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ENGLISH
The professional
journal of the
California
Association
of Teachers of
English
Volume 15, No. 5 – June 2010 – LETTERS TO A YOUNG TEACHER
In This Issue
6
Letter to a Young Teacher: Go Forth and Teach
by Erika Daniels
7
Letter to a Young Teacher
9
Teacher, Teacher, I Declare
Please Take Help from Anywhere
i
n
r
fo
i
l
Ca
ENGLISH
by Adrianna Gervais
by Maria Shreve
10
Letter to a Young Teacher
12
I Hope (My Wishes for You)
12
Because I Am a Teacher
14
Welcome to the Profess...
18
Mrs. Reyes at Delta Sierra Middle School
A poem by Maria Sanchez
19
Accelerated Reader: A Disincentive to Life-Long Readers
by Derek Boucher
20
Reading Langston Hughes
24
A Tale of Three Students:
Meditations on My Craft in Dark Days by James Prothero
26
Teaching the Universe of Discourse
by Thomas Roddy
A poem by Laurie Stowell
a
June 2010
Volume 15 • Number 5
Features and
Columns
President’s Perspective – 4
by Jane Hancock
Editor’s Column – 5
Call for MSS – 5 • California Young Reader Medal
– 8 • CATE Professional Writing Contest – 13
by Bill Younglove
by Jennifer McCormick
Asilomar 59 – 18 Research Update: Navigating
the Waters – 28 • CATE 2011 – 31
Directory of Advertisers
Asilomar 59
18
Book Jam
32
CATE Conference 2011
31
Inside Shakespeare
15
NCTE
by Chuck Dowdle
Scholastic
7, 19
2
The Artist of this Issue:
Ambrose Delfino
Artist Ambrose Delfino began potting
just prior to retirement. His work is
primarily done on the wheel and he
enjoys raku and primitive fire techniques.
He is inspired by nature and is making
more large pieces that he can work into
his garden. (In this connection, see the
garden reproduced on page 30.)
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF
TEACHERS OF ENGLISH
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President – Charleen Delfino (2012)
Past President – Robert Chapman (2012)
Vice-President – Liz McAninch (2012)
Secretary – Carrie Danielson (2011)
Treasurer – Anne Fristrom, (2012)
Council Representatives
Capitol: Angus Dunstan • Central: Susan Dillon
Fresno (FACET): Shannon Taylor • Kern: Kim Flachmann
Redwood: Anne Sahlberg • San Diego: Lisa Ledri
Southland: Nancy Himel • Tulare: Carol Surabian
• Upper: Shelly Medford
Members-at-Large
Denise Mikkonen (Elementary, 2012)
Karen Brown (Middle, 2011)
Jim Kliegl (Secondary, 2012)
Cheryl Hogue Smith (College, 2011)
Jill Hamilton-Bunch (Small, 2012)
Richard Hockensmith (Unspecified, 2012)
Ron Lauderback (Unspecified, 2012)
Chairpersons
Membership Chair – Joan Williams (2011)
Resolutions Chair – Kathleen Cecil (2010)
Policy–Angus Dunstan (2010)
Conventions
Convention Coordinator : Punky Fristrom
Registrar: Edwin Hase • Exhibit Manager: Tammy Harvey
CATE 2011 Convention Chair: Michelle Berry
CATE 2012 Convention Chair: Kim Flachmann
Communications and Liaison
CATENet Moderator: Jake Stanford
CATEWebmaster: Cindy Conlin • CTA Liaison: Debra Martinez
CCCC Liaison: Bill Younglove • CYRM Liaisons: Joanne Mitchell
• CWP Liaison: Jayne Marlink
CALIFORNIA ENGLISH
Editor:
Design:
Printing:
Carol Jago
GoalCoast Publications, (310) 663.9905
Sundance Press, Tucson, (800) 528.4827
STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT, AND
CIRCULATION. CALIFORNIA ENGLISH (ISSN # 0279-1161)
is published five times each year in the months of September,
November, February, April and June by the California Association
of Teachers of English (CATE), P.O. Box 23833, San Diego, CA
92193-3833. Annual CATE dues of $40 include $35 for a oneyear subscription. Known office of publication is 3714 Dixon
Place, San Diego, CA 92107-3739. Periodicals Postage Paid at
San Diego, CA. The Editor is Carol Jago, 16040 Sunset Blvd.,
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.
POSTMASTER Send address changes to California English, P.O.
Box 23833, San Diego, CA 92193-3833.
ADVERTISING
ADVERTISING/EXHIBIT RATES AND INFORMATION
MAY BE OBTAINED FROM
JEFF WILSON , 19 RICHARDSON ROAD
NOVATO, CA 94949.
