10 Educators I’ve Never Met that I Need in order to Teach

(inspired Ocean Vong’s “ The 10 Books I Needed to Write my Novel”)

I’m trying to write my Book Love Foundation grant application, and they asked me about what books/people/magazines I’ve been learning from. I couldn’t fit this all into the word limit of the application, but I thought that others might find these educators to be as career changing as I have.

1. The Leaders of #Disrupt Texts

Finding the #DisruptTexts group was a turning point for my thinking and teaching. Tricia Ebarvia, Dr. Kim Parker, Julia Torres, and Lorena Germán consistently use their time and energy to provide exceptional professional development for educators on what it means to be an anti-racist teacher. I particularly appreciate how the leaders of this group always push their thinking. For example, Tricia Ebarvia writes about her evolving ideas about the texts we use in the classroom in her article “Why Diverse Texts Are Not Enough.” Her evolving ideas have taught me that my thinking can’t stand still. I need to keep learning.

Also, I recently purchased Lorena Germán’s The Anti-Racist Teacher: Reading Instruction Workbook, and it is forcing me to work through my practice; I highly recommend it.

I hope the other women in this group will find publishing deals in the future (I believe Tricia Ebarvia is currently writing a book!), so I can continue to learn from them and support their contributions to my learning. I also admire how these women actively tag and lift up other educators. All of them reliably and consistently credit those who push their thinking.

2. Penny Kittle

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My whole journey started when a special education consultant put Book  Love into my hands. After I read it, I found energy and passion for my job that had been missing for quite a few years. I’ve seen Kittle speak twice at the Reading for the Love of It conference in Toronto, and I wish I could go to her upcoming session with Tricia Ebarvia.

3. The Leaders of #ClearTheAir

Through the leaders of #DisruptTexts, I found #ClearTheAir and all the branches of #ClearTheAir. These groups offer exceptionally moderated slow chats and book clubs. A lot of my progress on what it means to be anti-racist has been thanks to these folks. Last summer, I participated in a book chat about Matthew Kay’s book Not Light, But Fire. #ClearTheAir gave me the chance to ask questions while I processed the book. They also challenged my thinking- again on their personal time. I haven’t been able to participate in all the chats, but I go back and read the books that the group has looked, and then I follow the threads to help me through my thinking.

4. Matthew R. Kay

I already mentioned Kay above, but I can’t say enough about his book Not Light, But Fire. Julia Torres from #DisruptTexts recommended it to me when I asked her for advice about keeping students safe during discussions about race. Through Kay, I’ve learned that “safe” doesn’t mean apolitical and that we need to feel safe to feel uncomfortable. Kay is also an amazing resource for how to have conversations in your classroom period. Kay taught me that you can’t just decide to have discussions about race and make it happen without careful planning and practice. Our conversational toolbox and techniques need to be practiced from day one of the school year. Kay has also been responsive on Twitter, and I’ve had the opportunity to ask him questions, an opportunity that I’m very grateful for.

5. Kelly Gallagher

Kelly Gallagher taught me to teach reading and writing, not assign reading and writing tasks. All of his books are marked up and dogeared. The other day I tore my room apart trying to find Write Like This, but I suspect that I’ve leant it to someone, and I’m probably never getting back! At the 2019 Reading for the Love of It conference I saw Gallagher speak, and I admired the way he shared his thinking that was still in progress. He isn’t afraid to adjust and change his ideas as he finds new information.

6. Vicki Vinton

Vicki Vinton’s books What Readers Really Do and Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading have fundamentally changed my reading instruction. I see my students as problem-solvers for their own reading now. Instead of answering questions that I have generated about a particular text, students learn to navigate the twists and turns of texts through the tracing of patterns and the generation of their own questions. Everytime we talk about a text now, my students have the opportunity to create meaning without the interference of questions and lectures that ask students to see only what I see. And let me tell you, this way is infinity more fun than my old way.

7. Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti

Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti’s books, Beyond Literary Analysis and Writing with Mentors, are a deep dive into the idea of mentor texts. Their books have helped me to provide students with a range of mentors which encourage student to make intentional choices in their own writing. O’Dell and Marchetti also run a website called “Moving Writers,” which consistently provides new ideas and mentor texts for teachers’ consideration. Ever since I picked up their book, I look forward to reading my students’ writing assignments because there is nothing the “same” or “boring” about them. Each piece is an original blend of craft moves that students have learned from their writing mentors.

8. Sara K. Ahmed

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Sara K. Ahmed’s book Being the Change:Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension was a beneficial and practical read for me. Ahmed outlines her thinking by grounding it in lessons that you can use in your classroom tomorrow. Ahmed has also been generous with her time and answered my questions on Twitter when I was first thinking through how to use her lessons in my classroom. Her book has had an impact on the way I start my year with my students, and as a result, it has an impact all year long.

9. #THEBOOKCHAT

Through the other two hashtags that I mentioned above, I found #THEBOOKCHAT run by Scott Bayer and Joel Garza. Currently, #THEBOOKCHAT is working with #ClearTheAir to run a slow chat on Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to be an Anti-Racist. I’ve only been tracking with them for a year, but they’ve introduced me to so many books that I would have missed. After their discussions, they often provide resources for people who wish to use the books with their students. When I asked Garza about his use of Octavia Butler’s short story “Blood Child,” he emailed me a copy of the story. A story that my students are currently raving about because they are fascinated by it. 

10. #TeachLivingPoets

Melissa Smith runs #TeachLivingPoets, and she is responsible for introducing me to so many exciting poets. She moderates chats about poems and offers a ton of resources for using poetry in the classroom. I went from feeling obligated to include a couple of poems a year, to using poetry extensively throughout my course. #TeachLivingPoets has helped me to fall head over heels in love with words again.

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