Despite being retired, I fork up a hefty sum to attend the annual National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Convention as well as the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) that extends my professional learning two more days. I am active with the Oregon affiliate of the same, attending conferences whenever they’re offered. I firmly believe in what Linda Christensen, author most recently of Teaching for Joy and Justice, said during OCTE’s fall conference: Everyone should join their professional organizations. This is where support and inspiration are nurtured and thrive.
In November of 2019 I traveled to Baltimore from Oregon to attend my third convention since my retirement from full-time teaching. This time I was distracted by a reunion with former colleagues and great friends, but nonetheless, I found my “gem” among the many precious offerings. On Saturday morning 8 a.m., my former teaching partner and I attended “Encouraging Inquiry and Meaningful Assessment in Secondary and Postsecondary Writing: Face-to-Face Grading Conferences with Student Conferences.”
Seated on the floor as morning sun streamed through the wall of windows, earnest educators hung on every word as presenters delivered their message: to ungrade writing is to move toward democratization and justice in the writing classroom. Oh, I wished I had pursued this earlier in my career. When it had come time to choose a research focus in order to proceed with my phD, I stalled. ALL OF IT INTERESTED ME. Picking a singular focus felt constrictive. I couldn’t do it. Moving away from grading as a best practice? That enticed me, harkening back to everything I believe about student writing, about writing in general.
My wherewithal to pursue a doctoral degree, the energy, the finances, and the to-what-end impetus, has passed, but it’s not too late for so many of my colleagues. I think of this today as I read Jessie Stommel’s post. (Thanks to Ian O’Byrne‘s weekly newsletter “Digitally Literate” which always broadens my horizons.)
He charts a course of study, a direction, for me to travel through the resources he shares. Hopefully as I learn, I will be more self-aware during my interactions with the students I encounter as a substitute. He reminds me that learning, exploring new ideas, is its own reward.
What idea would you focus on were you to set out on the advanced degree journey?