This Teacher Appreciation Week (As if that should only happen one week a year!) has me thinking about an article Randy Bomer wrote in “What Makes a Teaching Moment: Spheres of Influence in Professional Activity.” The article takes us through his interactions with one student during a reading work shop, letting us in on the interwoven inner and outer dialogues of his teaching life. He emphasizes how the professional conversations he has with his NCTE colleagues fuel the moments in which he teaches. He notes:
No moment of teaching is an island, entire of itself. Every move I make, every decision to speak or keep silent, every utterance emerges out of a larger ongoing professional conversation, as unfinished now as it was a hundred years ago when that first English Journal (EJ) appeared. My specific moves as a teacher are turns at talk in that conversation, and in each chosen move, I assert my present theoretical commitments and my identification with particular other individuals and communities in the field. From this ongoing dialogue with literacy educators, I take not just teaching methods but a specific, affiliated professional identity. NCTE, for me, represents that conversation, and every moment of my teaching arises out of a confluence of histories, ideas, and energies that I often think of as represented by NCTE. It is like a synecdoche, that figure of speech wherein a part stands for the whole.
Thinking about the importance of those professional conversations has me thinking today about one group of the many, many teachers I appreciate. These are the faculty sponsors of the over 30 NCTE student affiliates located around the nation at colleges and universities from Alabama to Wyoming.
Faculty sponsors work with those soon-to-be-the-newest-literacy-educators to develop a professional community, to make spaces for ongoing professional conversations like those Randy describes in the article. The student affiliates, mini NCTE-like organizations, give their members the experience of collegiality within their own professional organization. Members, through their involvement and collaboration, work to create learning and connecting experiences for one another. They extend their personal learning ventures beyond the college classroom to develop the “professional identity” Randy Bomer describes. BUT it is the faculty sponsors and their support of student affiliates that smooth the way for the induction of these soon-to-be-teachers into the “larger on-going professional conversations” that will influence their teaching lives.