Friday, December 3, 2010

T'was the Day After the Bookfair (with apologies to Clement C. Moore)

Twas the day after the Bookfair and all through the schools
Students were buzzing about reading and books that are cool.
The choir sang gleefully, and the saxophonists played jazz.
The Tiger Stripe White Mocha Caramel Frappaccino added razzmatazz!
The Tiger was there, and RHS cheerleaders, too!
Mr. Brown read books between visits from the Zoo!
Welcoming crowds of kids, our librarians ran crazy
In handing out the Republic Voucher, it seemed no one was lazy!
For just in one night we sold quite a few books--
And we can STILL get a percentage if you didn't get your NOOK!!
So on Schofield, on Lyon, on McCulloch, on Price
Now the high school and middle school, please be quite precise
Through Monday, December 6, back to Barnes and Noble you go
Use Republic's Bookfair Voucher number to give us more dough!!
What's that I hear? Wait, I think it's something I foresee:
You've memorized the number...10367373!!!
Because the clerk will not ask you, or give you a hint,
You must show very clearly your Republic Voucher print.
So for our libraries you go, off to raise a little money
Buy DVD's, or music, or books--maybe thrillers or something funny.
From all of your purchases we reap some reward
Buy online, or from the cafe...whatever you can afford!
So in advance we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts
For spreading the word and doing your part.
Our community of learners will be reading new books,
(Did I mention you could buy yourself a brand new color Nook?)
We closed down the Bookfair, took the artwork away.
Packed up the craft table and went along on our way.
But I heard our librarians exclaim in delight--
"Happy Reading to All! Now go buy more tonight!!!"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Student Blogs re:SpeakLoudly

Hi, Writers!

If you are a student blogger and you've written about banned books, the Wesley Scroggins editorial, Speak, Slaughterhouse Five, or Twenty Boy Summer, would you post a link to your blog in the comments below. My students are wanting to read the words of their peers from around the country on this topic.


Here's Teens Read and Write
The Juniper Breeze

Waiting for Super(hu)man to Change Education

I have to say I was disappointed in Oprah. And I know I'm also opening a can of worms by expressing that. There are definitely teachers who should not be profession is exempt from this syndrome. And I must admit, there are many times I was an "inadequate"...and I would even call myself a BAD (embarrassingly bad) teacher at some time during the last 17 years of my career, and am I ever thankful I wasn't fired. Instead, I learned, grew, and worked through my inadequecies because I am in the business of learning. I know there are many, many teachers who are great teachers who have had lessons, units, quarters, semesters, or maybe even years of inadaquacy--but there are so many who change and grow and develop into an effective teacher. I would go has far to propose it's this way in every profession--from "not so good today at my job" to "wow--I rocked it!"

Teaching is hard, hard, hard work. It's a continuous development and when teachers are supported in reflecting on their own practices, learning what strategies are effective (which changes daily in this century and with our kids), and in not being evaluated by test scores, then, quite possilby, we could have an "okay" or "good" teacher turn into a "great" teacher.

I have a big issue with people talking about my profession and trying to "fix" the problem who haven't spent a minute, or wait, make that 282 minutes a day with 130 students for 185 days a year in one single classroom. It gets a little taxing and some days I feel like I'm a great teacher, and some days I wonder what in the world even happened today. I'm not saying I don't think we all can't engage in the conversation, I welcome this discourse--even those who are not teachers, but Oprah single-handedly silenced the voice of all the good and great teachers our country has. There was not one teacher on her "expert panel."

I'm going to see Waiting for Superman so I can join the national conversation regarding its content. But I'm a public school teacher and I serve ALL students. Rich. Poor. Hungry. Snotty-nosed. Whatever. I will see to it that every kid has the right to an education, a good education in my classroom, not just the ones who "qualify" for a privately funded education. I do not believe Charter Schools are the answer.

