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I’ve been invited to give the talk of my life in eighteen minutes to a group of 36 teacher researchers at Annandale Terrace Elementary School on the topic of teachers writing for publication.

Serving grades PK-5, Annandale Terrace is a Title I school with 675 kids. 85% are English language learners and over 50% are eligible for free or reduced lunch. In some ways, this is the opposite school from where I teach now. So why me?

It’s Josie’s fault. (Loyal readers will recall that I taught a class for George Mason a couple summers ago to help teacher researchers and other educators write for publication. “Voices from the Classroom” was a short-lived but fruitful attempt to help Emmet’s Eleven tell teacher tales. Josie, a Gifted and Talented specialist from ATES, ultimately published a story about “Why Johnny Can’t Persevere – Using ThinkFun Games to Develop Strategies and a Can-Do Attitude” in a math magazine for teachers. )

Josie, like other teachers at this school, is highly motivated to make a positive difference in the lives of needy kids. Judging by many indicators including meeting “adequate yearly progress” goals, they are successful in doing so. One reason is that more than 60% of the faculty does teacher research.

When more than half your teachers regularly engage in a systematic and rigorous process of inquiry about their own teaching, using the kids in their room and the work those kids produce as evidence, something’s up.

The instigator and the guy who invited me to present is Mark Smith, the school’s technology guru. In addition to helping teachers learn to integrate technology into their lessons, Mark has nurtured a culture of reflective practice in and beyond his school by supporting teacher researchers and maintaining a wiki called clairvoy that lets teachers share their best ideas.

Mark doesn’t just tell teachers, “First push this button.” Instead he gives hoopla tent revivals (his words) about how idea-mapping software like Inspiration can be used, then sets them loose. How come so many teachers at your school do TR? I asked Mark.

It makes them better, he explained, and provides the tools for research-based interventions. Research begets research, which after a while changes the tenor of copy room chat. It becomes easy to get 5 articles on a topic because everybody knows about databases and current research. This let’s people fix the hardest problem in their classroom, which might otherwise get ignored. “We have a great relationship with the professional library at Sprague center,” he adds.

When I asked Mark for more details about the sort of presentation he wanted, he pointed me to TED.com. Apparently, every year a bunch of smart people get together in Monterey to talk about the Big Picture. A good example is this speech by an innovator named Ken Robinson from the 2006 conference in which he speaks about creativity and how schools squash it.

Sir Ken (knighted, apparently) argues that people are afraid to take risks and make mistakes, and schools reinforce this by teaching us to worry more about being right than creative. He laments that academic ability has become our definition of intelligence; consequently, creative people who aren’t good at school are stigmatized.

With a delivery as understated as his plain but probably really expensive sweater, Robinson challenges us to rethink intelligence based on the idea that it’s diverse (visual, sound, abstract, movement, kinesthetic), dynamic and not compartmentalized (he defines creativity as having original ideas that have value), and distinct (asks how people discover their talents).

I’m sharing all this because it made sense, and because I’m still trying to figure out how to give a “TED.com kind of speech.” Mark asked me to “go to the 60,000 foot level” on my topic. “Give the GMU course in 18 minutes,” he clarified. Not just how to publish, but why publish? Beyond a pat on the back, or moving your career forward, what is it good for? Include where to find the info that you need to start, Mark says. Not phone #s to editors or low-level how-to, but more the topography of the landscape.

Easy, huh? Stay tuned. I’ll let you know what I see from way up there. And what happened when I jumped.


I'll be there tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it.

If you've enjoyed some TED talks, this one is worth watching: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids.html It's only about 10 minutes long and it's fabulous.

I agree. This has helped me write. We now can break away from the 5-paragraph form that we used to use. I hope that I can use this in the future. I remember how I thought that when I wrote my high school essay, I showed and did not tell. We use the story-telling way of presenting almost everyday. I know that many times I will tell my friends, "Did you hear what happened?" I think that is the main way to present in our world.In my essay I showed what happened in a shoftball game and how I usually put my self down, but also I am very hard-working. This is very well written and I am sure that you gave a superb presentation.

Thanks for the great presentation! We were all inspired and headed to start our own writers groups.

Hey Emmet!
I just heard your talk by podcast. It was awesome. You definitely captured the spirit of our class. I'm so sorry I couldn't hear it live. Ironically, I was out because I helped ThinkFun give a talk about using their games to improve perseverance and problem-solving at the NAGC conference in Tampa. (I think publishing captured their attention. : ) )

I am new here, and I am very excited. I have been a TED fan for about half a year now. I am addicted. I play a talk or two nearly every night while I run on my treadmill. I also try to make technology an integrated part of my teaching and a means of expression for my students rather than simple a mechanism for skill and drill practice or assessment. Like many teachers in the great state of Texas, I often feel frustrated and somewhat restricted by the TAKS test, and some of the NCLB ploicies. In fact I fear that the next time I hear the phrase 'data driven', I may become physically ill. We are forced to spend so much time analyzing data, that we end up with overly sterile lesson plans, that are so clogged up with inch deep and mile wide objectives that the only thing it seems to produce amongst our students is mass confusion. I don't desire to stifle my students creativity, however I feel like the expectations of our school district leadership force us into becoming teachers who only ever feel frustration when our students are unable to perform well on standardized multiple choice tests. Thats all the time I have for now. I look forward to participating in these sorts of dialogues more.

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Recent Comments

  • TexTeacher: I am new here, and I am very excited. I read more
  • josie: Hey Emmet! I just heard your talk by podcast. It read more
  • organized chaos: Thanks for the great presentation! We were all inspired and read more
  • Natasha Preston: I agree. This has helped me write. We now can read more
  • Jenny: I'll be there tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to read more




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