December 10, 2012

Is it February 3rd? Have I finally woken up on a new day?

To borrow from Dr. Crissman’s response to last week’s CR post, “it is the end of the beginning,” and now at the end of the semester I have the opportunity to reflect on this beginning – a long beginning of thinking, consideration, and design that will carry over into my future classrooms. It is time to revisit the FOKI Matrix:

Professional Self
I still haven’t taught, I have a disturbing amount of theory oozing out of my every orifice and pores, and I have infinite room for growth. At the beginning of the semester I described this self as my weakest and least developed identity, and it still is. But I have plenty of potential, and next semester I’ll (finally) have the chance to road-test some of the tremendous amount of theory stuffed inside of me like cream inside of a Twinkie (miss you Hostess… come back). At the midterm FOKI I noted that my pedagogy had become a roughly defined shape and less of a blob, and now post-ALP, a half-dozen CCIs, and The Change Project, I have a roughly defined shape with a rainbow of hues. No bold colors or sharp edges yet, but it is a beginning. I have ideas for activities to use in my own classroom and the experiences of having done many activities (for better or worse) myself. Professional self is still my weakest category, but progress has been made, and I’m armed with a nice glob of rainbow pedagogy for next semester.

Literate Self
The first half of the course helped me make huge gains in my knowledge of Young Adult literature. At the midterm FOKI check-in I mused about whether or not YA lit is meant to be taught, or if it is meant to be an escape for the kids to enjoy on their own, outside of the formalities of school and the (traditional) literature classroom. Having done a bookcast and similar multimedia presentations this semester, I’ve decided that while YA lit in the high school classroom may work best on an individual level, there should still be room for students expressing their reactions, thoughts, and ideas about the books they’ve read (YA or not) in a creative format. Rather than talking about what we want kids to get out of books because the canon says X, let’s listen to the kids, let’s let us teach the class and provide their own insights. Literature belongs to the reader, regardless of age. As I get closer to actually teaching, my literate self has morphed from “just a reader” into a person who reads and helps others find the joy and meaning in their own reading – a literature facilitator, if you will.

Virtual Self
If anything has been humbling, it has been the slow realization that the task of staying up-to-date and in-the-know for digital tools and technologies requires constant effort; being a Millenial helps with quick adaptation, but nothing can be taken for granted with technology. I have a laundry list of cool tools and ways to integrate them into the classroom, but I know that the list and methods for implementation will continue to grow. Again, this isn’t an endpoint, but the end of the beginning. I have this knowledge and now I need to work with it and constantly seek out new tools and ideas.

A very productive semester, and an excellent beginning to what will be an awesome and effective teaching career. Groundhog Day ends when Bill Murray’s character opens up, falls in love, and finds somebody to share his life with – something he can only do after he’s lived the same day over and over again thousands of times, and used that endless cycle of repetition to develop himself as a caring, supportive, intellectual being. With development in my professional, literate, and virtual selves, I aspire to open up and share this knowledge and excitement with others. It sounds like it is time to put a toe into the classroom…


Action Learning Project: Final Cut

December 10, 2012

A video overview of my Action Learning Project on gendered literature and the perceptions of YA readers.

Bookhenge Week 15: The Beginning of the End

December 2, 2012

Normally I don’t associate t-shirt weather with the end of the Fall semester, but it seems the grace of Mother Nature has provided us with a balmy end for this semester. We finally got to meet Marc Aronson in the ‘henge this week, and class on Thursday was a long, steady blur – much like this semester. I didn’t have the chance to ask Aronson a question – I was particularly keen to find out how he’d respond to my question about gender-based literature awards – but the dialogue was still fantastic and interesting, and it was an awesome (and rare!) opportunity to have the writer of one of the major course texts come and have a casual conversation with us. The little digression on Queen Elizabeth I was quite humorous and fascinating, and looking back I realize I’m pretty lucky to have such great and thoughtful classmates as those I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with in the ‘henge this semester. The future of teaching young adult literature is bright: we have some fantastic minds headed out into the field, and a handful of motivated and wonderful in-service teachers who care enough to up their game and continue their learning.

Looking ahead at this last week in the ‘henge, I’m largely left with tying up loose ends and putting a bow on this crazy, jam-packed semester. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the chance to sit down with my sister and some of her teenaged friends and talk to them about gendered literature (my ALP topic), and I’ve also spent the last week phoning my pre-teen and teenage cousins to pick their brains on the subject. My findings were not surprising at all, but it was great to hear the responses in the words of the young readers. I need to sprinkle a bit of movie magic on my project between now and our final ‘henge session on Thursday, but all in all I feel great about the project. Ideally I would have been able to carry it out in a classroom with an entire class or two of kids, but this small sample size has helped me gather my bearings and see the project in a new light; eventually I would like to have a discussion about gendered literature with all of my classes – this could be the birth of a small unit right here, or merely a starting point for further exploration on my behalf.

I’ll end with a saying we had at a YMCA camp I used to work at:

In the beginning it’s scary,
In the end it’s sad,
But it is what’s in the middle that counts.

Bookhenge Week 13: Baker’s Dozen (nom!)

November 19, 2012

I’ll spare you guys an entirely-food obsessed CR post this week. But hey, there’s always room for mention of yummy things in my blog.