To my readers: This was an impromptu voice posted on my friend Kim's FB wall after she posted that inadaquate teachers should be fired. I had a lot of other things to write this morning before work--specifically regarding the professor trying to ban books in my school district (which I will write about later)...but her status was the first thing I saw, and I sat down to write. I have more to say on this topic, but thanks to my friend (and great teacher, Kim), for forcing me to start thinking through my own thoughts and beliefs about Oprah and Waiting for Superman.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Promise of Cooperative Learning

One of my students wrote a semi-scathing piece about her teachers starting cooperative learning in their classes this past week. While she read it aloud, she kept looking at me sheepishly, unsure if she was going to get in trouble for chastising her teachers' new approach to learning and how much she despised this new found "cooperative learning." At first her peers acted the same way--looking at me unafraid to show their emotions on the subject, but by the time she finished her satirical piece and showed the drawing that accompanied her writing (administration and faculty with angel wings hovering over the entire school of students leading a Kagan-inspired Rally Robin) the entire class erupted in laughter losing their fear of any repercussion.

I laughed my way through this, too, mostly because I understand this students point of view. (Not to mention she has every right to her own opinion and expression of what's happening in her own learning life.) All of a sudden she's forced to partner and share her work in classes where she was largely doing her work individually. While I'm a big believer in cooperative learning and utilize it in my classroom daily, I realized long ago that 12th graders appreciate guiding words such as "find your partner" and "let's take 15-seconds to think first" over "Stand up, Hand up, Pair up" and "We're going to do a 'Think, Pair, Share' now."

In a strange sort of way, all of a sudden my class has lost validity in the eyes of my 12th graders. It kind of hurts. We read aloud our first poetry this week and afterwards I asked the students to offer up *snaps* to the poet. Where did I first learn this informal way to show quick, unobtrusive appreciation and feedback? The Greater Kansas City Writing Project-2002. Instead though, I was accused of being Kagan-crazed and brainwashed. "What?" I thought to myself,"Does he even have the copyright on "snaps after poetry readings?" Suddenly, my normal routines of collaborative and cooperative learning have been demeaned by the entire school going through Kagan training. "Oh no, don't hit me with another cooperative learning technique" the kids think to themselves. This new student perspective has thrown a kink into my once authentic and honest approaches to collaboration. Now, partnering up to share our work feels forced and not genuine, whereas before the students just thought my class was "different" than others and were inclined to open and share and learn from each other. I was intentionally cultivating a group of learners who were just beginning to learn that we do not learn in isolation.

Incorporating this Kaganesque CL into my classroom is not hard. I am 100% for cooperative learning. In fact, it's only a simple change in the way I word directions to the students. I was explicitly informed there's a "right" way to do things and that "we all need to be on the same page." I really didn't think this would be such a big deal. But to my kids right now, it seems to be. At the beginning of the school year, they felt like I was treating them as adults and with respect, but now, many feel like their knowledge and expertise as learners has been demoted by several grades. Where we once simply found a partner, we now "Stand up, Hand up, Pair Up." Where once we decided our own roles in our learning groups and defined them together, we now have "Sultan of Silly" and "Synergy Guru." Where we once had Gallery Walks (or sometimes Gallery Passes) that began with student-led discussion of what it means to walk through a gallery observing, thinking, reflecting, and responding, we now have "Carousel Feedback." I can't say I like the name changes either. It makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong if I don't say it the Kagan way. But for the sake of my job and for being part of and supporting the community of teachers in my school, I will do what's expected as we dive into learning what Kagan CL brings to the classroom.

The bottom line, I guess, is that Kagan provides answers. Answers for teachers who are demoralized and deflated from media and political ridicule. There's so much pressure on teachers for their students to perform well on standardized tests that teachers will largely follow any for-profit company who guarantees lowering the achievement gap and raising standardized test scores. Being told what to do and how to do it to get certain results is so much easier than questioning, learning, exploring, discovering, and reflecting on process. Kagan, in a nicely organized binder and a guidebook to accompany it, provides answers.

