; (b) apprised individuals of and prepared them for the dominating culture’s institutions; (c) counteracted the pernicious and venal images of African Americans prevalent in popular culture; and (d) engendered group solidarity and commitment to uplift (Harris, 1992).
These perspectives are reflected in texts that historicize and imagine the lives of Black people, as well as in the contemporary composition of authentic portraits of Black people that challenge monolithic, dominant, and damaging narratives. The production and centering of such texts represent what is possible for teaching writing to Black youth, in that these texts serve as a “re-appraisal of . . . aesthetic values . . . [that are] less influenced by the dominant standards” and allow Black youth to “be taught with real conviction the beauties of [their] own [lives]” (Johnson, 1936). These texts also provide models for how writing has been used to add the voices and perspectives of Black people to bodies of knowledge that have historically ignored their contributions.
Therefore, a humanizing writing pedagogical stance begins with the notion that students’ knowledges (which encompass their collective and individual histories) are at the center of what they are expected to know and do while at school (Bartolomé, 1994; Donnell, 2007).
Thus, a humanizing writing pedagogy provides a lens to view Black students’ individual lives and creates opportunities for them to make personal, critical connections to a world where they share collective struggle related to the “circumstances of race status” (Johnson, 1936). With regard to writing instruction and the production of text, humanizing pedagogical processes require that pedagogues enact critical practices that interrupt normalized literacies and dominant ways of knowing and being.
For instance, the full development of a writer depends on understanding oneself in relation to one’s world (Johnson, 2017). That said, humanizing approaches to writing instruction and practice mean centering the writer in the processes and production of critically conscious writing—and, in this case, in ways that involve Black youth in the meaning-making that is part of a rich literary tradition.
Indeed, Black people have historically “needed literacy in order to acquire freedom and power” (Harris, 1992, p. 278). And it is that history and re-centering of Black culture that is integral to humanizing writing pedagogies for Black youth as they (1) recall forms of literacy that privilege and are contingent upon students’ sociohistorical lives, both proximally and distally; (2) are grounded in literate histories and traditions of Black people; and (3) invite Black students to compose and add their voices to various bodies of knowledges.

Latrise P. Johnson is an associate professor of secondary ELA and literacy at the University of Alabama.Hannah Sullivan is a Spanish teacher and PhD student at the University of  Alabama.

Read the full article: “Revealing the Human and the Writer: The Promise of a Humanizing Writing Pedagogy for Black Students”

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

ESSC and ECEA of NCTE Respond to Anti-Asian Discrimination and Offer Resources

This statement was authored by the NCTE Elementary Section Steering Committee (ESSC) and the NCTE Early Childhood Education Assembly (ECEA).

The members of the NCTE Elementary Section Steering Committee and the Early Childhood Education Assembly denounce racism, hate, and white supremacy, and express our solidarity and support of our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander colleagues and community today and always. We demand justice for these communities and support the movement to #StopAsianHate
On March 16th, 2021, six Asian women were murdered as an act of hate and racism. These acts, fueled by white supremacist rhetoric and xenophobia, have surged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This past year, a report issued by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes against Asian Americans in major US cities have surged by nearly 150 percent in 2020.
This violence is not new for marginalized communities, but attending a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina; going to synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; or going to work in a massage parlor in Atlanta, Georgia, should never equate to not coming home. These acts of violence and hate are all rooted in white supremacy. Therefore, it is vital that we stand in solidarity. The revolution will be intersectional. And we need everyone to fight against white supremacy.
This call is specifically for educators in schools and teacher education programs, recognizing that  as we are teaching future generations and teachers of these generations, each one of us has a responsibility to do something. These children will grow up and will either perpetuate anti-Asian hate or disrupt it. As educators, it is imperative that we realize that silence is not the answer. We lean on the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: If you are neutral in situations of injustices, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. 
Below we provide some reflection questions and resources to help you in this journey of disrupting anti-Asian hate:

How do you decenter whiteness in your curriculum every single day? (Resource: Decentering Whiteness in My Classroom) 
How do you honor the voices, experiences, languages, and stories of Asian/Asian American communities as a classroom norm? (Resource: Humanizing Asian Americans in the Classroom Through Children’s Literature)
How do you teach about the diversity, history, and contributions to the world’s knowledge from Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities? (Resource: After Atlanta: Teaching about Identity and History) 
Look at your picture books, library, and curriculum. Whose voices and stories are absent or merely token additions in your classroom library and instructional texts? (Resource: The Best 9 Children’s Books to Combat Asian Racism with Tips to Raise Anti-Racists)
In the wake of COVID-19, how are you teaching students to be critically conscious and act against Asian American hate? (Resource: Young, Proud, Sung-Jee, by Joyce Y. Lee and Emily Ku)  (Resource: Addressing Anti-Asian Racism: A Resource for Educators)

As educators, we must work together, across differences, to do the deep and necessary work of digging into ourselves—to unearth the biases, prejudices, and racism that we hold inside of us–to engage in the active process that Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz describes as the archeology of self.
This is a process of working through the internalized stories and ideologies that we carry with us through our schooling and the other spaces of our lives. We draw on the wisdom of scholar-elders like Grace Lee Boggs, who reminds us: You can’t change any society unless you take responsibility for it.
Moving inside out and back again, we can do the work of dismantling racism and white supremacy in our world, our schools, and our teaching.

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

Promoting Social Justice with High-Interest Works of Sports-Related Nonfiction

This post was written by NCTE member Luke Rodesiler. 

Over time, sports culture has been established as a site of resistance, with athletes of yesteryear (e.g., Lew Alcindor, the Syracuse 8) and the modern day (e.g., Megan Rapinoe, players across the WNBA) fighting for social justice. It is no surprise, then, that many sports-related texts provide teachers with high-interest avenues for promoting social justice in the English language arts classroom.
Below I highlight three such texts. Each book is a distinct work of sports-related nonfiction published in 2020 that can be used to facilitate meaningful discussions about social justice or otherwise serve as a springboard into research projects that extend literacy learning at the intersections of sports and society.
Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
by Jen Bryant & Frank Morrison (2020)
When recalling historic athletes who promoted social justice, Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos, boxing champ Muhammad Ali, and tennis star Billie Jean King quickly come to mind. Though often overlooked, basketball great Elgin Baylor is also noteworthy, for he conducted a one-man civil rights protest in 1959. Specifically, he refused to suit up for the Minneapolis Lakers after he and Black teammates Ed Fleming and Boo Ellis were refused service in Charleston, West Virginia, the site of a game against the Cincinnati Royals. The protest prompted change, for it was soon declared that no NBA team would play in a segregated state unless accommodations for all players were guaranteed. Baylor’s story is captured in Bryant and Morrison’s picture book, which can be read with students at virtually any grade level to support the exploration of social justice, the power of protest, and athlete activism.
Dragon Hoops
by Gene Luen Yang (2020)
Yang, a renowned graphic novelist, documents the 2014–2015 Bishop O’Dowd High School (CA) men’s varsity basketball season in this award-winning graphic memoir. Along the way, he recounts his experiences as a teacher at the school, as a cartoonist, and as a family man. He also incorporates stories about the history of basketball, including its creation by Dr. James Naismith; its adoption by Senda Berenson, who introduced women to the game; and its expansion into China. Opportunities for discussions about sociopolitical issues such as racism, equity, and religious persecution arise throughout. Moreover, one of the book’s notable motifs reflects the idea of having the courage to step into the unknown, just as the Dragons do each game, risking failure and subjecting themselves to the vitriol of hostile crowds. Maintaining such courage is surely relevant when taking up the fight for social justice.
Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back: Dilemmas of the Modern Fan
by Jessica Luther & Kavitha A. Davidson (2020)
Teachers eager to promote social justice by facilitating critical readings of sports culture are sure to appreciate this book by sportswriters Luther and Davidson. The authors acknowledge the joys of sports fandom (e.g., camaraderie, the thrill of victory) but contend that many fans inevitably experience a crisis of conscience, for many of society’s ills (e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia) permeate sports culture. Each chapter, then, presents a moral dilemma faced by modern sports fans, giving students a chance to explore sociopolitical issues in the context of sports culture. Addressing topics such as inequitable compensation, racist mascots, and the marginalization of LGBTQ+ sports figures, the book offers valuable opportunities for promoting social justice. Whether sharing excerpts or the text in full, teachers can use Luther and Davidson’s book to facilitate discussions, launch inquiry projects, or otherwise position students to critically examine timely issues in sports and society.

