If every blog post I wrote in my head actually ended up here, I would be an incredibly prolific blogger! Unfortunately the great idea I hash out while I’m in the shower or driving to school is gone by the time I’m anywhere near my computer. The desire is there, but I’m not taking the time to sit down and pound it out. 

Teri Lesense (Professor Nana) has developed a great habit of writing mini blog posts. This is a great example for me. Instead of thinking, oh, I need to write out this idea, but writing takes time, and I have all this school work to do (my usual excuse) so I can’t right now, I need to write mini blog posts to get into the habit of blogging. 

Fortunately for me, WordPress has a wonderful mobile app. I really have no excuse for not throwing out nuggets as they come to mind. Quick Writes of blogging. 

Always Read Your Mail!

As we climbed into the school van at 3:10 Monday morning, my principal handed me an envelope and said something about also getting one and there being a typo. I don’t really remember how I replied. I’m pretty sure I didn’t really look at it before stuffing it into my bag. We were on our way to Boston Logan Airport for a four-day trip to DC. it was the first time I had planned and led a trip such as this, and my already sleep deprived mind was on getting everyone through security and onto the plane. At some point during the morning I noticed the envelope kept working its way out of my bag, so I stuffed it into a deeper pocket.

It wasn’t until I returned from DC at the end of the week (after an exhausting but successful trip) that I pulled out the letter. I had assumed it was junk mail. One of many fishing letters I get for curriculum or writing contests. Boy was I wrong! Instead of a generic sales pitch, I held a letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Because of a nomination from someone, I would find out who later, I was invited to attend Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) in Seattle, WA, July 15-17, with BMGF arranging and paying for my hotel and travel.

Friday afternoon I received an email with registration information and nomination information. Turns out I had been nominated by Kate Baker (@KtBkr4), a high school English teacher from NJ. I met Kate on Twitter, and over the last several years she has become a valuable part of my PLN on both Twitter and Voxer.

My registration and travel preferences have been submitted, but it still hasn’t fully sunk in that I will travel to Seattle in July to participate in an event where I will collaborate with teachers from all over the country to tackle current issues in education and share ideas about best practices.

I have been frustrated that I can not afford graduate school or to attend national conferences such as NCTE, but I have not let that stop me from seeking out learning online and through books. I have attended EdCamps and smaller local conferences for which I always pay out-of-pocket. I love to learn, I know there is much to learn, and I want to be the best teacher I can possibly be for my students.

I am excited to continue my learning this summer thanks to the generosity of others. At the end of June I will attend Heinemann’s Boothbay Literacy Retreat thanks to the generosity of Maine children’s book author, Cynthia Lord. Then a few weeks later, I will attend ECET2 thanks to the Gates Foundation. It’s going to be an awesome summer!

The Adventure Begins

More and more I am discovering that what I said years ago in an job interview holds true: I don’t accept the status quo. I don’t want to do something because that is the way it is always done. I have become a reformer.

I’m always reading, always learning, always ready to try new things. I have had the benefit of working in small faith-based schools under principals who trust me and give me freedom to try new things. It all started several years ago when I first stumbled across the idea of reading and writing workshop on the internet.

I’ve done lots of reading about workshop in English class: Nancie Atwell, Ralph Fletcher, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle. These are my go-to texts, even though some of them aren’t specifically about workshop. My most recent read was Using the Workshop Approach in the High School English Classroom by Cynthia D. Urbanski. I first started reading about workshop probably about six years ago. I’ve implemented pieces here and there sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But I’ve never let go of the idea. It makes sense to me. Which why I can’t let it go. I believe it can work for any subject, but it is going to look different in different discipline. The individual teacher makes a difference, too. What works for one teacher, such as Nancie Atwell, will not completely work for me. My understanding of workshop and my implementation of it is slowly evolving. The prevailing idea is that high school English must be traditionally structured. I do not believe this to be true.

Ideas such as flip class and gamification are becoming popular. I find gamificatino interesting, although I’m not convinced it has staying power. Workshop and flip class however, I believe do have staying power. I believe that I will eventually figure out how to do it effectively!

History is a subject that you can’t find much about for workshop, but I believe it can be done. History should be approached as teaching students to be historians. So workshop would be modeling how to think and write like a historian and then guiding students in practice of that thinking, reading, and writing. That would completely change students from being passive to being active in the study of history. I’ve tried to find materials about teaching history this way and haven’t found much. What would history workshop look like? It would definitely provide opportunities for integrating and being active. I really want to try to develop this idea.

There are so many new trends in education: workshop, flip class, gamification, standards based, place based, project based, the list goes on. There are a few that I am working on developing my understanding of, and hopefully will be implementing to some degree. In addition to the structure, there is assessment. I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with traditional grading. I want to move to narrative feedback and do away with alphanumeric grading.

I’ve already begun working on workshop and flip class. I’m learning about SBG and trying to decide where I fall on SBG or PBE and how exactly you do that. Project and Problem Based learning are pretty cool, and I’ve become intrigued by place based learning. These are things I want to explore further.

I’ve adopted a new catch phrase and mission: Authentic Learning, Authentic Assessment, Authentic Faith. This is what I want for myself and my students. So I need to find the best way to achieve this.