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Notes from the President: August Rush

Jeff Spanke, ICTE President
Ball State University

Greetings, English teachers of Indiana!

On behalf of the entire Executive Board, I’d like to welcome you all to the 2021-2022 academic year. As your new President, I’m excited to continue building ICTE in ways that serve your personal and professional interests as vital fixtures in the lives of Hoosier children. If the past sixteen months have demonstrated anything, it’s that teaching really isn’t just a job. It never has been. And teachers, while perhaps woefully misunderstood and tragically underappreciated, are nothing if not strong, capable, creative, and curious people first. As a Board, we’re honored to represent you as such.  

This year, we look forward to extending upon the solid foundation established by the former members of the ICTE Team, most recently Mike Macasulo and Terri Suico. Our continued mission for these next several months is to anchor our organization firmly in the interests of community, fulfillment, progress, and, dare I say, fun as English teachers. 

Because teaching is fun. Or at least it should be. And we believe it can. 

To propel this idea of fun, purpose and personhood in our community—teachers shouldn’t feel like we exist in existential quarantine, after all—we will continue hosting virtual, “pop-up” conferences and workshops throughout the year. Our two virtual gatherings in the spring affirmed the need (and desire) for more consistent and productive community dialogue, particularly in our present era of rising tensions, stresses, and uncertainties. We need to keep talking, in other words. Sharing with and listening to one another. Learning through language and perpetuating that spark that led us here in the first place. Communication begets community, and vice versa. 

In addition to more frequent conversation and collaboration, we’re excited to expand the parameters of the ICTE newsletter. Rather than serving primarily as a means of information spread, our goal is to cultivate, via this resource, a space where we can gather as diverse but invested stakeholders to share our insights and engage with one another in provocative, progressive, and professional ways. Each newsletter will contain the following columns which we have modeled for this month: 





To read a description of each column, please see Jeff's full President's Message on our blog

If you are interested in contributing to any of the columns above—OR, if you would like to submit something that doesn’t necessarily fit into one of those columns—please send your materials to You can also submit material by filling out the CONTACT form on the ICTE website.  

In closing, thank you for your continued greatness and willingness to dance. We see, hear, and support you. Please let us know how ICTE can continue serving your interests and needs as Indiana teachers of English. Have a great August. Be safe, do good, teach well. Welcome. 

Mike Macaluso, ICTE Past President
University of Notre Dame

Litcharts is a wonderful, relatively new resource for teachers and students.  It's more sophisticated and in-depth than Sparknotes, and it covers a range of texts and genres. My high school students and I used it extensively last semester during our sonnet unit. For example, the analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 offers a line-by-line summary and a thematic discussion of themes and topics. Some of the content requires a paid subscription (they offer a school license), but much is free! I find the content to be invigorating and accessible; it's one of the best resources I've encountered recently, and I recommend it to all of the teachers with whom I work.

Between Bells

Corinne Gries, ICTE Co-Executive Treasurer

If you are going to begin a new teaching adventure, August might just be the best time to do it. I had the pleasure of accepting a job as a 5th grade teacher just 15 days before the start of the school year. In many ways it was the perfect time: To step in during a time of need, to bypass the stage of procrastination, and to return to the same school and community I left 10 years ago to be at home with my family. As I scramble to get ready for the start of school I am working hard not to get overwhelmed. It is important to be mindful that transitions are bumpy but only temporary. Passionate teachers, like each of us, are essential right now in this time of teaching.

I am choosing to look forward to new adventures as I reconnect with my LVIS account and apply for an emergency permit to teach science. 

I am choosing to reminisce as I work to dig up all addresses dating back to 1988 for Indiana’s Department of Child Services.

I am choosing to find comfort in the essential classroom items to begin the year: a library with books to read along with paper and pens for writing.

To everyone beginning new adventures or continuing on paths of familiarity: Let us remind each other to focus on what is essential and continue to wonder what it is our students need from us each day. It’s August again, here we go...

Potluck: "A Room Full of Writers"

Katherine Higgs-Coulthard, ICTE President-Elect
Saint Mary’s College

Each summer I work alongside some amazing teachers to lead a summer youth writing project (SYWP) for students in grades 3-12. Founded on the tenets of the National Writing Project, our SYWP offers young writers a space to explore and expand their own voices with the support of skilled teachers. 