Luke Rodesiler is an associate professor of education at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Along with Alan Brown, he is the coeditor of Developing Contemporary Literacies through Sports: A Guide for the English Classroom (NCTE, 2016). He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @rodesiler.
Visit the companion website for Developing Contemporary Literacies through Sports
Read Luke Rodesiler’s English Journal article “On Second Thought: Teaching for Social Justice through Sports Culture” (July 2018).
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

How Autobiography Can Contribute to Global Citizenship in COVID-19 America

From the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship

This post was written by NCTE member Heerak Kim, a member of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

“I realized I was following a tradition established by Frederick Douglass—the slave narrative—speaking in the first-person singular, talking about the first-person plural, always saying ‘I,’ meaning ‘we.’ ” —Maya Angelou

As committee members of the Standing Committee on Global Citizenship, we have pondered what it means to contribute to the world as global citizens. This quote from the American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou regarding autobiography writing suggests the power of telling one’s own stories in one’s own words, prompting me to consider more strategically the ways in which autobiography can contribute to global citizenship.
Autobiography is written by a single person but often testifies to the experiences of many who might share that person’s identity.  In a sense, therefore, autobiography represents the power of participatory identity or representative group identity. The autobiography is a voice of a people, channeled through the person writing their autobiography.
In this regard, no one suffers alone. There is collectivity to the suffering. Many can identify with this, particularly during COVID-19 global pandemic. When an area is under a lockdown and all the restaurants close their dining rooms, there is a shared loss or grief in the community. There is also a common sense of loss that is evoked among  community members of a hot-spot area when they bear witness to their fellow residents dying from COVID-19.
Collective memory and experiences are not all tragic, however.  Even in the greatest tragedy, people find humor and positivity, which they share through art, literature, and music.
In the current climate, that could be in the form of a Zoom meeting, where each instrumentalist plays their own music in the private space of a tiny Zoom window.  But the many small Zoom windows on the computer screen come together to provide a symphony that is distinctive to our shared COVID-19 experience.  Perhaps we can call it “the COVID-19 Cultural Experience.”
Despite the pandemic raging throughout the world, we cannot forget the fact that global citizenship is alive and well and that we can all contribute. As literature educators, we can encourage project-based learning, inviting students to tell their own stories through autobiography. From here, we can even seek a publisher to publish the collective work, to be shared throughout the world.
In this regard, I find one particular collection of autobiographies enlightening. Korean-American Stories:  Collection of Autobiographies, edited by Ariel Raimundo Choi, shares autobiographies in which “I” means “we.” Raimundo Choi reflects on his personal experience as a Hispanic-Korean-American, an ethnic Korean born in Argentina who later immigrated to the United States. Ye One Chung identifies herself with Israel, the country where she grew up and subsequently wrote her autobiography,  in Hebrew with an English translation provided. Reading through Korean-American Stories: Collection of Autobiographies, one comes to understand the beautiful diversity of global citizenship.
English language arts teachers in pre-K to 12th grade and college professors teaching in departments of English and literature can encourage discussion of the complexities of global citizenship by engaging in reading autobiographies such as those contained in Korean-American Stories: Collection of Autobiographies. This can be a generative multicultural experience.
Our shared pandemic experiences can provide similar opportunities for writing about “I,” meaning “we.”  A classroom teacher can encourage each student to write about their own family’s day-to-day experiences during the pandemic. Since COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of everyone’s life in the United States, allowing opportunities for expression of this new experience can provide a nuanced portrait of the realities of different cultural experiences in America.
As literature educators, we can contribute to the engagement and production of this genre of literature that can be educational, engaging, and even therapeutic. There is power in the written word, and reading and writing autobiographies can usher in greater participation in global citizenship.

