Today on the Heinemann Podcast, we're exploring credo.
In 2013, Heinemann celebrated the legacy of Don Graves at a special breakfast during the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Boston. Three years later, at the 2016 NCTE conference, we wanted to reprise this moment by inviting those in attendance to consider the theme of credo. The event was hosted by Tom Newkirk and Penny Kittle and featured Heinemann authors Katherine Bomer, Smokey Daniels, Georgia Heard Allison Marchetti, Rebekah O’Dell, Cornelius Minor and Heinemann Fellow, Kimberly Parker. We began the event with a welcome from Heinemann’s General Manager, Vicki Boyd. Listen below:
See below for a full transcript of the podcast:
Vicki: Welcome and good morning.
Vicki: Thank you so much for getting up early on a Friday morning of NCTE, but I can't think of a better way to start. I'm Vicki Boyd. I'm the General Manager at Heinemann. Three years ago, Heinemann hosted the first of its kind Don Graves Living Legacy Breakfast at NCTE in Boston. This was in celebration of the 35th anniversary of the publication of Don's research.
It turned out to be a landmark event. Those of you who were there, you know what I'm talking about. It's something we still talk about today. Through the testimonials of first generation descendants of Don, Lucy Calkins. Thank you, Lucy, for joining us this morning. It's our honor to have you here. Nancie Atwell, Mary Ellen Giacobbe, and others. They reminded us of the intellectual and spiritual inheritance Don left us and challenged us to cherish that inheritance and to see that it continues to inform the work that we do.
Three years later, we celebrate no particular milestone this morning and yet, the time seems right to come together in Don's memory. This time, to explore the theme of Crito, of belief as the bedrock of a practice through which we exercise our highest principles. The theme of Don's presence, how he made himself completely available to others, teachers and children. His tremendous energy. He had a presence that would just charge a room and his radical humanity.
Don wanted to embrace everybody. These are attributes we believe Don felt were absolutely essential to fulfill education's highest purpose. To help children encounter their deepest humanity, to see themselves as heroes in their stories, as capable and worthy of lives of significance and meaning. Don taught us, we are here to lift each other up. This is the kind of being in the world that we, at Heinemann's, strive to be about and the way we work together as colleagues and the way we devote ourselves to teachers and the work of our authors. We aim to make Heinemann a living monument of Don's work.
We are delighted to invite you into this conversation with us this morning and to have Tom Newkirk and Penny Kittle repeat their roles as hosts of this morning's breakfast. You know Tom and Penny. Did I get a "whoop?" It's that kind of event, so go right ahead.
Tom and Penny, you know as gifted teachers. They are deep readers, insightful writers, thought leaders, sense makers for all of us. Both will tell you how profoundly influenced they were by Don's work, even raised by the Don's, as they say. Don Graves and his closest colleague, Don Murray. They share something else. They are individuals of deep conviction. I can think of no two inheritors of Don's work better positioned to guide us through a meditation on Crito at a time when we have never needed it more, in loving memory of Don Graves.
Please join me in thanking Tom Newkirk and Penny Kittle for hosting this morning.
Penny Kittle: Good morning. I echo Vicki's thanks for you giving us a little bit of sleeping-in time to join us here today. I look around the room and it reminds me of my first NCTE, which I came to because Don asked me to chair his session. I had no idea what that meant. It meant a room, wall-to-wall people, and all these faces I recognize from the back of books. It became an annual event that Don and I would travel to NCTE together. He would always prepare meticulously.
He would have loved being here. I said that to someone and then I thought, "But, he is here. Look at all of this brilliance in the room." Don filled with joy and generosity and the biggest heart, always, always looked at kids and said, "They can do it if we let them. Children want to write. Children want to read."
I don't know how many of you know that he was a preacher before he was a teacher. Where I live, I moved to New Hampshire when I was 35-years-old with my young kids, my husband, looking for Don, of course. When he said we were moving to New Hampshire, I started stalking him. When I finally found him and we met, I would bring my kids. They were five and eight at the time, up to his house, and Betty would take them into the garden to find squash and gourds. They would carve them into houses with doors while Don and I read writing and talked about our writing on his deck.
That generosity for someone he didn't know just became a theme in my life. How do I open up space the way he opened it up for me to write what I knew I needed to say, but had no idea how to write it about what was happening in my classroom.
