CRWP’s March Feature Spotlight

Congratulations to Becky Schwartz for being CRWP’s  March Feature Spotlight! Please take a moment and read about Becky below.

I’ve been with CRWP since 2015 (6 years now) and I think probably the greatest experience I had was when I realized that none of the work that was done in our organization was a competition. It wasn’t about who is doing what better, whose been teaching longer, or who has a better position. It is about passionate people coming together and sharing what they do, but also wanting to learn from others to keep striving towards excellence for the students in their classroom.

I can’t pick just one thing that is my favorite part about teaching writing. Its probably a tie between creating interesting and engaging low stakes writing activities and circumstances that help push my students towards the bigger writing tasks and success and getting to understand who my students are as writers. I love having those writing conferences were you can ask students about the moves and choices they make in their own writing and they explain what is going on in their brain. It blows me away.

The Quick Reference Guide I wrote with other teacher consultants in CRWP is the most recent thing I’ve published. It means a lot to me because I really enjoyed the creative working process the group of us went through in writing this and its a culmination of a lot of the aspects about teaching writing that I believe teachers can use.

One of the books that I’ve read in the last few years that always sticks out in my mind is Beartown by Fredrik Backman. One of the things I love about reading are the characters that captivate and draw me in. Every one of the characters in this book drew me in for many reasons. The dueling perspectives the author puts back to back in the text forced me to see the issues in totally new perspectives, sometimes within pages of each other. Also, I really really dislike most sports and this book is based around hockey and it managed to grab my attention in a way no other book that is based around sports has. I read those types of books so I can talk to the teenage boys in my classroom, and because I enjoy them. I felt like I couldn’t come up for air until I finished this book.

Time and experience are two words I would give to new teachers. This is a maddening expression my mentor teacher used to tell me when I often asked questions. I used to be really frustrated in my first two years of teaching and I didn’t have the exact right answer, the right technique, or the right idea for the current challenge I was facing. I didn’t realize there is never going to be the perfect answer ever and that part of the reason master educators are educators because they have just had time to master their crafts and experience. Trust the process, you’ll get there.  I still kind of dislike admitting how right she was about that piece of advice.

Becky has been a teacher for 7 years and currently teaches at Springport High School in Springport Public Schools in Michigan. You can follow Becky on Twitter: @RSchwartz702 .

CRWP’s February Feature Spotlight

Congratulations to Sharon Murchie for being CRWP’s  February Feature Spotlight. Please take a moment and read about Sharon below.

I was in the 2015 cohort. Specific memory is connecting with Janet Neyer, and writing a book chapter together about something we are both passionate about: teaching students to be discerning users of the Internet. Not only was it our first major print publication, but it really allowed us the chance to work together and craft something that we were really proud of. Sitting in a booth at Panera together, editing and finalizing our submission, and watching it all come together, was amazing. I still remember cheering when I suddenly realized what the final sentence of the chapter needed to be and how we celebrated.

My favorite thing about teaching writing is grading papers. J/K. I love witnessing the student growth in confidence, as they start to believe that maybe they CAN write, and that they not only are allowed to use their voice and express themselves, but they SHOULD.

A recent published piece is “How a Bad Bill Becomes a Bad Law,” is at Tropics of Meta. It’s actually part of my doctoral dissertation. Not only was I passionate about the research behind this piece, but it’s a genre I’ve never written in before. Not only does this piece solidify the fact that I am a writer, but it allowed me to see that I could actually be a journalist. I can do more than write academic papers: I can seek out and find truth.

My Tropics of Meta byline is here: https://tropicsofmeta.com/author/smurchiesgmailcom/

Almost everything else I’ve published that is available digitally is linked to my LinkedIN:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharon-murchie-4aa79718b/

Book chapter w/Janet: https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004365360/BP000011.xml

Blogs: www.sharonmurchie.wordpress.com www.mandatoryamusings.blogspot.com

CRWP byline: http://chippewariverwp.org/blog/?s=sharon+murchie

Medium byline: https://medium.com/@smurchies

My favorite authors are John Steinbeck and Zora Neale Hurston.

John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath is a masterpiece blending journalism and fiction. It’s a call to arms and it still is so powerful today. Cannery Row is such a gorgeous sketch of humanity. East of Eden is a saga of strength and weakness and survival. Love his writing. It’s gritty and honest and gutting and hopeful.

Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie is so strong and beautiful inside and out. She is a powerhouse, and she takes no shit from anyone. She knows who she is and she is profound. And the book is such an incredible capture of humanity, of culture, of language. It’s just a gorgeous book. When her Nanny says, “Put me down easy, Janie, Ah’m a cracked plate.” –I feel that. I know what that feels like, to feel fragile and vulnerable, and to have your fate –your survival– be in someone else’s hands. When Janie said, “She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over.” That is exactly the perfect way to express that feeling: when someone lets us down, when we realize that we had somehow idolized them and they were just someone we made up, someone we pinned our hopes to and our future on, and they can never live up to our expectations of them.

