Monday, July 20, 2009

Frank McCourt as Teaching Inspiration

In a New York Times article by Eric Konigsberg about the passing of the great Frank McCourt, one of his former students said this:

“Frank had us sing salacious folk songs, he had us write courtroom defenses of inanimate objects and recite recipes as poetry,” said Susan Jane Gilman, a former student who has published two memoirs. “Stuyvesant was largely for math-science types, it was learning by rote. Frank’s class was an intellectual freefall. I looked forward to it every day.”

I love that idea that a class taught in school could be an "intellectual freefall." I mean isn't that what we talk about when we speak about building a writing life? Writing for the sake of writing whether you know where it will take you or not? I love the idea that you could build this into your classroom and take your students along for the ride.

And Let the Teaching Dreams Begin!

I've already had a few dreams where I was teaching, but seeing as how they were a few days ago I don't remember them anymore. 

I had another night. The kids were taking the writing benchmark and were split up between my room and the neighboring room. Except it wasn't one class divided in half, it was like two full classes that I was responsible for. In the neighboring room they were quiet and writing away, but in my room they were all talking and socializing.  And it was the strangest assortment of kids. Kids I taught this year (Namgyu) and kids from past years (Carly) and then people closer to my age that I never taught (Mark Murphy) and people I went to elementary school with in New York (Karen Craddock).  

Once I got the kids somewhat settled I had a conference with Karen (I know - would never happen during the real writing benchmark). She was feeling unsure about the piece she was writing, which is interesting because I think I had this dream because I am feeling unsure about conferring next year with my students. She told me about her piece and in the end (no - I did not follow the general conference outline: Research, Decide, Teach) I said, "So what's your question?" and Karen replied, "How do I know if this is good or not?" I gave her a long answer about if she thinks its good, it is because she's the only assessor that matters. Then she asked, "So do I get an automatic 5?" I laughed good-heartedly and patted her shoulder. "No," I said, "Unfortunately  someone else is still going to score this." She looked crest-fallen and that's how I felt as I stood up and walked away from her. 

How do  we teach the concept of the audience of one and make it meaningful? What does it mean that we tell the students that their assessment is the only one that matters when for some, clearly the one they receive from an outside source is very important too? And can subsequently shape their future feelings about writing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Weird Place

Since the writing institute ended, I've been pretty sad. I miss getting up and going to class. Yet at the same time, I've written very little in the past couple weeks. What's wrong with me? Did I forget everything I learned. I should be writing every day!

On another distantly related note, I cannot bring myself to read the final pieces my students wrote for their final exam. I can't pinpoint the exact reason why. Partly because Julie told me when she read hers that she felt the kids were sucking up; telling her she was the BEST teacher they ever had. I feel so stupid - I didn't even consider this as a possibility when we wrote the prompts. I keep telling myself that I'll read them when it's time to go back to school, but what if I don't?

I feel like I need a break from school so I haven't been reading or writing or thinking about it much. My job alike presentation is looming over me; I thought by now I would know what I wanted to do, but I don't. I feel like my fall-back is the Life Graph, but I don't know. One of the requirements is that the presentation be hands-on and anything I really want to talk about (Writer's Notebooks, Minilessons, etc.) I can't picture in anything but a lecture form. When I talked to Sandra during the institute about my concern, she suggested I bring in my student's writer's notebooks and let them look through them. It sounded good then, but now I'm like, and do what with them? I think some teachers would look at them and think - great; these look good. So I'd like to get my act together because the sooner I do, the more settled I'll feel. Plus, I know Sunny & Heidi must want something from me soon.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

At Last!

After years (at least five) of filling out the paperwork to host a student teacher in my classroom, I'm getting one! I'm so embarrassed to write that I cannot stop crying when I think about working with a student teacher. I have wanted a student teacher for as long as I have been teaching.  Each year that  I would fill out the forms and nothing would happen, I grew a little more distressed. I almost didn't fill one out this year thinking, what's the point? I know when they place student teachers that a lot of planning is involved that has nothing to do with me. But a part of me couldn't help but think, maybe someone in administration is making a conscious decision to not place a student teacher with me because of who I am as a teacher. 

Oh well, it doesn't matter now because I have one and I cannot wait to meet her!

It's silly but I feel like Charlotte in Sex in the City after she has filled out tons of adoption paper work and waited and then she finally finds out she has a daughter.