One of the things Don asked me to do, and I just want to say that any time Don asked me to do anything, I did it. Early in our relationship, he would, once in a while, be preaching at the tiny, little, white church with the spire in Jackson, New Hampshire. I would go watch him preach. He stopped me after church one day and said, "So, I put our names in to co-teach Sunday School." I was like, "Oh, no." Planning Sunday School, teaching of these adorable little ones with Don Graves, and then teaching and watching him on his knees and watching …
One time, all I remember are cotton balls. I don't know what we were trying to do, but they were all over the room. The kids were going crazy. Don and I are looking across the room at each other like, "Yeah, we really don't know how to do this." Don had such a lean-in, as someone said, spirit about him that it created that instant connection.
One last thing is that we, right after 9/11, when we were coming down to the conference, we arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, for our flight. There were National Guard men with huge guns everywhere. Don and Betty and I were anxious, as so many of us were, on that first trip. We got to our gate and Don pulled out Garrison Keillor's good poems. He started reading poetry.
In 2001, people weren't on their SmartPhones. Our entire gate listened to Don Graves read poetry to settle our souls as we got ready to get on a plane and come here. NCTE is such an important place for you to settle your soul into the work that you need to do with kids.
Tom NewKirk: It's my pleasure to introduce our first reader of the Credo, Katherine Bomer. My introduction is really an induction because at UNH, we have something. It's a term Mike Mashowa, a student and colleague of mine, called the "UNH Writing Tribe." We usually think of the the Writing Tribe as people who have been to UNH or taught at UNH or come to the summer programs.
Katherine Bomer, you are part of the UNH Writing Tribe. When I read "Hidden Gems," I thought, it so exemplified Don's belief in finding the good in writing and building upon what is positive and how you took that idea and ran with it. Then, "The journey is everything."
If any of you haven't read "The Journey is Everything," get it, read it. It's just fantastic. I think it so exemplifies the spirit that writing is an exploration. It's not a fixed form. That language is open. Don Murray kept talking about expecting the unexpected, writing to find out what you know, what you think.
I think in that book, you capture that so beautifully. I think it just embodies certain values and spirits. Not that we want to take credit for your work, but it's just fantastic. As evidence, I'd just like to read a couple of sentences from the beautiful ending to this book.
"If the hero of the essay is the author as William Gass suggests, then young people must have as many places as possible to be heroes. If the essay is a journey, then young people must be able to take a hero's journey to find out what they think and who they are. Writing to discover what we care about is brave and also pleasurable. It makes an external record of a most beautiful human endeavor, which is to think and question, to change our minds, to be surprised at how much we didn't know we knew, to taste ourselves and to find what we are hungry for." Katherine Bomer.
Katherine Bomer: Not fair. I've been crying since the very first second I walked in the room, basically, and now I'm completely a puddle. We need a new metaphor for … I feel I need a new metaphor for standing on the shoulders, being a part of a river, a stream of spirit, leaning into the spirit of Don Graves. Let's find a metaphor for what this is, this sense of a spirit in the room that engulfs everyone. I'm looking across this room and so many friends and so many people who should also all be up on the stage with these rock stars.
Good morning. My credo, my belief, is absolutely in the power of children's writing voices. I believe in the topics that they love to write about. I believe in their quirky, lyrical, open-hearted, silly, goofy ways of writing about those topics.
Don Graves said, and many have already quoted this, that "people want to write and children want to write." He said, "the desire to express themselves is relentless. That is so true. Kids want to write poems and fantasies and television scripts and, lately, letters to the President-Elect. They want to write when they feel, don't feel caged in by a grade or a rubric or by a formula or a worksheet. They love to write when every misspelled word or dangling modifier is not circled in red, like the Target store sign.
I believe that we must teach or eyes and our ears to find that, the beauty and the worth and the brilliance in their writing, in every student's writing, because it's so easy to marvel at the children whose words just are like diamonds spilling across the page, you know, just gasp because they're such beautiful writers. It's easy. It's harder when the writing stutters or the student is writing about uncomfortable topics or in unconventional ways.
