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NCTE 2004 Notes-Opening General Session bell hooks

Teaching Wonders

What do I do? I'm an English teacher. The one they remember, good or bad--profound. Memories of writing, of red lines, of YES!, critical consciousness for the first time, the reading of the first book that transformed us. Classes that challenge us to think, to create, to be and become.

hook's desegregation experience was fortunate. She was in a class with an English teacher who loved justice, a teacher who was a "nigga lover" and wanted her classroom to be a place where everyone could learn. The teacher was willing to educate for freedom. She cared for her black students.

Most importantly, she did not shame them. Shame is the most common tool in the classroom where dominance is practiced. It is dehumanizing. Teachers must confront the issue of shame. "Shame shadows each of us." Kaufman and Rapheal (who write about the experience of gay people coming out of shame). Shame dehumanizes. There is no better place to come out of shame than in the classroom.

Discussion of Voices from the Middle:

Michelle Paige (sp?), Going Beyond the Book

Teachers see firsthand the detrimental effects of injustice on our students. hooks has gone back to her roots and is now teaching in Kentucky. She's often asked how she survived growing up there. She talks about her English teachers and how she was taught to think critically. There is significance in critical thinking about identity. The heart of critical thinking is being able to ask questions.

She wants to respected for her work...her writing. And writers are not attached to labels. They are not "gay writers". They are not "black, straight writers." Literature is about refusing all categories. The relevant word is literature. There are no feminist writers, only a writer who writes from a feminist perspective. Writing is considered on its terms and then considered in terms of the writer's experience. The struggle for identity is on-going for writers of marginalized groups. Calling attention to an author's race, sex, sexual orientation limits.

Writing the truth of what we know is the essence of truth and literature.

When we speak in solidarity and love with groups that are marginalized, we are identified with that group. hooks tells a story about being asked if it was hard to be black and homosexual.

How do we teach in such a way to teach students to value themselves rightly without being hung up on labels.

At this point, hooks reads from her book Skin Again. Our skin cannot tell our stories. You've gotta come inside to know the truth. It's important to have the self-esteem of knowing and loving our culture, but we must know we are always more than that.

When she wanted to be a writer, she fell in love with Emily Dickinson. She never saw her as white. The persona of the writer is not is not as important as the words. In black segregated schools, there was never a big deal made about the writer's race. To be a great writer, you must be able to move deep into experience, emotion, life.

Question and Answer Session:

Q: What is the connection for hooks between love and critical thinking?

A: hooks is obsessed with love, trying to find a partner but is unable. She is disturbed by the attitudes she's heard about love. The power of love to end domination, love as a transforming experience. You cannot be committed to love and dominance at the same time.

How do we share with children what love genuinely is? Love has six components: care, commitment, responsibility, respect, trust, knowledge.

hooks alludes to the election and the role that hate has played in our politics. How much does love matter? How can we be whole without love?

Forgiveness: Robin Casarjian (sp?).

Obsessed with binaries...they are not all bad. How can you respect those whose beliefs you don't respect? Discussion of Jungian Shadow Self. You hold a vision of change for someone.

Last Updated April 11, 2011

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