[This past week, after many years of planning and many posts in this space, I helped host the 2016 Northeast MLA convention in Hartford. It was an amazing four days, and I could write much more than a week of recap posts—so here I’ll focus specifically on the new initiatives I brought to the convention. If you were part of NeMLA 2016 in any way, please share your own recaps and responses in comments!]
On a small but significant first step toward a vital connection.
On the first afternoon of the convention, in an initiative on which I had been working for more than two years, four conference presenters and attendees visited two Hartford public schools. Opening night creative reader Monique Truong, her fellow convention creative reader Leanne Hinkle, and my Fitchburg State University colleague Joe Moser visited the Bellizzi Asian Studies Academy, a middle school (and part of the HPS’ theme-based academes program); another FSU colleague, Katharine Covino-Poutasse, visited the Betances Early Reading Lab, an elementary school. The visitors shared their voices and ideas with students and classes, worked closely with teachers and staff (including the wonderful principals, Mario Cruz of Bellizzi and Corinne Barney of Betances), and engaged in inspiring and powerful ways with the missions and work of these public schools.
One of my most central goals for the convention, as I’m sure was evident from my earliest blog posts about it, has been to connect with communities outside of the academic and scholarly ones with which NeMLA has always worked so fully and well. Public schools are only one of many possible such connections, of course, but I think they offer a particularly strong option: not only because they are fellow educational institutions, but also and even more importantly because, around the country but especially in cities like Harford (or Baltimore, site of next year’s NeMLA convention), they are far too often under-funded and under-supported and under attack and could use all the partners and communal conections they can get. As a professor at a public university, as well as a Dad with two sons in public schools (and the proud product of a public school education myself), I feel particularly invested in the state and future of public education. Yet in truth, we are all inextricably linked to and affected by the work and success of our public schools, and to my mind no organization or institution can afford to ignore or minimize that connection.
While I have no doubt that my four colleagues made a significant impact on the schools and students with whom they worked, and while I’m thus proud that we succeeded in adding this initiative to the convention’s activities, this 2016 version of linking NeMLA to public schools represents only a starting point for what that connection can and should be. As such, I’d very much love to hear your thoughts and ideas about how we might build on that starting point into next year’s convention (and beyond), and/or other ways a convention and organization like NeMLA can build connections to the communities around us. And I’ll go a step further—if you’re someone who might be at NeMLA 2017 in Baltimore and has any interest in such an initiative, I’d also love to get you directly involved and make your voice and work an integral part of those next steps. I hope and believe that these connections are vital to the future of NeMLA and of higher ed, and the more folks we can get involved in them, the stronger and more truly communal they’ll be!
Next recap tomorrow,
PS. Thoughts on this post? Other NeMLA follow ups you’d share? I’d really love to hear them (and feel free to email them to me if you prefer)!
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