In my K-2 classroom years ago, there was, my students, you know, unbeknownst to me because it would never have been allowed, were taunting Max, who arrived in the middle of the year. They were telling him on the playground, out of my earshot, telling him, calling him "squid," for some reason. I don't know what squid meant, really. They were calling him that and they told him that he was smelly and that he wore rotten clothes and that he was stinky. One day, Max just had it and he took a piece of paper and a big, black marker and, in shaky, capital letters with some very creative spelling, wrote, "My name is not 'Squid.'" He found, he got some tape and he hung it up right on my teaching easel so it could not be missed. Max's words, he found his voice, "My name is not 'Squid.'" His words changed our community.
I believe that writing is a way children's voices come into power. I think it's, writing is a social act, a personal act, a spiritual act, and even a political act. I believe that children's writing is one way that can remind us we're all human.
Thank you so much.
Penny Kittle: I have the privilege of introducing Rebekah O'Dell and Allison Marchetti, who came to the Boston event three years ago, sat at one of these tables and Tom ended that event with a charge to the room. If you were here, you remember, it's on you to carry this legacy forward. It's on you. These two girls, I'm sorry, you are that, so young to me. These two girls went back to their classrooms determined to write about the work they were doing in using mentors to guide writers in schools where people often feel like they've got it all figured out. These two ladies transformed what they were doing.
Then, in the spirit of Don Graves, they didn't just write a book. It's a beautiful book, "Writing With Mentors." They then created this mentor text drop box that is online to give to teachers, by genre, by technique, by author, a way to organize and then access mentor texts across all kinds of genres, across time periods. It is a breathless collection that so, to me, represents the generosity of Don Graves. He would give his work away in so many ways simply to move it forward. These two ladies have moved it forward and I present them to you with great pleasure.
Allison/Rebekah: Years ago, I spent my planning periods looking for other careers. I was isolated, exhausted.
Allison/Rebekah: One day, Rebekah passed me right beside them and, in that moment, everything changed.
Allison/Rebekah: Penny Kittle spoke back to us the words that were on our hearts. She reminded us that we weren't alone.
Allison/Rebekah: She showed us that were part of a long tradition of teachers who draw strength and inspiration from one another.
Allison/Rebekah: Penny became part of our family.
Allison/Rebekah: Don Graves believed in family, too. Folded in between the lines of his first vision, students using their voices to tell the stories that matter, was a second vision:
Allison/Rebekah: a vision for a connected family tree of teachers working together,
Allison/Rebekah: inspiring one another,
Allison/Rebekah: supporting one another,
Allison/Rebekah: and building a better future for students together.
Allison/Rebekah: This is why Don and Mary Ellen Jacoby spent hours filming conversations with her students.
Allison/Rebekah: This is why Penny and Tom spent years tracing Don's legacy, so we could learn again from his transformative work.
Allison/Rebekah: This is why we run to one another's rooms in the precious minutes between classes to share a new idea,
Allison/Rebekah: a success,
Allison/Rebekah: a wondering.
Allison/Rebekah: This is why we plan together in the late evening after a long day's work,
Allison/Rebekah: why we write together in the early morning hours, when our houses are still asleep.
Allison/Rebekah: We do these things because we believe in the magic that happens when teachers create something together.
Allison/Rebekah: We have all been lost. We have all wondered if teaching is our true calling, if we're making a difference.
Allison/Rebekah: The thing that brings us back to our senses, the thing that makes us feel alive again and reminds us of why we chose this profession in the first place is our family.
Allison/Rebekah: Don, Tom, Penny, me, you, and the friends you brought with you today, joining our ever-widening family tree.
Allison/Rebekah: Family is what we teachers need all the time. It's our past, our present, our future, the one constant that drowns out the doubt and exhaustion,
Allison/Rebekah: the family that reminds us who we are,
Allison/Rebekah: where we came from,
Allison/Rebekah: and where we're going together.
Tom Newkirk: There's so much to say about Smokey Daniels other than the fact he's got the coolest name in literacy education. Kind of, just the name reminds you, makes you feel like a late afternoon drinking hard liquor, you know?
