Friday, September 20, 2013

A Letter to OWP Summer Institute 2013...Dear Teacher Consultants!

  • Disclaimer to regular readers: the following is a letter to Teacher Consultants who participated in the Ozarks Writing Project Summer Institute this past June, which I helped to facilitate. Tomorrow is their Fall Renewal Day, where they will be sharing the progress and changes they have made to their classrooms since their summer experience. I will be missing this, and it's one of my favorite teacher days of the year! This letter/blogpost, is directed toward them, but I'm sure you will find it interesting, too. :) 

    Dear Teacher Consultants (SI2013!)

    I have so much, yet nothing, to share! You might be feeling the same way about your classrooms at this point.

    First, I'm happy and healthy and really loving England. I have a mix of both good and bad days, but by far the good has outweighed the bad.

    My work is finally starting. I spent last week in London with Fulbright Postgrads (students here getting their Masters degrees--all young pups!) and Scholars (researchers and university professors who are on sabbatical.) I fit into the Scholars section with the Distinguished Teacher Award, and I might be the youngest of all the Scholars. There were over 60 of us at the orientation last week.

    I have to say this sabbatical thing really works for me. Wish my entire life were a sabbatical!! I'm only three weeks in and already wondering how I will ever get back to such a busy schedule I have in the U.S. Here my days are spent reading, writing, talking with people, and figuring things out (like Monday I plan to get a hair cut and color--and it's taken me all of this afternoon to find a place online and figure out how to get there!)

    Regarding work, I met with the UK Writing Project Teacher Writing Group at East Anglia University in Norwich on Wednesday night.
    Area teachers sharing their writing at the Teacher Writing Group at University of East Anglia, Norwich.
    The group met from 17:00-19:00 on campus, and there was tea, coffee, and biscuits (cookies.) There were 17 teachers present, and we spent time writing together, sharing our writing, collaborating on writing (we wrote a group poem based on words/phrases our families and friends say), talking about our classroom practices, and deciding what types of writing we want to explore through the semester.

    It was phenomenal, and felt so very good to be with teachers who participate in this type of PD. The UK Writing Project is a grassroots organization (no affiliation with the US, but they are using the US model, and have Richard Sterling, founder and former director of the NWP on their side. He's from England, and spends his summers here.)
    Adam, a primary teacher with ages 7-10 in the same classroom. Four years in, he left the Writer's Group by saying "I cannot wait to go to school tomorrow!"

    With no funding, the UKWP is only offering writing groups to UK teachers, who are already talking about how their once-a-month writing meetings have changed their classrooms. No summer institutes, no seminars, no open institutes, simply writing groups. Three meet in London, and one meets in Norwich. They have been denied for funding at every angle, so all that happens is happening because of the same energy we have as US teachers to sustain this professional development that means so much to us. Teachers are truly making it happen here.

    Out of the 17 teachers, several were Reception/Key Stage 1 (primary, pre-K, grades 1-2) and the rest were a mix all the way up to secondary. They are all just learning to navigate the new national curriculum, which goes official nationwide September 2014. Many teachers are
    Dr. Smith (Jeni) and Janie (7th grade teacher) talking about her research. Jeni is one of the founds of the UK Writing Groups, and we look forward to collaborating more this semester, even though she's a 3-hour train ride away.  

    unhappy with the politics of education. And some in politics have actually called teachers "enemies of hope." Teachers are feeling as if they have lost their professional voice. Sound familiar? This information comes off-the-record from teachers I have met in pubs, trains, and restaurants. I have met, total, over 30 teachers randomly, and I ask about their classrooms, and their view of the future of education in the UK.

    Monday is my first day in the school where I will be doing research, so I don't have news on that front yet. It's called Silverdale, and it's for Key Stage 3, College, and Sixth form, equivalent to grades 7-12 for us. 

