Posts Tagged 'teacher education'

Adding it up: Writing another semester

It has been so long since I shared on this blog!  The second half of the semester has been hectic.  I’ve started my on-site dissertation research, which is exciting and will figure in to future posts. I’ve also been busy enjoying my daughter’s first lacrosse season, track season, some task force work, and various other obligations both personal and professional.

But, for the moment, I am thinking about the courses I taught this semester. I had the privilege of teaching two groups of college seniors at the University of Georgia (59 in all), all on their way to certification in teaching elementary aged students. I taught two sections of Language and Literacy P-5, where we explore our ideas about writing and language arts and develop a vision for writing pedagogy.  One of the key parts of the class is, unsurprisingly, a LOT of writing.  We write all kinds of things in this course, in large amounts.  As a way of wrapping up this semester, I wanted to do a rough calculation of the massive amount of writing these students created since January.

472 blog posts (plus quite a few extras)

59 narratives, both imaginative and personal

108 maps to fuel our ideas (heart maps, place maps, and so on)

22 piclits

59 persuasive pieces, from commercials to letters to essays

40 (or more) wordles and tagxedos

59 informational pieces, about everything from vacation spots to the history of M&Ms

25 recipes

50 concrete poems

177 lesson plans

59 stories of our writing identities

40 sets of writing mentor texts

108 reflection papers

180 genres for our multigenre project, including everything from collages to diary entries, stories to brochures, birth announcements to wall maps, menus to videos, tickets to medical bracelets, paintings to poetry

countless drafts on the way to final pieces

endless to do lists (that have now, finally, ended!)

scores of emails

and more!

This accounting is all the more impressive given that many of these students walked into class fearing, hating, or feeling downright bad at writing.  They each challenged themselves and accomplished wonderful things. I am honored to have read every word of their work. I feel as if, as the semester added up, my own teaching and gratitude multiplied many-fold.

So, as I wrap up this semester, I just wanted to publicly share this wonderful experience. It is especially bittersweet because about a week ago I learned that I will not be teaching next year as I had planned. In an unexpected turn of events, I received a Dissertation Completion Award which allows me to focus my attention on completing my research and my degree.  Although it is a wonderful honor, and a gift for a researcher to have this devoted time, I confess I was a bit sad when I thought about not teaching again.  I have to think of it as a brief break from formal teaching, knowing that I will be back working with and learning from students very soon.

Hopefully I’ll be back to blogging a bit more regularly in the coming weeks.  I want to share the latest batch of multigenre projects, a bit about my research, and a whole list of other things I’ve been thinking about.  Thanks for staying tuned. Congrats to all my students!  You give me hope that the future will be better and brighter. Take care, be well, keep writing, and keep in touch.

What’s the Big Idea?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been caught up in evaluating the other group of multigenre projects.  I do have more to share about those, and will post examples soon. But in the mean time, classes have been coming along and I wanted to share a few thoughts about what we’ve been doing.

I can’t believe it is only a month until semester’s end. Even though my two classes come from different programs (elementary and middle grades are separate programs in our college), they are both approaching an “end” of sorts.  For my middle school Language Arts group, they are coming to the end of their main semesters studying literacy. Last semester they studied middle grades literature, and this semester they’ve had content area literacy and my writing pedagogy course. As far as required literacy core courses, that is it. Next semester they are back to spending a lot of time in the schools.

My elementary school class is coming into their last month of coursework before student teaching. They’ve had two courses in reading, my language arts course, and children’s literature.

As you might imagine, these endings, along with the hectic rush of this time in the semester, bring up a lot of emotions in the classes – some of them conflicting.  The students seem excited about the end of the semester, but there is also a palpable weariness. They are overwhelmed by all the different approaches and strategies they’ve learned – this is only compacted by the impending awareness that soon they’ll be implementing many of these ideas daily with students. Even though they are overwhelmed by what they’ve learned, they also seem to feel anxious about not knowing enough. I hear, over and over again, “how am I going to DO all this???”

Through all of these emotions and a fair amount of exhaustion, I try to keep the students learning and thinking. A couple of weeks ago, it felt like the right time to start telescoping back out to try to focus on some of their “big ideas” for literacy teaching.  I was inspired by this post about simplicity at Two Writing Teachers. I invited my students to start trying to think about how they will begin their lives as literacy educators. I asked them: What are the simple principles that form the core of your vision for literacy teaching?  How does the way you plan to organize your time and space reflect that vision?  We’ve worked on timelines, maps, and other exercises to try and get the vision to begin to come together on paper.

One reason for this process of developing a vision is to give them a place to start when they get into their classrooms.  But, I admit, there is another reason, too. Sometimes I worry about the future of these young teachers – so bright and full of energy, ideas, and fire. With class sizes growing, resources disappearing, and, most troubling, the thunder of emphasis on test scores and standards, I fear that what we’ve worked on in our courses will quickly be swallowed, perhaps even smothered by the onslaught of the structure of schooling.  So, we are taking a little time to try to develop their vision. I hope they keep their core principles posted somewhere near their desks, as touchstones to refer to and expand upon as they continue to develop as teachers.

As my students thought and wrote, I also took the time to articulate my vision for literacy classrooms. Of course, it is a work in progress, and has changed a lot this year.  I thought I’d share it here, along with this wonder: what “big ideas” you return to again and again as a teacher?

Beth’s Vision for the Literacy Classroom

My students will know that I care about them.
I will know them and their lives and what matters to them.
I believe that my students have important things to say and I value their voices.
I am committed to helping them find ways to express themselves and their insights in a manner that allows them to be heard and understood by others.
I encourage my students to take risks and make mistakes in my classroom and in the world at large. I believe this is one of the main ways that we learn. I strive to model risk taking, and reflecting, rethinking, redoing, and renewing practice in my role as a teacher/co-learner.
I want my students to love reading and writing (broadly defined) and learning, and to know that engaging in reading, writing, and learning can enable them to grow as teachers and as people.

Beth Friese – 4.1.10


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