PHONE: 415.883.3301; FAX: 415-593-7606;
E-MAIL: [email protected]
P
resident’s
erspective
began teaching—22
years old, naïve and
optimistic. I worked
hard to help my students
succeed. And yet when
they did succeed, I was
never sure that I could
replicate their success
because I didn’t really
know what worked or
Charleen Delfino
why. They wrote often
and I corrected. I conferenced with them, or wrote
long responses to them; however, I remember saying to
them after we had discussed an assignment briefly, “I
don’t want you to touch a pencil; I don’t want you to
write a word. I want you to think first.” I didn’t realize
then that writing was the best way for students to think
and to generate new ideas.
I took a hiatus from teaching for several years to be
a stay-at-home mom and returned with new energy,
enthusiasm and optimism. My love of literature had
to be infectious, and if I had my students write enough
and if I corrected enough, certainly they would
improve, I naively thought. We shared literature, they
wrote, and I corrected. And they did improve, but the
results were not what I expected. Students made the
same mistakes repeatedly. I learned and relearned more
grammar than I ever imagined possible, and yet their
writing didn’t improve significantly. Or when it did, I
wasn’t sure why. I worked all the time, and yet I always
felt guilty; if I wasn’t correcting papers, I felt that I
should be. I felt frustrated and isolated. Although I
had many friends, we didn’t discuss the issues of
teaching. We didn’t share our good or disastrous
lessons.
Hearing about the Bay Area Writing Project
programs, I applied to the Summer Institute. After an
amazing interview with Jim Gray, I was accepted. I
had no idea that my professional life was about to
change dramatically.
We formed a group where all teachers were
recognized and included. Each morning two teachers
gave a demonstration that validated our expertise, and
in the afternoon we worked on and shared our writing.
Often we analyzed and discussed the pedagogy of
writing. Previously, reading research and personal
writing were luxuries that I thought I couldn’t afford.
The participants in the institute became colleagues
I
— teachers sharing common goals and concerns. It
was validating to know that other teachers, good
teachers, shared my frustrations and my
accomplishments. We combined our strengths and
strengthened our weaknesses. We became a true
learning community. I realized that we no longer
looked only to the outside expert; rather, we were all
experts trusting our experiences and our ability to learn
from each other.
I returned to school with confidence and a new
sense of professionalism. I shared my successes and
failures with my colleagues. I discovered that many
were eager for these conversations. In my classroom I
worked to model much of what happened during the
summer institute. It wasn’t magic; we worked and had
to be persistent. We had to be willing to risk, adjust
and adapt. When I saw improvement, I knew better
how to replicate it. I wrote and shared my writing with
my students. Our class became a learning community.
After the summer institute, I was asked to share
demonstrations with teachers at other schools. A new
writing project site was to be started at San Jose State
University; Jonathon Lovell and I teamed up to
become the directors. The Writing Project Directors
meet yearly at the NCTE Convention. I soon learned
of the many opportunities afforded me from this new
experience. In addition to my work at the writing
project, I became involved in the work of NCTE. I
also became active in CATE. I learned that teachers
working together can accomplish more than I could
accomplish working in isolation. Certainly, we don’t all
agree about how to solve the problems that exist;
however, a forum exists for teachers to work together to
help find solutions to the issues and concerns that face
us. The teacher organizations, through their journals
and publications, through their staff development
programs, conventions and conferences became a
resource for me and for many of the new and
experienced teachers with whom I worked.
Today, I am a very different teacher. I am a
professional, confident that I can make decisions about
what is best for students and for my continued growth.
I look with confidence to my colleagues, who support
me, challenge me, and encourage me to take risks. I
accept failure if I can learn from it.
I encourage new teachers and veteran teachers to
seek a learning community, to join groups such as
CATE that validate teachers’ expertise and encourage
teacher inquiry. I encourage teachers to see their
teaching career as a journey to professionalism and to
take advantage of the many opportunities offered.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 4 –
From the
Editor
Carol Jago
Letters to a Young Teacher
ne hand for the
ship, one hand for
yourself ” is an old
watchword in the U.S. Navy
that offers advice to sailors about to clamber up a ship’s rigging.
If sailors climb to their stations only to embrace the mast on
high with both arms, no work gets done. If they give little
thought to their own safety aloft, they can be blown away. The
saying is particularly apt for teachers. When we forget to save
one hand for ourselves and give all our time, energy, and
imagination to our work, we can become lost.
Too many young teachers give both hands to the job,
sacrificing every minute of personal time and even their health
to the demands of the classroom: grading papers, calling
parents, designing lessons, supervising water polo games,
worrying about their students long into the night. As a result
too many decide that the work is not for them and look
elsewhere for a job that isn’t quite so all consuming.
This issue of California English offers advice to young
teachers on how to survive the world-wind of conflicting
demands and maintain a balance between one’s personal and
professional lives. It breaks my heart when teachers tell me that
they have no time to read during the school year. Sacrificing the
very thing that drew one to the work in order to do the work is
misguided and short sighted. It will also undermine one’s
effectiveness. When students see their English teacher excited
about a new book, they begin to wonder what it is in those
pages of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief or Junot Díaz’s The
Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that can give such pleasure.
