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.

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)

Lift
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.

Build Your Stack: Culturally-Affirming Adult Reads That Will Push Your Classroom Thinking

This post was written by NCTE member Nawal Qarooni Casiano. 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.

I have to admit something, albeit a little nervously. There are times when I let the dishes stack up throughout the day, and I ignore the chaos of my home. There are times when I shut my ears to my kids running circles around the dining table, not really looking up unless they make too loud a sound.
Those times are when I am in my favorite reading spot, in our pink leather chair with a weighty throw blanket and a book, curled up like a cat.
To be immersed in an adult read is a deeply indulgent feeling. When I have uninterrupted time, there’s nothing more comforting than falling into a story—down, down, down. In the world of a novel, I feel as if I find myself anew, even as the characters are unlike me. I simultaneously forget myself and feel most myself when I’m reading.

How does this knowledge of myself as a reader make me a stronger teacher of reading? How does my love for reading shape who I am as a literacy coach?

When I worry that I am ignoring my kids to read, I remind myself that I am modeling important self-care in its place. I believe we must practice the reading moves we aim to cultivate in our kids. We cannot expect our students to love reading without modeling authentic personal passion. I know that reading adult novels leads to wide and varied conversations with my family, friends and colleagues. And, perhaps most importantly, through the diverse, culturally-affirming voices I read, I am able to push my thinking in classrooms, with teachers, and beyond.
Bridges are built between personal reading experiences and our school spaces. Central to that knowledge are these questions:
What does the book teach me about people, groups, cultures, or ethnicities that I did not previously know?
In what ways do I learn about my reading behaviors, particularly when a text is challenging, and how might I support students who face similar struggles?
Are there any parts that stand out as excellent mentors for student writing?
Has the author written anything else that I might recommend for a student, colleague or classroom?
Here are a handful of gorgeous texts—richly nuanced and culturally-affirming—that deserve exalting.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Gorgeous prose, an important story. Set in southern Nigeria, this crime mystery glows with Igbo colloquialisms and patterns of speech. Nothing of the traditional is watered down. The narrative keeps readers in its grasp with trips and surprises, begging for predictions page after page. It’s a story of honesty and authenticity, including a fair amount of raw sensuality, but that’s really the point. Unabashedly be who you are, even when it’s hard and dangerous. Emezi writes a perspective-shifting, bold text on the different forms of love. They also wrote PET and Freshwater for young adults.

The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah
This story beautifully shares issues immigrants and their children feel: losing their home country, losing parts of themselves, and facing assimilation in ways that dismember the past. It faces hatred of Muslims head-on, and I appreciated that: it’s real, it’s evident at times, and it can explode. I fell in love too with this debut author’s writing style; I adored the Arabic translanguaging and expansion of Arabic culture throughout. Though I was fearful of the plot, which was centered around a school shooting, the writing craft move to include much more flashback content was brilliant. Almost as if, as readers, we couldn’t stomach too much of the present. Mustafah shares nuance for a complex Arab assimilation experience.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz
In beautiful prose, Cruz crafts a story about a 15-year-old Dominican girl forced to marry a man twice her age to help her family. With brutal honesty, she underscores all that immigrants sacrifice when leaving their countries for the United States. Because there are no quotations around the dialogue, there’s a fuzzy faraway feeling to the narrative that I imagined would dissipate as I read on, but Cruz’s words stayed with me despite that perceived distance. The pages pummeled forward with ease and I felt myself ravenous for the story’s outcome, happily not contrived. Cruz affirms Dominican identity and female strength with celebration and triumph.

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow
What a little gem! A fast-paced and heart-tugging debut about a Black community in North Carolina between 1941 to 1987, I just couldn’t put it down. The characters and writing style are both incredibly endearing. I wanted to share a meal with Knot and Otis Lee, thinking about them long after the last page. I am eagerly awaiting more from De’Shawn Charles Winslow.

