Thursday, April 27, 2006

Good News!

As of yesterday, I am finished visiting student teachers! Calloo, callay, it's a beautiful day!

No, really, can you tell I'm relieved?

It was actually quite a decent semester for student teachers, except that I supervised nineteeen this time, spread out over 4 districts and 9 buildings. That meant that I didn't get to spend as much time with all of them as I wanted to, but I still feel that I did the best I could under the circumstances. (I know, what am I doing under there, anyway?)

Only a couple of problems, and those were handled with a relatively small amount of angst.

Now I must get to work on the umpteen billion writing projects that have to be finished this summer.

Monday, April 24, 2006

One More Thing

Another change to my junior-level English methods class: Since I'll be operating Thursdays as writing workshops, each student in class will collaborate with me on teaching the mini-lesson for one workshop day during the semester. The collaboration is so that the workshop focuses on an aspect of their writing that is in need of work, and so that I can make sure the instructional experience they get is valuable. Perhaps after the workshop, I should require them to meet with me to debrief the experience of teaching the mini-lesson? I'll need to be sure to have a clear, highly structured and well-articulated sense of what the mini-lesson should involve.

I think this plan has more possibilities for quality instructional time and for learning about teaching than the "opening circle" work that I did last year.

I also would like to work in to this class some experiences with reading and commenting on student papers. This will mean, probably, using the local writing project website (for which I am the technology liaison) for teachers in the state to post their students' writing, and for my students to have an opportunity to read and respond to those. It's a bit tough to figure out, because I'm not sure how to organize it so that both the preservice teachers and the students of the inservice teachers get the most out of it, especially in terms of timing.

I'll work on that aspect some more this summer.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Just an FYI. If you write a grant proposal that has this in it:
"This data base can help departments of education start to think about how current and future high school teachers are taught how to teach writing."

and this:

"This statistic would allow us to look closely at the kind of education our teachers are receiving and to look at how they are applying their education in the classroom."

you'd better have talked to me about it first. Especially when you're talking about English teachers.

"Start to think"!! What the hell?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I decided this mornign that I would walk to work. Decided that BEFORE I looked out the window and saw the snow falling. That's right, you heard me, snow falling on April 18th.

But it's ok, I'm a bad ass, I can take walking to work in the snow. I pulled on my warm blue jacket, wool hat (made by my mom!), fleece gloves. I turned on my mp3 player (no, it's not an Ipod, damn it) and cruised along for a few blocks.

That's when the real fun began. The wind picked up, to the point where I could hear it whistling even over the 70's-rock sound of Lenny Kravitz. The snow was pelting my face, sticking to my jeans, crusting my gloves and hat. The side of my face started stiffening up, and I could barely begin to see the snow sticking to my eyelashes.

I started looking around for a building I could enter, but aside from just knocking on doors, there was nothing around. So I trudged on, passing other freaks of nature out for a walk in this terrible weather, until I finally made it to an office building where I had to run an errand anyway.


Now, of course, the sun is out, the snow has melted, and spring is back. Such is life. I'm sure when I head for home this afternoon, another blizzard will hit. Just seems like that kind of day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I recently sat in a meeting with some school administrators who told me about the state's investment (via an allocation of funding from the legislature) in "instructional facilitators" for school districts. These are teachers whose job will be to work with other teachers on improving instruction. My sense is that these IFs will be working particularly with math and literacy skills across the curriculum, especially at the secondary level. Many school districts in the state are now frantically getting their paperwork in line so that they can hire several IFs per school. For example in the district I mentioned above, they will be hiring 36 new IFs, mostly classroom teachers who will come out of their classrooms to work with other teachers.
This trend has been common in elementary classrooms, particularly in terms of teachers called "literacy coaches" -- this has a special meaning for schools involved in the Reading First work.
But in secondary schools, it's a fairly new idea.

Of course, as soon as I heard about this, my research mode kicked in. A colleague and I have something planned, something I am very excited about, to take a look in a mixed method format at what happens in secondary schools when IFs are provided to help teachers. Still in the planning stages, but I'm excited about it.

The whole IF thing also raises some questions in my mind:
* What kind of teachers will volunteer to step out of their classrooms and work with other teachers? Will they be (and this is my hope) the ones who are master teachers, who are keenly interested in improving instruction and who can work well with other teachers? Or will they be the ones who are sick and tired of being in the classroom and see IF work as an easier, less stressful option?
* Will these IFs be able to work with teachers? I mean, in my experience, there are some teachers who are seriously interested in changing/improving their craft (the easy and lovely ones to work with) and then there are those who would not change if a fire was lit under their ass. How successful will these IFs be with the latter? What will stand in their way? What will facilitate their work?
* Ultimately, we will want to see improvement in student achievement. Will this happen?
* What does this do to the principal's responsibility as an Instructional Leader?

In the meantime, while this work is in the planning stages, the chapters are beginning to roll in for the two editing jobs I've agreed to. Exciting stuff.

And my class in Casper is over for the semester (except for the grading) and I'm suddenly freed up a bit to get some writing done. Hooray!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Beer Poet(ry)

Here's a poem written by a long-distance hiker, Beer Poet, who is now hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. (He's also famous for his poem, "The Rainy Day (AT Poem)"

My Compass (8/13)

15 miles from Oregon
I realized
that I had lost a close friend. . .

(my compass)

This is a horribly tragic moment.
That compass had become my mirror,
my reflection of the real world. . .

When it looked back at me
I found movement and direction.

"Oh what grief!"

If only it could talk. . .
It would yell out,
“Help! . . .
Take me to my friend!”
and it would tell grandiose stories of adventure
and madness.

(It could tell one hell of a tale.)

but it lies quiet somewhere . . .

(without me)

Sadly sleeping,
without the movement . . .
without serving me well.

And the hush of the wind
sings a lulling sad lament
as the morning begins
the stars fade, and the sky turns
from black to early grey. . .
and I sip on a cup of tea
(Earl Grey)
with a distant bugle playing taps in my head

. . . and I miss my compass.

The Beer Poet

Monday, April 03, 2006

Change is a Good Thing

Lately I've been pondering changes to my junior-level English methods class, which focuses on teaching writing. This has begun with completely abandoning the textbooks for the class and adopting new ones. I've decided on these:

Teaching Writing: Craft, Art, Genre by Fran Claggett
Grammar Alive! A Guide for Teachers by Brock Haussamen
Risking Intensity: Reading and Writing Poetry with High School Students by Judith Rowe Michaels

I'll also need to have students read some chapters on the writing process, on conferencing with students, on setting up a writing workshop -- I've got most of those in hand.

I'm thinking of setting it up in a similar fashion to last year, with Tuesdays being regular class days and Thursdays being workshop days. As to the workshop, we will be spending time developing our own portfolio of writing, including at least one narrative piece and some poetry.

Other assignments I'm thinking about include using Hillocks' ideas about structuring writing and a sense of writing workshop format to have students -- individually -- create a plan for teaching a particular type of writing. This will include a "gateway activity" and then a series of structured lessons, in workshop format, to assist students with writing that particular genre.

That's about as far as I've gotten so far, although I have other ideas milling about in my brain.