“O
When they hear us talk with enthusiasm about a book club
discussion on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie
Society, they begin to consider that talking about books isn’t
just something that happens in school.
In his new book Why School? Mike Rose examines the ways
in which schools could become good places to be. “There is
little talk of the power of teaching, of this remarkable kind of
human relationship, honored in all cultures. In our time,
teaching is acknowledged as important but is often defined as a
knowledge-delivery system. Yet teaching carries with it the
obligation to understand the people in one’s charge, to teach
subject matter and skills, but also to inquire, to nurture, to have
a sense of who a student is. Parents mention these qualities all
the time, and they are often what draw students to the
intellectual content of science, literature, or history, and to the
very idea of school as a good place to be” (168).
If we want students to think of school as a good place to be
and to pursue a life of the mind, teachers need to model the joy
such a life entails — reading for pleasure, writing for oneself as
well as for others, talking about ideas, and viewing the world
through a critical lens. I know it’s hard to think about picking
up the new Barbara Kingsolver novel The Lacuna when you have
180 unread essays on your desk, but a good book is food for
your soul. And without nourishment, your love for this work
can wither. Remember, one hand for the ship, one hand for
yourself.
For additional advice about surviving the first years of
teaching, check out Jonathan Kozol’s Letters to a Young
Teacher (Three Rivers Press, 2008) as well as long-time CATE
member Jim Burke and Joy Krajicek’s Letters to a Young
Teacher: A Month-by-Month Guide to the Year Ahead
(Heinemann 2006).
Works Cited
Rose, M. Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us.
New York: The New Press. 2010.
CALL FOR MANUSCRIPTS
SEPTEMBER 2010, WHAT MAKES A GREAT TEACHER? (DEADLINE JULY 15, 2010)
Research by Linda Darling-Hammond demonstrates that teachers make
a dramatic difference in the achievement of students. But what makes a
great teacher? California English would like to help the profession define
what it means to be effective in the classroom. I invite you to offer your
own definition, offering examples from your experience with students as
well as with other teachers. Tell stories, offer sample lessons, feel free to
be creative in your response to this question.
NOVEMBER 2010, NEVER MORE CRUCIAL (DEADLINE OCTOBER 1, 2010)
We are both blessed and challenged to live in “interesting times” in
education. What has become apparent is that it has never been more
crucial for teachers’ voices to be heard in public discourse about teaching
and learning. California English invites you to make your views public. What
should be happening at your school site that isn’t? How is it ever more
crucial to discover and meet your students’ needs? Why is it crucial for
curriculum to be rich and engaging as well as rigorous? Why is it so crucial
for our professional development to be meaningful?
Manuscripts are peer-reviewed. Please send all submissions to California English editor, Carol Jago. Articles should be limited to 2,500 words. Please submit manuscripts to
[email protected] or contact Carol Jago at the same e-mail address. MSS should, by preference, be submitted in Microsoft Word or pasted into an e-mail message.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 5 –
Letter to a Young Teacher: Go Forth and Teach
Dear New Colleague,
Over the course of 16 years teaching kindergarten, grades 6, 7, 8, 9,
and university, I have laughed with joy when the light bulb clicks on for a
student. I have cried with frustration over the kids who I cannot seem to
reach. I have read professional books and teachers’ memoirs, attended
and presented at conferences, and spent countless hours talking about
the profession with anyone who will engage. Through it all, I have
learned one lesson—the students are worth all of the effort.
The first year: My first year of teaching was in a kindergarten class in
Los Angeles. I had 38 students, no supplies, and no support. I cried
every night and second-guessed my career choice. In each dark moment,
however, the kids reminded me why I still showed up every day.
Jonathan’s mom told me that he gave her a mini-lecture on why we had
Martin Luther King’s birthday as a holiday. Marc’s smile lit up the room
when he figured out how to spell his name. Maria gravely reminded me
that he had forgotten to do silent reading time one morning.
I made a lot of mistakes that first year. Standards did not exist, and I
can’t say that I really understood how to properly and effectively support
and challenge my five year olds. The theory and pedagogy from my
methods classes seemed to bear little resemblance to the real-life chaos of
managing and teaching 38 five-year-olds. One of the most important
lessons I learned that year, however, is that children are remarkably
resilient and forgiving.
Just as I showed up every day determined to be better than the day
before, so did they. We struggled our way through learning our letters,
understanding how to sort and count, and trying not to kill off yet
another class pet. On the last day of school, my kids cried and hugged
me, then skipped blithely off into the summer. Somehow, somewhere,
someone must have taught them how to read because I received a
graduation announcement from one not too long ago.
The early years: After that first terrifying, exhilarating year, I transferred
to be part of the sixth grade team at the new middle school. The school
was not new, just the name. Hollenbeck Junior High added a sixth
grade, changed its name to Hollenbeck Middle School, and my
adventures continued.
