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English Journal Columns and Column Editors

Book Reviews
Editor: Ken Lindblom

Professional texts offer practitioners cutting-edge information. Whether focusing on pedagogical innovation, current research, or the implications of a new educational policy, these texts have the potential to provide insights, perspectives, and, often, contexts for the rapidly changing field of education. This column, entitled Book Reviews, will accept reviews of professional texts related to teaching, educational theory, or educational policy. In general, reviews of fiction, memoir, and biography will not be accepted.

Reviews should give a brief summary of the text’s purposes and make critical commentary on its strengths and weaknesses--all with an eye to the needs of English teachers. Reviews should consist of 500 to 1,500 words. Aspiring reviewers should email Ken Lindblom at kenneth.lindblom@stonybrook.edu before writing reviews to eliminate the chance of duplicate reviews.

 
Carpe Librum: Seize the (YA) Book
Editor: Pauline Skowron Schmidt

"The stories we love best live in us forever." - J. K. Rowling
"We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading." - B. F. Skinner

This column hopes to serve as a space dedicated to conversation about Young Adult Literature. This genre of literature is unique; award-winners in this field push boundaries and make us uncomfortable . . . just like adolescents sometimes do. I hope to celebrate adolescents, their reading, and their experiences by reviewing the texts that engage them. I also hope readers will share their expertise about YA Lit.

How can we use YA literature to inspire our students to read? What YA books link particularly well with required content--in English classrooms and across disciplines? Which YA title do you wish was "Required Reading" for all  high school English teachers?  Which YA texts can help teachers as we seek to connect students with the "right" book at the "right" time?

Submissions to this column are welcome. Contributors can submit a review (750-word maximum) or suggest a YA book to add to our never-ending pile! Please send submissions as attachments to Pauline Skowron Schmidt at pschmidt@wcupa.edu.

 

Continuous Becoming: Moving toward Mastery
Editors: Victoria P. Hankey and Dawn L. Ryan

Mastery in teaching is not a destination; it is a principle that guides professionals toward continuous improvement. Good teaching is never static. In this dynamic profession, educators are responsible for meeting the needs of students whose futures are yet to be defined. The best teachers never stop being students themselves, and each teacher’s professional journey is unique. The common thread is the guidance we can offer one another. 

Learning to teach well begins with the desire to make a difference for students. That desire often gets lost in the realities of classroom life. There is no roadmap to mastery. 

This column invites novices, veterans, and everyone in between to share significant experiences that have enhanced their craft. What has made you a better teacher? How do you stay invested? How do you project professionalism in this era of high scrutiny? What professional options exist for growth, leadership, and advancement in education? How do you cultivate relationships to obtain the support you need? 

The goal is to offer suggestions, ideas, and experiences to help teachers discover their own roadmaps toward mastery. 

Please send submissions of 1,200–2,000 words to Victoria.Hankey@bvsd.org. Inquiries and suggestions for future columns are also welcome.

 

Disabling Assumptions
Editor: Patricia A. Dunn

This column seeks submissions addressing how a disability studies perspective in English language arts can address disabling assumptions and make our society more inclusive for everyone. The interdisciplinary field of disability studies explores assumptions about disability in our society. It examines how society sometimes constructs architectural or attitudinal barriers that exclude people with disabilities. Stairs disable people who use wheelchairs. Ramps and elevators bypass the stairs that are the true disablers. Like stairs, some teaching practices inadvertently construct barriers to learners who are deaf or blind, or who are on the autism spectrum, or who learn differently. This column will explore teaching practices that can work like ramps and elevators to provide better access to all.

In an English class, a disability studies perspective would help teachers and students pose more critical questions about stereotypical depictions of characters with disabilities. It would help us select texts that show well-developed characters with agency and voice. It would listen to the voices of people with disabilities, encouraging literary, artistic, or other productions. It would help us design research projects, assessments, and modes of delivery that allow more students to live up to their full potential. 

We invite readers to address questions such as these: What texts are you reading that depict characters with disabilities living well-rounded lives? How can disability-themed material help all students explore how students with disability are excluded or seen as “other” in the classroom or schoolyard? (This exploration is not merely to invoke sympathy or pity for “them,” but instead to help students and teachers see disability as a “normal” part of the human condition.) How can classic or canonical texts that depict stereotypical characters be resisted or questioned so that these stereotypes are not re-inscribed? What are the stories of teachers with disabilities? To paraphrase the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines, what are some multiple ways of engaging students, representing material, or having students produce a variety of texts? 

