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Emmet's Eleven

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My three-week course with ten accomplished women is done, and there is a 696-sized hole in my life. I’m not sure when I will next be able to carve three hours per morning out of my life to write hard and workshop with motivated colleagues.

“Voices from the Classroom” was a fantastic first run of a course that deserves to go again. It filled a need. Teachers are dying for permission to tell their tales, and the gift of time and support to do it.

On the last day of class, we applied the finishing touches to our pieces and collated a class book. Connie’s daughter provided a perfect kid-drawn cover. Fran fueled us with layered dip, and Josie and Ellen and Moira and Laura heroically stayed late to bind fifteen copies of our precious collected work.

From our desks it will fly to conferences, websites and print. Here’s a version of the table of contents to share what we wrote about and in what forms. If a particular piece catches your eye, go to the jump for authors’ notes (in the same order as table of contents). Each entry below lists teacher's name and position, title of piece, form, and target publication.

Karen, 3rd Grade Reading Recovery
Tacky Make Me Small: The Story of a Reading Recovery Student’s Success
Personal Narrative
Journal of Reading Recovery

Connie, Physical therapist
Promoting Health and Wellness: Benefits of Specific Physical Activity for Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities
Systematic review of the literature
American Journal of Health Promotion

Josie, GT Resource Teacher
Why Johnny Can’t Persevere – Using ThinkFun Games to Develop Strategies and a Can-Do Attitude
Article to serve as final report for a grant
Virginia Association of the Gifted Newsletter

Moira, Head Start Instructional Assistant
“Picture It”: Digital Photography For and By Kids Opens a Window on Pre-K POS Behaviors
PowerPoint montage
Head Start Inservice presenter this fall

Laura, Special Education Teacher
Teaching Tasha: Five Ways to Integrate Diversity with Learning
Article on classroom management practice
Teacher Magazine

Kate, 9th and AP 12th Grade English
Mother of a Hundred and Twenty: Placing the Main Focus of Teaching on Student Learning, Not on Strict Rules and Regulations
Reflective article from the perspective of a teacher and a mom
Newsweek, “My Turn”

Emmet, 9th & 10th Grade English
Certifiable?
Feature article adapted from a blog
The Washington Post Magazine

Alyssa, 9th and IB 12thGrade English
The Paperless Writing Community; or, Atwell in the 21st Century
Article on instructional practice
Northern Virginia Writing Project Journal

Fran, Special Education Teacher
Positive Behavior Support Program and Its Impact on Student Learning at -- High School
Report of findings on school-wide research project
High School Community, Cluster Office, FCPS PBS Office

Ellen, 5th Grade
Students Control Their Own Learning: A Metacognitive Approach
Report of findings on teacher research
Teaching Children Mathematics and an upcoming conference

Heidi, TLNI Fellow
Running with Scissors: Welcome to Academic Scrapbooking
Academic Scrapbook
Instructor Magazine

Karen, 3rd Grade Reading Recovery
Tacky Make Me Small: The Story of a Reading Recovery Student’s Success
Personal Narrative
Journal of Reading Recovery

This is the story of a second language learner who decides what he has to say is now worth hearing. I wrote this piece because I felt obligated to share the success story of a second language learner who made accelerated literacy progress in the Reading Recovery Program. I began my piece as a “case study” but changed the format to more of a personal narrative. Since the reading recovery program was only 15 weeks, I attempted to share three teaching interactions which proved to be significant in helping this student learn.

Using teacher/student dialogue, it is my hope that the reader gains a sense of what transpired during our conversations and lessons. I also did in depth research and re-read many excerpts from Marie Clay’s books which helped me to further understand and clarify the theory behind the individualized tutoring sessions. Part of my research was focused on the importance of oral language and teacher talk. Peter Johnston’s newest book, Choice Words, examines the role that language has in the classroom. The social context of language is as significant as the words shared.

This paper helped me to explore my teaching practice, current research and the writing process. Using the laptop and editing my work was also quite a challenge. I hope to share this paper with other Reading Recovery teachers by submitting it to the Journal of Reading Recovery. More than the honor of being published I hope to share my story of my students’ success with teachers at my school and in my reading recovery cohort.