Recently I found an old unit from my Language Arts curriculum in
those early years. California state standards were in their infancy in 1996
and teachers had very little mandated curriculum, which was both good
and bad. Good in the sense that we could do whatever we wanted to do.
The “unit” I found used The Witches by Roald Dahl. I tried to create
overarching themes as I had learned in my credential program, but I
mostly just had the kids do activities at various points in the book. The
lack of standards was bad, though, because I was not always sure that
what I felt like teaching was contributing to their overall learning.
The memory of my years at Hollenbeck is a little hazy but are
punctuated by thoughts of professional conversations during Common
Erika Daniels
Planning Time (a precursor to Professional Learning Communities),
exciting class periods when learning was tangible, and much angst as I
learned how to manage the 30 distinct personalities that inhabited each
class period. Eventually I moved south to the Oceanside Unified School
District where the zip code was different, but the faces, needs, successes,
and challenges were the same.
My advice to you during the early years is to be a sponge. Read
books, attend conferences, talk to colleagues, listen to your students.
Above all, listen to your students. Although the federal and state
governments, directed curriculum, and uncertain budgets mandate much
of our current work, the students are still our center. Use every
experience as a learning opportunity that will allow you to be a better
teacher for your students. They are still the reason you became a teacher,
and they still deserve the best you have to give.
The confident years: One day several years into my career, I realized the
butterflies were subsiding. I no longer woke up every morning feeling
nauseous about what the day held. I no longer silently cheered for
assemblies because they meant less class time to fill. I no longer subtly
cringed when someone came to observe me because I was terrified of
what he/she might think. To my great surprise, I realized confidence
overrode the terror more often than not.
That is not to say that planning instruction and managing behavior
magically became easy. What did happen is that I started believing in my
ability to meet the challenges this wonderful profession posed.
I had learned not to back defiant students into a corner, instead to
address their behavior privately. I had learned to navigate state standards
and mandated curriculum without sacrificing fun. Most importantly, I
had learned when to ask for help and when to trust my instincts. One
year, a student told a counselor that I had “picked him up out of the
trash and helped him be successful.” Joaquin told me that he heard
“mandatory evacuations” on the radio and didn’t know what evacuations
were but knew that people had to do them because we had learned what
mandatory meant the day before. Lest I get too complacent, however,
Gustavo told me it was my fault that he was always in a bad mood.
Stay curious and to remain humble. You will have phenomenal
successes; new teachers will come to you for advice. But you will have
disheartening, frustrating days as well. Use those days as learning
experiences and the good days as motivating experiences and remember
that our students still deserve the best we can give them every day.
As I began this letter, I will end it. Students are smart, funny,
articulate, and poignant. They want teachers who believe in them, trust
them, and will push them. If you are willing to do this, you are ready.
Now, go forth and teach!
About the Author:
Erika Daniels, Ed.D teaches at California State University,
San Marcos.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 6 –
Letter to a Young Teacher:
You will never do anything in this world without courage.
It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor."
– Aristotle.
f you have been living in the United States for the past year,
you are well aware of the current financial issues impacting
your career choice. But none of us chooses teaching to become
monetarily rich, we choose it to make a difference.
Today, as you either begin, or prepare to begin to take on the
most important job you will ever be paid for, I have but a few
humble words of advice to offer you.
The first, and likely most important piece of advice I can
offer you is to have faith. I don't mean a spiritual faith, I mean
faith in yourself, in your decisions, in your students and their
abilities. But sometimes having faith is difficult, and for that you
must be equipped with reason, passion, and courage. Have faith
in yourself, but set reasonable goals. Be passionate about what you
have chosen, and remember why you are there. Be courageous in
your decisions as a teacher. Don't be afraid to do something
simply because it might fail. Have the conviction that your ideas
are just as worthwhile as anyone else's.
And when you use that courage and even the most well-laid
out plan fails, remember that the only true failure is one from
which you don't learn. Fail. Fall apart. Do things wrong. But be
prepared to do what follows- step back, look at yourself, figure
out what went wrong, and fix it.
While you are figuring out how to fail correctly, let your
students see you. In doing so, you will teach them an invaluable
lesson that many are afraid to teach. You will teach them that
failure is necessary for success. After all, when we teach them to
write an essay, we teach them to write multiple drafts, each
successive draft a purported improvement over the previous one.
You will teach them that it is acceptable to take risks, that it is ok
to try things out, and you will teach them that they can count on
you to be honest with them.
Speaking of honesty, you must be willing to be so. You must
be willing to ask questions. Lots of questions, but never one for
which you aren't prepared to hear the answer you don't want. You
must honestly answer what is asked of you, by both your students
and your colleagues, and they will learn that you are a reliable
source of information. If you don't know something, then have
the courage to honestly say that you don't know, but also have the
courage to find out.
