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.
My Writing Project colleague, Sharon Murchie, wrote about taking a risk in sharing her writing with her students on the CRWP Teachers as Writers Blog. Her post got me thinking about how I do the same in my own classroom.
I am feeling nervous, insecure, and uncertain as my ninth graders start to file into class today. We just started the new trimester a week ago, and about half of my students are still new to me — having come from a different English teacher first term. I remind myself that I am the adult; I am the teacher. Nothing to worry about, right? What’s the worst that can happen?
You see, I am about to give a book talk and admit to my students that I have no clue what the book I am reading is about. Truly. I just don’t get it. The book is a title I was eager to read — The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro — but I am 30 pages from the end of the novel and I don’t know what the real story is. In fact, all I really know is that an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, have undertaken a journey to reunite with their son. As Axl and Beatrice travel across the countryside, they meet knights, Saxons, river boatmen, and frightened citizens, but all have one thing in common: they cannot seem to remember much. Axl and Beatrice worry that the loss of their memories will be their undoing: “But then again I wonder if what we feel in our hearts today isn’t like these raindrops still falling on us from the soaked leaves above, even though the sky itself long stopped raining. I’m wondering if, without our memories, there’s nothing for it but our love to fade and die.” The mist of this memory loss has the effect on me as a reader of clouding the truth in the story. In short, I find myself uncertain about what is real for the characters and what is fantasy.
I am about to reveal to these students that I don’t understand this book.
I don’t have the answers.
I don’t have a profound interpretation.
I am lost.
How will they respond?
The room settles in as I grab the book from my desk and turn to face them.
I shared my writing with my students and it was really powerful.
I know what you’re thinking:
Of course it was.
We all know this.
We know that we should write with our students, model for our students, share with our students.
But, I know that we don’t. Or, at least, I know that I don’t.
I have 5 preps. I have 150+ students. I am so far behind in grading, I would lose credit in my own class if I was one of my students.
When my students write, I am circling the room like a trapped bat, trying to simultaneously rescue introductory paragraphs from rhetorical question soft starts, shut down copied theses from Sparknotes, encourage students to find the balance between looking for their playlist and taking the entire class period to create their playlist, squelch the Snapchat selfie parade, and answer “how long does this have to be?” 14,535 times. When my students write, I am too busy desperately trying to do my job to write with them.
As 3:00 pm arrives on the final day before commencement of Spring Break, one can hear a collective big sigh from teachers in classrooms across the country. For some teachers, that sigh precedes the gasp before dashing out the door to pack and escape, for a week or so, from the career that provides so much joy and stress. For others, one wonders if that sigh is a sigh of relief or of panic: “Only a few more weeks to manage before summer break,” OR, “so much left to cover and so little time to do it.”
For me, Spring Break is a time for assessment and preparation. My stack of texts for summer reading is growing, but I don’t touch it during Spring Break. Instead, I divide my Spring Break days into manageable sections of time that I can use to accomplish tasks that I won’t have to repeat during the summer, so that I can spend my summer doing more of what I want to do that is unrelated to teaching. When I organize tasks that I won’t have to repeat for a year, I’m thinking of both household and teaching tasks.
One of the household tasks relegated to Spring Break is cleaning my freezer and pantry. This chore can be completed in any weather Spring Break provides, takes a relatively short time to complete, only needs to be completed once a year, and results in the knowledge of exactly what foodstuffs I have and what I need. Cleaning the freezer involves assessing the items to be discarded. I complete the same process with my pantry on a different day. Has this can or box or bottle resided here unopened for more than a year? Get rid of it!Continue reading Spring Break: The Teacher’s Big Sigh→