Inquiries, submissions, or suggestions for future columns should be directed to Patricia A. Dunn at Patricia.Dunn@stonybrook.edu. Submissions of 800–1,200 words should be sent as an attachment. 

 

Envisioning Assessment
Editor: Jed Hopkins

Practices, done in the name of assessment, have made an undeniable impact on the work of teachers and the way students experience school. 

Imagine a different world! 

This column invites us to explore the roles assessment might be playing in the “bureaucratization” of our education system and entertain an ideal educational world where assessment is supportive of education; where teachers and departments are not pressured to teach to the test; where the crafting of assessment is understood to be creative, useful, productive, and owned equally by students, parents, and teachers; and where the default form of assessment is always authentic. 

What would such schooling and teaching look like? What situations embody or threaten such an ideal? Can assessment be dialogical—a truly mutual experience for students and teachers? Can we help students to be responsible for assessing their own learning? How can we prevent the potential for toxic effects of standardized assessment (or any form of assessment, for that matter)? 

This column invites discussion and a sharing of experiences, real or imagined, that might help us collectively take back the educational meaning and potential of assessment; to start to understand it less as a science (for accountability and sorting) and more as an art (for promoting human and humane possibilities). 
 
Submit an electronic Word file attached to your email to the column editor, Jed Hopkins, at jhopkins@edgewood.edu. Contributors are encouraged to query the column editor and share drafts of column ideas as part of the submission process. 

 

Lingua Anglia: Bridging Language and Learners
Editor: Pamela J. Hickey

As teachers and students, we bring the languages of our communities into schools. However, the language of academics, professions, and power and access is Standard English. As our student populations continue to grow in cultural and linguistic diversity, it is imperative that we find meaningful, equitable, and culturally relevant ways to support all students in their acquisition of Standard English. Research demonstrates that effective teachers value students’ home languages and welcome them as a bridge to Standard English development. 

As we move forward into this linguistically rich and diverse world, we are all learners. There is much we can learn from our students, including those who speak languages or language varieties other than Standard English. Additionally, as English teachers we are all teachers of language. This column provides a forum to explore questions such as, How do diverse classrooms affect English language learning for all students? What kinds of reading, writing, speaking, and listening activities can bridge the gap between home language and Standard English? How can language learning be culturally responsive and academically challenging? 

This column seeks to discuss critical, transformative, and powerful ways to support students’ acquisition of Standard English. Narratives, discussions of epiphany and teacher-learning, and culturally relevant and critical suggestions for Standard English support are welcome. 

Submit an electronic Word file attached to your email, subject heading: Lingua Anglia, to Pamela J. Hickey at hickeyp@newpaltz.edu. Contributors are encouraged to query the column editor and share drafts of column ideas as part of the submission process. 

 

Poetry
Editor: Nancy C. Krim

 
In Lu-Chi’s Wen Fu: The Art of Writing, the first ars poetica of China, we find this: “When the vein of Jade is revealed in the rock, / the whole mountain glistens.” In his poem “Juggler,” Richard Wilbur writes: “It takes a sky-blue juggler with five red balls / To shake our gravity up.” Finally, scribbling inside a cell in Bedlam, Christopher Smart gave us: “For echo is the soul of the voice exciting itself in hollow places.” 

Poets who teach, teachers who write, students are all invited to submit well-crafted poems to EJ. Choose those that seem a fit, either explicitly or implicitly, with announced themes of upcoming issues. We welcome new voices. We do not consider previously published poems or simultaneous submissions. 

Send by email attachment, for blind review, up to five poems with only phone number and initials on the page. In your email message, include brief biographical information. Poets whose work is published will receive two copies of the issue in which their work appears. Send submissions to ejpoetry2013@gmail.com. Send correspondence to Nancy Krim at nckrim6m@gmail.com

 

Soft(a)ware in the English Classroom
Editor: Tom Liam Lynch

Over the last decade, software has become ubiquitous in both our personal and professional lives. More and more, we share, shop, work, and learn in online spaces. Software powers these spaces. 

In schools, emphasis has been placed on using data systems to track student achievement, to expand online courses, and to leverage new devices in instruction. Software powers these spaces as well. 

Though we don’t often talk about it explicitly, we are all empowered and encumbered by software in our everyday lives. Given the cultural ubiquity of software (and the ever-increasing political encouragement it is receiving), we need to talk openly and critically about the ways software affects our lives as teachers, administrators, and learners. 