This year felt different. We had been unable to hold our camp in 2020 due to the pandemic. Many of our campers had opted out of in-person schooling for the 2020-2021 school year. We worried that our youngest campers might struggle with writing fluency more than usual. Additionally, our camp had shifted from half days to full days. How would we keep the students engaged and writing for 6 hours?

At our pre-camp planning sessions, my co-teachers and I reviewed activities that had worked in past years. At home, I dug out my teaching books, highlighting passages and taking notes. When the first day of writing camp arrived, we were ready. We printed the agenda on the board, a full slate of writing-related games, prompts, and activities that we had decided our students would need to jumpstart their creativity. 

We began by asking the children to introduce themselves and share something they wanted the group to know about them. The first child told us that his name is Danny Coleman (all names are pseudonyms), that he has three goats, two dogs, two cats, one salamander, one bearded dragon, one hermit crab, and a lot of other animals, and even though his favorite genre is medieval fantasy adventure, he only writes science fiction comedic adventures. 

"I'm on book four of the Sir Wilson series, Sir Wilson and the Crystal of Power," Danny informed us. 

I told him I hadn't heard of that series yet and made a mental note to look it up. 

"I'd be happy to loan it to you," Danny said as he reached into his backpack and pulled out four spiral notebooks, each containing a handwritten novel with the author's name, Danny Coleman, in black sharpie on the cover. 

Did I mention that Danny is in fourth grade? 

To read the rest of Katherine's narrative, please visit our blog

Dear ICTE,

While the last year and a half have taught me a lot about technology and how to teach amidst a global pandemic, I worry about how much different my undergrad experience looks like compared to teachers who graduated prior to COVID-19. Many of my in-person college classes that included opportunities for me to observe and work with students and teachers in classrooms were cancelled and turned into online classes when the pandemic started. As a preservice teacher who has spent very little time in classrooms putting theory into practice and observing teachers due to restrictions with the pandemic, how can I better prepare myself for student teaching and my first teaching position?

- Whitney Shelton
ICTE Undergraduate Representative
Ball State University

Theresa Wampler, ICTE Secretary
Super School 19, Indianapolis

Hi, Whitney!

First, find a nice big table that you fit under and have a good cry... I'm kidding, kind of.  

As far as student teaching goes, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Student teaching is awkward, you don't know who you are as a teacher yet. You won't know this until somewhere around year three but definitely by year five. You have who you think you are as a teacher, and you have who you really are as a teacher. I find myself even in my ninth year of teaching saying yes or no to things I never thought I would give those answers to. "What? You work best if you can lie down in the back of the room? Fine, prove it. I'll give you one chance." That is not the teacher I thought I would be. But I digress. Student teaching is all about learning as much as you can from a mentor teacher—even if it's what you won't do in your own classroom and making what you would do fit within someone else's classroom. You will feel weird about taking up their space, they may initially feel weird about you taking up their space. Steal as many ideas as you can because you will need a very deep bench when you leave their classroom and take on your own. Ask questions. If you don't know what the heck they are talking about (SO MANY ACRONYMS) stop them and ask them to explain.

Once you land that first job in your very own classroom, find a mentor teacher... even if the school you teach at assigns you one, find another one. The more the better. No, seriously. You don't just need to know the ins and outs of the students (find a mentor teacher that had your students in years past, they can help unravel so many mysteries about the students) but also you need to know where the copy machine is, where to go when there is any type of safety drill, where the staff bathroom is and how to get into said bathroom, and where you can store your lunch. Also find the teacher with the hidden snack drawer and become their best friend. Trust me on this one. In every school there is the one teacher that is like everyone's parent, they will keep you from quitting your job more times in your first year than you have fingers and toes. Be prepared to cry at least once. You will tell yourself that you will not take student behavior personally, but you will inevitably take it personally at least once and then you will cry. I suggest doing it under your desk after school while you stuff mini peanut butter cups in your face. This is called survival. Every first year teacher does it. After you're done crying, find your teacher bestie and vent to them. You will feel much better.  

To read the rest of Theresa's response, please visit our blog

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Indiana Council of Teachers of English · Saint Mary's College · 6 Madeleva Hall · Notre Dame, IN 46556 · USA

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