Editor's Note: Today's Blog is written by Jen Coslett
Micro-Aggression. Really?! That’s a thing?! Aggression is aggression and size doesn’t matter, right?!
So. Much. Wrong.
I sat, awestruck (and admittedly “fangirling out”) as Bill Konigsberg gave his keynote address at the 2016 KATE Conference. When he delved into defining micro-aggression, my fangirl persona dissipated and my teacher/social worker/mama heart sunk. I’ve always considered myself an advocate and now facts that proved my failure were being spread out before me. I have been micro-aggressive. My family and friends have been micro-aggressive. I felt like such a hypocrite.
You see, I’m a coach’s wife. Not just a run of the mill coach’s wife, I’m a football coach’s wife. We are a football couple raising football kids in a football home. Faith, Family, Football. Rah, Rah, Rah. I have always loved this identity for my husband, myself, and my children.
That is, until Mr. Konigsberg’s words pierced my heart.
I was nauseous as the realization that everyone in my family---my husband, myself, my children, and our football family of fellow coaches, players, and parents---has perpetuated, and continues to perpetuate acts of micro-aggression. Every time our team punts, each one of us screams one five letter word that had always seemed so benign.
As the ball hits the turf, our players scatter avoiding any possible contact with that ball. All the while, everyone---players, coaches, parents, fans---all scream at the top of our lungs, “Peter! Peter! Peter!”
This isn’t simply an unfortunate choice for titling a play call. This isn’t an inadvertent use of a name that matches some poor kid named Peter. No. No. No. This is deliberate. And, now, thanks to Mr. Konigsberg I am able to recognize, this is unacceptable.
You see, as we all scream, “Peter! Peter! Peter!” we might as well be screaming, “Penis! Penis! Penis!” The whole point of this chant is to remind and encourage players to stay away. To get back. To avoid.
Steve Maack, in one of the breakout sessions during the conference, commented that micro-aggression is like a papercut. It cuts. It hurts. It’s annoying. It’s a constantreminder.
Thank you to Mr. Konigsberg, and the many other presenters, who selflessly provided a definition of and a framework to move beyond micro-aggression.
We all need to be better. I need to be better.
Editor's Note: Today's KATE Update is by Jenni Bader
On Thursday and Friday of this week I attended the Kansas Association of Teachers of English (KATE) Conference in Wichita. As excited as I was in the weeks leading up to it, the conference still managed to exceed my expectations. The mutual goal of educating and supporting young people served as the uniting bond, strengthened by a high level of professionalism. These, along with the warmth and openness of all present proved a refreshing tonic after months of slogging through the current social and political climate. This is what people can achieve when they set aside their differences and work together.
One big surprise of the weekend for me was how much I got out of the first keynote address. I have never read any of Bill Konigsburg’s books and doubted if I ever would. There are so many books and just so little time. From what I had heard about this author and his books, I didn’t think this keynote would benefit me much. Dear reader, it is a foolish and dangerous notion to judge that another person has nothing to contribute to your life. Such thinking goes against my core beliefs, yet I sometimes catch myself heading down that treacherous path, and I am thankful for the warning signs and reminders that put me back on track.
During his keynote address, Mr. Konigsburg spoke very honestly about the emotional turmoil he experienced while grappling with his identity as a young gay man. It takes a lot of guts to share such a personal story with a room full of strangers, and I am grateful for his willingness to do so. Although these are experiences I do not share, this perspective increases my ability to empathize with others who may be going through similar trials, and it informs my words and actions so that they can be imbued with greater kindness, gentleness, and care.
Toward the end of his keynote speech, Mr. Konigsburg said something that particularly struck me. He said that someday he hopes to meet a teacher who is “a Christian, a pro-lifer, and who believes being gay is a sin” and that this teacher will save just one kid who is going through what he did by showing that they care. I had hoped that I would have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Konigsburg later in the day and thank him personally for his speech and especially for saying this one thing, but I didn’t see him when there wasn’t a crowd around him. The description may not fit me precisely, but it’s close enough, and I am certain there are quite a few more Christian teachers and student teachers who feel the same way. It is possible to love and support people individually without agreeing with them on everything. I think the world has forgotten that. It’s time we remembered.
There are so many more things I learned this week. I am still trying to digest it all. Several of the breakout sessions as well as the Thursday lunch keynote speech and the Friday lunch panel dealt with diversity and inclusiveness. All of these fit very well with my own presentation on teaching social justice, and several others offered ideas I would like to incorporate into my teaching on this theme. Kevin Rabas’ Thursday presentation on ekphrastic poetry, poetry in response to art, gave me a specific way to use the art I had been thinking of pairing with some of the written texts I’m considering, and I added this idea to my own presentation on Friday.
Above all, the collegiality at this conference made it such a wonderful experience and really helped build my vision for teaching as a member of this community of teachers and also for working within our individual schools and communities. I am truly blessed to be part of such an amazing group of student teachers who add such depth and richness to my life and my understanding of it. The opportunity to glean from the experience of seasoned teachers already in the field has been priceless, too. My biggest take away from the conference was that together, with love, we can do great things.
Editors Note: Today's KATE Update is written by Samantha Jessup
Going into the KATE (Kansas Association of Teachers of English) conference this year, I was filled with both trepidation and curiosity. How could I, a student, ever hope to make a place for myself among this community of passionate, progressive teachers? I was very uneasy, expecting the conference to compose itself of hundreds of people from all over the state, few of which I would know, and even fewer who would know me. Yet, fellow classmates of mine were presenting at the conference and were just as nervous and inexperienced as I.
Arriving at the conference changed everything. When I realized that the conference attendees numbered only in the dozens, possibly around one hundred people, I was shocked. It was inconceivable to me that so few teachers in Kansas were at the forefront of this professional communicability, and that so few English teachers either chose not to participate in this event, or were left unaware. This made the impact of the KATE conference for me, that much more important and meaningful. I was taking part in a select group of teachers concerned with their profession and eager to discuss the modern issues and discoveries of teaching.
Bill Konigsberg was extremely humble and kind in his keynote address, which started us off. His message and gentile manner in which he presented it, really carried such an inviting warmth. I was honored to have had the chance to speak with him later, and to attend his session later on publishing YA literature, a great passion of mine. He was definitely a great part of personal growth and professional development for me, both as a writer and a teacher.
Attending the different sessions, on a bibliography of YA Lit, Graphic Novels, and how to use YA texts to advocate for anti-bullying, were interesting and educational experiences. It was wonderful to share my passion for teaching using graphic novels, especially since there were so many teachers interested in the session presented by my classmate. There was vital discussion and relevant applications among all of us.
Now I look forward to implementing some of the strategies I have learned about using graphic novels in my classroom, and creating some of my own. I can't wait until next year so that I can share what I have discovered about teaching graphic novels and strategies other teachers can use.
Most importantly though, I look forward to being an active member of the KATE conference and continuing in my professional development, growing and discussing important issues of the the education profession and the pivotal issues of teaching English.