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
These short stories floored me in their lyricism, nostalgia and celebration of female resilience, as Latinas of Indigenous descent living in the American West come alive across the pages. The stories weave a relentless exaltation of heritage and ritual against a backdrop of abuse and abandonment that tugs terribly at the heartstrings but drips with beauty. Reminiscent of Sandra Cisneros, the writing style is poetic. The characters are brave. Fajardo-Anstine’s poignant collection brings historically marginalized narratives out of the shadows. Hers is an important voice.

Nawal Qarooni Casiano is an award-winning journalist and educator with experience in New York City and Chicago schools. Forever passionate about growing readers, writers, and thinkers, Nawal was a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and literacy coach before launching NQC Literacy in 2014. She and her team at NQC Literacy facilitate tailored professional development and staff learning experiences around literacy best practices in dozens of schools throughout Chicagoland. You can find her on Twitter @NQCLiteracy and at NQCLiteracy.com. She would love to talk to you about any of your reads!

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.

Queer YA Inspired by TV and Movies

From the NCTE LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee
This post was written by NCTE member Summer Pennell, a former member of the NCTE LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee.

As Cody Miller and I wrote in 2020, readers are looking for nostalgia to escape from the ongoing global pandemic and political events such as the recent attempted coup. We’re tired, and we need something to briefly take our minds off the chaos while we wait for our turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Young Adult literature can be a great escape. Here I recommend two queer YA titles inspired by television shows or movies.

As a queer reader myself, I enjoy reading books inspired by other stories that alter the narrative to focus on queer characters. While some television series use queer-baiting to draw in an LGBTQ+ audience, suggesting there will be queer relationships that then never happen or are not fundamental to the plot, the books highlighted here center queer relationships. These titles can be great additions to classroom libraries when it is safe to return to in-person schooling, and in the meantime, can be recommended to students looking for a fun escape.

The Gilmore Girls was a television series created by Amy Sherman Palladino that aired from 2000 to 2007, and then had a four-episode Netflix reboot in 2016 called “A Year in the Life.” The show centers on a “freakishly linked” mother and daughter pair, Lorelai and Rory, and is still popular 20+ years after it debuted. While Rory had several boyfriends throughout the show, her most constant companion was her prep school and college classmate and frenemy Paris Gellar. To many queer viewers, myself included, Rory and Paris are the OTP (one true pairing). Their chemistry on screen inspired a lot of fanfiction (The Best of It is my favorite). Lucky for fans of this ship, there’s a fun YA book inspired by them: Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi.
Safi’s dedication reads “For Amy Sherman Palladino. Thank you for never giving Rory Gilmore a decent boyfriend. She’s always had Paris,” setting the tone for a delightful imagining of what a Rory and Paris relationship could have been like through her characters Sana Khan and Rachel Recht. Sana is the perky, aspiring medical student and cheerleader to Rachel’s antisocial film-obsessed character. They’re both ambitious, and it’s a joy to read this enemies-to-lovers and opposites-attract romance plot play out. While the Gilmore Girls series had terrible representation for people of color, Safi’s main characters offer authentic representation of a Muslim, Persian, Indian girl in Sana and of a Jewish Mexican girl in Rache—characters who have their own rich backgrounds separate from the elements inspired by Rory and Paris.
Any reader who loves enemies-to-lovers and opposites-attract romances, smart feminist main characters, and girls speaking up for what they want will enjoy this book. Being a Gilmore Girls superfan just makes it more fun, as seeing how Safi played with the characters’ relationships and plots from the show adds an extra layer. All the chapter titles are also tongue-in-cheek pop culture references, making this a great book for xennials like me to read with teen students or family members, so we can annoy them by over explaining all the inside jokes.
Grease, released in 1978 (and based on a 1971 musical), tells the story of Sandy and Danny who shared a summer romance in the 1950s. When goody-two-shoes Sandy unexpectedly transfers to Johnny’s high school for their senior year, she learns he has a tough guy persona that differs from the sweet boy she dated. This film remains a teen classic, as a prequel is currently in the works, showing the longevity of this story’s appeal.
Sophie Gonzales’s Only Mostly Devastated takes the summer romance between Sandy and Danny and reimagines it as a romance between two boys: jock Will and musician Ollie. When Ollie’s family decides to stay in North Carolina to help care for his Aunt Linda and her two young children, Ollie finds himself transferring to Collinswood High School. Immediately, he falls in with a group of three girls (Gonzales’s version of the Pink Ladies from Grease) who take him to a party where he sees Will, only to learn that Will is not out. This narrative has fewer direct ties to Grease than Tell Me How You Really Fell has to the Gilmore Girls series, but it is still fun to see the nods to the film and how it is transformed into a contemporary teen romance.
This novel will appeal to readers who have experienced grief and who like coming-out stories, secret romances, complex friendship dynamics. The cast of characters is also racially diverse, although race does not play a large part in the plot or character development. There is, however, careful attention to fat phobia and beauty standards.
While these novels could be used to teach adaptation, they also make for excellent escapes from the world. Recommend them to your teen readers who are looking for queer contemporary romances and who enjoy nods to pop culture. Reading a queer romance in which you know from the start that things are going to work out romantically between the main characters is relaxing. Readers may have differing opinions about characters’ choices, but in these novels, you don’t have to worry if the main pairing ends up together, and can instead enjoy the journey of how they find their way to each other. In our increasingly uncertain world, that can be comforting.

