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Field Notes: Celebrating CEE

Enriched. Inspired. Motivated. These are words that come to mind when I seek to describe my incredible experience at the Conference on English Education (CEE) summer conference in Columbus, Ohio last week. The theme was (Com)Passionate English Education, and every presentation, discussion, and chance encounter I had with members over those few days brought this theme to life.

This blog began as a way to give you a window into the work of NCTE and to demystify the many pieces and parts that comprise our whole. In March I shared insights from the Conference on College Composition and Communication; today I’ll share my observations from CEE.

 

CEE is an official “conference” of NCTE which means it’s a group designed to meet the needs of a specific subsection of our membership. CEE serves those who are engaged in the preparation, support, and continuing education of teachers of English language arts/literacy.

This was my first time attending this biennial event and from the moment I walked in the door it became clear that CEE’s community is proactive about involving the entire life of a student in teaching and in seeing the role of teacher as the role of a professional. I met so many graduate students whose instructors brought them there to learn and present for the first time. The students were in awe of the fact that this intimate gathering put them in chairs right next to the luminaries in the field whose books they’ve studied in their coursework. The excitement was palpable everywhere I went.

 

 

Throughout the meeting I was struck by the curatorial vision from Mollie Blackburn on the theme. The opening plenary and keynote speakers each addressed topics at the heart of our educational struggles as a nation:

  • Anne Elrod Whitney, Noah Asher Golden, Jenell Igeleke Penn, Tonya Perry, and Tim San Pedro provided the opening plenary in which they asked the audience to reflect on “Where is the (com)passion in your work in English education? What fuels it? What cools it? What grows it? What slows it?”
  • Valerie Kinloch focused on research on race, justice, and community engagement in work that directly involves young people attending schools in urban communities.
  • Greg Michie explored the complications, contradictions, and possibilities of teaching language arts (and social studies) to middle school students on Chicago’s South Side.
  • Marcelle Haddix challenged the audience with questions like: “What is the responsibility of English educators in the reawakening of violent and dangerous times? How can we reimagine an English education that responds to trauma and oppression in compassionate ways?”

Each speaker, from keynotes to sessions, was so mindful about practice, the words they used, the commitment to teaching as something that extends beyond a classroom, and the need to be current in research and technology so that the teaching of English remains on the cutting edge.

 

 

At every session there was such a strong commitment to critical thinking. People challenged ideas without shutting each other down. I sensed no competition, only a pervasive desire to learn from and grow together. CEE is a group that resists the status quo and I emerged from the meeting with a deep appreciation for how much better we all are because of that.

As Mollie expressed in her welcome for the program: “Just as these conversations started before we came to this conference, they will continue after we leave, but it is my hope that they will be enriched by having been shared here, now, among you.”