See yourself, in this manner, as a moderator of knowledge. It
isn't something that you have that the students need to receive, at
least not exclusively. They each have their own knowledge, their
own histories, their own truths, and these are all as much a part
I
Adrianna Gervais
of them as anything you wish to teach them. It follows, then, that
you must love your students. You must enjoy watching them
progress toward new knowledge the way a mother enjoys watching
her toddler learn to walk. You must delight in the look upon
their faces when they finally understand something, must relish
their thirst for knowledge and instill the never-ending drive to
quench it.
Last, but most definitely not least, acknowledge your own
limitations and imperfections. Understand how they limit you.
Own them. Monitor them. And each and every day strive to work
past them. For it is when you are no longer a student, that you
will no longer be capable of teaching. And that is what true
teaching is, having the courage to understand that your
shortcomings are only places for improvement.
About the Author:
Adrianna Gervais teaches 7th Grade English & Reading at
Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Stockton.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 7 –
California Young Reader Medal
Nominees 2010-2011
Primary Category
A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald. Candlewick Press, 2008.
Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed. Philomel, 2008.
Duck by Randy Cecil. Candlewick Press, 2008
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale by Carmen Deedy. Illustrated by Michael
Austin. Peachtree Publications, 2008.
Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie by Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Edward Koren. Knopf, 2006.
Intermediate Category
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke. The Chicken House, 2007.
Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley. Scholastic Press, 2007
Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston. Razorbill, 2008.
Middle School Category
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis. Scholastic, 2007.
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohota. Atheneum, 2007.
Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients, Book 1 by Derek Landy. The Bowen Press, 2007
Young Adult Category
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press, 2008.
Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. Henry Holt & Co., 2008
Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Simon & Schuster, 2007.
Picture Book for Older Readers
Moon Over Star by Diana Aston. Dial, 2008.
John Paul George & Ben by Lane Smith. Hyperion Books, 2006.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Williams. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2007.
Teacher, Teacher, I Declare
Please Take Help from Anywhere
Dear New English Teacher,
How nice of you to ask me for advice! I suppose at just about 10
years of teaching I might not be considered a veteran, and worthy of
giving advice, but the way I see it, a year of teaching at Community
Day School is kind of like dog years in the world of teaching. This
means that one year at CDS equals seven years of teaching, so I
hereby proclaim myself a veteran teacher and qualified to write this
letter of advice to you.
For starters, it’s important to realize that your first assignment will
not be the assignment that you dreamed of during the credential
program, or maybe even during your student teaching. As unfair and
unfortunate as it might seem, your first assignment will probably be
about one step above janitorial duties, which, in fact, you might even
have to do for one period, probably your prep period. Take my first
assignment, for instance, a Special Day Class, the highlights of which
included a student who almost blew up the C-Wing by sticking
paperclips in a light socket, and another student who would yell out at
least once a week, “I hate you, I hate you.” I would classify this
assignment as a night terror. My second assignment was somewhat
better, the equivalent of a nightmare, and the third assignment
was….a dream!! It’s crucial to know that even though those first
couple of years can be trying, difficult, even maddening – they do not
go on forever, and you will be learning and becoming a better teacher
from every experience that you think is going to drive your formerly
sane mind positively insane.
How can you stay sane the first couple of years when you can
possibly be in an insane situation? Take advantage of the resources
around you. I was fortunate that I had supportive people all around
me: a wonderful BTSA coach; another teacher, Kelie, who started at
the same time that I did, taught in another SDC class, and later
worked alongside me as a resource teacher; fantastic administrators;
and a helpful group of teachers. All of these people helped me,
whether it was simply discussing ideas at lunch, or having a planned
conversation. This might mean being at school more that you
planned, but often these people have more time to be helpful when
students are not in the picture. Teachers who have been around for a
while have quite the bag of tricks, and if you’re not around to talk to
them, you will never find out about them. Simply put, if you need
help, ask for help. Better yet, find out who is good at what, ask them
for ideas, and observe their classes. For instance, during one of the
classes in my master’s degree program, I had to do observations. Being
an experienced teacher, I was not looking forward to this, and one day
I popped in on my colleague Stephanie’s class as they were learning to
take notes and cite on note cards for research reports. Her method of
explaining the note cards and citing was not only clear but innovative–
certainly more effective than mine. Did I know she had such a terrific
Maria Shreve
way of teaching it – no. Nor would I have found out if I hadn’t
observed her class. These days, if anyone asks me about note cards
and citing, I will point that person in the direction of Stephanie.
In terms of non-human resources, the most important one for me
had to be a Six Traits of Writing training that I went to the summer
between my first and second years of teaching. Quite frankly, after the
Six Traits of Writing training, I sounded somewhat knowledgeable
about writing discourse, I sounded like I knew what I was talking
about to my students, and as a new teacher, it streamlined what I
needed to look for in student writing when I was helping students
with their writing, as well as when I was assessing their writing. All of
these years later, dog years included, I still use those Six Traits of
Writing. For new English teachers, it’s hard to look at an essay and
pin-point exactly what works and what doesn’t – it’s much easier if
you know what you’re looking for, whether it is one or all of the six
traits.