Summer Melody Pennell is a former member of NCTE’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee and is the past chair of NCTE’s Genders and Sexualities Equality Alliance (GSEA). She is an assistant professor of English education at Truman State University, where she works with preservice English teachers, and also teaches an undergraduate LGBTQ+ YA Literature course for all majors. She can be contacted via email at [email protected] and found on Twitter @summerpennell.

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.

Cultural Updates to Narrative Reading Strategies

This post was written by NCTE member Gary Pankiewicz. 

Just as our own cultural context influences our identity and values, we can recognize some of the cultural contexts that influence our students’  racial and ethnic identities and values, as well as the challenges they face. But how can we make an investigation of these cultural contexts more consistent in our approaches to literature in the classroom? It makes sense to provide more access to diverse texts, but, culturally responsive pedagogy suggests that exploring instructional practices to enhance cultural perspective is just as important. One practical idea in the ELA classroom is to make room for an exploration of culture in our narrative reading strategies.
In my experience, many ELA teachers often use the Somebody-Wanted-But-So summarizing strategy or the “story mountain”  plot-diagram visualization strategy to support their students’ understanding of reading and writing narrative texts. (The plot diagram is also available in PDF form.)
A quick addendum to either of these two popular strategies could be far-reaching to build cultural competence.
The S-W-B-S strategy (MacOn, Bewell & Vogt, 1991; Beers, 2003) is a prevalent approach to summarizing a text. In short, students can more readily summarize a story once they identify the following: main character (Somebody); character goals (Wants); story conflict (But), and story resolution (So then . . . ).

I suggest that a more modern conception of this strategy includes a look at cultural context in every step: Somebody in a cultural context; Wanted in a cultural context; But (include if culture plays a role in the conflict); So (include any new understandings about culture). In other words, a deliberate mini-cultural analysis could be included as students trace the action of a text.

