What I’m Reading: The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

I’m reading Yvonne S. Thornton’s The Ditchdigger’s Daughters: A Black Family’s Astonishing Success Story. Thornton will be our speaker at New Jersey City University’s Convocation on October 5, so I turned to her story to see how I could use it to prepare my students for the event.

Thornton’s story, written with Jo Coudert, is not the slick or simple tale of uplifting success that the blurbs on the book’s jacket suggest. It may be an inspiring story but it is not adequate to describe it as a “guide to success,” despite the Star Ledger‘s claims. The story of Thornton and her sisters’ journeys from girlhoods in Long Branch, New Jersey to success in medicine (Thornton is a distinguished perinatologist) and in other careers (dentist, educator, nurse, and court stenographer) is uplifting but it is also harrowing. Dangers and obstacles are a constant in Thornton’s journey.

Ditchdigger cover

If there is any key to her success, it is her father’s unvarnished credo: “You’re black and you’re ugly and you’re girls, and the world’s already written you off. You can grow up and be a bag lady. You can be on the streets and the world won’t give a damn whether you live or die. But if you listen to me, we can get out of this” (255). Thornton’s father’s lessons to his daughters about the realities they face are brutal and blunt, even as he pushes them towards success.

I’ve paired an excerpt from Thornton’s text with a recent piece from The Atlantic: “Why the Myth of Meritocracy Hurts Kids of Color,” by Melinda D. Anderson. Anderson explores research that “traditionally marginalized youth who grew up believing in the American ideal that hard work and perseverance naturally lead to success show a decline in self-esteem” (emphasis added) and “implode” when they are hit by “problems they can’t control.” Hard work without an understanding of the myths that undergird our American Dream can not only be insufficient in the face of obstacles, it can be counter-productive and damaging.

I’m eager to hear what my students think about these two pieces and what we will learn from Thornton in her address to us on October 5.

Written and posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE

New Jersey Council of Teachers of EnglishNew Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

What I’m Reading: The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

NJCTE Wins Affiliate Excellence Award

As Millie Davis explains, the NCTE Affiliate Excellence Award “honors NCTE affiliates that meet high standards of performance for programming and promote improvement in English language arts teaching.” This year, the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English is one of the affiliate winners.

affiliate award

Jean Boreen, chair of the Standing Committee on Affiliates and the Excellence Award committee chair, wrote of the NJCTE affiliate’s work:

Your publications and social media continue to be an exceptionally strong means of communication in keeping members informed and aware; your website is also a strong mechanism for reaching out to your membership. I loved your development of the virtual Hall of Fame; what a wonderful way to highlight great leadership and support of the affiliate. I’m also very impressed with your plans for new members as well as the consistent updating and goal-setting your group is doing; I love the energy that is clearly emanating from the good work you are all putting forward.

We are thrilled to receive this honor. But we aren’t satisfied. We need to continue to grow and improve. We can and will learn from the good work of the other winning affiliates. And we hope to learn more from the teachers of English in New Jersey, as you tell us what you need and want. Let us hear from you!

Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English
NJCTE Wins Affiliate Excellence Award

Call for submissions


2018 Issue of New Jersey English Journal:                                           

New Jersey English Journal, a peer-reviewed publication of New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, invites you to share submissions on “Transformative Teaching in the 21st Century: Teachers as Catalysts.”  We seek 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 transformative teaching in the 21st century at all grade levels from kindergarten to college. Articles should relate directly to English Language Arts teaching and learning.  We value responses from both veteran and new teachers. Co-written articles are also welcome. Writers are urged to read past editions available online at www.njcte.com to review past successful submissions.

New Jersey English Journal publishes thoughtful and carefully edited pieces, but we particularly welcome submissions and queries from new authors. We are interested in helping emerging writers to develop their public voices. So feel free to reach out for feedback.

We invite you to respond to the theme of “Transformative Teaching in the 21st Century: Teachers as Catalysts” by considering such questions as:

* Teaching Language Arts in a Technological Age

* Encouraging Critical Thinking & Creativity in an Assessment-Driven Environment.

* Creating Community & Encouraging Empathy in Language Arts Classrooms

* Building Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions for Global Citizenship

* Dispelling Myths about Education Today

* Social Justice Pedagogy and Tackling Controversial Topics

* Methods for Teaching beyond The Canon: Suggestions for 21st Century Texts and Strategies

In addition to submissions that respond to the theme, we also welcome poetry on the topic of teaching.  Submissions will be accepted between April 1 and December 15, 2017.  Submissions should not have been published or simultaneously submitted to any other journal. Submissions must use MLA formatting and Time New Roman or Garamond Font in Size 12.  All submissions will be reviewed by multiple members of our editorial board.  Submitters will receive a response by February 1, 2018; the journal will be released by April 1, 2018.  Send queries and submissions to 2018 journal editor Liz deBeer at ldebeerwardell@gmail.com.

