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  • Jeff Spanke

Notes from the President: August Rush


Greetings, English teachers of Indiana! On behalf of the entire Executive Board, I’d like to welcome you all to the 2021-2022 academic year. As your new President, I’m excited to continue building ICTE in ways that serve your personal and professional interests as vital fixtures in the lives of Hoosier children. If the past sixteen months have demonstrated anything, it’s that teaching really isn’t just a job. It never has been. And teachers, while perhaps woefully misunderstand and tragically underappreciated, are nothing if not strong, capable, creative, and curious people first. As a Board, we’re honored to represent you as such.


This year, we look forward to extending upon the solid foundation established by the former members of the ICTE Team, most recently Mike Macasulo and Terri Suico. Our continued mission for these next several months is to anchor our organization firmly in the interests of community, fulfillment, progress, and, dare I say, fun as English teachers.


Because teaching is fun. Or at least it should be. And we believe it can.


To propel this idea of fun, purpose and personhood in our community—teachers shouldn’t feel like we exist in existential quarantine, after all—we will continue hosting virtual, “pop-up” conferences and workshops throughout the year. Our two virtual gatherings in the Spring affirmed the need (and desire) for more consistent and productive community dialogue, particularly in our present era of rising tensions, stresses, and uncertainties. We need to keep talking, in other words. Sharing with and listening to one another. Learning through language and perpetuating that spark that led us here in the first place. Communication begets community, and vice versa.


In addition to more frequent conversation and collaboration, we’re excited to expand the parameters of the ICTE newsletter. Rather than serving primarily as a means of information spread, our goal is to cultivate, via this resource, a space where we can gather as diverse but invested stakeholders to share our insights and engage with one another in provocative, progressive, and professional ways. Each newsletter will contain the following columns which we have modeled for this month:


HAVE YOU HEARD OF THIS?: This column will feature examples of new technology, resources, apps, websites, professional opportunities, or other specific ELA-related things that teachers can use in their classrooms and professional lives. For this section, we really want to keep the focus on tangible, accessible products/services that teachers can use, rather than specific approaches or methods to teach certain topics.


BETWEEN BELLS: We don’t talk about this enough, and it seems that nobody really wants to acknowledge it, but…get this…teachers are people. We have passions and powers and worries and fears. We’re anxious and proud. We cry and laugh and get angry. And we don’t always have time to process these things before the next kid needs to use the restroom, that email needs sending, and the bell starts ringing. And we hear you. So for this section, we invite members to share what goes through our minds “between bells.” What are those short, fleeting insights that warrant engagement and consideration? Those things we write down so we don’t forget but then never really go back to? The things we wish we say but just don’t have time…They don’t need to be too earth-shattering or profound, of course; and they may not have much, if anything, to do with English…but whatever these thoughts or experiences are, they inform our practice in ways we don’t often consider. For this section, we welcome those insights—what goes through your mind “between bells”?


POTLUCK: As an extension of the authenticity and vulnerability encouraged by the “Between Bells” column, for the Potluck section we’re excited to hear about all the different things teachers “bring to the table” as people who are also professionals. And that doesn’t just mean specific strategies or cool lesson plans…We feel that teachers don’t often get enough credit for being creative, talented, smart individuals outside of teaching. And we worry that we rarely showcase the intimate connections between our lives outside of the classroom and our joy in the classroom. But who we are as people matters; and our interests and hobbies and sources of joy as individuals dramatically influences how we approach our jobs. So for this column, we’re looking for teachers to share those experiences. Do we write poetry, for example? Short stories? Songs? Plays? Would you like to share them? Do we cook, make movies, carve things out of wood? Do we hike or sew or fix up old cars? Where? How often? What kind? Anybody fly planes on the weekend or fish or coach? In the interest of fostering a community of holistic, joy-seeking people, we’d love to hear you describe what you bring to the table as professionals; what keeps you going, in other words? What fuels you, and how might it fuel others? How does what you do outside of school help you find peace and purpose in school? Share your meals with us. There’s room for everyone.


DEPENDANT C(L)AUSES: This column has already sparked some major interest with some younger members in the ICTE community. One of our big pushes this year is to increase dialogue and collaboration with novice teachers and, specifically, undergraduate preservice teachers. And so, we’d love to create a space to do just that! For this monthly section, we invite ANYONE from around the state—and especially the novice and preservice folks—to submit a question/tension/concern, etc. that they have. These submissions can be anonymous if they need to be. A veteran teacher will then offer their response to the question in hopes of sustaining a state-wide conversation about issues that concern a variety of stakeholders.


We’re also interested in hearing your REVIEWS! We especially welcome reviews of podcasts, streaming shows, social media accounts, books, and movies that, as with the columns above, might not have anything to with English specifically, but have everything to do with who we are as English teachers. What are we watching, in other words, at home? What do we listen to in the car? What sources of media do we pursue outside of teaching, and how might those media strengthen our resolves as teachers?


Finally, we’re looking for OPINIONS/REACTIONS that relate to specific policies or current events in the field of education and English teaching.


If you are interested in contributing to any of the columns above—OR, if you would like to submit something that doesn’t necessarily fit into one of those columns—please send your materials to indianaenglishteachers@gmail.com. You can also submit material by filling out the CONTACT form on the ICTE website.


In closing, thank you for your continued greatness and willingness to dance. We see, hear, and support you. Please let us know how ICTE can continue serving your interests and needs as Indiana teachers of English. Have a great August. Be safe, do good, teach well. Welcome.


-Jeff Spanke

ICTE President

Ball State University

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