Friday, July 17, 2009

On sucking at important things

It is time to get done with Grad School. It is also time to start looking like I have a Master's Degree when I am in my classroom. It would also be pretty sweet if my students looked like they had a decent English when they walk out of my room, but that may still be a year or two down the road.

The only outstanding work that separates me from my magical piece of paper that adds those super special initials to the end of my name is a final project. My project is quickly turning into a re-write of my US Literature curriculum in such a way as to vastly beef up the writing component of the class. Much of the work that I have done in getting my Bachelor's Degree and teacher certification has been directed at getting students to view reading and writing as a transformative process. I want them to find and interpret texts in the world and then create their own texts to alter themselves and those around them. The reading part is easy. Kids these days with their texting, and their emailing, and their immersive video games, and their funny trans-media TV shows understand that words mean things. They also understand that the more they look at words the better they understand the world (even the world that is not directly connected to the words, because everything is everything). Such smart little kids these days.

My students still suck at writing, though. The best argument for this is that I still suck as a writing teacher. I've spend the last couple of weeks reading about why that may be. In a week I'll begin working on how to suck less.

There is a three-pronged attack:

1) Work writing in as the focus of my class. The more kids do it, the less they suck at it. The more I teach it, the less I suck at it. See? Win win. Writing is a relic of thought. If I am to determine whether or not the kids are learning something, I need more relics to evaluate. If they aren't writing, I have very little idea of what they are thinking.

2) Create writing groups. My kids rely to heavily on their teachers to revise and edit their writing. Good teachers make themselves irrelivant as quickly as possible. They need to rely on each other, and eventually on themselves to independently seek feedback on their words and know how to translate that feedback into less-sucky writing. Teaching kids to know what to do with feedback is probably going to be the second hardest thing that I will do in my class. The hardest will be getting them to give useful and honest feedback.

3) Help start a reading group among other teachers in my school. Grad school, like college, high school, junior high, elementary school, and Mrs. K's pre-school before it didn't actually make me smarter. Doing shit, recognizing that I suck at doing shit, watching other people do shit, and talking a lot about doing shit has made me better at doing shit. (I guess nothing has really made me smarter. Oh, well.) I would like to have more inteligent conversations about teaching with my fellow teachers about teaching. The best way to start this is to have more intelligent conversations about whatever. I'd like to get together once a month or so with a group of interrested co-workers and talk about books that we suggest to the rest of the group. I bet some people will suggest some neat books. Ideas are dangerous. Teachers are dangerous. We'll see where this goes.

There it is: What I am thinking about right now.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hey, that's crazy . . .

It has been nearly a full year since me last post, and here I am thinking it is time to start posting again.

I'm working on my final project for my Master's Degree in Education and English. This process will include lots and lots of thinking. I'm reading a book about how writing and thinking are basically the same thing (one lasts longer than the other) (also see my first and second blog posts). You get where this is going.

I'll be back soon.