Posts Tagged 'sharing'

Some Good News About Teachers (For a Change)

The past few weeks have been tough on the teaching profession. From Oprah to NBC’s Education Nation to the rollout of Waiting for Superman, talk of American education’s problems pervade popular discourse.  Placed at the root of many of these problems are “bad teachers” (and the unions that protect them).  I am working on a longer response to all of this which will be posted soon. But in the mean time, I felt compelled to share something that happened yesterday.

When I got home from all my regular running around, I picked up the mail, as usual. Unlike my childhood days, when I held out hope for the occasional hand written letter, these days I’ve pretty much given up on much “personal mail” coming in the mailbox. (It seemed a sad milestone this week when, for my birthday, I did not get a single mailed card – a first!)  I was flipping through the bills, periodicals, ads, and Netflix, when something caught my eye.  It was a postcard, hand written! I was sure it couldn’t be for me, but it was – and it wasn’t an ad, someone telling about an event I needed to attend, a political diatribe, or anything else of the sort.  It was something I really wanted to read – a postcard from my 6th grade daughter’s teachers, just telling me that she is doing well, with a few personal details. Could I have been more proud or pleased?  And all it took was a few personal sentences and a stamp.

I take (or am reminded of) several lessons from this small experience:

Kids are more than test scores, and no matter how hard policy tries to convince them otherwise, smart teachers know this. In a data-driven era, when we seem to be always worried about what a student doesn’t know, this postcard was a recognition of the good things my daughter is doing. Teachers can write these about every child in our classrooms! As a parent, it means a great deal to me that the people my daughter spends so much time with know her and see the good in her.

It feels great to hear good news from school. I have had years when most of the communications I have gotten from my children’s teachers were about problems with my child.  This does not bother me, because I want to help and be a partner to the teacher in any way I can. Plus, teachers are very very busy and they can’t contact me every time something positive happens. Still, sometimes the “no news is good news” approach could use a boost from some positive, unexpected comments. Since my daughter’s school only conducts conferences “as needed” this postcard was also a good way to get a quick update and feel connected to her teachers.

Paper and handwriting can get people’s attention. I’m a techie, it’s clear.  Maybe that is why it means so much to me to get a handwritten postcard.  Emails have become “something to manage” in my life.  I might have glazed over this note a bit more if it had come through my inbox instead of my mailbox.

Good news take time to convey, but the investment pays off. As I think about recommending something like writing out-of-the-blue postcards to my own students (future teachers) I will tell them that emails are ok (for parents who have email accounts) but taking a few minutes a day over a few weeks to write personal postcards is a worthwhile investment.  I also think that, when times get hard or pressures get overwhelming, sitting down to write something positive about each of our students can remind us of all the worthwhile things they bring to our classrooms.

Good news is worth sharing. This is perhaps the biggest lesson I take from the postcard. When students are doing good things, it is worth sharing with all kinds of audiences. We can share good work with parents through postcards or phone calls. We can share good work with the community through public displays. We can share good work with administrators through whatever form of communication would reach them best. We can share good work with other teachers through our learning networks, or through professional conferences. Take these opportunities to share and shout about the great things happening in schools.

We have heard so much BAD “news” about schools and teachers lately.  And yes, there are definitely problems regarding education that everyone in our country needs to help with (not just teachers). But lately, any positives happening in schools (especially local public schools, which my children attend) have been getting lost in an increasingly adversarial public dialogue. I fear that the conversation is being hijacked and educators are going to be further and further excluded.

Many have called for the sharing of GOOD news as an antidote to this poison press.  I am going to take a lesson from my daughter’s teachers and sit down to write a postcard to Arne Duncan this week (and a few others) to tell him about the good teachers my children have and the learning my kids are doing. I know that all teachers are not great (myself definitely included), and some will say this post is too sunny, but I wonder…if we can try to change the dialogue and resist the wave of negative and dehumanizing energy in education, might we see fewer great teachers broken?

I hope you will take a few minutes and join me in sharing something good that you see happening in schools. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Arne’s mailbox filled with postcards?

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Multigenre Research Projects: An Introduction

This is the first of several posts about a multigenre research project I have just completed in my language and literacy courses with preservice educators, grades P-8. (I teach one class focused on P-5, one class focused on 4-8).

For all of you librarians out there, even though the students I teach are future classroom teachers, please continue to read along. As I’ve gone through this project, I’ve seen numerous opportunities for collaboration between language arts teachers and librarians. (Ironically, there were times when I wished I had a librarian with me as another teacher. Much of my focus was on composition, and a librarian partner might have helped me do more with information literacy and ethics.) Multigenre research, as I see it, lies at the intersection of research and writing, and presents a great opportunity for librarians to collaborate with classroom teachers.

The first several of posts in this series will describe the project, some background, and the process we went through over the past weeks. Then, I hope to share some pieces of my students’ projects so you can get a sense of what multigenre research projects might look like.

I probably should have been writing about this all along, but to be honest I had no idea how these projects would turn out.  This is my first time teaching multigenre research. Now that the finished projects are rolling in, I am thrilled with what the students have accomplished, and happy that a number of them have given me permission to share their work here.

I hope you’ll tune in to see what they’ve done. I think many of the students surprised themselves with what they accomplished, and how “research” became something challenging, creative, and productive.  I feel, in many ways, that the students succeeded in spite of my fumblings as I learned to teach this process. Many of them went above and beyond what I set before them as tasks, and, as they have told me, quite a few wished they had more time to continue writing and research.  How great to hear students say that, especially since, at the beginning of the semester, the words “research project” filled the room with apprehension and dread.

So, to begin, my question is…why does “research” prompt that reaction?  Why does it fill many of us with dread? As an educator who believes that ongoing research and learning is essential to being an effective educator, how can we change the aversion that people have to research?  I’m starting to see some possible answers coming out of this project.  I welcome your thoughts.


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