Let’s take Meg Medina’s Merci Suarez Changes Gears, a 2019 Newbery Medal-winning middle grade novel, for example. Merci Suarez is the “Somebody,” and her cultural context is significant. She is a Cuban American girl who comes from a working-class family invested in Cuban traditions in southern Florida. Her house sits amid a row of three houses referred to in the story as “Las Casitas” (translated to mean “little houses”), where her aunt and grandparents live in the other two houses nearby. Merci “Wanted” to maintain good grades so that she could keep her scholarship and make the soccer team in a private school, where there are not many other Latina students. “But” issues involved with Merci’s cultural identity are relevant to her confrontation with a school bully and a family health concern. When cultural context is examined in each step, we are left with a “So” that enhances our cultural perspectives, such as Merci’s reverence for her family and extended family that is threaded throughout the text.
The same concept could be used when identifying the elements of plot or a story mountain.  In each step (i.e., exposition, narrative hook, exposition, and resolution), ask students, “What role, if any, does culture play in this part of the story?”
This could evolve into a story mountain graphic organizer that makes room for additional annotations on culture (e.g., how Merci’s grandparents say they are sorry through good Cuban food and a game of dominoes). This approach could foster a denouement that surpasses a coming-of age-story of a new middle schooler and, instead, also explores some of the cultural complexities, assets, and constraints of a young Cuban-American girl in a particular setting and context.
Culturally responsive texts or texts selected with our students’ diverse interests and learning needs in mind lend themselves to these approaches more than others. In any case, additional culturally responsive texts and this quick supplement to these common narrative reading strategies can contribute to building our students’ cultural competence over time.
Find more about the S-W-B-S strategy:
The Reading Strategies Book, by Jennifer Serravallo. (Heinemann, 2015.)
When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers, 6–12, by Kylene Beers. (Heinemann, 2003.)
Responses to Literature, by Diane Bewell, James M. Macon, and MaryEllen Vogt. (International Reading Association, 1991.)

Gary Pankiewicz is a teacher-writer and administrator with research interests in supporting reflective practice, multimodal literacies, and voice-filled curriculum and instruction.  He works as a K–12 ELA supervisor in Fair Lawn Public Schools, New Jersey, and as an adjunct reading professor and writing instructor at Montclair State University. Twitter: @gpankiewicz

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.

Turning Our Attention to the Word Decolonize

From the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship

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

To speak of pedagogies of re-existence, then, is to once again call forth the agency, action, and praxis of the otherwise. It is to raise the existential, philosophic, lived concerns and pedagogical imperatives of freedom, anguish, responsibility, embodied agency, sociality, liberation to which Lewis Gordan refers. It is to signal affirmation and hope in spite of—and in the midst of–conditions of negation, violence, and despair, part of the war of capitalism and the reorganization of modernity/coloniality/heteropatriarchy. It is to recognize that decolonial re-existence in the circumstances of the present times requires creative pedagogies-methodologies of struggle. Herein lies the significance, urgency, and insurgency of decolonial pedagogies rising.
—Catherine Walsh

As a member of NCTE’s Standing Committee on Global Citizenship, I am intrigued by, and eager to trouble, the growing use of the word decolonize.
First, to be clear, I affirm and support the work of my fellow committee members Michael Seward and Kylowna Moton, who hold rigorous and meaningful workshops on decolonizing the ELA classroom at the NCTE Annual Convention. I attended their workshop in the past and found it both meaningful and challenging. That said, in this blog post, I would like to turn our attention to what is happening to the word decolonize in our popular discourse and to humbly posit that the work of decolonizing is much more uncomfortable.
I am intrigued because the word is everywhere. You can find advertisements for t-shirts that say, “decolonize everything.” As a Latinx teacher who works in an entirely Latinx school, I even find my teenaged students using the word decolonize. I am not exactly sure when this happened, but as a lover of this conversation, I was initially excited. Now, I would like to remind my fellow teachers and scholars that this work is not simple, and it is necessarily uncomfortable.
As Catherine Walsh articulates in her collaboration with Walter Mignolo (On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis, 2018), this work “is to signal affirmation and hope in spite of—and in the midst of—conditions of negation, violence, and despair, part of the war of capitalism and the reorganization of modernity/coloniality/heteropatriarchy” (p. 96).

