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The Best Kept Secret in English Education

Wide open door with light.The following is an excerpt from Ernest Morrell’s Presidential Address at the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention. (An audio clip is at the bottom of this entry.) 

The best kept secret in English education is the daily genius in our classrooms that we sit on top of because we don’t know that it’s there.

It’s powerful inside the doors. It’s revolutionary when it’s shared.

But we’re not often taught to think of ourselves in that way.

Who am I?
Who am I when I taught Chaucer in English class as a 23-year-old? Who am I?
I know the kids are engaged but who am I – to tell this story?

But that’s part of what we have to do, is see ourselves as telling these stories… If the people who teach communication can’t communicate, who’s going to be able to communicate? We know how to do this! This is our living. We are writers, speakers, thinkers and teachers.

…Advocating is not complicated. The complicated part is having the courage to do what we know how to do. I think the hard part is doing it alone and so part of the movement is, it’s much easier to walk in front of that tank when you’ve got 14, or 14 thousand of your buddies walking out on that road with you. It’s much easier to face fire hoses when there are 5000 of you and you are singing gospel hymns as you walk into those hoses. It is much easier when you are walking with people.

NCTE should be the place to say, “if you are about literacy and social justice, you don’t have to walk alone.” You do not have to walk alone.

It’s not about making the case for advocacy. It’s about making the case for you as advocates and I know I felt the same way. I knew advocacy needed to happen but who was I?

Well, who are we? We are the most powerful literacy organization in this country. And we are the oldest literacy organization in this country.

We have the power to act. We have the moral obligation to act.