After a tumultuous semester battling pneumonia and the recurrence of my mother’s cancerous tumor, I packed up my Hope College memorabilia and returned to my hometown, parental rules, and the familiar pink shag carpet my eleven-year-old self had loved. I wasn’t really bitter about my homecoming, as one might think. I was plagued with confusion: about life, myself, and the future–and not necessarily in that order. After a semester internship back at a middle school near Hope College, I had doubts on whether teaching was the right career path for me. During my observation days in the classroom, I barely stayed awake. I couldn’t imagine doing this every day, let alone the rest of my life. To complicate matters, my mother was not getting any better. The latest oncology report detailed something about metastasized cells and radiation with chemotherapy. I was uncertain what it all meant, but the fragile lines on my dad’s face told me it was as serious as the words sounded. By the time the snow fell in December, the beautiful Hope College campus with its lakeshore view no longer held any allure. I came home at the semester end with a big sigh, hoping to exhale the deeper emotions of uncertainty and ambivalence. Home felt like a reprieve from the disorder of my life.
Aquinas College is located in my hometown, so it made sense to resume my junior year there. My first course was taught by a middle-aged woman with bleach blonde hair, a love for the Cardinals (the baseball team–not the bird), and a fake bake that would have shamed any native Floridian. Her name was Merri Warren, and she was a past president of the Michigan Reading Association (MRA). Because of her MRA association, I was recruited during the semester to work at the annual conference as a student volunteer. Even now, I can recall the impressive scope and scale of the conference with flocks of teachers converging around the registration area. I was electrified by their chatter of books and speakers and ideas and possibilities. Their anticipation was intoxicating as I eavesdropped on folks waiting for badges and bags. Never before had I been among so many whose love for books paralleled my own. As the throngs dispersed to their speakers and sessions, I felt a stirring toward the classroom once again. There was a kindred exhilaration in the air, and I felt inspired that these people might just be my people too. For the first time, I felt the “calling” that many describe when becoming a teacher. I had found my way amidst the crowded concourse of conferees, and I was excited about all the possibilities–all thanks to Merri Warren and the Michigan Reading Association.Continue reading Passions Are Powerful Conductors of the Future→
I was reminded again this past summer that Michigan is truly one of the most beautiful places on this planet …
At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, a unique opportunity was presented to my science colleague Jeremy Winsor and me to apply for a week-long science literacy professional development at the Central Michigan University Biological Center located on Beaver Island, Michigan. The event was led by the Center for Excellence in STEM Education and the Chippewa River Writing Project. Several schools from the middle of the state were represented by a team of teachers looking to improve the relationship between science and literacy within their school districts. It was a week promising instruction on how to implement reading and writing strategies into the already complex subject of science.
Fast forward several months to August, and my colleague and I were watching the waves crash on the side of the Beaver Island Ferry while we crossed Lake Michigan along with colleagues from other schools. Schools included: Fulton, Central Montcalm, St. Louis, Carlton, Saginaw Township, and Bridgeport. Though all of us had a basic idea of what we were about to do for the week, we weren’t prepared to begin what would be one of the best professional development experiences of our teaching careers.Continue reading The Beaver Island Institute 2016→
This blog is the first in a series of writings that will chronicle Angela Reid’s decision and subsequent experience of leaving the high school classroom to become a graduate teaching assistant in the English Department at Central Michigan University, only to unexpectedly return to the very same high school classroom one year later.
When I turned my keys in to my former principal on that warm summer morning of 2013, I had no intention of ever teaching high school English again. I felt it in my bones. My soul was exhausted, my body defeated. I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins when he remarked to Gandalf, “I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.” Yes, in my “heart of hearts,” I felt exhausted, unproductive, and uninspired.
In addition, I felt something else even more damning and downright terrifying. I began to feel what teachers fear the most, that perhaps my teaching was becoming ineffective. The characters of my beloved novels, such as Catcher in the Rye and O Pioneers, who had once leapt off the pages, heartily introduced themselves to my students, and pirouetted and pranced around my room now suddenly felt cold and flat. I felt like a fraud, and I could not in good conscience stand before a class of students and feel as if I wasn’t giving them the education they deserved. Continue reading Reigniting the Fire: Why Teacher Burnout Doesn’t Have to Be Forever→
This post is the first in a series about 2016-17 partnerships between the CRWP and various school administrators, community librarians, and other educational leaders.
Last January, the CRWP asked a hand-selected group of school administrators, community librarians, and other educational leaders the following questions:
Do you believe in the transformative power and importance of reading, writing, and digital literacy?
Do you see value in the National Writing Project network but have been unable to join because of time constraints associated with a four-week summer institute?
Is there an innovative educational initiative on your to-do list that you have been unable to complete (or even begin)?
Would you like to be a published author, with support from accessible and experienced, published teacher-scholars?
To each of these questions, Tinna Mills, who is the teen librarian at Veterans Memorial Library in Mt. Pleasant, answered yes, and now she’s partnering with the Chippewa River Writing Project to help her teens produce digital stories about their transforming experiences associated with teen services at the library. To learn about library teen services and the digital story initiative, keep reading …
For quite some time, Tinna had wanted to invite her teens to craft digital stories about teen services at the public library. Her thought was that these digital stories could be posted on the library webpage, the better to promote PR, market services, and extend outreach. In addition, she believed that the digital stories would provide data to measure the effectiveness of the teen services offered at the library by means of a new assessment tool—a topic addressed momentarily.
Andy Schoenborn reflects on student choice while relating it to our own experience as educators in his current role as MCTE past president, and he invites you to attend the 2016 conference. Register here.
As I sit to write, I look out my window while rain falls in steady drops to the earth. The dark green grass stands vibrant against the gray sky and the not-yet-chilled air smells fresh – clean. September is like Spring for teachers. We have become rejuvenated and refreshed by the summer and the worries of last school year are washed away. Teachers, like grass, cannot be fully refreshed by the summer rain alone. To become vibrant against the gray, we need to cultivate our own growth by breaking loose hardened clay and fertilizing our minds with a renewed vigor.
Our school districts understand this and help by beginning the year with professional development programs before the students arrive. It is a good start but, like our students, for growth to take root we, too, need individualized instruction.
If you are reading this post, you know this to be true because you are the master gardener of your learning. You take an active role in shaping your path of growth by reading educational blogs and professional journals. You stay connected with your favorite pages, hashtags, and writers on Facebook, Twitter, and podcasts. No doubt, you belong to organizations like the National Writing Project, the National Council of Teachers of English, the International Reading Association or any of their affiliates. Your thirst for knowledge and affirmation helps you to stay in the full bloom of a master teacher.