1. Membership in the Conference on English Education (CEE) will grow in response to a clearly stated role to be played by CEE in relationship to the profession of English Education.
Currently, CEE’s identity as an organization has not been clearly articulated within and outside of NCTE. Originally, CEE was organized to support the professor (usually within an English Department) who (often alone) had the main responsibility of teaching English teachers. This responsibility included teaching methods courses primarily to students seeking certification to teach English in the secondary schools, and supervising those students during field experiences. The role has expanded and the responsibility for the education of English teachers is being shared by a variety of professionals. CEE now includes among its membership those who provide inservice English teacher education, composition specialists interested in supporting writing instruction K-12, English teachers who hold the role of district adminstrator, induction coordinator, or mentor to other English teachers, teacher educators who teach language arts and reading methods courses for preservice teachers in elementary and middle school licensure programs, and those who teach and mentor within alternative, field-based certification programs. CEE membership also includes those who teach within doctoral programs that prepare teacher educators in the fields of literature and composition instruction and the graduate students within these programs. CEE has responded to this expansion of the definition of the “English Educator” by trying to increase its services and address multiple issues of interest to such a varied constituency. But, by being so open and responsive, CEE has also diluted its role to the point where its distinctive contribution may have been lost.
The response to this dilemma should not be simply pulling back to a more defined and narrow role, however. Instead, CEE needs to envision its service audience as members of an ever-expanding set of concentric circles. Within the inner circle reside those originally targeted as CEE members—professors of English education. But connected to and surrounding this core are the other groups described above, whose work and mission are closely related to the core membership. As CEE determines in what ways its target membership can best be served, it should also consider how the services it offers will benefit and be of interest to a broader group of educators.
One of the most effective roles that CEE can fill is that of facilitator. Current opportunities for members to come together in effective discussion can be promoted and improved, professional gatherings at other times of the year can be reconsidered, and CEE can be instrumental in promoting state and regional affiliates of CEE.
2. The strength of CEE is linked to the strength of the English education profession. CEE, through its policies and actions, can serve to clarify the direction of the profession and promote the spread of practices most beneficial to the future of English teacher preparation.
CEE is concerned about the profession of English Education as a whole. Currently, it is difficult to identify English education doctoral programs at key universities. The programs are not all offered in the English Department, and they are not consistently identifiable by name. English Departments at high schools, colleges, and universities have been renamed in ways that make them harder to find: “Communication Departments” or “Language, Literacy, and Literature Departments.” In some parts of the country, where English is a second language for the majority of the citizenry, the emphasis on “literacy” instead of “English” education makes a great deal of sense. Professors of English education often have responsibilities beyond teaching English teachers—responsibilities that include teacher education across disciplines or teaching literature and composition in graduate and undergraduate programs not designed for teachers. All of this has contributed to a lack of a clear, identifiable potential membership for CEE and, as a result, CEE has not been effective at building membership services to meet the needs of a particular audience.
Expanding outreach while keeping offerings more focused will achieve two desirable goals. CEE will do well what it does best by not diluting the aims of its publications, conferences, and services. Duplicating the work of others within and beyond NCTE will not be a good use of resources. Nonetheless, by reaching out to as many groups as possible, CEE will let them know what the organization does offer. Not only will CEE reach potential members for whom CEE is most suited to their needs, but it will reach others who find that CEE meets a specific need that will bring them in for a period of time. Drawing in those who seek what CEE has to offer is preferable as a first step to offering an expanded but diluted menu to try to meet the needs of too wide a constituency. As CEE draws more of the outer circles inward, and develops a larger, more diversified membership, that will be the time to expand the focus and services.
Including doctoral candidates in English education in CEE offers them an opportunity for networking and career services and helps CEE promote the spread of practices most beneficial to the future of English teacher preparation.
CEE can be instrumental in promoting research and policy related to English education. Funding research, conducting surveys, and developing legislative action plans are effective ways that CEE can support the work of its membership.
3. Through its affiliations, CEE can build bridges to organizations that can support and nurture the career retention of its members.
Most CEE members are also members of another section or affiliated organization of NCTE. Most CEE members are also members of other professional organizations (e.g., American Educational Research Association, National Reading Conference). Unlike other NCTE members that are served primarily and solely by NCTE, CEE members are often affiliated with many professional organizations to support their multi-faceted job responsibilities and professional roles. CEE needs to find ways to build on these affiliations to better reach and serve its membership.
CEE will make connections with other organizations more easily by becoming a clearly defined and visible organization itself. Re-development of the CEE website is a factor in achieving this objective. The internet is fast becoming the primary means of disseminating information among educators and students. CEE’s journal, English Education, can be joined by an e-mail newsletter sent to members. A mailing list can be developed to contact potential members, including adjunct and part-time faculty, graduate students, and English teachers in other departments with other titles. Co-sponsored sessions or receptions at affiliated conferences can carry CEE’s membership invitation to many who will find all or some of what CEE offers instrumental to their work.
4. Members of CEE will respond to a strong organization that not only provides support for them in pursuing their profession, but also provides them resources instrumental to that pursuit.
A majority of current and potential members of CEE work within the traditional academic structure as professors. These jobs change throughout the academic career cycle and are complex in the expectations for job performance. By beginning with a careful analysis of these roles and tasks, CEE leadership can begin to build services and resources to support the work of English educators throughout their careers. Therefore, we suggest a membership initiative that takes into full account the career stages and job responsibilities of an academic.
This document was created in part as a result of the 2005 Conference on English Education Leadership and Policy Summit, Suzanne Miller, CEE Chair, and Dana L. Fox, CEE Leadership and Policy Summit Chair.
Participants and authors in the “Nurturing and Growing the Membership of CEE” thematic strand group of the CEE Summit included:
- Co-Conveners: Dawn Abt-Perkins and Jill VanAntwerp
- Dawn Abt-Perkins, Lake Forest College
- Kim Coady, Georgia State University
- Edmund Farrell, Emeritus, University of Texas
- Jeanne Smith Muzzillo, Purdue University
- Tonya Perry, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- Kia Jane Richmond, Northern Michigan University
- David Schaafsma, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Jill VanAntwerp, Grand Valley State University
- Allen Webb, Western Michigan University
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