So, yet another week done and dusted in the ‘henge! Admittedly I’m more interested in the upcoming turkey and stuffing fest happening later this week than schoolwork, but it was great to wrap up another chunk of our Aronson projects in the Bookhenge this past Thursday. Developing a CCI was something completely new for me – I’ve done plenty of multimedia projects in my academic career, but never with the intent of a collaborative interactive resource. I need to give a shout-out to my groupmates: Jill and Amanda. Together we all hurdled our lack of love for Wikis and built an end product we were all satisfied with. After this week I feel confident enough to carry out a CCI activity of my own in one of my future classrooms; also, cool side-observation – nonfiction works REALLY well with collaborative critical inquiries. Sir Walter Ralegh was frankly a black hole that my groupmates and I ventured into; each of us found something that caught our fancy and continued our investigations. The malleability of nonfiction, and because it serves as an entry point into so many other great ideas and discussions (anchor books ahoy!) really drives home the past couple of weeks. Nonfiction: just do it, you’ll be glad you did 🙂

Here’s to turkey!

Bookhenge Week 12: More enjoyable by the dozen

November 12, 2012

Those who know me in real life know that I’m akin to Rusty in the Ocean’s 11/12/13 movies: constantly eating. Most of this is because of cycling (You try coming home from a four hour ride and not eating everything in the house. Exactly.), but also because I like food. I’m an adventurous eater, and virtually everything is good food in my book. Salmon, dark chocolate, coffee, berries, bacon, avocados, pork belly, hot peppers, spices, nearly raw steak, ice cream, crepes, Nutella, Speculoos, peanut butter, almond butter, granola, oysters, mussels with fries, spinach, onion rings, duck, and the list goes on…

I also love donuts. (Dunkin – don’t get me started on that Krispy Kreme weak sauce) And reflecting on the ‘henge as a whole and the past week got me thinking about donuts. Here’s the thing, Aronson is like a powdered donut. I’m not huge on powdered donuts, but if they are the last ones left in the box, I’ll eat them. For me, nonfiction is like a Boston Cream, delicious and complex: chocolatey on the outside, soft and cool custard on the inside. Fiction are my sprinkled – always fun and delicious. Poetry? Jelly. Film? Devil’s food.

Well, when I buy donuts, I like to get a variety of donuts. Yes, I could make it easy and quick and just ask the person at the counter for 12 Boston Cream donuts, but let’s face it, but the time I’m on the 7th Boston Cream donut, well, I’m sick of Boston Cream donuts. Some people have their regular dozen: 3 of this, 3 of that, 3 of that other thing, and 3 of that one so-and-so likes. BUT they never branch beyond those four varieties. It is always the same thing. The sad thing is that those people will never know if the new Oreo donut is good, or that whoever did the jelly donuts that morning forgot to fill half of them. There’s no adventure.

This week in the ‘henge has convinced me that I need to help my fellow teachers (in all subjects) branch beyond their normal donut selection. Some of teachers might just be bringing 12 glazed Krispy Kreme… the horror, the horror… because that is what they know and is easiest to bring. But my hope is – and I think the hope of Common Core as well – is that every teacher will present their class with a cornucopia of donuts of all sorts of varieties with hope that the students will latch onto a donut or two they actually like and succeed in. See, I’m not actually talking about donuts here, I’m talking about curriculum and for my ELA peeps literature specifically. So what if you hold up the line ordering a ridiculous assortment of donuts, you’re better off in the long run with that fun variety. I know this is really rich coming from a pre-service teacher, but take the time to plan new lessons and try different things. Mix it up. Bring in a different dozen. Try something you’ve never tried before. Wayne Gretzky said it best: you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Every teacher should be taking these shots with every class. If you need help, ask your fellow teachers, because chances are they might be at a roadblock planning-wise with some of their classes too. Share, collaborate, and listen to each other. I know, I know, it’s really rich coming from a pre-service teacher, so maybe think of me as a very experienced student?

At times this week it was tough hearing some of the in-service teachers lament the difficulties of finding non-fiction for their classes. I had to keep myself from throwing out every single non-fiction recommendation I had in mind. I’m probably the class nutjob for espousing my deep love for current events, but remember that I feel this way about these things because my teachers took the time to include them. And for that, I am forever grateful.

French cruller anybody?


Nonfiction CCI

November 6, 2012

My video response for this week. There’s some fun at the end – hope you enjoy!

*Note – the sound is doing that weird lag thing again. Apologies. If it gets bad pause and then hit play again, that tends to reset it.

Bold Choices, Intellectual Freedom CCI CR

November 5, 2012

I was inspired and decided to switch things up a bit this week. So, without further ado, a poetic response to the past week in the ‘henge.

From One Bite Came Many: A Poem about Banned Books and Intellectual Freedom

A mind unfettered and unobstructed is a special thing,
Free to roam and free to be,
The opportunity to share ideas and stories is a special thing,
We come together and develop our own identities.

The world is a big place,
And there’s room for all sorts of shapes, sizes, stories, and ideas,
One idea does not preclude or eliminate another idea,
Coexisting is our responsibility.
There are over 7,500 cultivars of apples,
The Tree of Knowledge is very fruitful and a cornucopia of diversity in its own right.

For those little arms that can’t quite reach the branches,
There are important intermediaries who help pluck the fruit down for them,
Parents want the best for their little loves,
They prefer to stick to the apples they know to be safe and like,
Parents are not necessarily opposed to foreign apples,
With a bit of help and understanding, they and their children may take a bite,
Or not.

With 7,500 cultivars of apples,
And 7 billion minds,
There will be some hit-and-miss,
Virtually no one will taste them all,
And very few will taste most,
Some, sadly, won’t taste any.
So rather than getting hung up on one,
Let us move on and make sure that those who want to pluck an apple, can,
And let us open our kids’ eyes to the beauty,
That is taking a bite of an apple – any apple,
And that beauty and deliciousness lie in the eye and tongue of the beholder.

Red, green, pink, sour, sweet, tart, soft, crunchy, mealy, fibrous, nutty, crisp, tender, juicy, dry.

Take a bite. You’ll never know until you try.
Remember: that first bite was prohibited, but necessary.
All of those beautiful apples are what make us human,
Together we share in the experience.