Friday, July 27, 2007

Obviously, this man is my soulmate...

Just read a recap of a speech by Jim Cummins at the state NCTE conference in California. I so wish I had been there to hear him speak! Because just reading it, I gave him a standing ovation.

Some of the things I've been saying for years are in his speech. Just one example is the unconscionable amount of instructional time being lost to testing. This is something I have personal experience with, as student teachers under my supervision, every spring, spend literally weeks overseeing students taking tests. And that's just the time being spent on TAKING the tests, not the time spent by teachers (who are, yes indeed, afraid of losing their jobs if their students don't perform well) on preparing students to take the tests. I'm still waiting for the huge uprising of parents against the amount of time and the stress involved in these tests. Ridiculous. Parents, you should sue!

And then also there's the preposterous idea that the tests students are taking actually represent what they are capable of. We have those data, sure, but what other data might we also be collecting to help us understand how our students are doing?

And don't get me started on notions of "highly qualified" teachers that take into account ONLY the content the teachers have and not their actual ability to develop a classroom community, organize and carry out instruction, interact with other humans, etc.

Anyway, if you have a minute, go and read the overview of Jim Cummins' talk. That is an enlightened man.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Writing Project notes

The weekend beginning Friday, July 13th (and no, there was no bad luck associated with it) began this summer's invitational with the Wyoming Writing Project. I'm one of 12 "fellows" and -- along with several staff members -- we spent the initial weekend at the lovely Elk Mountain Hotel. The fellows are mostly teachers, with me (teacher educator), a school librarian, and a couple of principals. All education folks, anyway. We spent all day last Wednesday through Friday writing, brainstorming, and taking a field trip to Rock Springs. Why Rock Spring? you may be asking.

The culminating project of this year's Wyoming Writing Project will be writing, producing, and performing a play based on the massacre of @30 Chinese miners in Rock Springs in September of 1885. So we had a little tour of Rock Springs, so that we could more clearly envision the events and the places of the massacre.

If you'd like a little more information, here's a Wikipedia entry to get you started.

We also had to develop an essential question . . . I decided to focus on this one: "How does knowledge work?" which will allow me to do some personal and professional research related to knowledge transfer between differing types of settings.

I have a feeling that, over the course of the project (still 2 more weeks to run) we'll all get to know each other really well. I'm happy that so far no one has emerged as a complete wack job, and everyone is getting along fairly well. Perhaps we are still in a honeymoon phase . . .

I am most excited about being pushed to write. I don't take enough time to write for myself; instead, I'm constantly doing professional forms of writing, which are fulfilling, certainly, but lack a certain intimacy that I would like to have in my writing. So far I've done a scad of journaling, written a few poems, and begun reading on high-road and low-road transfer. I think that this experience will also be helpful in terms of my classes next fall; I'm hoping that I can transfer some of the community-building experiences and build teaching patterns for transfer into my classes.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Finals Week

Well, sort of. I have basically this week to finish my syllabi for fall courses, write and prepare materials to send to outside reviewers, and write my program report for accreditation. Why so much in just one week? Well, because starting Friday I'll be a "fellow" in the Wyoming Writing Project and when that finishes we'll be heading out east to hike about 100 miles on the AT in Maine. When we come back from that (much slimmer, I hope!), I'll have 4 days before the meetings and other crap begin that signal the onset of the fall semester.

So, I'll be working my ass off this week -- no slacking!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Day Hike

Yesterday's day hike down French Creek Canyon in the Snowy Range was delightful! The trail begins on the ridge of a steep canyon (the French Creek Canyon, don't ya know) and then follows that ridge down into a beautiful meadow. Going out is mostly downhill, which means that going back is mostly uphill. It was a great hike, a good workout, with lots of beautiful sights.

The trail follows French Creek down its canyon, which means our hike was accompanied by the sounds of rushing water and opportunities to soak our feet. . .

. . . and now that I'm a nerdy geology buff, I noticed some interesting rock formations that I still know nothing about. One day, however, I will understand these . . .