Connie, Physical therapist
Promoting Health and Wellness: Benefits of Specific Physical Activity for Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities
Systematic review of the literature
American Journal of Health Promotion

The need for this systematic review was identified while I was a trainee in the LEND (Leadership Education for Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) program this past year. Increasing levels of physical activity for all people is a primary focus of Healthy People 2010. Professionals are often called upon to make recommendations. My hope is that this information will provide a basis to assist professionals with making these recommendations, and provide researchers with the “state of the science” so that they may continue to contribute to this important body of knowledge.

I came to this class thinking I would learn how to improve the mechanics of writing, my goal was to become a better writer. I have always been an avid reader and a closet poet and journalist, conveying times in my life in scraps of paper covered with snippets of writing and drawing. I have spent the last three years doing a large amount of scientific writing, but while my topics were infused with enormous thought and creative energy, I sometimes had difficulty conveying that in paper. I felt like I was trying to please the isolated professor sitting in the ivory tower, who does not live in my world. While this may in part may be true (who exactly lives in MY WORLD?), I just wasn’t nearly as efficient as I could be and I lacked the background to do some of the things I wanted to.

I came to this class with a stack of 70 journal articles, after reviewing titles of 3200 abstracts, and reading hundreds of those abstracts. I had to engage in this process to collect the information needed to complete this project. On the first day I learned about setting goals and understanding my target audience. These two pieces of information helped me to structure my paper so that I knew how to put it together. But I continued to struggle with what methodology to choose: one that was ten years old, or the new one adopted by the World Health Organization, of which I had no examples. But if I could come up with a structured methodology, that in itself could be ground breaking.

A previously planned trip to Key West interrupted my writing process. But consumption of the best margarita of my life (Correjo tequila, YUM, that would actually be 3), spending time at Hemingway’s house, and time on the beach helped me unblock some creativity and come home focused, and ready to roll. An added 7 hours spent at the airport in Atlanta gave me the time to do the class reading. Anne Lamont’s view of shitty first drafts, crushing rejection, and humor infused into her reality were all themes that have recurred in the last several years for me. These concepts helped me be a little less tough on myself.

I have always been somewhat of a rebel and the kind of person who talks the talk and walks the walk. I have the guts to come up with an idea that others might consider fringe and the energy to do it. This class has helped me to be structured, realistic, AND creative. I realize how important it is for me to find the venue to say what needs to be said. This class has helped give me a frame to approach writing projects with more confidence.

I want to acknowledge Emmet Rosenfeld for his unwavering support for this cumbersome project, and providing the time, space, and support I needed to complete it.

Josie, GT Resource Teacher
Why Johnny Can’t Persevere – Using ThinkFun Games to Develop Strategies and a Can-Do Attitude
Article to serve as final report for a grant
Virginia Association of the Gifted Newsletter

This piece is about using games to develop strategic thinking in children. It’s evolved a lot since I started working on it three weeks ago. The two biggest changes I made were in response to suggestions/recommendations made in this class. When sharing my first draft, Emmet pointed out that I was “telling, not showing” and recommended that I focus on one student going through the strategy development process. That change helped strengthen and personalize my article. Another change resulted from our first guest speaker’s talk – Gail Ritchie spoke about how teacher researchers need a conceptual framework before they begin. I realized I needed to explain the existing research on teaching children strategic thinking – I think that also helped strengthen my piece. I’ve done several drafts and this morning, as I read the article again, I see more changes that I need to make. I wrote this article to fulfill the requirements of a Virginia Association of the Gifted grant we won last spring to purchase many of these games. The article will be published in their fall newsletter.

Moira, Head Start Instructional Assistant“Picture It”: Digital Photography For and By Kids Opens a Window on Pre-K POS Behaviors
PowerPoint montage
Head Start Inservice presenter this fall

Digital photography for kids and by kids opens a window on pre-K POS behaviors.

For a research in writing and learning class, I distilled the data contained in thousands of photographs to create an impressionistic PowerPoint testament to play in learning.

My target audience is parents, colleagues, and administrators. Children may enjoy it, too.

Laura, Special Education Teacher
Teaching Tasha: Five Ways to Integrate Diversity with Learning
Article on classroom management practice
Teacher Magazine

What am I? I am a teacher, I am a black woman, I am frustrated, and I am motivated. While I was issuing books to my students, I noticed that the name in the book was mine. I had no idea that the job at my alma mater I was about to embark on would resemble my own high school years in many ways. Now, five years later, going to work is no longer nostalgic. I am charged with changing a system that does not work. The students in the school are not receiving an interdisciplinary education. They are receiving a cookie-cutter version of what education should be. The students should be partners in learning. Teachers, ten years later, are still ignoring their most valuable asset in the classroom – the students.

