Leadership Is a Journey

Professional organizations—oh, I have been so lucky to belong to mine. College education: the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, Bard College, University of New Hampshire…can you tell I believe in learning?

But, my membership in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN), my state affiliate in New Jersey (NJCTE), and now that I’m home in Oregon OCTE enrich my professional life. How I found NCTE is its own story, not for today.

Today belongs to my shift from full-time teacher-member to OCTE board member and now executive committee member, and OCTE’s decision to sponsor my attendance at NCTE’s first in-person gathering last weekend in Louisville: Homecoming. I attended the Affiliate Leaders Meeting. Truthfully, I didn’t even know what that would entail, but I figured it out on Friday afternoon when NCTE President Emily Kirkpatrick welcomed us.

Affiliate Regions (map courtesy of the Standing Committee of Affiliates)

Oregon was the only representative from Region 7. That in itself says a lot about the state of post-pandemic local organizations. I felt OREGON STRONG and proud! Fortunately so many other amazing, committed affiliate leaders attended, financially supported by their organizations and NCTE, “the mothership,” as Kirkpatrick said. And we supported each other, and learned from each other, and shared our challenges, too.

One of the presenters was Chris Bronke, head of the Conference on English Leadership (CEL), yet another from the list of NCTE sub-groups that supports all of us involved in English education. Chris has now joined the chorus of “voices in my head.”

When I was completing my Masters degree at Rutgers, Michael Smith coined that phrase. It’s funny, though, how the solos have changed since my responsibilities have shifted to leadership. This trip brought new voices into the spotlight: Bronke, Kirkpatrick; and, foremost, fellow affiliate leaders, members of this chorus. These fellow volunteers are engaged in the challenging work of supporting teachers just like themselves.

Of course my familiar choral partners remain: Michael Smith, Jim Burke, Linda Rief, Tom Romano, and Linda Christensen. I return to them, my underpinning melody line. But new soloists are being added, a shift in movement: Bronke, Kirkpatrick; and, foremost, fellow affiliate leaders, featured members of my chorus.

I’ve already written here about OCTE’s amazing President, Laurie Dougherty. With her base line, “A good leader has to teach others to be leaders,” and her unfailing example of that, she has become a consistent voice. I always await her next brilliant notes and am never disappointed.

When an organization like OCTE supports its volunteer board members by helping to finance leadership training, it underscores the message: This matters; you matter.

My applause—and respect—only swells for OCTE.

“Since feeling is first” ee cummings (photo courtesy of NCTE/ALM)

4 thoughts on “Leadership Is a Journey”

  1. I love the idea of the voices in your head. I have a few that date back all the way to teacher’s college in the 80s. One of my favorite sayings I learned then was “You don’t want to overwhelm the. You don’t want to underwhelm them. You just want to whelm them.”

  2. Local…State…National…enough can’t be said for belonging to any of these organizations, even if you have been retired for 9 years. There is always so much more to learn, so much to share. We, PCTELA, are gearing up for our annual conference which will be held in the Pittsburg area in October. Having chaired this conference a few years ago I understand the planning involved and the great sense of satisfaction of having run a successful conference.

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