Project SPARK: Information and Inspiration
1. Rationale: Teachers, like many in the giving professions, may feel drained and risk burnout as they struggle with the daily challenges of a career where the locus of control for their work frequently exceeds their grasp as they respond to the dictates of non-educators—government officials, corporate reformers, representatives of the knowledge and testing industry, publishers of teacher-proof curricula, and ordinary people who claim to know more about teaching and learning than teachers. Teachers begin searching for ways to reinvigorate their passion for their work so they can continue to teach, learn, and inspire themselves and others.
2. Proposal: The NJCTE Executive Board has responded to this teaching crisis by creating SPARK: Sharing Passion And Re-Kindling Knowledge, which will begin with a year-long focus on inspiration.
3. Actions: The NJCTE Executive Board has proposed several initiatives to launch SPARK:
· Write Six-Word Stories: Based on the ideas of Larry Smith, editor of Smith Magazine, who invited readers to write “six-word stories,” NJCTE aims to “start the conversation” about what inspires us to teach by inviting educators at all grade levels from preschool through graduate school, to take minimalism and focus to a new intensity and submit six-word "sparks" that illuminate their professional lives. These six-word stories of teacher inspiration will be used in future workshops, publications, and ongoing conversations, on-line and in person. Here are some examples:
“Enthusiastic, devoted, compassionate, passionate English Teacher” Nancy Galm, English Teacher grade 8, Herndon Middle School, Herndon, VA
“Positive teaching, builds positive thinking students." Rachel Sher, Jersey City Special Education, 3rd grade inclusion teacher.
"I am forever changing and growing." Nil Ulas, Weehawken Public Schools, Weehawken, NJ.
“Searching for the light; finding it!” Susan Reese, NJCTE President.
“Ignite the learning light for life.” Patricia L. Schall, NJCTE Executive Board.
Take a few minutes and use the notecards provided to write a six-word story highlighting your own inspirations for teaching. We will invite you to share these stories. Please include your name, institutional information, and email address on the card. If you want to refine your story or write additional stories, please send them along with your name and academic institution to email@example.com. Please encourage your teacher friends and colleagues to submit their stories also. Your story may be on display at the spring conference.
· Write an Article for the New Jersey English Journal: The theme of the New Jersey English Journal, a peer-reviewed publication, underscores SPARK, “Professional Growth: What’s Inspiring?” The editorial staff seeks formal researched articles as well as 500-word personal essays and other creative responses that shed light on the many possibilities, topics, issues, problems and solutions related to professional growth and inspiration in teaching K-12 and college. This is a perfect opportunity to share what inspires you about teaching with a wider audience of professionals. Articles should relate directly to English Language Arts teaching and learning. NJCTE hopes that Project SPARK will ignite a conversation to assist New Jersey educators to renew their joy and passion in teaching.
· Seek Support: Where do you turn for support when you feel like you need help to keep you focused and sane as a teacher? Let’s share some of your resources. Here are some of our favorites:
https://www.njcte.com/ NJCTE’s official website. Also check our Facebook page
http://www.ncte.org/Default.aspx NCTE’s official webpage
http://www.ncte.org/ncle NCTE’s and the Ball Foundation’s initiative to help teachers resist all the negative news about failing schools and join “ together in a project to celebrate the work of successful school teams across the country who are achieving remarkable results in advancing literacy learning, and to share what we learn with educational policy makers.”
https://dianeravitch.net/#subscribe If you haven’t discovered Diane Ravitch’s blog yet, it is time to do so. She tirelessly tracks education issues across the country and helps teachers stay informed about the political realities that effect their professional lives.
https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/trapped-in-a-history-they-do-not-understand/ Larry Cuban writes a blog on a variety of political and historical issues that impact education. Sometimes he simply collects and posts cartoons that will make you laugh and cry because they are so true!
https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/writing-as-a-discipline-and-in-the-disciplines/ Paul Thomas blogs about the politics of education, literacy, and power in schools. Some of his entries may challenge your thinking and create some cognitive dissonance. He has his finger on the pulse of education and politics in the USA and is worth reading.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/catajs-603 Alan J. Singer is a social studies educator, but he merits the attention of literacy educators because his blog entries touch on so many significant topics in the politics of education, such as resistance to standardized tests. He has a good sense of humor and often includes YouTube videos in his posts.
4. Give Us Some Feedback: We would like to hear your suggestions about what NJCTE can do to help you maintain your passion for teaching. What would help you? Let’s talk. If you think of suggestions later, please feel free to email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“During our preparation to become teachers we have been in conversation with ourselves, about who we are, why we are here, and what we will do with our lives. We are at that point, deeply oriented, our existential compass firmly fixed on the northernmost point of our dreams. Then the bell rings. Kids come. Complexity enters. Life happens.” (Jim Burke, p. 4).
“In The Inferno, Dante encounters what we all need if we are to get through to the other side of ourselves and this trouble: a guide, someone who has gone before us and can lead us from where we are to where we hope to be, from the teacher we are to the one we aspire to become. It is not, for any of us, a transformation we can make on our own, though that guide need not be with us in person. Instead, our mentor may come in person or on line, through books or at school. Only through this guide, this process, can we achieve the state of new orientation we seek, a state that eventually becomes, once inhabited long enough, our orientation. That is until something new comes along to cause within us, our school, and our lives a new sense of disorientation, at which point the whole cycle begins again (Burke, p. 6).
Quotations from: Friedman, A. & Reynolds, L. (Eds.). (2011). Burned in: Fueling the fire to teach. New York: Teachers College Press.