I guess this is why I love working with the writing project so much. I'm never given answers. And I never give them. I'm never given lectures on "what the research says." And again, I never give them. Instead, I'm valued as a professional educator and expected to be a curious learner. I'm encouraged to question and research my classroom practices, and then share my expertise and knowledge in conversation with other professionals. It is this tapping into each other's faucets that leads to greater teaching and learning. My biggest breakthrough in learning cooperative learning and collaboration came this summer at NWP's Recruiting for Diversity Institute. I realized that in order to build trust and community, it doesn't really take a coordinated effort in the balloon bounce or the untwisting of the human pretzel. Instead, it's the reading together, the writing together, the working together, and the sharing together that fully engages us as learners and motivates us to invest in each other.

(Author's note: Do I need to add that I think Kagan structures are solid and do provide opportunity for classroom conversation and learning? I hope not. If you got from this post that I do not believe in cooperative learning structures, then you're taking away the wrong thing. This post is not about belittling Dr. Kagan's years of research and expertise. I believe in them and have used them for years. But through the years, I've simply adapted versions that work well with my students. I don't believe Kagan structures are the "end-all-be-all" of education. There is never one right way to teach and learn. This post was simply inspired by a students reaction to her first experiences as a learner in many Kagan-inspired classrooms this past week.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sub plans

A few days ago Tory, a student teacher in Arizona, wrote about helping out other teachers on her blog The Education of Miss Waggoner. She wrote about the "extra" work teachers have to do during the day and because she isn't teaching the entire day yet, she had the opportunity to help out her colleagues. She even mentioned how glad she was to be there to give these teachers an extra hand because from her perspective "it would have taken a lot longer for those teachers to get their work done had I not been there."

I'm really proud of Tory. I'm proud that she 1. recognizes there's much work to get done, 2. understands we can hardly fit in all the work that needs to be done with the given hands and time, 3. that she recognizes help is necessary, and 4. that she offers help to her colleagues.

Yesterday I realized I had to be gone from work today. When I realized my student teacher was coming with me, we both stayed to write lesson plans for the day. I knew I had to summon Amy's help not only to save myself some time, but also to help her understand the process of what elements need to be present for the substitute to be somewhat successful.

While I created handouts for the students, wrote out the lesson plan, and wrote a personal letter to my substitute, Amy made copies, stapled and hole-punched the papers, wrote the agenda on the board, straightened the room and organized the desk for the substitute. It took the two of us over two full hours--or 140 minutes--to prepare for a substitute to teach 240 minutes.

And this is why I go to school when I'm sick. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Girl on Subway

(Author's Note: I wrote "Girl on Subway" in Februrary 2009. I remember this happening, but I don't remember where I was. I've been looking through unposted blog writings and posting them...b/c basically I'm too lazy to write new posts, but since my colleagues are committed to posting to their blogs, then I will too!

We don't have a subway in Springfield, but like I said earlier, I can't remember where I was when this happened. The truth about today is this: I wasn't in the mood to bless the rain even though we so desperately needed it. I was, however, cursing it under my breath every time I loaded and unloaded my school bags, walked thru puddles, and dug around in my wet purse for my lipstick. Then I drove my car by the uncovered bus stop on National, across from St. John's Hospital, and I forgot how wet I was.)

Girl on Subway

I sat across from her.

She looked haggard and tired, like this one day alone had been longer than every day of the month in a hot August. She jumped on the subway at the last minute, barely squeezing between the doors closing shut, her shirt, recently untucked from her skirt suit. She carried her suit jacket in the crook of her left arm, an umbrella and newspaper in her hand. Her oversized bag, black and patton leather, on her left shoulder, a silver thermos in her right hand.

It's 5:43 p.m.

She was simply dressed, but wore both elegance and modernity. A grey skirt and white, collared button up. Panty hose. Gray heels. Making her way through the crowd from the door, she found the seat across from Empty.

