This year’s PCTELA (Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts) Conference is in the books, but what a great conference it was.  Featured speakers ranged from NCTE notables Ken Lindblom and Leila Christenbury to noted authors Paul Griffin, Jared Reck, Jonathan Auxier and also 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples.

Today I would like to focus on Leila Christenbury.  She annd Ken were not only Featured speakers, they each hosted a breakout session as well.  I got to sit in on Leila’s.

Her topic was Five Principles for Making it New: Challenges to the Veteran Teacher.  


As Leila put it, “Making it new has great potential and great peril”.  Someone just starting their teaching career can find themselves inundated with so much new material and methods that they can feel exhausted.  Middle career teachers can find themselves relieved not having to deal with the new.  Veteran teachers can crave the new.

She posed a question to us.  “Think about your current school context:

To what extent do you see

Great Peril?

Great Potential?”

Her first principle is Rethink your Role.  Many times teachers feel that they must have all the answers.  I guess this was more true when I began teaching than now.  It is OK to wait for students to figure out a response to a question.  We don’t have to give an answer if none is forthcoming in the first five seconds after asking.

Her second principle is Intensify student engagement.  Give students time to talk to a partner to formulate ideas and answers.

Principle #3:  Complicate the level of your materials and differentiate accordingly.  Students can handle more than we sometimes think.

Principle #4:  Resist total coverage.  One pitfall of teaching the same book year after year is that we become self-proclaimed experts on the material and feel that our students need to know every single thing that the author is saying in the book.  One of the best things to do is to pick an unfamiliar book and learn it along with our students.

The last principle is Remember the joy.  So often we forger why we entered the teaching profession.  Remember the joy we have for what we do and what we teach.


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10 responses to “PCTELA 2019

  1. Thanks for sharing the nugets you received at breakfast. Learning from others never gets old!

  2. These are really useful tips. I keep teaching because the joy is still there.

  3. Trina Haase

    Thank you for sharing this, especially the 4 Principles. Rethink your role really resonates with me.

  4. Love the fifth and JOY! So important to hold onto the joy of learning, but I think #4 is the one that more teachers need to focus on: Resist total coverage. The quest for coverage and perfection sends toooooo many teachers in the wrong direction. They seem to end up in external validation and skip personal reflection or reflect at a fairly shallow level. I know I did when I first started teaching . . . until I figured out the role of the students and what they were bringing to the classroom every day!

    Their VERY best selves! 🙂

  5. Terje

    For me remembering the joy resonates the most. It is challenging for a teacher without joy to spark the joy in students.

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