Heerak Kim is writing his Ed.D. dissertation at the American College of Education on improving urban schools and is the vice president of its chapter of Kappa Delta Pi International Honors Society in Education. Heerak is the author of Bat Yam: A Novel and Jewish and Indian and Other Stories.

“The Standing Committee on Global Citizenship works to identify and address issues of broad concern to NCTE members interested in promoting global citizenship and connections across global contexts within the Council and within members’ teaching contexts.”
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

Build Your Stack: Curating a Menu of Mentors

This blog post was written by NCTE member Lynsey Burkins. It’s part of Build Your Stack,® an NCTE initiative focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. Build Your Stack® provides a forum for contributors to share books from their classroom experience; inclusion in a blog post does not imply endorsement or promotion of specific books by NCTE.

On January 20, 2021 President Biden signed an Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. Section 2 defined equity as follows:
Sec. 2. Definitions. For purposes of this order: (a) The term “equity” means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.
As I began to process how the order defined equity, I began to think about my own practice as an elementary educator. I reflected specifically on creating an equitable curriculum. In the district I have taught in for the past 18 years, teachers have the agency to use our state standards to design learning opportunities for children. This gives teachers the responsibility of selecting materials used to teach the state standards.
I would like to think of myself as a teacher who strives to live within a social justice pedagogical stance. In this quest, I want to do all that I can to be careful not to other or create any stereotypes of any community and or dehumanize in any way. I want my students to feel seen and know that they are heard. I also want my students to be woke to themselves and the community around them. Books have always been a way to support conversations and to learn in my classroom.
Working within the learning standards, I’ve tried to use three categories of books when creating a menu of mentor texts to use for literacy units of study reading and writing. Franki Sibberson helped me to think in terms of a “menu of mentors,” in which I collect books in larger groups (menus) to use to pull text sets for learning. Three of my book menus that support student learning are:

Books that teach about history
Books that support conversations around social justice
Books that represent incidental diversity

My hope is that any menu of mentors that is created for whole group units of study in reading and writing would include a mixture of all three of these book categories. All three of these are needed as we work to humanize all of our stories and experiences in this world.
Here is a sampling of books for these three categories that have really sparked conversations among the third graders in my class this year:

Books that teach about history give students a historical perspective about people and events.

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation
by Barry Wittenstein (author), Jerry Pinkney (illustrator)

The Teachers March!: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History 
by Sandra Neil Wallace (author), Rich Wallace (author), Charly Palmer (illustrator)

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre
by Carole Boston Weatherford  (author), Floyd Cooper (illustrator)

Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story
by Ken Mochizuki (author), Dom Lee (illustrator)

Baseball Saved Us
by Ken Mochizuki (author), Dom Lee (illustrator)

Books that support conversations around social justice help students give words to feelings or things they see. Many times, after reading these books, students begin to organize themselves in conversations around taking action. It is important that these lists include books that not only explore the issues and trauma but also the joy. Social justice work should always have joy.

Milo Imagines the World
by Matt de la Peña (author), Christian Robinson (illustrator)

Call Me Max (Max and Friends Book 1)
by Kyle Lukoff (author), Luciano Lozano (illustrator)

Your Name Is a Song
by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (author), Luisa Uribe (illustrator)

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners
by Joanna Ho (author), Dung Ho (Illustrator)

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story
by Aya Khalil (author), Anait Semirdzhyan (illustrator)

Books that represent incidental diversity better reflect the real world. These may be books with characters who just happen to belong to an underrepresented group or community or books in which the character’s diverse identity is not the central focus of the story.

Puppy Truck
by Brian Pinkney

Let’s Go on a Hike! (a Family Hiking Adventure!)
by Katrina Liu (author), Heru Setiawan (illustrator)

Me & Mama 
by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away 
by Meg Medina (author), Sonia Sanchez (illustrator)

by Minh Lê  (author), Dan Santat  (illustrator)

My Papi Has a Motorcycle
by Isabel Quintero (author) and Zeke Peña (illustrator)

Dragonfly Kites (Songs of the North Wind) 
by Tomson Highway (author), Julie Flett (illustrator)

One thing I want to always remember is that, over the school year, children should have experiences reading books about people and communities that show them in a myriad of experiences and situations. Histories, celebrations, struggles, trauma, and joys should be shared through stories so that children have a full picture of the richness and experiences of all those who make up our world.

