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September 2014

July 2014

Accessing the General Curriculum: Day 2

Today, in the general session, our speaker was Will Richardson, published author, school reform advocate, and long-ago English teacher. He discussed how teachers and administrators must transform schools to accomodate the new digital world we now live in, and how to win back our disengaged students.

This was not a revelation for me; I have been listening to the students complain, and I am stuck in that perpetual power struggle between the student, technology, and school boards that dictate policy that is outdated and ineffective, and serves only the technologically challenged. Our students are advanced, have new ideas, and are only lacking bandwidth, not knowledge. Knowledge is readily accessible, but you must know how to discover it, and sort through the facts versus the fiction; our students need guidance, mentoring, and digital literacy training.

During the summer school session at lunchtime, a teacher announced that she was sick of "digital literacy" and she wasn't planning on ever teaching it again. For her, the total sum of digital literacy means that your students will no longer record bathroom fistfights or take the phone out during the STAAR exam. But digital literacy is so much more than just manners, and I was thankful for Will Richardson's excellent presentation because it exemplified this problem.

It is my hope that someday my students will be free to blog, Tweet, and snapchat on the topics of the day during their classes. It is my hope that I will work in a school that is open-minded about access, and will give my students the freedom to learn from "strangers" around the world.

It is my hope that I will work in a school that appreciates the English teacher that writes, practices, and exercises professional and personal power using the worldwideweb, because this teacher is truly qualified to lead our children into a future where boundaries and borders are diminished, and education is redefined.

AGC Institute 2014: the beginning

I have been moving, and this morning I wasn't even sure if I was going to have clothes to wear to my teacher development. When I say clothes, I mean things like underwear...underwear that's clean at least. The furniture is pushed all over the house, and the apartment looks like a dog-hair-covered-cyclone blasted through, and I keep regretting the fact that I didn't tweet that basketball sized hairball I found behind my cherry veneered bookshelf.

But today at Region IV, I feel at home. It is wonderful to be in a room full of wonderful teachers in the same building that I took almost all of my certification tests, and where I received the guidance of so many brilliant educational leaders.

This morning we met in the cyber cafe to discuss new educational technology and applications. The one I like the best is something called QUIP. Similar to Google Docs, but more advanced with security features and the ability to text with group partners and record who has visited a document and made editing changes, it truly looks like the English teacher's best friend.

Well, maybe I should stop writing and look at the books and handouts in this bag. They also gave me some cute little earbuds, and a flash drive, and it's even possible I could win a door prize. MoRe LaTeR :)

Tonight at the Institute for Writing and Thinking

This is my last night at the Institute and I am feeling the blues. All of my classmates are such gifted writers and teachers, and our facilitator is extremely helpful and kind. Even though these are undoubtedly some of the most talented educators in the world, no one is hard to talk to, and everyone has professional tips and tricks they are happy to share. 

I met a woman who teaches English in a small public high school in Oregon and she has a PhD in American literature. She taught 11 years in the trenches of Los Angeles, and she has been teaching at this small district for 9 years. About half of the teachers attending are college level instructors, and almost all of the rest of us teach high school English or some close variation. There is a lot of discussion about moving grade levels and breaking into public or private secondary school after teaching college level courses. 

It would be wonderful to have teachers leading departments at the secondary level with subject area expertise. 

Anyway, enough dreaming and time to get on with the night. We present our work, enjoy social time, and then go off to our beds with one more day of classes left. 

I have the blues....

Today in the Hudson

I have not been able to stick to my writing routine; this means I am way out of practice, and my sentences are going to come out choppy, and weird; like they used to years ago when I wrote papers and worried more about audience than art.

Once again, I am more worried about audience. Because I am at Bard with some of the smartest people in the world, and I know without a doubt that I am different; I am just not that smart. Last night in our group "Teaching the Academic Paper" we talked about some of the weird little writing rules that exist in the K-12 world: never using first person, not starting your sentence with because, and the so-called elements of academic writing.

The world of "school" has gotten decidedly too rigid over the years thanks to testing. From my perspective, it is as if we are trying to wiggle in some creativity and true skills between STAAR prep, and administrative hysteria; yet, none of the creativity is truly welcomed, even though this is what provides our students with skills. Writing an interesting research paper is the last item on the calendar. Teaching an academic paper is time consuming, and that might interfere with scores. So, in public school, we blast through this task even though it teaches so many important skills and concepts not even addressed by the state standards.

What do you do if you start teaching in a school where even the seniors had never used the library database to access information and criticism? What do you do if you discover that your students are clueless about plagiarism, paraphrasing, and summarizing?

Well, you go to a professional development and learn how to make definition flash cards, and a bucket with some random question stems inside...that's what you do! And then later, someone that never visits your class can accuse you of not implementing any changes. But change is what you are all about, and if you don't change the whole scene, at least half of your students are not going to leave high school with any tangible benefit. The world is crazy!

Well, I haven't even had coffee yet...I don't have any makeup on, and I could scare the headless horseman with this hair. But I am fired up. I have a beautiful view of the trees from my dorm window, and the air is fresh.

I am happy today!