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An Insider’s Perspective on the October 2017 Issue of English Education

This post is by member Tara Star Johnson. 

As editor of English Education, I have the responsibility and pleasure of guiding manuscripts from initial submission to publication, which typically takes a couple rounds of external review before the nit-picking process of perfecting pieces begins. Because perfection is ever elusive, I call “good enough” somewhere in the red zone of deadlines and push the fledgling pieces out of the editorial nest.  Fortunately, I am able to trust that the awesome, uber-competent production staff at NCTE will catch any errors we may have missed.

I get pretty attached to my babies (and their authors) during the process, and I become parent-proud of their culmination in print. The October 2017 issue is no exception. I co-wrote the editorial with Indiana high school student Samarth Sheth after a chance encounter with his award-winning essay. Let me just say here that I hate writing, which makes me a bit of a masochist in choosing a profession that requires it. But there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of completing something that’s good enough, and I think this piece is signature me in its integration of the personal and professional.

Then there is Andrew Rejan’s (pronounced, as he clarified upon my inquiry, “Re—as in ‘re-imagine,’—Jan—as in ‘January’”) “Reconciling Rosenblatt and the New Critics.” Part of the pleasure of editing is learning something new, and this piece definitely scratched that itch for me. New Critical haters should read it; at the very least it will give them a better understanding of the intersecting histories of reader response and New Critical theories, if not challenge their assumptions about the perspectives’ polarity.

Next is Jessica Whitelaw’s “Arts-Based Literacy Learning Like ‘New School,’” with new school a research participant’s play off the notion of “old school” pedagogical practices. Aesthetes looking to support the incorporation of the arts in English classes as well as schools writ large will find fodder for their efforts in this piece.

Sometimes I can squeeze in a third conventional article without going over page limits for the volume:  enter Amanda Hayes’s “Place, Pedagogy, and Literacy in Appalachia.” This essay elevates Appalachian literacy practices and—much like Andrew’s piece—uncovers history that might be surprising to readers. I especially like how Amanda shares glimpses of her personal experiences that reveal her subject position without coming across as navel gazing.

Amber Moore’s Provocateur Piece, “Teaching Sex Education with Poetry,” closes the issue. Readers familiar with my early-career work on sexual dynamics in the classroom might guess that I was excited to work with this piece. Even though Amber teaches in an implausible-for-most-US-schools setting that actually supports teaching sex ed within the context of English classes, I think readers will be intrigued by the possibilities and sympathetic to the challenges even if they’re limited in their ability to engage with them.

If you do have a chance to read any of the pieces, I would really appreciate some feedback—as would the authors, too, I’m sure. I would love to know if they generated any reflection or dialogue, or, by the same token, if I’m off the mark in thinking these are pieces readers will enjoy. Please leave a comment or email the editorial team at EngEd@ncte.org.

Tara Star Johnson, editor of English Education,  is an associate professor of English education at Purdue University.