Two slim pieces of mail sit in my mailbox when I lower the door. One of them is the Oregon Council of Teachers of English (OCTE) newsletter Chalkboard. I wonder…
Inside on page three is my thumbnail-sized photo—one I had to include with my session proposal in the event it was chosen—and a brief description of the topic: “‘If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Teaching Climate Change in English Language Arts.’ This workshop revisits my 2017 project to study climate change issues with seventh and eighth graders in dystopian book clubs. It provides new directions for English teachers interested in addressing this challenging topic.”
It’s official; I will be presenting for our professional organization in April, and already the ideas about how to organize and engage are erupting in my brain. While I have offered workshops when I was a full-time teacher, this will be my first time as a retiree, so my confidence level fluctuates on any given day. May April 13th come rapidly, so I get some sleep!
The subject of teaching climate change galvanizes me, and according to latest surveys, 78% of Americans. I know, with the right approach, it can inspire English teachers, too. Environmental justice cannot be separated from social justice, of that I’m sure. On the newsletter’s facing page is an interview with author, teacher, poet, and Oregonian George Estreich. He will be the keynote speaker at the Spring Conference, is the author of a memoir The Shape of the Eye about his relationship with Laura his daughter with Downs Syndrome, and the upcoming Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves.
In response to the question, “Have I forgotten to ask you anything important?” (note to self: teach this closing!) he replies: “The future is now…more of us need to be participating in the conversation. As English teachers we are uniquely positioned to foster the critical thinking habits and consider the possibilities from a narrative point of view.” While he is specifically referring to his concern, editing the human gene line, it succinctly and powerfully applies to studying climate change as well.
Stories will move us toward a better world. I’m counting on it.