Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. –Franklin D. Roosevelt
Sometimes as teachers, I think it is important to step back and think more existentially about what we are doing in schools. Why do we do what we do? Why does it matter? On a personal level, we are improving lives one child at a time. On a global level, we are safeguarding our democracy.
That thinking really hit home with me today as I began my NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Conference here in Washington D.C. My colleague and I took a tour of the nation’s capital; a three hour excursion to visit our treasured monuments and memorials. Some were inspiring, some were sobering, all were deeply meaningful. Each represented the lives and accomplishments of Americans that were not born great, but rose to greatness. Their acts created, defended or extended democracy to the citizens of America. My job as a teacher, is to honor their acts and to ensure the way of life they worked so hard to define as American.
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”-Thomas Jefferson
I felt an enormous sense of responsibility as a teacher today, wandering around these monuments. This country is depending upon us to educate our children who will grow to create, interpret and defend our laws. They are depending on us to perpetuate the ideals of a free and democratic society, to question authority and solve problems with tenacity and ingenuity.
As I attend the conference sessions this week, and then go back into my schools, I want to carry that sense of responsibility with me. I want to keep the big picture in mind as I am knee-deep in the muck and mire of tedious ‘non-education’ aspects to working in schools. I want to reflect on it as I prioritize where my energy and attention will go when teaching. I want to remember WHY it is important to teach critical thinking skills, and WHY I want our students to question what we say and teach.
So I will endeavor to look beyond picking up some tips for classroom instruction. I will celebrate the task and responsibility for educating our young citizens with some of the best and brightest in the country. I will rededicate my efforts to creating an informed citizenry that will grow to take the reins of our democracy for generations to come. As I look around at this conference, I am surrounded by those who take this responsibility as seriously as I do and strive to create engaged, active and educated young citizens, ready to take the reins one day. I am confident we are in good hands!
What’s On My Book Radar?
One of the best sessions I attended at NCTE 14 was how authors themselves use mentor texts when they write. Featured here:
Varian Johnson: The Great Greene Heist, Linda Urban: The Center of Everything, Laurel Snyder: Seven Stories Up, Kate Messner: Manhunt, Sarah Albee: Bugged: How Insects Changed History, Erin Dionne: Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting
When you hear an author talk about their process and the thinking behind the words, you can’t help but become intrigued and anxious to get your hands on the books! I can’t wait to get these books on my bed stand for some night time reading!! These are definitely on my radar now!