    On the settling in side, I've been blogging when possible, but I still don't even have the Internet at home, so walking around with my computer and my research is taxing. My bank account is finally opened, but I cannot make a deposit yet because I need the deposit book to do so, which will come in the mail next week. I am reminded often that this must be what it feels like to be an immigrant. Moving to a new country, figuring out housing, water bills, heating, electricity, Internet, etc,. with little to no help is/was very, very difficult. I spent many days in tears, and I've not even changed languages. I thought it would be easier. I am reminded of a quote I shared in SI this summer by M. Hunter, and while this speaks to the work in our classrooms, I can also see how it can be a metaphor for many areas of our lives: "If you want to be secure, do what you already know how to do. If you want to be a true professional and continue to grow...go to the cutting edge of your competency, which means a temporary loss of security. So whenever you don't quite know what you are doing--know that you are growing." I feel I am personally and professionally at the cutting edge of my competency, but I know this short time I have grown so much. It IS the same with you in your classrooms after your SI experience, I am sure of it.

    I do want to clarify something: I feel conflicted in comparing myself to an immigrant. I, fortunately, had the capability to write home, contact my bank, get extra money, find food, pay for a weeks worth of hotel (shelter), and slowly figure things out. So many, who move somewhere as a refugee or for a better life, walk in with empty pockets and a dream for something better. So in saying that I feel like an immigrant has really just opened my heart to the challenges someone might face in coming to my own country, and how I might be of assistance to them. 

    I hope today you find yourselves in a safe, comfortable place to share all the new ideas, and all changes, you have made in your classrooms. Know that we (facilitators) know you have taken your teaching to its edge, and the journey has probably given you a temporary loss of security, but in that you have probably found yourself a better teacher, a better learner, a more competent professional. I know you will walk away, after today, a better teacher for Monday, because that is what the Writing Project does for teachers. 

    Happy Renewal. At 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, you'll understand why we call it the renewal. Enjoy each other as friends and colleagues.
    Me, at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks public house. The oldest in England, circa 763. Or so they say.


Casey Daugherty said...

At the Teacher Writing Group: We did three writing activities as warm-up and these activities were taken from Natalie Goldberg's book The Old Friend Far Away (Writing Memoir) and Michael Rosen's book Start Write.

First, we simply started with words, and after two minutes of just getting words down, we did a whip around four times saying these words aloud.

The second warm-up asked us to write down words and phrases people might say amongst friends and family, things appeared like "No, mommy, I love YOU," and "stop being sassy." We wrote a collaborative poem by sharing one phrase. I shared "give me a ballpark figure." That phrase seems to come out of my mouth more here than in America and nobody knows what it means. I'm always asking "how much does [this] cost?" and most answers are "well, it depends on ..." and I respond with, "can you give me a general ball park figure?" And then all is lost. :)

The next warm-up activity had us list "I Remember" statements. We did not share these.

The next activity led us through our senses and memories:
1. Write about your mother, your aunt, or your grandmother.

2. Write about a color without using the name of the color.

3. Write about one sound.

4. Write about one meal.

5. Write about a time when there was rain.

6. Make a list of smells.

We then shared this writing with a partner. Here's a little of what I wrote that night (first, rough, and only draft.) :)

"I remember you hugging me and telling me "I couldn't have done it without you." We closed up shop and swept away fallen petals and bits of stems strewn across the worn, painted, pink and blue concrete floor. We hit the lights and drove to Fox's Pizza Den for our grandma/granddaughter Valentine's Dinner on a cold, dark, February night.

At home, on summer mornings, squirrels chirp alongside Warblers, Robins, and Sparrows. They scurry up branches, across limbs, rattling leaves as they go, jumping from one pin oak to the next, never minding boundaries between yards or streets.

There is no meal like a meal at the Mexican Villa. Love it or hate it, leave it or like it, there is no in-between emotion for this Springfield local. I am three, I am seven, I am 11, 14, 17, 24, 32, 41. It's Sunday lunch after church, Tuesday's dinner after work, Saturday's afternoon party. Over chips, hot sauce, sweet sauce, cheese dip, we are celebrating life--graduations, weddings, birthdays, going-aways, and coming homes; and we are celebrating death--gathering on special days to remember special people from our past.

The rain came--and it took away our ballgames and days at the lake. In the night, the wind grew strong and lightning bolted, and when it was safe to appear outside again, our neighbors barn had disappeared, and so did the corner of Bonnie's roof, peeled away like a giant tin can. In the drizzle we comforted and cleaned."