The essay chronicles an incident with Natasha, a junior, who has been alienated in the classroom due to a lesson planned by her history teacher. The article offers suggestions for teachers to incorporate students in the lesson and how to avoid the alienation of students in their classroom. I list five ways that teachers can reach the unreachable students in the classroom.

My original piece was quite different from the final draft. I originally intended to write about minority achievement and its lack of consistency in high schools. At one point, the piece was a memoir of my experiences returning to my high school to teach. The same sentiment remains throughout the revisions – incorporate all students in the classroom and value their individuality.


Kate, 9th and AP 12th Grade English
Mother of a Hundred and Twenty: Placing the Main Focus of Teaching on Student Learning, Not on Strict Rules and Regulations
Reflective article from the perspective of a teacher and a mom
Newsweek, “My Turn”
Initially, I intended to write a piece from the perspective of a mother turned teacher and planned to give insight to parents as to what high school really looks like from the inside out. I imagined my audience would be readers like my neighbors and friends with high school aged children, and I would be giving away trade secrets. When I actually sat down to write, I realized I had no major revelations. The workings of a high school were very much how I thought they would be. I just couldn't see an interesting story coming out of it.
I did, however, want to write something that addressed the fact that I was a teacher and a parent. I began to think about what it meant for me and my students that I had been a mother for many years before I came into the classroom. I remembered an event when I said to one of my students that she must drive her mother crazy. I actually told her I could picture her room. This was the germ for my idea: Perhaps I'm sensitive to high school students in a way that's different from teachers who aren't parents. I began to think about whether my mothering instincts might be a positive factor and wrote from there.
I cranked out a rough draft pretty quickly and received positive feedback from the class. For the next two weeks, I tweaked and honed the piece using suggestions from my group members and editing advice from the instructor. Finally, I workshopped with two people outside of class and used their fresh eyes to help me insert my 'voice' into the piece.
This piece encapsulates my belief that having a mother's perspective in the classroom often tempers the expectations and demands put students and places the main focus on student learning, not on strict rules and regulations.

Alyssa, 9th and IB 12th Grade English
The Paperless Writing Community; or, Atwell in the 21st Century
Article on instructional practice
Northern Virginia Writing Project Journal

As I write this preface, I’m staring out my window at two lovely crimson coleus plants, one deep green tuberous begonia and an oak leaf hydrangea that the little plastic card promises will grow eight feet tall some day. These plants have been sitting patiently by for the past two days, and I can’t wait to get them in the ground and watch them thrive.

I guess the same could be said for my writing. I’ve had ideas—many ideas—that have sat in my journals these past few years, waiting for a time they could get some attention and become something more than questions and half-formed ideas. That is what this class has given me. In the end, I didn’t end up writing about the revolutionary ideas I have for school reform (think ‘teachernistas’) or a criticism of Blackhawk parents (the hovering kind, not the Native American kind) and the system that enables them. I wrote about how I used a new technology tool—Google Docs—to help my students become better writers. Less glamorous than social commentary, surely, but I think more helpful to those of us in the classroom. As I was writing, and even though I was writing for English teachers, I imagined my audience to be my colleagues here in this class: Fran, who faithfully toted her laptop every day; Emmet, whose memory stick is actually part of a Swiss Army knife, and Lisa, who had to turn around half way to class because she forgot the flash drive that usually hangs around her neck.

Sometimes I am astounded by the power of technology. And sometimes I am disgusted by it, wanting to disappear it with a wiggle of my nose and return to the days of the rotary phone. But it is a reality for the kids we teach, and we must embrace it if we are to connect with them. In his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig says, "The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology," but to find a way to see "technology as a fusion of nature and the human spirit." (pg 262)

And if this “how-to” I’ve written helps just one person do that, then I think I will have grown eight feet tall too.

Fran, Special Education Teacher
Positive Behavior Support Program and Its Impact on Student Learning at -- High School
Report of findings on school-wide research project
High School Community, Cluster Office, FCPS PBS Office

I learned about the course “Research in Writing and Learning” at the Teacher-Researcher Conference. I was so excited to have set aside time to work on trying to finalize South Lakes High School research paper on Positive Behavior Supports. The paper needed major revisions. I began with the foal to work on the “Findings” section as it seemed unorganized and rambled.

