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Creative Walls That Speak

Catchwords design elements set. And, with, the, in, from, to, foSpeaking in public spaces has long been a popular form of advocacy. But speech is not necessarily oral: It can be visual, too. Think graffiti, signage, slogans, banners, or any other types of words written on walls and buildings.

In his call for proposals for this November’s NCTE Annual Convention, president-elect Doug Hesse challenged all of us to rethink the role the arts of language play in our work and in our world. This theme will play out in concrete ways throughout that meeting.

In addition to its many convention sessions linking the arts of language to literacy, we’ve designed several public spaces that encourage participants to write, build, construct, and reflect. You’ll be invited to write on the walls as you answer questions, offer suggestions, and share ideas. In this public writing forum you’ll be able to express yourself while learning from the expressions of others.

The prospect of NCTE’s interactive walls reminded me of visiting South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, a number of years ago.  Breathtaking paintings and drawings lined the hallway entrances. In the front corner, there was a glass-enclosed room with sculptures and art. It was clear that the creative expressions of the community were cherished here, and this sent a strong message that they were a valued component of this academic environment.

In Walls Talk (September/October 2014 Principal Special Supplement), the National Association of Elementary School Principals suggest that one can assess school culture by what is hanging on the walls of classrooms and hallways. They ask, “Is original student work hung prominently . . . or are walls filled with cookie cutter images? Are descriptive essays or reflective responses displayed that show . . . deepened student understanding? Or is art hung simply to beautify the space?” Walls can communicate a school’s priorities through the work they share.

This month, we’re inviting attendees at the Annual Convention to communicate their priorities through what they share on the walls we’ve erected for this purpose. If you can’t attend, we still want to hear from you. Share your thoughts about what it means to be part of NCTE and what you’d like to see the organization do and become in the future by commenting below. After all, the comment section on a blog is also a virtual wall that speaks.