After we shared our writing, we created a list of the types of writing we want to explore this semester both in writing and in teaching. Here's a partial list: fantasy, writing for reluctant readers/writers, pastiche, digital writing, and scavenger hunts. Teachers taking the writing group as a module (graduate credit) will submit a writing portfolio of their own work, samples of their students' work, and a commentary.

Kory Mitchell & Caron Daugherty said...

Is it a conflict of interest if you present to my COM/ENG faculty?!? This process is inspiring and makes me miss the writing classroom and students' own awakenings to their worlds, their emotions and their courage.

Your explanation of comparing your experience to that of an immigrant is powerful. I appreciate how you define the frustrations yet reign back the feeling that it is really all that similar because of your additional resources and support.

Miss you and love you!!

Casey Daugherty said...

So I guess I can't post a comment to your comment. I thought I could. Been on blogger 8 years and still learning to navigate it. Ha!

NOOOOOO conflict of interest. Fulbright carries the weight. ;)

Thank you for reading. xoxo I need to post more, I know, I know.

Anne Farmer said...

You are inspiring me on so many levels. MY SI days are calling me to, even in my haste, to pick up my pen and write. Your stories of English teachers makes me think "we are more alike than different."Hope you love your haircut too!

Anne Farmer said...

You are inspiring me on so many levels. MY SI days are calling me to, even in my haste, to pick up my pen and write. Your stories of English teachers makes me think "we are more alike than different."Hope you love your haircut too!

Joseph McCaleb said...

Dear Ms. Daugherty,
I like that, daughter-ish, & love your approaching-with-respect the immigrant. We can never, IMO, claim "I know exactly what you mean," but we can feel more poignantly. I want to sit across from you in the Mexican Villa, but across the ocean in hyperspace, finishing off the morning's coffee, remembering times our paths crossed at conferences, your smile, your love of teaching, a community of writers. . .
Happy Sabbatical!

Amy Knowles said...

Casey, it was so great to "see" you today! It looks like you are doing so well, and you look really happy. It is fascinating to hear about the state of the Writing Project in the UK -- we are so blessed. I am really looking forward to hearing about your first week at the schools. You are a pioneer. I am wondering about your vision for sharing what you are doing or if it is too early to formulate that. Have a wonderful evening!

Jaclyn Cantrell said...

Casey! So good to see you (even from afar) via Skype just a few minutes ago. Thank you for your letter. You bring such positive energy to a room-and your writing does the same! I remember when I spent a summer abroad in Malaysia a couple of years ago-I was terrified of the challenges I would face accumulating to a new culture and a new country half way around the world! My best advice is to enjoy every moment of it-notice the little things. In the end, those moments when you chose to slow down, notice the little stuff and pay attention to how it all made you feel, are the moments you will remember the most. Speaking as a fellow yogi, just "stay present." Your time abroad will come to an end and you will wonder where all the time has gone. For me, it took me a good two and a half months to learn how to do this, and by the time I had settled into my new way of life, it was time for me to come home. The people you will meet and the changes you will make personally (and professionally) over the next few months will forever change the way you see the world. Best of luck with everything! I will be thinking of you as the semester progresses.


Natalie Jackson said...

It was great to hear from you!! I am inspired that you took such a risk and left your comfort zone.
I hope we can have "renewal" meetings every so often so we can keep our OWP 13 passion alive!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Casey,
Just so you know, I've changed my classroom around to implement small groups. I even had to find new desks in storage! I have also created my own small group protocol and the students love it! Thank you for everything. I have used so many things from Summer Institute that I can't write it all here! I hope you're not too homesick.

BK said...

Powerful words to remember:
If you want to be a true professional and continue to grow...go to the cutting edge of your competency, which means a temporary loss of security. So whenever you don't quite know what you are doing--know that you are growing."

I was hoping it was better there but it's wonderful that you have a writing group to connect with and learn from.
I remember my summer in Oxford: 1986. I opened a bank account and wrote checks in the town. Rarely was I even asked for anything more than my Exeter College ID. But it was easier being connected to a university.
You're lookin' good. Can't wait for more