That goal was quickly replaced with rewriting the “Introduction” as we had not set out a clear description of PBS, our goals, or purpose. A visit to the FCPS Professional Library netted other research to help with formatting and organization. Online sources included www.pbis.org. Before I could begin wiring the “Findings”, I had to reorganize the data in a more visual manner with charts and summarizing some information in bullet format. I was able to streamline the “Findings” and “Recommendations” sections.

I have reflected a lot on the audience for this paper. I think that it is close to being in a format that could be posted on South Lakes High School home page. I think it is also an excellent beginning of what is to be a 4 year research project. I hope the information will be used at SLHS to make decisions and it has been requested at the cluster office level. A major university would need to be included to publish this in a professional research journal. However, I do think I might be able to write an interest piece for an online publication.

I feel that I would not have accomplished this large task without this schedule time. Emmet is an excellent writer and is able to put a buzz in your ear to help you reflect on the most effective way to get your information across to the reader. Our round table discussions were stimulating and created energy to help us all press on to our goals. The class as a whole has recommended repeating this class as a Part 2 that could be combined with a new group. I think this would be extremely beneficial to all.

Ellen, 5th Grade
Students Control Their Own Learning: A Metacognitive Approach
Report of findings on teacher research
Teaching Children Mathematics and an upcoming conference

I began this class with a brochure detailing the results from my Teacher Research project and the hope that I could transform it into a publishable piece to share with other teachers. My focus was my pre- and post-assessment student self-evaluations. They serve multiple purposes: students are asked to internalize what they do and do not know both before and after assessments, parents can determine what their children have and have not grasped, and teachers can gather individual and class data on concepts that have been mastered or still require remediation. I started by writing down everything that I knew and remembered about my research in a hurried and unpunctuated fashion. Next, came the revisions; I concentrated on including classroom snapshots, and using scans and explanations of authentic student work to illustrate the self-evaluations’ functions. With constant coaching from the whole-group, my small group and our fearless leader, I managed to transform nonsense into a final draft of the paper, as well as a PowerPoint presentation. I am presenting my materials at a PLC conference, and will be submitting the article to “Teaching Children Mathematics”.

Heidi, TLNI Fellow
Running with Scissors: Welcome to Academic Scrapbooking
Academic Scrapbook
Instructor Magazine

I eagerly anticipated this class holding tight to the results of my classroom research conducted over the course of two years. I had a brochure designed from the first year, a classroom poster I designed from the second year, and a research paper with quantitative and qualitative data written to satisfy the requirements of my TLNI fellowship. I am also a member of the FCPS Teacher Research Leaders group.

My focus has been academic scrapbooking, or in other words, scrapbooking the curriculum in the classroom. I have been inquiring whether students who engaged in scrapbooking in the classroom would retain the curriculum. I created academic scrapbooking in 1996 to address the individual needs of students who are “tough to reach”, so I began by writing down my weekly writing goal and then quickly moved on to writing everything I knew about what I had done in the classroom using academic scrapbooking: the set-up, the process, my journaling, and how students responded to the activity.

Next, I began the tenuous revisions: one of which was the format. Not only was I writing an article, but I was also scrapbooking the actual article so that its paragraphs floated alongside the photographs. The scrapbooking was easy for me; the right side of my brain moved faster than my hands, so I needed to concentrate on selecting the words that would accurately portray what I actually did in my classroom. Two weeks of reflections about the words I used in my article ensured that the writing juxtaposed the images and various art mediums on the scrapbook page. The scrapbook page came together with classroom snapshots and using scans of the students’ scrapbooking to illustrate the powerful dynamics of personalizing the curriculum.

I received written feedback from my small group, whole group, and our fearless leader, and the foundation of the research paper was transformed into an article for educators who work with students of all ages and who follow a curriculum in their learning environment. I am continuing to design academic scrapbooking kits for teachers and to present at conferences the academic scrapbooking process. The article in its art format has been submitted to Instructor Magazine. If I may, I want to graciously thank Emmet Rosenfeld for his idea of changing the article’s format.


1 Comment

I hope you'll keep us readers updated on where and when we can read these pieces in full - so many of them sound astounding. It's clear that the time you spent together was life-changing for each of you.

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  • Ellen G.: I hope you'll keep us readers updated on where and read more

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