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Voices from the Classroom

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Week one of “Voices from the Classroom” centered on writing for ourselves as teacher-researchers and observers of our own classrooms. We formed groups based on the type of end product we intend to produce, wrote daily, and workshopped. I always ask myself, when I teach, if the most important thing is at the heart of the class. So far, yes.

Our speaker was Gail Ritchie, FCPS and GMU teacher-research guru who gave us a mini version of a course she teaches. One thing that struck me as she shared a flow chart was the necessity for fluidity of thought. Reflective process is about listening hard. One must always be open to possibilities and revision throughout, whether because of what the data tells you, or based on an ongoing conversation with colleagues in your cohort.

Another thing that stood out for me about Dr. Gail is her bilingualism: she is fluent in both qualitative and quantitative research. While I’ve wondered more than once why policy wonks influence politicians more than we front-line teachers do, her code switching helped me see the two worlds as more connected than I had before. (Cue “Ebony and Ivory.”)

The teachers taking the class are varied and accomplished. One group is writing narrative. Laura, a young African American teacher, works at her alma mater where now, as when she attended, there is a small and somewhat isolated community of African-American students. She offers stories the rest of us don’t get to hear, like about the girl who sat in the library for two weeks to avoid awkwardness as the only black student in class during a Civil Rights unit. Kate, the mother of a teenager currently at her school, has come late to the classroom, but draws on her experience as a mom to connect with kids. Alyssa has a writer’s notebook in which she questions a system where “Kids will push a marble around on the floor with their noses for a grade.”

Another group is doing professional writing. Fran has been an agent of change in her school as a faculty leader implementing a behavior modification system called PBS, and is reworking a report for the school board. Ellen has conducted two years of teacher research on pre- and post-assessment, and wants to share her metacognitive strategies with peers. Heidi has hooked kids with academic scrapbooking, and is creating scrapbook pages of her own to tell the success story to colleagues.

The last group is labeled multigenre, for lack of a better word to express their varied formats and purposes. Karen has a reading recovery success story about a student she reached whom no one had before. In the process, he changed her as much as she changed him. Connie is a physical therapist shooting to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. Josie got a grant to play strategy-building games with gifted kids and is creating report for the organization’s newsletter. And Moira has collaborated with a colleague helping Head Start preschoolers discover the world through the lenses of clunky first generation digital cameras.

I look forward to listening to-- and passing on-- their stories as these education experts find their voices.

1 Comment

Nothing screams "writing is important!!!" more than being given the time to do it.
Everyday we get one and a half to two hours to write, and write, and write. I can't remember when I've devoted so much of the day messing around with my own words. It feels good. And the sense of accomplishment is huge.
I will never again wonder if I'm wasting my students' time when I ask them to simply write.

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