As a member of this Online Book Club, you are expected to post to the book blog at least once per week between now and July 11 -- that's six weeks. You should finish your book before then, and you will meet during the Institute in your groups to extend the discussion and plan how to present the book to the others in the Institute.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
My favorite example in the chapter was about the students who turned first their library and then their empty warehouse-like space into engaging, comfortable, and safe classroom spaces. It is inspiring to see examples of teachers making the best of what are not so uncommon situations teachers face across the country.
Things I would like to implement in my classroom next school year after reading this chapter are, student art work and quotes, comfortable sitting spaces, music, and snacks.
Please share how you have implemented the teacher as designer pose in your classroom because I would love some more ideas!
"In ELA departments and districts, the process of selecting texts that teachers will teach so so routine that we often forget that it is also deeply political. The books available in your school's book room, for example, constrain your student's reading choices in school." (PFW pg. 90)
Curating the curriculum is so important because teachers are entrusted with a power that they may not even understand and have a responsibility to provide students with thought provoking and varied literature. If teachers continue to allow the canonical literature that has circulated for decades to dominate education, we will have uninvested, uninterested, non critical thinking students. This responsible is big and should be advocated for department wide. It seems obvious to me that many teachers are not currently curating the text because they are either provided with curriculum and don't know how to challenge it, or they are given curriculum and wouldn't dream of adding more work to the crazy load they already have if they don't need to. The willingness to go above and beyond is what separates the good from the great, and students recognize that.
Another frustration of curating is finding the appropriate level for hundreds of students. "Regardless of formation (i.e., digital, multimodal,, or print), texts can also provoke frustration if students find them too difficult to parse meaning from without teacher-supported scaffolding or, conversely, too easy compared to student's developmental level." (PFW 102) This is just another support for my argument that this should be done collaboratively.
Lastly, I think curation is important because, as the authors touch on, it taps into the true expertise of teachers. "more than half of U.S. teachers hold master's degrees and yet teacher expertise is largely ignored in schools." (PWF 105) Teacher morale is low in the schools I have been in and talking with other colleagues in different schools, they would echo that sentiment. The pose of teacher as curator benefits students as well as teachers.
Friday, July 8, 2016
I am still working out how I would like to better implement writing for me students the coming school year. I see a lot of teachers making a large attempt to get students writing more frequently but it is through daily journals and students either blow them off or view them as a chore. I do not want to continue the regimented forced writing. Somehow I would like to see a weekly writers workshop time implemented into my lesson plans. The greatest struggle that I see for student writers is the environment. Currently, I am sitting on my couch with a blanket and the television on in the background. I feel comfortable and free to think, write, and revise. It will take great efforts to make a classroom conducive to genuine, joyful writing, which seems slightly ironic.
If anyone has any experience with writers workshops or encouraging their students to write more freely and genuinely, please share!
I love this pose and I think it is a crucial stepping stone in the bigger picture of education reform and creating a system that benefits all students instead of a few. The key here is genuine exchange. I constantly hear students complaining that their schoolwork is not relevant to their lives. While sometimes they are unable to see the bigger picture of how something will fit, often times, I can't disagree with them. Teaching literacy as civic action is a win-win-win. Teachers, students, and the community all benefit when we focus education on the real world and stop treating the classroom as a daycare. As the text points out teacher must, "foster a classroom environment where students feel challenged, but safe to voice divergent opinions and bring forward new civic topics for consideration and critique.
I wonder if anyone can contribute examples of this pose in their own classroom. My only concern here is how to foster an engagement in the political topics that come with these assignments. Many students are seemingly more interested in popular culture than civic engagement and I would love some feedback on how others have overcome this issue.
Additionally, the chapter goes on to discuss social media activism. Students already have access to a platform of activism and I am also curious if anyone here has used that in the classroom. My biggest concern is the distraction of social media in large classrooms. Its impossible for one teacher to monitor 30 students using social media and I fear it is way too distracting and seriously compromises the "safe space" that a classroom should be.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
Friday, July 1, 2016
First and foremost, I am in love with the idea of the silent discussion. A silent discussion is a simple activity in which students are able to respond anonymously in writing before having a full class discussion. I loved this idea for a couple of reasons. First, it is an opportunity to practice ALL FOUR language domains (reading, writing, listening, speaking), which as an ESL teacher makes it an ideal activity. More importantly, it allows ALL students to participate. Ginormous class sizes makes it nearly impossible to allow all students to productively participate in real conversation, ultimately leading to disengagement and frustration all around. In this model of discussion, all students can have their voice heard. A silent conversation pushes everyone to contribute and grow.
Next, as the authors of PWF point out, "Everyone needs a place to struggle...You're also going to school to be a better human being, so if the adults around you do not permit you to do that, then that's a problem, right?" (Garcia, O'Donnel-Allen pg. 41). Does anybody enjoy struggling? I can't think of anyone who does. But I also don't know of anyone who would disagree that struggling is a crucial part of becoming a successful person. Teachers (and parents) cannot be afraid of allowing students to fail. Where better than a controlled and safe environment? Again, it all goes back to being vulnerable.
Lastly, English teachers have a unique opportunity to get students invested in their own learning and be successful "makers." Makers are "motivated by internal goals, not extrinsic rewards." I believe there MUST be a shift from bribing students to learn to raising children who love learning and desire to use their knowledge to create change. Many schools implement PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) or something similar but what happens when they leave the school building and they don't get a reward every time they do something good? If English teachers lead the way in creating makes who collaborate, solve problems and have a stake in their own learning, we will begin to solve bigger picture issues.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Monday, June 27, 2016
This chapter helped me put some terminology to much of what I already think about and care for as a first-year writing instructor (and add to my reading list - Geneva Gay, Django Paris & H. Samy Alim, and Allan Johnson, for sure!). My teaching philosophy and practice is already deeply grounded in methods of teaching to my students' respective lifeworlds. Much of my interest in the "culturally proactive approach" stems from my experience teaching adult English Language Learners prior to coming to my current position, and all that I learned from my students as I helped equip them with language (they taught me far more than I taught them, to be sure).
I am especially looking forward to spending time reading about "wobbling." I enjoy these moments of grappling with uncertainties in my classroom - even when I am the one who is doing the wobbling. These are moments of discovery and knowledge-making. My Comp. I & II courses are structured to foster the difficult conversations about privilege, oppression, and power structures, so I am excited to see how the rest of this book might supplement what is already happening in my classrooms.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Sunday, June 19, 2016
I appreciate the authors' acknowledgment of the "wobble," because I feel that wobble a lot. Unfortunately, I don't always push through that wobble to achieve "flow." Too often I back off when certain things get too difficult (and cultural issues can be very difficult). This book is reminding me of my original ideals and plans, and I feel that it's putting me back on track.
The chapter reminded me of one my favorite teaching books from back in my early days, Teaching Stories by Judy Logan (1997). In it the author quotes another teacher, Emily Style, who says, "students should be able to see themselves mirrored in the content of the curriculum, in terms of gender, ethnicity, race and class. At the same time students should also be able to look through the windows of curriculum into stories of people who are 'other' to them." One idea from our book that fits into this idea very well is the praise poem assignment on page 26. I love the idea of kids writing poems that give praise to their identities and having an opportunity to challenge misconceptions about their identities. I'll be teaching 7th-grade social studies next year, and it seems an appropriate setting for this type of activity. I can see having these poems all over my room. However, I'm sure it would take a lot of trust building work to get some kids to open up.