Just want to say a couple things about Smokey. When I think of Smokey's work, I was reminded of Janet Emig. She taught, was a great researcher, and taught and, you know, was a great teacher of teachers. She would often begin her class, she'd be sitting at her desk or at a desk, and teachers would walk in. On the board, she had written, "I'm writing. Please join me." "I'm writing. Please join me." The teachers would be a little bit surprised and then get down and join her. I think that that might be a motto for Smokey, you know? It seems to be so much of his work is about collaboration, you know? You go back to literature circles, you go get in all the very practical activities of people working together. I think that's a theme of his work.
I think another theme of his work is creating a space for the student who's not the star student, who doesn't fit in. Smokey wrote something about this to me and I'll just read a little bit of what he wrote to me and then pass on the baton to him. He wrote, "I was an unsuccessful student during my K-12 years and I hated going to school every day. I graduated from high school in the bottom 10% of my class. So, I always looked at education through the lens of an outlier, not a high flyer. I developed a lasting affinity for other kids like me: the strugglers, the trouble makers, the disaffected, the smart asses. So, at the most basic level, my work in the subtext of all my books, has been to make school more welcoming, more engaging, and," can I use the 'F' word here, "more fun." I've stuck with that focus for 47 years and think, in some scattered places and auspicious moments, it has worked for kids and teachers." I think it's worked a lot more often than that.
Smokey: My credo: be more like Don Graves.
I'm sitting beside Don at the autographing table. We both have new books out. In front of him stretches a line of dedicated fans that runs through the conference center, out into the lobby, down the street, to the airport. In front of me looms an hour of utter privacy or the opportunity to learn from the inadvertent mentor sitting next to me. Don's signing, of course, goes on forever. He's unhurried. He takes time with every person. I become exhausted just watching this relentless barrage of kindness. Finally, the last teacher in line arrives in front of Don. She's bursting with excitement, "Dr. Graves! I have to tell you something! He goes-
Smokey: … Excitement. "Dr. Graves, I have to tell you something." He goes, "What?" She said, "Last week I let my kids pick their own topics for writing." [Don 00:20:09] goes, "Really? Tell me all about it," and she does for another 10 minutes. Evening in a summer cottage. Gathered are Don and several other speakers from the institute we're holding. I'm hoping for some time with Don myself, but I can't seem to peel him away from my daughter, [Marnie 00:20:32], then age eight. They have grabbed two wicker chairs and tucked themselves into a far corner of the porch, and I notice from across the room Marnie is doing almost all the talking.
A packed audience at NCTE, at the peak of his powers, Donald Graves walks out into the center of the room wearing his customary short sleeve white shirt and a tie, no jacket. [Their 00:20:59] long waves of applause. He settles himself, he looks around the crowd, and finally says, "What should we talk about today?" Then for an hour, he answers every person's question, addresses every worry, salves every fear with his gentle wisdom and humor. This is Teachers Church, and Don is our pastor. Thus my educational credo, respect children, listen first, stay curious, be generous, and follow your heart.
Penny Kittle: Our next speaker I first met on the pages of her Book Love Foundation grant application. A teacher in Boston, Kim Parker, exemplifies the reach and her relentless determination that persistent achievement gaps do not have to be the story of her work. We read an application of a teacher who believes that everyone of her kids in Boston will read, will read a lot, will write, and will gain the power of their own voices. This is absolutely the spirit of Don's work. As I went to the board meeting that night, determined that Kim was gonna get a library, but I'm one voice on a large board. I read portions of her application to the board. I kept saying, "Listen to the power of what she's doing. She is relentless and she is determined. Granting her a Book Love Foundation grant of 500 books was a small little drop in a pond that she created out of the good will and out of her absolutely determination that she would reach every kid. It's been such a blessing to know Kim Parker and I'm thrilled that you get to know her, too.
Kim Parker: Good morning. Zeyvon told me that he never knew that reading books could matter so much, could be so enjoyable. He is a young man who is black, brilliant, and bored. He is a writer and reader for whom school seemed to be increasingly less designed. When he disappears from my class without any explanation, I learn a few weeks later that he has been assigned to an out of school placement program, joining other boys who are likely as black, brilliant, and bored as he. I believe in rage and I believe in action. I believe in a world where staying woke matters. My most essential work is making classroom spaces where kids like Zeyvon can read and write in ways that matter to them, from [distracts 00:24:04] to letters to the local police department reminding them that black lives matter, too, and that wearing their hoodies is not a crime, to Tweets to favorite authors thanking them for books that are just for him, to books that are firm, reflect, and extend his existence as a brilliant black boy. Opening up spaces inside classrooms where they can speak a variety of Englishes as they explore the origins of Ebonics, where they can engage and delight with canonical and multicultural texts, and write about their understandings, and where they are creators of text that validate and stretch their identities, is some of the work that my soul must have.