She sat down with without pretending to be a lady. I went home and wrote her in haiku:

Digging in abyss
Rooting, scrounging, foraging
"Where the hell is it!"

Digging and sifting
Searching, Probing, Uncovering...
Chapstick from her purse.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life Makes Sense...Finally

(Author's Note: This post was originally written in the fall of 2008, but since tomorrow my kids are taking the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, I thought I'd look around my unpublished blog posts and see if I had written anything about personality in the past. Of course...there were several. A few modifications, plus a title change and here we are at a blog post. For now, I'm not linking to anything in this post yet...I will eventually. I'm simply too tired.)

Who I am? Last night I was reading my personality traits book. I'm not sure what this obsession is with my personality. It makes me think I'm trying to figure out who I am, finally, after all these years. Am I going through a mid-life crisis? I don't know. But all of a sudden I am once again intrigued with what my personality says about me.

It's not all of a sudden. For 20 years I've been infatuated. Consumed by traits and charactersistics of myself, my students, my friends, my family. In college, I took the Myers-Briggs as often as possible. I even stooped to the lowest levels of personality testing (and I'm not including the ones on Facebook.) I took color personality tests, animal personality tests, food personality tests, even biblical personality tests. Sounds narcistic, I know. Embarrassing to admit.

When I started teaching, I began to look at ways I could use personality testing in my classroom as a means to get to know my students and to experiment with collaborative learning groups based on the traits. When I first started learning about and teaching Shakespeare, I was in awe of his ability to put personality into the very being of all of his characters with precision and purpose. The Four Humours during Elizabethan times seems to snag the interest of my students...maybe talking about yellow and black bile does that. But moving ahead and transitioning to the modern era of the four personality types and reading Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey, hooked me into to using personality testing in my classroom. Since then, I've asked students take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter in my classroom, calculate their results, read through their personality characteristics, and respond in writing workshop to what plays out in front of them. Most are overwhelmingly shocked by the accuracy. I ask the kids to provide stories and details about their traits. "If your personality indicates you have a tendency to be late, can you write about time when this was an issue for you? Or possibly you already know this about yourself, have you reversed the tendency? If so, how?"

Using the personality test also helps kids think about the actions and personality of characters in the books they read. In their 3-week Letter Essay about what they've been reading, many students pull out distinct traits, and are able to write about decisions they think characters will make throughout the book once they get to know them. It's almost as if the book, in some way, becomes relevant to their own learning because they connect the real world of growing, living, decisive human beings to fictional characters. This produces some pretty amazing results in writing, too, and I can easily ask a student "Are you writing him as a Guardian Supervisor?" This sparks inquiry and research on the character traits begins.

I have to admit watching the students discover their personality is inspiring. It's not as if they don't know who they are, but for the first time, it's like life, their life, is making sense to them.

As for me, I'm always discovering who I am. For today, I'm an Idealist Champion...a catalyst, it says. If I were in Chem I, I'd be that substance that accelerates a chemical reaction. In life, sometimes I'm that person that helps activity happen between others. I like to think even, that sometimes I can help bring about change, or cause others to bring out their own energy, enthusiasm, and friendliness. Mostly, I like to think this lesson on personality is a simple catalyst for students to start leading a reflective life full of learning. One can only hope.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who Inspired(s) Me to Write...

My 2nd grade teacher let me write a short story, "The Dragon in My Garden", and sent a letter home to my parents about me being a writer. I was hooked. I'm 30 years now into diaries, journals, and blog posts.

Writing gave me a new insight to its value when I started reading my mother's daily journal entries a few years ago, (she passed away 25 years earlier) and I noticed my own writing began to change with it. So did my motivation to write.

Although I never felt stifled as a writer during high school and college, I'm not sure I was ever able to explore my writing thoroughly, and I know I wasn't able to develop myself as a writing teacher until I learned to understand my own processing at the Greater Kansas City Writing Project in 2002.

