Wednesday, November 26, 2014

They're All 'Bout the Class, 'Bout the Class, No Trouble

NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND -- Okay, the song is actually "All 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble," but my reference is to the English teachers and educators at the annual National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) convention this past weekend at the Gaylord Convention Center near Washington, D.C. I attended as an author, and I got to listen in on conversations that went something like this:

"This material could work with my high school Shakespeare project." "My kids would love these books and learn about writing at the same time." "Books about real history that aren't boring. Who knew?"

My admiration for these dedicated teachers is huge. All business, all the time. These folks made sure to get their money's worth from the convention. And that's where the "no trouble" comes in. Because, in fact, there is trouble:

Not only do some of these teachers/principals/professors/education specialists have to pay their own way to this convention, but some of the teachers have to PAY THE SALARY OF SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS in order to come to the convention. What? There's something wrong with that.

But everyone attends the NCTE to learn, and maybe to buy their year's worth of books for their students. Some carry only cash, and when it runs out, that's it. Some bring an extra empty suitcase to fill with books. And wow, were there books. All the big children's publishers, and educational publishers. Lots of "big" authors signed their books (and some of us small authors, too). Christopher Paul Curtis (THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS,  among many others), Tim Federle (BETTER NATE THAN EVER and FIVE, SIX, SEVEN NATE), Jon Klassan (THIS IS NOT MY HAT), Brian Floca (LOCOMOTIVE), Jane Yolen (loads of her books), and Jacqueline Woodson, new winner of the National Book Award for BROWN GIRL DREAMING (I didn't even attempt to get in that line).

Signing at the Charlebridge booth.

Meg and Stephanie with Charlesbridge
I participated in a panel of five women authors (just all happened to be women) whose books were some of the NCTE 's 30 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts for 2014. The committee (sponsored by the Children's Literature Assembly) read over 600 books before choosing the final 30! I'm honored that PRISONER 88 made the cut.

The other panelists:  Kathi Appelt (THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP), Nancy Cavanaugh (THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET), Andrea Davis Pinkney (MARTIN & MAHALIA) and Karen Harrington (SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY).  For the complete list:

My friend Naomi Shihab Nye spoke at a luncheon. She is a writer, poet, educator and lovely person who has lived in both Ferguson, Missouri AND in Palestine. Please read her piece here