My words of advice to new teachers is “You will never be perfect. But you will be enough.” It is absolutely crushing for new teachers to realize that, no matter how many hours they put in, no matter how much energy and passion they bring, no matter how much they care, no matter how much they strive for excellence…kids will fail. Parents will be angry. Admin will find the tiniest flaw and make us feel like a failure. But kids failing does not mean that we failed. And flaws are not failure. We are human, and we will make mistakes and we literally cannot do it all, save them all, and be all that they need, no matter how much of ourselves we give. But what we can be is authentic, vulnerable, real, honest, reflective, striving. And that is enough. We have to allow ourselves to be enough.

Sharon has been a teacher for 25 years and currently teaches at Okemos High School in Michigan. You can follow Sharon on Twitter: @smurchies.

CRWP’s November Feature Spotlight

Congratulations to Troy Hicks for being CRWP’s  November Feature Spotlight. Read about Troy below.
Troy Hicks Portrait (2018)
Fortunately, I can say that I have been part of the Chippewa River Writing Project since it was just a vision. As I was finishing my doctoral work and had already established relationships with others in the National Writing Project, the idea of bringing an NWP site to CMU was part of that conversation when I was hired. To that end, my most memorable moment with CRWP came when I got the call, on my birthday, that we would, indeed, become a site, a reflection I shared in a post for the NWP Archives (http://our.nwp.org/november-10-2008/)
Working with students and helping them build their arguments, through both words, sentences, and paragraphs as well as through images, sounds, links, and other multimodal elements. As writers work, they discover what it is that they really want to say, and then they begin again. Mentoring students through that process is both a challenge and a joy, making those moments in writing conferences and when offering feedback some of the most powerful experiences for me as a teacher of writing.
In the past year, I have been pleased to co-author two books with CRWP colleagues. In February, Jeremy Hyler, Wiline Pangle, and I celebrated the release of Ask, Explore, Write!: An Inquiry-Driven Approach to Science and Literacy Learning (https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9780429275265). Then, in June, my book with Andy Schoenborn, Creating Confident Writers: For High School, College, and Life (https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393714166/null) hit the shelves. For both of these projects, I have been fortunate enough to learn with and from my collaborators, and we continue to think about how best to support student writers, from middle school through high school, and beyond.
At the moment, my favorite author is educational technologist Neil Selwyn. His books (such as Distrusting Educational Technology <https://www.routledge.com/Distrusting-Educational-Technology-Critical-Questions-for-Changing-Times/Selwyn/p/book/9780415708005>) and articles (such as Postdigital living in the age of Covid-19: unsettling what we see as possible <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42438-020-00166-9>) remind me that, for all that it can do, ed tech continues to become more and more problematic. His critical stance is one that I find helpful as I try to frame my own arguments about when, why, and how to use technology for teaching and learning.
Focus your feedback. It is in our nature to want to give students lots of feedback, as we are likely a bit geeky in that way, craving tons of response to our own writing. However, too much feedback can be overwhelming for writers, and a drain on you. Provide timely, specific, goal-oriented feedback at various stages of the writing process, and model the kinds of writerly moves that you would expect students to emulate. In doing so, you are helping them “feed forward,” putting those ideas into practice.

CRWP’s October Feature Spotlight

 

This month we would like to congratulate our October Feature Spotlight, Teacher Consultant, Jeremy Hyler. Below you can find more infoJeremy Hylerrmation about Jeremy. Feel free to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Instagram.

Twitter: @jeremybballer

Instagram: jeremhyler40

I currently teach at Fulton Middle School in Middleton, Michigan, and have been teaching for 22 years.

I have been with CRWP for 10 years now. One of my most memorable experiences was being able to travel to Kansas City and work with like-minded writing project consultants from across the nation. They were so innovative and creative. It fed my inner learning soul and I wanted more. It kept the fire alive for me to keep teaching. 

My favorite thing about teaching writing is watching the growth in my students. When you see a student go from thinking they can only write two or three sentences, and they eventually find out they have it in them to write paragraphs and even pages of writing.  Seeing their confidence makes all the late nights grading papers worth it. 

My most recent work is Ask, Explore, Write. The work was a collaborative effort between Dr. Hick, Dr. Pangle, and me. The book is about science and literacy.  It is a result of all the great work that has been done with our Beaver Island Institute. As a teacher-writer, it is yet another example of what I can share with my students about the writing process. I love being able to share with my students my writing and the struggles I go through as a writer. I want to be able to relate to them and let them know writing is not easy but can be rewarding. 


 

 

 

 

My favorite author is Jon Gordon because he has a lot of wisdom to share about life and being a great leader. Right now my favorite book is Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. That book has taught me so much about stepping back and not getting in over my head. I have learned to say no to projects and other tasks that I have been asked to do. I must first, do the work I have well before trying new things. 

If I had five or six words for future teachers it would be: Do what is best for students!

Too many times I see others who have their own agendas and don’t always do what is best for the students who are in front of us every day. Keep the students at the center of the decisions you make in your classroom.