There's an article floating around on Twitter right now from the New York Times about re-connecting with teachers on Facebook. I can't visit with my 2nd grade teacher anymore, but I'm blessed with teaching during the age of Facebook and just last week a former student posted a compliment on my wall to how I inspired her writing. Fortunately, I get to say back, "it was you, and all your classmates, who continue to inspire my own writing and being a writing teacher." This constant connection and re-connection continues to pull me toward writing and its value in my life.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to Really Love Your Kids by Sara Allen

I was talking to Sara after SI today and I asked her why she thought her kids loved her class. She said "because I really love them." And then these gems started rolling off her tongue. I typed them as she said them. She teachers 4th-5th grade in Springfield, Missouri.

"Pick up their pencil when it rolls off their desk.

Make sure they're wearing their coat when they go outside...and zip it up.

Go outside and try to catch a football even though you never can.

Let them try on your high heels...who cares how much they cost.

Be yourself.

They know who you are...and they know when you are wearing a mask.

Be authentic.

Be true.

It's not all great--they will get mad at you and they will say things that you did even though you really didn't do it. They will say bad things, you can't let that change how you treat them the next day.

Hold the door open for them. Say hello every morning.

Hold the door when they leave. Say goodbye.

If they are having a bad day, a piece of gum can turn things around.

Let them write a note or journal if they can't get into their math that day.

They can totally tell if you're just there and you are not honing in on what they are saying...this is one of the most important things.

They will feel love if you know they really care. It's not a perfect formula for getting them to do what you want, but you are acknowledging that the are humans and you are in a human relationship with them.

Be determined to get through the bad times. When you are pushed, and pushed, and the end of the day you must reconnect and wish them a good evening.

Your tone needs to be respectful.

When you do something silly--tell them how you are breaking yourself out of the box.

Know their ages--they are cute and they are dolls--but they are little people.

Let passion ooze out of everything you do and everything you say.

Let students feel your energy.

Let your room take on that energy...and feed off of that energy.

Maybe that's love. I don't know. But that's what it boils down, honesty, and willingness to learn, grow, and change.

Say no occasionally when they ask for a piece of candy.

Don't give compliments that aren't true. It loses it's meaning.

Be explicit with your feedback--things are just "great."

Recognition is important.

When they give you a picture with your name spelled wrong, hang it up anyway.

When they make you a happy anniversary poster and it's spelled totally wrong and it's 4 feet long--take up the wall space anyway.

When they give you a cookie with their dirty little fingerprints on it, eat it anyway. You won't die.

Be geniune.

Be truly thankful.

When they bring you a wilted flower they forgot to give you last Friday, you put water in a vase and you put it on your desk and you leave it there until it's totally dead.

When vomit splatters on your heels and your skirt...remember that it washes away."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Disturbing the Status Quo: Reflections from Recruiting for Diversity

I'm starting to think, (which isn't surprising seeing as I'm attending a National Writing Project event.)Somewhere in the middle of Margaret Wheatley's book turning to one another, she reminded me that the moment we start to think, we start disturbing the status quo. In fact, I think she says it's dangerous even. A good dangerous I would add. I want to write a little bit later about an earlier chapter in Wheatley's book, but for now, my journey2learn this weekend is focused on diversity. Accessing the diverse contributions in my community, making recruiting for the OWP relevant to the work needed to be done in our service area, and learning to connect with the rich and diverse world that the Ozarks is.

My real thought to my eyes. Look around and start noticing. Begin. Don't say it, but live it and commit to seeing all as blessings and not problems. Commit to seeing the diversity around me as the contribution. Commit to serving the underserved.

Already I'm beginning to open my eyes to how I DON'T live this in my life. And it's embarrassing.

