From the Muppet Labs:
Peace (in the carving of memories),
HVWP at 10 from Bonnie Kaplan on Vimeo.
Bonnie, my longtime friend and collaborator at the Hudson Valley Writing Project, has put together a fascinating look at her writing project’s history and where it is now, and where it is heading. It’s worth sharing because it tells the story of an organization of teachers using inquiry to make change in practice and in the classroom all under our NWP banner of “Teachers Teaching Teachers.”
Peace (in the sharing),
I was wandering down a hallway in our school that I don’t normally go through when I noticed this line of carts, with overhead projectors, and it reminded me of some sort of Tech Graveyard. Our school is moving fast into interactive whiteboards, and I guess these overheads don’t quite need a place in our classrooms like they used to.
I found them a little …. lonely here, and wonder what they talk about when no one’s around …
“My bulb is burned out. And some kid pulled me out of the wall wrong, so I have a bent prong. This stinks, stuck here like this in this hallway.”
“Yeah. I know what you mean. The only thing I am handy for these days is as a light for tracing. A tracer! Is that what I have come to?”
“Did you see those smarty pants? The (sneering voice) Smart Boards. They think they’re all that.”
“Yep. I’d like to pull their plug, all right.”
“See that kid? Coming down the hallway?”
“Which one? The one with the blue shirt? The one who’s skipping and humming to himself?”
“Yeah. Every day, he walks by here on the way to class, or the bathroom, or something, and he doesn’t even look at us. It’s like we’re part of the wall. Shhh, here he comes.”
A moment passes.
“You see that? He … touched me. I saw him.”
“He ran his fingers in your dust. That’s not real touching.”
“It’s enough. He knew I was here. Hey, what’d he write on me anyway. I can’t see it.”
“Uh … let’s see … oh.”
“He wrote, ‘I Was Here’.”
Another moment passes.
“Well, it’s not much, but it’s something. I was useful.”
“It’s that custodian guy, with his cleaner and rags.”
“Yep. He’s gonna wipe you clean.”
Well, that was amusing, for me.
Peace (in the discards),
We’re moving (slowly) towards a redesign of our website for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. We hope to be done before the end of the calendar year, and one of the projects that our site director took on was redesigning and updating our WMWP logo. For a long time, it was a gray-scale feather pen that seemed very antiquated.
So, this summer, we used a graphic consultant to come up with new designs and a few weeks, at our annual Best Practices event, we introduced the new logo to folks, who seemed to really like it. (One of the WMWP Leadership Team — it wasn’t me, honest — noted that we moved from a feather to an ink pen and maybe the next phase might be a computer mouse).
The logo and website design is part of an overall push for more inquiry into our site’s mission and how we can best put ourselves out there as a resource for teachers in the Pioneer Valley. Two years ago, we adopted a mission statement that is guiding us in all of our work:
The mission of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project, is to create a professional community where teachers and other educators feel welcomed to come together to deepen individual and collective experiences as writers and our understanding of teaching and learning in order to challenge and transform our practice. Our aim is to improve learning in our schools — urban, rural and suburban.
Professional development provided by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project values reflection and inquiry and is built on teacher knowledge, expertise, and leadership.
Central to our mission is the development of programs and opportunities that are accessible and relevant to teachers, students, and their families from diverse backgrounds, paying attention to issues of race, gender, language, class and culture and how these are linked to teaching and learning.
Peace (in the writing project work),
The other night, a friend of mine who has played drums in various bands with me over the years turned 50 and threw himself a bash. He invited various musician friends to play at the party, and I dusted off my saxophone to jam the night away.
There’s a moment when three of us are on stage. I am on guitar (along with my friend, John) and the birthday boy, Bob, is in the center. He’s listening to a song that I wrote to honor him (his nickname is Duke Rushmore) as a birthday present.
Here are some clips from the night:
Peace (in the music),
My friend, Bill Gaskins, asked for guest bloggers, and I volunteered, and then wondered what the heck to write about. I can spew all day here (sorry, readers) but it’s different when you are taking up space at someone else’s blog, particularly when it’s someone you respect like Bill. You have to have some focus.