My hunch is that the growing use of decolonize resonates with the sentiments of the first half of that sentence yet fails to properly acknowledge the second half. Yes. Let’s signal hope, but let’s remember why the work in this field is needed in the first place; let’s confront the “negation, violence, and despair.” Further, let’s remember which side of that sentence it is that teachers, especially teachers of English, have historically participated in.

Decolonizing is not “feel-good” for the English teacher. Instead, it needs to be a thorough accounting of the ways our profession and our lives have depended on the aforementioned conditions. While I may be Mexican American and the son of immigrants, the salary I collect as an English teacher is completely dependent on my proximity and complicity with whiteness, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism.
I invite you to look toward your students as an initial resource; since this past summer, I have been thinking of the students who participated in the protests. I really want to believe that I have empowered my students to take stances that are anchored in their notions of justice; yet unlike them, I was not out on the streets for most of the summer. Even in the spring, my communication with them during the pandemic was focused on encouraging them to graduate and stay motivated in their schoolwork—as if they were not learning things in the protests, as if making it to their Zoom classes on time had anything to do with what their hearts told them. I’m fairly confident that some of my students were more committed to acting on their convictions than I was.
Decolonizing our profession starts by setting aside any feel-good notions about this effort; the work starts when we acknowledge our reflection on the wrong side of the riot shield.

Rex Ovalle works as high school English teacher and instructional coach at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. He is also a PhD student in the English Education program at the University of Illinois–Chicago.
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.

Locating Black Histories in Our Own Front Yards

This post was written by NCTE member Janelle Jennings-Alexander.

The protests and marches of the summer of 2020 proved, if nothing else, that a moral, ethical, and intellectual imperative exists for creating racially literate learners in our classrooms at both K–12 and higher education levels.
France Winddance Twine defines racial literacy in her book A White Side of Black Britain: Interracial Intimacy and Racial Literacy, calling it “a way of perceiving and responding to the racial climate and racial structures that individuals encounter daily.”

Twine explains that one primary way to help individuals practice this literacy involves understanding racism as a contemporary problem, not a historical one. However, since so many contemporary issues facing communities of color are rooted in the historical, the challenge for building these racially literate citizens is, first, helping them understand the past within which the present is situated.

Unfortunately, for many young learners, the past that undergirds this critical education is perceived as part of a long-ago and distant history. For my African American literature students, perceiving how few generations sit between slavery and the present day in which they live is difficult for them. I tried to help illustrate this limited distance through Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon, the story of Cudjoe Lewis and the human cargo of the last illegal slaving vessel in the US. While we read about Lewis, who experienced the Middle Passage, plantation slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, to many of my students, his story still felt too distant from their own.
To bring the past into the present, I redesigned this course to help my student locate history in our texts and in our town. In Raleigh, North Carolina, the process of mapping history is not an especially difficult one. Raleigh is a place, like many historic cities, that still carries significant markers of its past. In my class, tracing those markers started on a plantation minutes from our campus.
After the class read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, students took a tour of the Mordecai House, a former plantation and National Park Service historic landmark. On a tour of the house, students were challenged to make connections to Douglass’ narrative. Starting in the sitting room, full of many of its original books, students linked the room to Douglass’s own secretive efforts to learn to read. When our tour guide talked about the “privilege” of being a woman allowed to sleep indoors to care for the family’s children, my students compared this to Douglass’ story about Mrs. Giles Hicks, a white woman who murdered a nursemaid as punishment for sleeping through a child’s late-night crying. When a docent told us that one of the home’s owners was a cruel master to his slaves, my students could imagine someone like the slave-breaker Edward Covey to add context to that story.
As we transitioned to the literary giants of Harlem, students learned about our city’s own thriving black communities after the end of slavery, pairing our Harlem Renaissance poetry with stories and photographs of Raleigh’s Black Main Street. Here, they saw the city as home to black millionaires and business owners who flourished during and after Reconstruction in an economically and racially segregated city. We paired this with a reading of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, along with research on The Green Book, the traveler’s guide used primarily by African Americans to help them avoid those hotels, restaurants, service stations, and other businesses that did not offer service to black patrons.
The students enrolled in the course began to unpack why Raleigh’s black communities and two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Shaw University and St. Augustine’s University, were necessary for black people’s survival in the city.
As they read some of the letters and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, students learned about the time King came to Raleigh and was met by the largest KKK rally in North Carolina, aka Klansville, USA. As they reflected on the Civil Rights movements of the 60s, students wrestled with the duality of the city—partially in disrepair due to practices like redlining and redistricting, and partially rejuvenated due to gentrification.
Students connected what we read about and saw to the Pittsburgh neighborhood of August Wilson’s King Headley II. They connected King’s anger about not being respected as a man, and Tonya’s fears about bringing another black life into an antiblack world, to the pain, sorrow, and frustration that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement. Students also connected the character of Stool Pidgeon and his hoarding of old newspapers to a resistance to the erasure of black experiences in our increasingly gentrified city.
This course focuses on depth of material through readings in English, History, and African American studies. Moreover, this course serves as a model for what a text-based antiracist education might look like—one that is easy to locate and accessible within our own racial literacies, spaces, and places.