Though Zeyvon never returned, I continue to hold space in my classroom for other young people who have similar needs and desires, who are hungry for the diverse texts that reach them. I continue to hold onto a belief and a dream that the work I do must be as diverse as the students I teach, as escapist, as validating, as powerful as the text they read, as whole, as free, as happy as we all wish, hope, and need to be. Thank you.
Tom Newkirk: When I mentioned to people at Heinemann that I was interviewing, are you going to introduce Cornelius Minor, they said, "Oh, you gotta meet Cornelius, he's great." Everybody had a story to tell about Cornelius, and so I'm so happy to have a chance to introduce you, Cornelius, and have a chance to meet you. Clearly one of the great emerging, powerful, bold voices in composition and literacy. If you go to his blog, he has … just all the amazing things he does to bring forms of popular culture and critical issues to draw in students, and to bring in students who may be alienated, as a number of speakers have spoken, feel that school is not for them, finding ways for cultural affiliations, skateboarding, hip-hop, rap. There's gotta be a way in, and Cornelius has gotta find it.
Vicki also had this recollection of this … wrote this about Cornelius, and I'm gonna just read what she's written. "When I think of Cornelius, for example, the thing about him that reminds me of Don is something he calls cultivating my great person persona. It's this idea that in order to do the kind of ennobling work that is worthy of the profession, Cornelius believes you have to be aware of how you're developing yourself to become the best version of you that you can possibly be. You have to cultivate your great person persona, your highest self, leaning forward toward the most excellent version of you that you could possibly become. I love that, the energy in it, and the pure idealism of it evokes Don's energy for me." Cornelius, great to have you here.
Cornelius Minor: I am from Liberia, a fiercely independent and resilient little country off of the coast of West Africa. My country was founded by escaped American slaves who left the United States. My great-grandfather was one of those people. At the time, his ability to read was a capital offense, and his insistence that he be treated as a human being made him ill-suited for life in America. Second class citizenship didn't agree with him. Last week, Americans watched high-minded democracy embrace its basest instinct, fear.
Similarly, when I was in elementary school, I watched the dream of Liberia crumble under the weight of something just as sinister, war. I almost died, and my peers who were lucky enough, did. My peers who lived were drugged by war lords and forced to fight. Those of you who follow world events know that mine is the generation that became child soldiers. We have been fighting since we were 10. My parents smuggled me here to this very city to be safe. Safety was short-lived. I attended Florida A&M University, a historically black college in northern Florida. I went to school in the 90s, and though we didn't have the words for terrorism yet, my campus was bombed by assailants who held calculatedly intolerant views about black folks in literacy.
Again, the possibility of death crept awfully close, and a question formed. Why does the world keep trying to kill me? To pursue that line of inquiry is to walk a path of anger, and so I made a better question. Why do I keep living for this? I believe that education is not knowledge, nor is it preparation for an abstractly defined real world. We are living in a world that is far too real already. Everything is a text to be read, relationships, situations, social and political systems. The power to read doesn't only give us the ability to shape our understanding, but it catalyzes our desire to shape reality. Good teaching amplifies that desire. Conversely, teaching-
amplifies that desire, conversely teaching as we have always done it, or teaching for compliance, extinguishes it. As such we do not teach for mastery, we teach for revolution.
If we are not brokering in lessons of compassionate disruption, then we have welcomed the oppressive history handed to us by our grandparents. If we are not fully inclusive, then we are resurrecting apartheid one classroom at a time. If we are not practicing teaching or showing fierce selfless love, we do not deserve our licenses.
Though we emerge from different histories, ultimately we come from words. Words spoken in hushed tones between lovers, words offered by our ancestors as prayers, prayers for something better. We come from words that have been weaponized to keep us safe, to keep us whole, to keep us going. I believe that when we use those words to push past what is toward what can be, we can be something much bigger. [Thanks 00:31:08]
Penny Kittle: What an honor to listen to every one of you. I'm going to introduce our last Credo speaker, Georgia Heard, who a long time friend of Don Graves. Don didn't just love poetry, he loved poets. He spoke their words, memorized their words, he wanted to be a poet, he wrote poetry again and again and again, and often didn't publish it.