I decided to write about Facebook and why I am a conscientious objector to the site (a bit of a stretch of those words, for sure) and so my guest post features some focused ramblings about why that is and what I may be missing over there in FB Land.
You can read my post over at Bill’s Creating a Path for Learning site. I also recorded my piece as a podcast, which you can listen to here.
Peace (in the sharing of ideas),
We have our three days of parent-teacher conferences coming up later this week. Since I teach on a sixth grade team in an elementary school that utilizes a middle school approach (I teach Language Arts, someone else teaches math, etc., and students move through the curriculum during the day), we often have headaches trying to gather enough information for the parents that we will see (they get to choose one of us, and we relay info to them from our colleagues). It can take hours of discussions at times, in fact.
A few years ago, I showed my team how to use Google Docs, and we now save a lot of time by creating a shared resource about all of our 80 students. The file is only for us teachers: think of it as notes for a conversation. We go in regularly and make notes about the students, so that when parent conferences come around (or report cards/progress reports), we all have some ideas of what is going on in the other classes.
As any teacher knows, sometimes the students who excel in writing are not the same who excel in math. The problem with our particular model (where we specialize in a subject area) is that we don’t always see those other strengths and other weaknesses.
This weekend, I had a stack of writing samples from our 80 sixth graders, and I began going through each student, one at a time, writing my reflections about each student so far this year — their strengths and weaknesses in reading and writing, and comments about advice I am giving them, and strategies for moving ahead. It’s time-consuming, obviously.
The act of writing about every single one of my students really allowed me time and space to think deeply about my perceptions of each student as writers and readers here in the second month of the school year. It forced me to recall moments, conversations, classroom participation and activities, and more, and then formulate my ideas in writing. I know I write a lot more than my colleagues do, but it occurred to me that I am writing more for myself — and not just for conferences, but for teaching every day – than for them, although I expect they will find my notes useful in talks with parents.
The experienced reminded me again of the power of writing, for ourselves as much as for our students.
Peace (in the reflection),
There’s always time to check in on the K12 Online Conference, because it never goes away. I’m working to focus on the student-centered presentations this year, which are useful to me as a teacher.
Here’s some information that came my way from the K12 Online organizers:
We hope you’ve had time to watch and listen to some of the FANTASTIC presentations shared last week during week 1 of our 2010 conference! Remember our conference presentations are archived indefinitely, so while we encourage you to engage in live events and online discussions during the three weeks of our actual conference – the learning continues year round with K12Online! We now have over 170 presentations archived since our conference began in 2006. All our sessions for week 1 are linked from our 2010 conference schedule:We have a variety of LIVE EVENTS coming up online tomorrow (Sunday, October 23rd,) Thursday, October 28th, Saturday, October 30th, and Wednesday, November 10th. These events will feature discussions with our conference keynote speakers including Colby Ratzlaff, Dolors Reig, Darren Kuropatwa, Allanah King, and David Warlick.RSVP and get links to join each of these LIVE events on:Remember the K-12 Online Conference is now available on iTunesU! A very special thanks to Peggy George, whose hard work has made this possible. All presentations from week 1 are available now for download, both as iOS-compatible videos and mp3 audio-only files, on our iTunesU channel. Link to it on:Please continue to SHARE the K-12 Online Conference with others in your school community. Our marketing flyer is available on:Embed code to add the K-12 Online Conference badge to your own blog or other website is available on:Thanks to our WONDERFUL 2010 presenters for K-12 Online! We look forward to continuing to learn with you next week and in the months ahead. Thanks for YOUR continued support of the K-12 Online Conference.Sincerely,Your 2010 K-12 Online Conference Organizer TeamAmanda MarrinanJose RodriguezMaria KneeWesley FryerKim CaisePeggy GeorgeSusan van Gelder
Peace (in the sharing of ideas),