NEW: NJCTE is also seeking blog entries for our NEW blog (www.njcte.wordpress.com). The short format of our blog offers a great opportunity to try out new ideas. Send queries and submissions to our blog editor Audrey Fisch at afisch@njcu.edu.

Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English



Call for submissions

New Jersey English Journal Wins NCTE Award

_Badge_Journal (003)

New Jersey English Journal, edited by Liz deBeer of Brookdale Community College and Patricia Bender of Rutgers University-Newark and published by the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, has been named as a recipient of the 2017 NCTE Affiliate Journal of Excellence Award, given by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

This award, established in 1995, honors outstanding affiliate journals and their editors who demonstrate excellence in these publications.

The winning affiliate journal must be a magazine-type publication—print or online–and provide members with scholarly articles on issues and topics related to English language arts teaching. The journals are judged on content, organization, layout, and physical appearance. The variety of articles published are judged on quality of writing, evidence of research and scholarly exploration, appeal to many different groups within the affiliate, coverage of important issues in English language arts education, and inclusion of other types of writing (e.g., poetry, affiliate news, book reviews).

The award winners will be announced at the 2017 NCTE Annual Convention in St. Louis, during the Affiliate Roundtable Breakfast on Sunday, November 19.

Other winners include California English, edited by Carol Jago of the University of California, Los Angeles and published by the California Association of Teachers of English; The English Record, edited by Kjersti VanSlyke-Briggs of SUNY Oneonta and published by the New York State English Council; Ohio Journal of English Language Arts, edited by Patrick Thomas of University of Dayton and published by the Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts; Oregon English Journal, edited by Ulrich Hardt of Portland State University and Kimberly Campbell of Lewis and Clark College and published by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English; Virginia English Journal, edited by Sean Ruday of Longwood University and published by the Virginia Association of Teachers of English; and Wisconsin English Journal, edited by John Pruitt of University of Wisconsin Rock County and published by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English.

For more information about the NCTE Affiliate Journal of Excellence Award, see http://www.ncte.org/affiliates/awards/journal.

Contact: Millie Davis, Senior Developer, Affiliates, 217-278-3634, mdavis@ncte.org.

NJ English Journal Cover

Read the latest issue of NJCTE’s New Jersey English Journal on the NJCTE website: www.njcte.com!

Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE.

New Jersey English Journal Wins NCTE Award

The Inaugural NJCTE Blog Post

Welcome to the very first blog post of the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English. We plan to offer regular posts.

But we can’t do it alone!

First of all, tell us your ideas! What would you would like to see in this space?

Second of all, write for us! Would you like to share your own post here? We welcome contributions from teachers, librarians, administrators, parents, and students who are interested in sharing their ideas with the NJCTE community. Feel free to pass along an idea for feedback or a finished blog post. For the latter, please include a one line biography (with links to twitter if you have a feed), a picture of any book you discuss, and a picture of yourself (if desired).

Here’s some of what we know already we’d like to see here:

  1. Classroom/lesson reflections. What did you try? How did it work? Do you have pictures? Inspire us!
  2. Education reflections. Share your thoughts about teaching, reading, writing, classroom management, or anything else. Keep it real but positive.
  3. Technology ideas. There’s so much great stuff out there, but the question is always how are you using technology and how is it helping you? Please share!
  4. Review of books. Tell us what you’ve read and loved. Explain what was great, include a few quotes, and suggest who else might like this book (readers who like so-and-so, grade level, interests). Keep the plot summary and spoilers to a minimum and only share your thoughts on the good stuff out there.
  5. Student work. Do you have a student who has produced a wonderful piece of writing? Share his/her/their work with a receptive, broader audience who can also celebrate the teaching that produced this writing. If you submit the work on the student’s behalf, be sure you receive permission to do so.
  6. Policy and practice. Do you have thoughts or expertise about New Jersey educational policy, particularly as it pertains to the teaching of English? Let us benefit from your expertise. Keep us informed about what we should know or be thinking about.
  7. Have a favorite poem or cartoon to share? If it’s out there already, it’s probably in public domain. Send it along with or without a few comments about why you like it or why you use it in your classroom.

Again, these are just our ideas. We are just getting started!

Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English
The Inaugural NJCTE Blog Post