Janelle Jennings-Alexander is an assistant professor of English at William Peace University. She is a 2018 recipient of the NCTE Early Career Educator of Color award. Dr. Jennings-Alexander’s research critically examines whiteness within the context of late 20th- and early 21st-century African American literature and explores antiracist pedagogy. Her teaching explores the intersection of race, rhetoric, and composition in the literature classroom. You can follow her work on Twitter: @professorjja.

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.

February 2021 #NCTEchat: Creating LGBTQ+-Affirming Classrooms and Schools

Join us on Sunday, February 21, at 8:00 p.m. ET for an #NCTEchat about creating LGBTQ+-affirming classrooms and schools. The hosts will be Cody Miller, Vanessa Perez, and LaMar Timmons-Long, all members of the NCTE Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Advisory Committee.
Cody Miller is an assistant professor of English education at SUNY Brockport. During his seven years as a high school English teacher and in his current role, he positions texts as vehicles to discuss broader sociopolitical issues in students’ lives and worlds. Cody is chair of the NCTE LGBTQ Advisory Committee. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @CodyMillerELA.
Vanessa Perez is the Technology Integration and Library Media Specialist for Clinton High School (OK). She can be reached at @vperezy on Twitter.
LaMar Timmons-Long, a member of the NCTE LGBTQ Advisory Committee, is an English teacher in New York City and an adjunct professor at Pace University’s School of Education. He is passionate about racial linguistics, antiracist education, social justice, and equity in schools concerning all students of color and LGBTQA+ youth. You can follow him on Twitter @teachltl. 
We will share the following questions during the Twitter chat:
WARM-UP: Please introduce yourself. Tell us your name, location, and the level you teach. #NCTEchat [8:04 p.m.]
Q1: As teachers, how do we honor, support, and teach Black LGBTQ+ voices during Black History Month, through the African American Read-In, and throughout the year? #NCTEchat [8:10 p.m.]
Q2: If you have a gay student alliance or other affinity group, how are they supporting each other right now? If you don’t, what would you need to start one? [8:18 p.m.]
Q3: How do you support students who may be experiencing homelessness or nonsupportive homes? [8:26 p.m.]
Q4: How can we support students to be their authentic selves? [8:34 p.m.]
Q5: This question is just for LGBTQ+ folx: How has your journey to self-acceptance and self-love been? How does it transform who you are as a teacher? [8:42 p.m.]
Q6: What are you doing in the classroom to ensure you’re always learning and able to support LGBTQ+ students? [8:50 p.m.]
We hope to see you there! Be sure to join us by using #NCTEchat.
Never participated in a Twitter chat before? Check out this guide to help you get started.