Lynsey Burkins has been a passionate educator for over 18 years in Dublin, Ohio. She resides in Westerville, Ohio, with her husband and two children. She is a member of NCTE and is Chair of the Build Your Stack Committee. Lynsey also writes for the Classroom Communities blog. She lives for the moments when children see themselves in books and recognize that their stories matter too.

NCTE and independent bookstores will receive a small commission from purchases made using the links above.
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

Our Solidarity Is More Than Symbolic

From the NCTE Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English

This post was written by NCTE members Damián Baca, Kathleen Colantonio, Dulce Flecha, Lorena Germán, Richard Gorham, Felicia Hamilton, Patrick Harris, Jazmen Moore, Keisha Rembert, Holly Spinelli, Jineyda Tapia. All are members of the NCTE Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English.

Yet again, we find ourselves collectively mourning loss as a result of hate and desired power. As we grieve, express our anger and exhaustion, and exhibit care for the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, our solidarity is more than symbolic; it is in the actions we take in our classrooms and beyond.
Since the onset of COVID-19 and its inflammatory and racist framing, the AAPI community has seen increased levels of violence recently, culminating in the deaths of six women of Asian descent. Hate crimes have been heavily reported by Asian women—specifically, verbal harrassment, physical assault, civil rights discrimination, and online harassment.
According to Stop AAPI Hate’s latest national report, AAPI hate crimes topped 3,700 incidents in the time period from the start of the pandemic in 2020 to now, in 2021. NCTE recognized the danger of inappropriately characterizing COVID-19 with divisive, xenophobic language by awarding the 2020 NCTE Doublespeak Award “. . . to any elected official and news media personnel who used, defended, or advocated for the use of phrases such as China Virus, the Chinese Flu, Kung Flu, and Wuhan Flu in place of the COVID-19 virus’s official name.”
These acts of hate have risen in schools as AAPI students reported more instances of bullying in 2020–2021 (Act to Change).
Here are some actions we encourage all ELA educators to take:

Be deliberate with your language. Think about how your language around the racism experienced by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community promotes understanding, cultural awareness, and allyship.
Be honest and explicit with your students. This is a conversation for our ELA classrooms at all levels. Think about paired texts and discussion prompts to promote critically.
Be sure you do your homework. No cultures or peoples are monoliths. Recognize the varied histories, experiences, values, languages, places, and cultures that make up the AAPI community.
Be mindful of internalized trauma. Give your students the space and time to properly process their thoughts and feelings. Ensure that AAPI students are extended care and not expected to carry the burdens of dialogue or education of others.
Be vocal. Speak up! Our students—those who are members of the AAPI community and others—are always listening. They hear our voices and they also hear our silence. Now is a time to let your students know where you stand.
Promote action. Translate learning into actionables for students.

Below are some resources to support you in embedding antiracist teaching and learning in support of the AAPI community.


Consider learning about Betty Yu’s art. She’s an NYC artist and activist. Learn more at her website:
Simon Tam (also known as Simon Young) is an activist, musician, and writer. He’s one of the founders of “The Slants,” an all Asian American dance rock band. Learn more at his website:


The following are organizations with information and research that you can use for class discussions, projects, and as sources of research for essays.

Literature by AAPI authors

For children:

Picturebook: Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant & Artist by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki
Picturebook: Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
Picturebook: A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui
Picturebook: Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by Farhana Zia, illustrated by Ken Min

For middle school students:

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai (could also be used with high school students)

For high school students:

Understanding American history in a more complete way, including the presence of Asians is critical. Consider the following resources:

Anti-Asian racism is, of course, nothing new. It has permeated the history of our nation just as other forms of racism have. Our classrooms are the place to examine the truths and complexities of anti-Asian racism so that students understand, empathize, and are positioned to act against such hate.

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.