This column is devoted to identifying the ways in which our teaching and learning lives are influenced by software. We focus on a single question: How does software both enable and inhibit our professional practices? Each column will offer a vignette based on readers’ professional experiences with software as well as a critical look at what the software enables and inhibits. 

Contributors are encouraged to contact the column editor and share drafts of column ideas as part of the submission process. Please submit an electronic Word file attached to your email to the column editor, Tom Liam Lynch, at tom@tomliamlynch.org.

 

Speaking Truth to Power
Editor: P. L. Thomas

 “If education cannot do everything, there is something fundamental that it can do. In other words, if education is not the key to social transformation, neither is it simply meant to reproduce the dominant ideology. . . . The freedom that moves us, that makes us take risks, is being subjugated to a process of standardization of formulas, models against which we are evaluated. . . . We are speaking of that invisible power of alienating domestication, which attains a degree of extraordinary efficiency in what I have been calling the bureaucratizing of the mind” (110–11). (Freire, 1998, Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage) 

This column seeks to explore the experiences and possibilities that arise when educators speak Truth to power. It is also intended to be an avenue for teachers to speak Truth to power through teacher narratives about the “the bureaucratizing of the mind,” about best practice in critical literacy against scripted and tested literacy, and about creating classrooms that invite students to discover, embrace, and develop their own voices and empowerment. 

Submit an electronic Word file attached to your email to the column editor, P. L. Thomas, at paul.thomas@furman.edu

 

A Thousand Writers: Voices of the NWP
Editor: Tanya Baker

Writing is a complex, personal act. Writing is hard. Writing can be improved with patience and practice. None of these truths about writing are necessarily self-evident. Writing project teachers learn these truths through their own experiences of having something to say, trying to say it, and then revising and editing to bring their writing as close to their expectations as they can.

Experiencing the act of writing as a writer has a profound effect on our understanding of what it takes for students to accomplish this complex act. It creates a more knowledgeable, but also a more responsive and empathetic, teacher of other writers.

Perhaps most importantly, writing regularly teaches us that the act of writing is as important as the production of any single text. As writing project director Bob Yagelski put it in A Thousand Writers Writing, “writing is a potentially powerful vehicle for transformation, for it opens up possibilities for awareness, reflection, and inquiry that writing as an act of textual production does not necessarily do. Writing in the moment, I have come to realize, has the capacity to change us.”

Teachers who experience the transformation of the writing act are likely to provide many, many opportunities for students to write. Their students learn to write to find out what they have to say, not just to say what the teacher expects them to say. They learn that writing allows them to reflect on their experiences, to slow down their thinking, to stop and ask questions.

This column seeks to explore the experiences of National Writing Project teachers as writers, teachers of writing, and educational leaders. Do you have a story of transformation through writing? Of powerful pedagogical practice? Of leadership?

Submit an electronic Word file attached to your email to the column editor, Tanya Baker, at tbaker@nwp.org. Please indicate the Writing Project with which you are affiliated. Contributors are encouraged to query the column editor and share drafts of column ideas as part of the submission process.

 

Under Discussion: Teaching Speaking and Listening
Editor: Lisa M. Barker

Classroom discussion, when effectively facilitated, invites students to deepen their understanding of literature; practice powerful social norms; enhance skills such as listening, building on others’ ideas, tactfully disagreeing, and taking turns; and orally craft arguments that may carry over into their writing. Orchestrating conversation is at the heart of teaching English. It’s also hard work. Leading whole-class discussion requires teachers to balance careful preparation with nimble, in-the-moment improvisation based on students’ contributions. Since facilitating discussion is a challenging aspect of our teaching craft, we must lean on each other for insights.
 
This column seeks to provide a forum for leaning on each other to investigate and improve the quality of our discussion leadership. What do you do before discussion to prepare yourself and your students? What kinds of texts do you use to anchor discussion? How do you teach the speaking and listening skills needed for a productive discussion? What strategies and moves do you use during discussion to facilitate talk? What do you do after discussion to help students improve the quality of future conversations and build on their understanding in concrete ways? How do you study and learn from your own facilitation?

This column invites you to share your discussion-related experiences through stories, studies, arguments, and explanations of tools and resources.
 
Send submissions of 1,200-1,800 words as an electronic Word file attached to your email with the subject heading “EJ Under Discussion” to Lisa M. Barker at lbarker@towson.edu. Inquiries, ideas, and suggestions for future columns are welcome.

 For general EJ Submission Guidelines, click here.

 

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