If you've read his work, his last book was only poetry. He wrote in the minds of children, calling it a sea of faces. Every day he would send me a poem that he was working on for the book. Learning to appreciate what Georgia could do with children and with the world, came for me entirely from my relationship with Don.
He brought his cover of the energy to teach to my house the first time he saw it, because Georgia designed it, this beautiful painting that covers that book. He said, "I'm coming over," drove up and was giddy with the beautify she created in color and the way it represented to him exactly what the book was full off. The energy, the joy, what we all need, in this work.
Knowing Georgia and knowing Georgia's poetry, became for me a way to kind of ground what Don was teaching me in my classroom. I started simply using Georgia's poetry and the poetry that Georgia pointed me to, in order to get my students to embrace what the beauty and peace and love of words could do to an experience or an idea.
With great pleasure I give you Georgia Heard.
Georgia Heard: I believe in those who believe that they have nothing to say, nothing to write about, no words inside them. I believe in [Chante 00:33:10], a girl with a fragile face and dark eyes, who writes on her heart map about her mother who died. "My mom made me star cookies, and whenever I look at the stars in the sky I think about my mom."
I believe in Peter, who watched the snails slide along the sidewalk on the 4th of July, because his words will ultimately light up the sky. I believe in the strugglers, the stragglers, the blank page starers, the heartbroken, sitting head in hands while a poem knocks at their chest like a dove caught in the cage, wanting to fly.
I believe in [Teshager 00:33:53], who inspired by [Langston 00:33:55] writes, "I am turning the corner, looking for myself." In the thin skinned girl who always has a poem up her sleeve, I believe in [Celstino 00:34:08], a gang member in Phoenix, who in his short life found his voice through poetry.
I believe in the zip-lipped and the loner sitting at lunch by herself, notebook at her side, who has already started singing the notes. The angry one who hurls his paper across the room after he writes, "Why did dad leave?"
The bullied boy, who plays hide and seek with his feelings, and will find that words have the power to fight back. I believe in the you will never understand me girl, who plucks words out her days like stars.
The boy who found his vocation at age five and writes, "I want to be a dinosaur skin finder." Find the skins of dinosaurs and stretch them across the bones in museums. I believe in the believes, who look out windows and up at the stars, and after a snowstorm write, "The experience of the world has changed."
The confused, the confident and the ones with poems hidden in their hearts. I believe in the boys and girls who sit, eyes glazed, half asleep, waiting for the words to come to them, waiting for their dreams to talk to them. I believe in the voices who are silent. I believe in leaning down and listening to whispers of all their stories.
Tom Newkirk: Before I conclude I would certainly like to thank all the speakers. Fantastic to be part of this with me, and Vicki to you, for being such an outstanding leader of Heinemann. Such a wonderful privilege to work with you.
It's difficult to close this, this session at this time. I remember three years ago, November 22nd, 2013. November 22nd, a significant day, the 50th anniversary of the killing of John F. Kennedy. We were holding NCT just two miles from where Kennedy was born.
I thought at that time to take some words from his inaugural address, about a torch being passed, and to think that a torch needs to be passed to a new generation of authors. It's thrilling to have Rebekah and Allison here to show that the torch is being passed and this new generation is coming forward, Cornelius.
I thought, today we're two miles from the birthplace of Martin Luther King. This is kind of a coincidence that's kind of stuck with me, because I think that the call to political action that he gave was one that we have to pay attention to at this moment.
I had never anticipated making any kind of political comment at the end of this session when we were setting it up, but it seems to me necessary, because of what happened on November 8th and what happened leading up to November 8th.
Bear with me, because I think we were all troubled by the crossing of so many lines, that it's okay to bully, to insult, to threaten, to discriminate, and to just completely ignore factuality. To see all these values trampled, and then to see an army of enablers and apologists saying, "It's okay. He didn't mean that. “I was just joking." Isn't that always the excuse of a bully? "I was just joking. You just don't take it seriously." Right?