At this point it's my first personal reaction to the literature I've been reading at the NWP's Recruiting for Diversity Institute. "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua gave me insight into the culture of language and how that culture reflects the identity of self. How you view yourself based on the dominant culture's behavior, words, actions, etc. This must be true in any situation. Actually I know it's true in any situation. I'm thinking of how my sense of self is connected to the dominant culture in the house I was raised. I felt worthy and whole if I was doing, saying, and thinking what my parents thought. It's got to be this way for our kids in school as well...tying identity to what the "popular" kids want and think. We all attach our identity to someone else, and that reminds me of a powerful phrase I pulled out from Margaret (Meg) Wheatley's chapter "Willing to be Disturbed" (pages 38-41 in the book turning to one another: simple conversations to restore hope to the future.

"We don't have to let go of what we believe, but we do need to be curious about what someone else believes. We do need to acknowledge that their way of interpreting the world might be essential to our survival."

What you say, do, and believe is essential to my survival as a growing, learning, thinking human being. My challenge to myself is to remember this luxury of learning from and listening to others.

Another challenge to myself: I want to try not being part of that dominant culture, although that is who I am, but instead, step outside of myself and understand and learn to value, no, I want to say "honor", those who feel domininated.

I feel like there are a lot of mixed ideas in this reflection, but I can't work through my own thinking without being confused and convoluted at first.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Personal Response: Writing Process: A Shining Moment by Sondra Perl

I read the last two pages and it's reminded me of learning to become a teacher researcher in my own classroom. Last week I attended the OWP Teacher Inquiry Institute and I'm thinking in researcher terms, but these pages led me there as well.

Sondra Perl reminds us of some key points as the researcher: that you are not "testing" and coming to a conclusion, but your research is ever growing, ever changing, ever moving along with the study. It's important to know that you stand outside to conduct the research, but that within the context of your own work what you consider relevant will appear in your classroom. In fact, it's vital that you are engaged in what is being study, but it's equally vital, as much as possible, but us to understand our own impact on the results.

Important reminder: It's not a test, but pay attention to the details.

Important reminder: Attend to the work in slow and careful ways. Do not rush the process.

Important reminder: I am not alone. We do not work in solitude--we work with writers, use the students.

Important reminder: Studying about writing is never done. There is always more to see, more to do, more ways to look at how students create and how new texts are always evolving.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Write. Therefore I Tweet

Melissa led us in freewriting after reading Terry Tempest Williams excerpt "Why I Write" from Creative Non-fiction. I write because I am meant for expression. I am meant to share, to talk, to write. Therefore...I tweet.

Today is the second day of the Summer Institute. Last night I went home at 5:00 p.m. This is the first year, in four years of facilitating, that I didn't feel like there was "something pressing to do for the next day." It felt good to go home to my porch, enjoy the outdoors of the Ozarks for a little bit. Take a walk with my dog, grab dinner with a friend, and then, once I got home, I felt inspired to read, to write, to look at our schedule and see what's ahead. Instead though, I tweeted.

This is the first summer institute with live tweeting for the OWP, and it's been fun to experience. Actually, it's my first SI with live tweeting anywhere. I've been tweeting since December of '08, but didn't actively follow my Twitter account until October of '09. This opened up a whole new world of professional learning for me. Twitter is my space, and I'm away from my students. I was a Facebook teacher for many years, and still am, but Twitter has become my place for learning, and reading, and getting a grasp on what's happening in the world around me. Twitter is a place where I can follow people with the same like-mind. I read what they are writing, I read what articles online they are sharing. They read about the weather in Colorado and what's for dinner in Kansas City. But, it's more than just that. The social network aspect isn't what keeps me tweeting. In fact, I find myself deleting tweeters who only update about their social lives. Mostly, it's because I can find those updates on Facebook. However, tweeting an online article about paperless classrooms, or writing instruction, or technology in the classroom, or grading without letter grades, those are the articles that keep me going back to twitter. I can search anything with the hashtags, but I admit my tags for the last few months have only been writing project related as this is my professional learning community and I have a deep trust and commitment to those who have participated in writing project events around the nation.

