From the BLTN Director: Teaching and Writing for Joy

As I sit here preparing another “From the BLTN Director” statement, I am filled with anticipation and excitement that BLTN fellows will be gathering in person on our three Bread Loaf campuses this summer. I look forward to conversations in the Barn in Vermont and to the pictures posted on BLSE social media from our

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The Bread Loaf Teacher Network Journal, published annually, is edited by Tom McKenna, BLTN Director of Communications. Beverly Moss, BLTN Director, provides the guiding vision for the network and its digital initiatives. Contact Beverly Moss or Tom McKenna for more information or to submit content for upcoming issues.

Learning in Community Spaces

With this, the 12th issue of the BLTN Journal, we invited submissions under BLTN’s year-long theme of “Learning in Community Spaces.” In a year where uncertainty is a constant, BLTN teachers remind us of the critical importance of finding resources and finding resourcefulness in the communities, students, families, and colleagues with whom they work. 

In “Learning across Community Spaces: An Urban Exchange,” Monica Rowley of Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia reflects, “I must note, as a teacher of over twenty years, that this year has been one of the most challenging years of my career—rolling absences, waves of [COVID-19] transmission, concerns around building safety and ventilation, a returning population unsure of what the year will bring or if another shoe is waiting to drop, and all of us not used to classroom environments…” Lauren Jewett, in “Revolutionary Rest: Reflections on Survival and Hope at Year’s End,” reminds us, “There has been no collective breath to fully process every micro-trauma and major-trauma or to recognize that what some may term ‘disenfranchised grief’ is actually grief that needs to be validated and honored. Educators have accumulated a ‘trauma load.’”

And yet…

The pieces in this issue give us much to celebrate. From BLTN teachers’ generous invitations to one another to enter their classrooms— dropping shoes and all—to their steadfast commitment to the intelligence, eloquence, and capabilities of their students, to their tenacious defense of student voice in public discourse, maybe this issue does offer us that collective breath.

Yaneris Collado, BLTN’s new Associate Director, remarks on the value of creating “brave spaces” and “safe spaces” in our work together. As we release this issue, What’s the Story? The Vermont Young People Social Action Team, is hosting Yaneris, her cohort from Chelsea, Massachusetts, along with BLTN NextGen students and mentors from New Mexico and South Carolina in a documentary film showcase which honors the very different community spaces from which the film makers hail. I think you’ll feel BLTNers’ bravery, and their commitment to helping to create safety, across all of the pieces in this issue. 

Not to be missed in this issue, too, is Kayla Hostetler’s reminder of the power of BLTN collaborations—which often extend the boundaries of school learning— to foster cross-generational learning. When I visited Kayla’s students in May, I pitched in as a grandfather roto-tilled the ground while BLTN NextGen youth cleared obstructions. A grandmother simultaneously pulled weeds, encouraged everyone, and taught us about what might grow best in the plot the youth were cultivating as a memorial for peers who have lost their lives in Aiken’s recent violence. On the same trip, I marveled at Shaleisa Brewers’ students’ accomplishment in documenting the rich history of Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington high school (interviewing, among many alumni luminaries, a set of centenarian siblings). Meanwhile, I received a text from Ceci Lewis, Site Mentor for La Casa Roja, our NextGen group on the Navajo Nation, as they finished up a set of films capturing survival lessons from Navajo elders. 

This year, Middlebury College embarks on a multi-year journey to form a school-wide collaborative in “conflict transformation.” As we begin to take on some of BLTN Director Beverly Moss’s probing questions about “Teaching and Writing for Joy,” we will contribute our ongoing learning from the community spaces to which BLTN teachers show such extraordinary commitment.

As always, we welcome your comments.

-Tom McKenna, Editor


Organizing Youth Voice when the Stakes are High

In December of this year, my students and I were made aware of an “innovation proposal” that would close our public, open-enrollment high school and re-open it beholden to a private board. The “innovation school” process takes advantage of a curious loophole in Massachusetts state law that allows any parent, teacher, or organization related to

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Fraught Imaginaries: The Messy and Necessary Work of Giving Voice to Incarcerated Youth

Leslie Schallock, English Teacher at Secure Juvenile Detention Center, VA: In the spring of 2020 I saw a blurb for a new book release, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, by Nicole Fleetwood. I bought it, read it, and let it simmer until last summer when I was inspired to do a

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What’s the Story? A *National* Young People Social Action Team

Over the past two years, What’s the Story? Vermont has begun to redefine “community spaces.” Originally conceived as the Vermont Young People Social Action Team, the program is in its eighth year of offering an unparalleled opportunity for Vermont students to work on issues of local importance, conducting interviews and other forms of research. During

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BLTN Teachers

Learning across Community Spaces: An Urban Exchange

By Monica Rowley and Sara Taggart Asking students to notice the world around them as reporters and writers with authority teaches them to respect their observations and creative interpretations. This positioning leads to student-driven inquiry about where they come from and how they can represent and share their community. During the last two years, our

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Dethroning the English Queen: Book Clubs across Disciplines

The idea emerged at our end of year-staff party in the midst of a vibrant conversation about reading with some of our strongest senior STEM teachers. I listened to our wildly intelligent  BC Calculus teacher, who has his Doctorate in Astrophysics, nerd out over N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy. Then, our Computer Science and

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BLTN NextGen

BLTN NextGen: Learning and Growing in Community Spaces

Once again this year, the BLTN NextGen Youth Advisory Board (YAB) led cross-network planning for the network as a whole. In March of this year, following last year’s successful cross-site virtual writing conference, “A Day in the Pandemic,” the YAB convened youth and adult participants from across the nation to write together under the theme

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JusticeFest: BLTN NextGen Louisville Youth Pitch Community Lending Spaces

BLTN NextGen Louisville members presented their Outdoor Learning and Lending spaces project at the March 2022 JusticeFest in Louisville. JusticeFest is a local event which showcases the activism of area youth and is supported by JusticeNow and the Kentucky Derby Festival. The mayor of Louisville, director of the Kentucky Derby Festival, and superintendent of Jefferson

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Campus News

BLTN Energized by Conflict Transformation Collaborative

The Bread Loaf Teacher Network (BLTN) has named seven Teaching, Writing, and Acting for Change Fellows for 2022-23, a cohort to support the goals of the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation. Additionally, BLTN is offering Change Action Grants to active BLTN educators who undertake school or community projects focused on “conflict transformation”: the

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BLTN Fellows at Monterey Institute

Five Bread Loaf Teacher Network fellows will attend the Bread Loaf School of English Summer Institute in Global Humanities: a three-week residential session, to run from July 18 to August 7, 2022, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California. The fellows, who will be participating in BLTN conversations remotely, are Gladys Gitau-Damascus

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