To see so many who we know and care about being suddenly vulnerable if they aren't stereotypically American. To see, against all factuality, a presidential candidate arguing for the return of stop and frisk. If [Cornelius 00:38:19] and I are walking down the street, guess which one of is going to be stopped and frisked.
It seems to me that we have to move forward and we have to learn to march. We have to learn how to show solidarity. We have tho show how we can link arms and perhaps learn to sing some old protest songs. We have to act.
I think we have to act in big ways, and we have to act in small ways. I want to talk about some maybe smaller ways in which we can act.
I think we have to cultivate the practice of deliberate acts of kindness. Deliberate acts of kindness. What I mean by that, if you go back to that initial video and Don Graves, the 30 minutes that Don Graves spent with that beginning teacher, okay?
I remember at Don Murray's memorial, he had this giant ceremony, there's this giant ceremony at UNH, and I was looking around and listening to people's stories. Some people who had these great stories of Don knew him a lot, spent a lot of time with him, but many of them only spent maybe 20 minutes or 30 minutes with him.
There was some time when he made a phone call, when he invited them down to coffee at the bagelry. It was a short period of time, but 20 years later they remembered that time, it was pivotal. I think as teachers we often know it's that small extra step we take that lasts, that people remember forever.
When I was starting my career at UNH and I'd do a presentation, Don Murray might call me after and say, "How did it go?" I'd say deliberate acts of kindness, because sometimes in the busyness of our work we don't take time to think, "Who can I reach out to?" You know, "Is there a new teacher that might need some time to stop by and say, 'How are things going?'" If the guidance counselor just handled a difficult thing, have we told him that we recognize that? Have we taken that time?
I think, for some people maybe it's an automatic thing, but I think for a lot of us we have to sit back and say, "Okay, who can I reach out to? Who can I help?" I know my mother, who was an NCTE member, she always wanted to come to convention, never made it. In 1970, as a birthday present, my 22nd birthday present, gave me a membership to NCT and I've held it for 46 years now.
She was always wonderful at, if a new kid came into class, she would be very deliberate about helping that kid become settled in the class. Where that kid sat, spending time with that kid to catch up and know what the routines of the class were. Her students [would have 00:41:11] come back after she passed away, they would talk to me about that.
That's what I mean by deliberate acts of kindness. I think that's one of those powerful things to do. Who can we reach out to? That [get 00:41:21] caught up in the busyness of our lives, step back and kind of make those acts, to be deliberate about that.
I think we need to speak up. I think that … I don't think we need to speak up, we need to speak up, okay? Let's not hedge it. I think we need to speak up nationally, but I think that looking forward a lot of the action is going to be local. I don't have great confidence, not that we should ignore what's happening nationally, but I think school boards, town councils, state governments, a lot of things are going to be happening there.
I'm on a school board and I know firsthand how powerful an organized group of educators, parents, who do their homework, who come and want to ask for change, how powerful that can be. We had in our own school, forever you've had the only two foreign languages are French and Spanish. Now is that what the world is now? That the only two languages you should learn are French and Spanish? Groups came forwards and [says 00:42:24], "Let's get Chinese in the school," so we did. They pushed it, we responded to it.
I think there's action that could be taken. Solar panels and solar heating in the schools. They may sound like a small thing, but a lot of times the local actions might have more impact upon you than some of the national actions, so speaking up, acting. It doesn't have to be on the national stage, it could be [on 00:42:47] the local stage, but to speak up. Committees in schools, but to stand forward and speak up.
I just want to say one final thing about speaking up. That for some people I think speaking up and speaking out publicly and critically and politically is an easy thing to do. It seems natural, maybe it's not, but some people seem to come to that naturally. I think a lot of us don't.
We have to take courage to do it. I think when we do it we feel the quaver in our voice, we feel the shakiness [at 00:43:21] our knees, we feel [at 00:43:23] the pit of our stomach. Maybe after we spoke we said, "Oh, we could have said it better." You know what I'm talking about? We have to do it.
I just want to close with a short quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, that I find heartening. She writes, "Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier." I'm just going to say it again. "Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight, just a step at a time, meeting each thing as it comes, seeing it's not as dreadful as it appeared. Discovering we have the strength to stare it down."
Thank you all for coming, have a great conference.