Of course, human resources are even better than non-human
resources, and, after you get a few years of teaching under your belt
(which I hope you can still wear, given the vast amount of treats that
appear in just about every teachers’ lunchroom), I strongly encourage
you to look into your regional writing project. In a desperate
attempt to get more graduate units during the summer, two years ago
I went to the Great Valley Writing Project Mini Institute, and the
following year received a fellowship to attend the Great Valley
Writing Project Summer Institute. Both institutes were pivotal in my
approach to teaching. What can be better than teachers working with
other teachers to become better teachers? The time was divided
between presenting and watching each other’s demo lessons, writing,
and reading research. I left with a repertoire of lessons that I never
expected to have, and even more enthusiasm for teaching writing.
Here is something startling: in my nine years of teaching, I have
never had the same assignment twice. Oh, yes, the master schedule is
full of surprises – new classes being one of them. In fact, just when I
was becoming confident teaching English, I found myself somewhat
uneasy in the role of “The English Teacher Lost in AVIDland.” I was
apprehensive about the new class, but I had a few things that made the
transition easier: a wonderful AVID coordinator, Marcia, who gave
me plenty of sound advice; fabulous curriculum that I even used in
my ELA class now and then; and going back to an emphasis on
collaborative learning that I had not really done much of since my
student teaching days. In a year, my view of AVID went from
apprehension to the realization that the methodologies in AVID
could be transferred to my ELA class and make me a better teacher.
In fact, when my principal evaluated me, many of the items he was
impressed with were AVID methodologies. Here is something else
that’s startling – you can be sent to another school. Renee, one of my
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 9 –
graduate school friends, actually went from teaching seventh and eighth grade to
first grade. Was she upset? In this day and age, she was happy to have a job – and
less work to bring home. Similarly, a little over a year ago, I received a pink slip
and was called back, but not to my beloved middle school, to the Community Day
School, where only the Bravest of the Brave Hughsonites would dare to step foot.
Just what does this assignment entail? Well, as I’m writing this, I have a couple of
things on my mind. First, who was responsible for writing on the inside and
outside of my front door? Second, who was responsible for splattering the taco
sauce all over my desk and papers? My assistant superintendent, who has to be the
nicest man on the face of the earth to personally hand a person a pink slip, told
me that I was doing a great job working with the “district’s most challenging
students.” I suppose they do live up to that. But once again, it has been a learning
experience for me. Like Renee, for the first time in years, I haven’t brought work
home, and I’ve had more time to work on my master’s degree and spend time with
my daughter. The point is, you might have some God-awful assignments, you
might have to teach something you don’t want to teach, you might have to teach at
a grade level or school that you don’t want to teach at, but you will never stop
learning.
As it turns out, I’m going back to my middle school next year, and I recently
found out that more changes are in store for me. Whereas, we used to teach cores
– 2 period blocks for ELA – we are not any more. As a result, next year I’ll be
teaching three periods of ELA, one period of AVID, and one period of
journalism. Surprise! Actually, I was journalism major, but my initial reaction was
– you guessed it, apprehension. Now, however, I’m getting used to the idea, and,
dare I say, I am EXCITED about it. I am a bit leery (good-bye apprehensive)
about the amount of essays and articles I will have on my hands, though. In fact,
in the past, I have read, graded, and critiqued everything that has been turned into
me. However, now I bring in another resource, another way for new teachers and
even veteran teacher to get help – books! Remember those? Kelly Gallagher’s book
Teaching Adolescent Writers is a must for English teachers. Of interest is his
approach to grading student writing: “Students need coaches more than they need
critics. As a result, I do not grade everything they write. As a general rule of
thumb, students are asked to write four times more than I can physically access. I
concentrate on being a coach, not a grader… (53)”. I am in awe of that
philosophy, and will try to implement that next year.
So, future English teacher, I know I’ve rambled on and talked about
myself quite a bit. However, I think my experience is probably fairly typical. Over
time, you will discover that some of the methods you use are right on target, some
will not work, and there will always be some that you want to try out. And
remember, it’s important to stay out of the comfort zone and in the high
challenge zone.
Sincerely,
Maria Shreve
About the Author:
Maria Shreve is a middle school teacher at Hughson Community Day School. She
also is finishing up her Master's Degree in English (Rhetoric and Teaching Writing)
at CSU Stanislaus and is a teacher consultant for the Great Valley Writing Project.
Letter to a Young
Teacher
Thomas Roddy
Dear Colleague,
Not long ago a family friend asked me, “What is it
that allows you to do what you do?” Without
hesitating I told her that I felt teaching was my calling.
This approach may not be something that appeals to
you, but shortly after I started working at the inner
city school where I have taught for almost ten years, I
realized that my love of literature alone would not be
enough to sustain me. My students struggle to
maintain basic skills; therefore, reading anything
critically, the way one might in one’s fantasy of an
English class, happens sporadically. To prevent
quitting altogether, I needed something else to keep
me curious. So I listened to another question that
beckoned me, “How can I help my students to grow
into their best selves?”
