This is a blog post by NCTE member, Hailee Halverson.
As a preservice teacher attending the NCTE Annual Convention last fall, I was unsure what to expect. I walked in with little experience in teaching, few hours to experience building student/teacher relationships, and a burning desire to find what my curriculum might consist of in the following year. However, in Minneapolis, the world of teaching and reading diverse texts grabbed me and pulled me in.
In small-town Iowa, our high school classes read traditional texts that applied to our middle class, white population. However, in my first student placement, only 15 miles from where I grew up, the experience was completely different.
I started my first 8 weeks of teaching in a school that had more than 97 different languages; 62% of the students there are identified as “minority,” 67% eligible for free or reduced meals, 50% from homes speaking a language other than English, and 36% are identified as ELLs. The traditional texts I grew up with did not fit the population I was about to begin teaching. Changes had to be made.
Thankfully, the NCTE Annual Convention opened my world to students I had not previously been able to reach. Without hearing the authors at ALAN speak out about their beliefs and reasons for writing their novels—such as Will Walton’s first novel, Anything Could Happen, all the way to Kadir Nelson—I would have been scrambling to find texts my students could be engaged with.
Whether from a famous author or a struggling writer releasing a first novel, texts where leaps are taken and “touchy” subjects brought forward are more beneficial to my diverse students and, in the long run, affect their lives much more than the traditional texts in my own background. Conferences, such as NCTE, are so important for teachers, especially preservice, to open up their eyes to other approaches and opportunities.
Hailee Halverson is a preservice teacher, currently student teaching, at the University of Northern Iowa.