And...time's up...more to come tomorrow I'm sure.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Table's Response to Processing Freewriting

I had a hard time getting started today. I'm not sure if it was everything I'm thinking I need to be doing, or thinking about the day ahead, but I had a hard time getting that process going. Plus, because I was posting to my personal blog, I almost think that hindered me. Maybe I will go back to private writing in a journal.

Actually, once I started freewriting, it helped me to organize my thoughts and kind of gather what it was I needed to do.

Shelli: I don't yet know what or how feel about freewriting.

Vanessa: I mostly enjoyed writing, but I really enjoyed listening to others. I felt nervous about sharing. I want to steal lines from others.

Kelly: I think it's so nice that everyone's mind is going everywhere.

Allison: I like freewriting--I feel more focused and my head feels clear. I also think it builds community and sharing.

Marla: 20 minutes is a long time to write. Do I even have enough to say?

Just a total mess of a freewrite...for the first day of SI.

I've been thinking a lot about my classroom recently. I feel like there's a shift happening. Back to freewriting. I feel a little scattered, and a little unorganized. I feel unprepared, or is that just nervous. I have all of this knowledge, but am I ready to share it, to help others guide themselves to deeper research and meaning in their own work.

It makes me think of Senior Projects. (I think everything makes me think of Sr. Projects.) But on the night of the Senior Showcase, I think the kids must be feeling this nervousness that I feel. This knowledge of what's about to come, yet knowing there's the unexpected about to come as well. The unpredictability is what is scary and exciting all at the same time.

I'm not freewriting very well at all today. I feel preoccupied. It's the first day of SI in many locations and my twitter feed is going crazy. I'm going to have to turn off the tweetdeck so it doesn't pop up on my screen every 10 seconds. Thomas showed me how to do that the other day, but, of course, I totally forgot how. And I don't want to take the time right now to figure it out.

I'm sharing with my small writing group a piece on the traveling journal. I'm about to conduct research on it for the TEacher Inquiry Institute. I think EVERY teacher should go through the TII. It would be kind of neat if it were a class that all graduate students had to take, but, sometimes graduate students don't have to have teaching experience. I wonder if programs would be more authentic, more relevant, if they stuck to the prerequ that teaching experience is required, because that changes the whole context of research.

I've got butterflies in my stomach. Butterflies I say, but they are beautiful Monarchs. We are writing for a long time this morning. I'm glad for this. What if I don't have a "timed" writing in my classroom next year? Not starting out with the 7 minutes. Not having the clock running. Will that change the outcome of the freewriting?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

And the freewriting begins...

It's the first day of the Summer Orientation. We are sitting in the new Collaboration Classroom at Missouri State. It's the first time I've heard this many fingers pecking the keyboards in the orientation. Normally, it's one or two with personal computers. I see four people handwriting and I wonder how this will affect freewriting by composing at the computer. Will people Fellows write, unhibited, like in the passage Keri read from Write to Learn? Will they write without assessment? Without heed to structure and content, but simply write, whether right or wrong.

Will they write without assessment?

I do not know if my student will ever write without assessment. Well, I know they will write, but they will write for feedback. It's hard, it's really hard, to think about not writing for the grade, and that's what I'm talking about when I talk assessment. My students hardly write for any audience but the teacher. I don't want to write about work...and I feel like that's where this is headed. I want to write about the first day of the Summer Institute and this orientation, and how in less than three months the 16 new faces in this room will be my friend, my colleague, and part of my professional learning community. And I think back to the past summers and all the teachers since the mid-1970's who have participated in a summer institute and who's classrooms have been changed because of it. I think about this network of people who make teaching professional. And here I go again--back to the loop of writing about work.

Monday, January 4, 2010


We start classes in our new high school tomorrow. If I were on top of things, I could post a few pictures or add some audio or video to this post. But I'm not on top of things and I find myself being pretty low on the motivation scale when it comes to using technology in my work these days--not because I don't want to, but because it simply doesn't exist.

But, that's okay. The soda machines are full and the snack machines are stocked. We do have priorities at Republic High School.