I also began attending a very progressive church,
which has social justice as one of its central pillars. In
one sermon, the rector offered four precepts, borrowed
from multiple wisdom traditions, for a path to joy.
They have become my personal professional teaching
standards. I measure how successful I am against those
and not my students’ test scores, which remain in the
regions of below basic and far below basic. I offer
these ideas to you now because they allow cultivation
of a very valuable tool which is at the core of good
teaching. They are show up, pay attention, tell the
truth, and, do not hold onto the results.
Showing up means you are in your classroom,
prepared and ready to go before that first bell rings.
More than anything such as a packaged lesson plan, or
video, or treat (a.k.a. bribe), you might buy for your
students, you have to bring and work from the part of
you that is as vast and as generous as the sky. This
sense of openness and optimism has been essential to
my survival as a teacher in an overcrowded urban
school, where the average reading level of my students,
even the upperclassmen, is the fourth grade. The
Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön suggests that looking at
the sky in moments of anxiety allows us to keep our
focus away from ourselves and on the world around us.
Last fall, a student, named Angel, carved his name
into six of my computers. To use the words of my
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 10 –
students, I tripped. I called security and three deans and Angel’s
mother. I repeated the story to anyone who would listen.
Inevitably, they confirmed how right I was to demand this child
be fined and expelled and sent to jail. Over time, the story got
faster and faster and I added more and more detail and before I
knew it, I had the libretto to a three act opera on my hands, but
no solution to help this boy, who in a moment of madness made
a stupid and destructive decision. Meditating on the sky helped
to access my inner expansiveness so I could welcome Angel back
to the classroom, where he would have fewer opportunities for
mischief.
Showing up means trusting that what you have to offer is
enough. When I started teaching, I convinced myself that the
marketplace, real and virtual, offered the bluebird-of-happiness
lesson plan or the perfect book that would entertain my students
and teach them at the same time. This is a fallacy. While it is
true that some material will be more accessible to students than
other, there is no perfect book, film, or lesson plan. If you bring
your whole generous self to your classroom, you will become a
fine teacher, but it will not happen instantly. The best way to
assure becoming the teacher you hope to be is to have a mentor in
you classroom to help you do it. A mentor will prove invaluable
as that person can catch your behaviors and show how they are
running counter to what you are trying to achieve. Once I did
this, I was forced to move my concentration away from myself to
my students and the millions of ways in which they were avoiding
the work I was giving. A qualified mentor will lead you to the
next precept, which is pay attention.
To pay attention, you have to get out of your seat, and walk
among your flock. Many inexperienced teachers think that
students are not doing their work because they are bored as the
material is not challenging; however, I have not observed this.
Students are not doing their work because they lack the skills.
Therefore, check your students’ work! This means you have to
pick up what you ask them to write, read it and correct it. If you
want them to discuss something, spy on their discussions, take
notes and share your observations. Give quizzes after a lesson.
When you give instructions, ask one of your students to repeat
your instructions to the rest of the class. Then ask another
student to say the same thing in different way. Repeat the
process.
I am embarrassed to say how often I ignored obvious errors
and glaring avoidances because I was concerned about violating
students’ needs for expression. To prevent that, follow the third
precept, which is to tell the truth. To illustrate this, I would like
to tell a story. Once, a student came to me because he was utterly
dismayed that he had failed the progress report. “Mister,” he said
plaintively, “I do my work.”
I said to him, “Andrew, I can say this to you because you are
not overweight, but for the moment, I would like to imagine that
I am your doctor, and you are my patient. You have come to me
because you are not feeling well, and yes, you weigh 350 pounds.
What do you expect me to say?”
Andrew thought for a moment and said, “You’d tell me to
lose weight.”
“Right,” I said, “and if I did not I would be remiss as your
physician to have ignored this fact. Since I am your teacher, I
have to be honest and say that while you are handing in your
work, what you are handing in looks as though someone much
younger than you wrote it.” Andrew giggled and shrugged, which
were typical reactions for him. We finished our conversation by
agreeing what was necessary for him to do to improve, but he did
not follow up on what I told him to do and failed at the end of
the semester.
Three years later, he has returned to my class, a junior now,
and his skills are better, but Andrew has much maturing to do
still. However, his presence in my classroom is still a gift because
he has taught me much about the fourth precept, which is not to
be attached to the results. The best I can do is to be fully present
for each of my students, and offer what I know in as interesting
way as I know how. Receiving what I bring is not up to me.
That is up to my students. I have to accept the fact that they may
not be ready to hear what I have to say, even if I think it is
valuable.
Over the weekend there was an editorial in the newspaper
which illustrated the components that according to some think
tank make a great teacher. In short, the optimal candidate must
have great intellectual prowess. The piece mentioned nothing,
however, of what I have come to believe is equally important to a
well-honed mind, specifically a well honed heart. The precepts I
offer you here are leading me to that every day. This vulnerability
has shown me in ways I never could have imagined the boundless
capacity of others for great decency and love and humor in and
outside of my classroom. I cannot think of a better way to spend
a life than growing towards that sort of excellence.
I hope you have a great first year! Good luck and by all
means, do not hesitate to contact me if I can provide some
assistance.
Sincerely,
Thomas Roddy, Jr.
About the Author:
Thomas Roddy, Jr. teaches English at Manual Arts High
School in Los Angeles. He would like to dedicate this piece to
Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 11 –
Because I am a Teacher
I hope
(My wishes for you)
Jane Hancock
I hope you find the joys of adolescents
more days than you
meet the frustrations.
I hope you get to see
and feel
the impact you have on young lives.
I hope you open yourself up to learning
from your students.
I hope you come to realize
that even when they don’ t act like it,
your students still love and need you
and they can be very forgiving.
I hope you have more restful
than sleepless nights.
I hope the good days
out number the bad.
But I also hope that you see every morning
as a new day;
a clean sheet of paper to write on;
a new opportunity to do better
than the day before.
I hope you find like-minded colleagues
supportive parents,
and visionary principals.
I hope you make friends
with the really important people of the school:
the secretaries and custodians.
I hope you know
that your instructors are always here for you
when you need:
a fresh idea,
a sympathetic ear,
a word of encouragement.
I hope you get a chance to be
quiet revolutionaries
rather than
good soldiers.
I hope you find a way to change what’ s going on,
find a way to authentic and meaningful teaching and learning,
not through lecturing, worksheeting, and overtesting.
I hope you learn to trust your own good professional judgment.
I hope you become the teacher
who makes a difference
In the life of a student
encourages a colleague,
becomes a leader.
I hope you
inspire hope.
The author, Laurie Stowell, is a professor of literacy at Cal State San Marcos
and the Director of the San Marcos Writing Project. She wrote this for her
student teachers in the middle level credential program
and read it to them on their last day.
ecause I am a teacher, I share moments of discovery with
my students. I beam when I see a blank page become a
work of art or a delightful piece of prose, when a student
finds meaning in a poem or short story, a meaning that has
eluded me.
Because I am a teacher, I sit in a darkened auditorium and
listen to young musicians playing the music of Haydn and
Mozart or even their own compositions, young actors speaking
the words of August Wilson or William Shakespeare, and I
know that the future of the arts in the country is in good hands.
Because I am a teacher, I wear my school colors and cheer
the future athletes of America on to victory while the school
band plays and the drill team and cheerleaders never give up
hope, no matter what the score.
Because I am a teacher, I am a listening ear for silent tears, a
soft shoulder for heavy hearts, an encouraging smile for tired
spirits, a bit of light amidst some gray lives.
Because I am a teacher, I have as co-workers intelligent men
and women with similar values and goals as mine, with a love
for culture and learning, a quest for knowledge, and a spirit of
unselfishness.
Because I am a teacher, I create new worlds in my classroom,
new opportunities, new avenues to explore, new means to an
end.
Because I am a teacher, I have in my classroom students from
all over the world, with different cultures, religions, values,
experiences. Together we learn about each other and make the
world a better place in which to live.
Because I am a teacher, I wake up in the middle of the night,
so excited over a lesson I am going to teach the next day that I
can’t go back to sleep, and I wait impatiently for the alarm to go
off so I can go to school.
Because I am a teacher, students return and tell me what I
did for them, what I said that they will never forget, what I
taught that has remained with them.
Because I am a teacher, I am part of the greatest profession
in the world, since all other professions stem from it.
I love being a teacher.
B
About the Author:
Jane Hancock, co-director of the UCLA Writing Project,
rides a merry-go-round that won't stop and let her off. Her
passion for the thrill keeps her going . . . and going . . and going.
Because she loves what she does--teaching, consulting, and
providing professional development for teachers in the field-she always gets the brass ring.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 12 –
CATE Professional Writing Contest for Teachers & Educators
2010-11 PROMPT
Teachers' roles have long been many: scholar, counselor, coach, manager, researcher,
diagnostician, and curriculum designer. Today, however, teachers are being required to go
beyond such roles to re-form education itself; all this, while trying to meet the needs of
students.
Think of a piece of literature that has spoken to you, given you guidance in the midst of
these competing roles, or pressure, to "reform" how you teach. Write a narrative, a reflective
essay, or a poem about what helps you as a teacher in managing to meet these "never more
crucial" requirements.
NOTICE: Deadline for entries August 31, 2010. This prompt will be advertised in CATE
affiliate workshops and in issues of the California English magazine.
FIRST PLACE : one CATE annual convention registration, plus publication in California
English and on CateWeb.org.
SECOND PLACE: one CATE membership, plus publication in California English and on
CateWeb.org.
•
•
•
•
•
Include writer’s name, address, phone number, school and district.
Articles are limited to 1500 words.
The deadline for submission is August 31, 2010.
Click on the Contests tab to read previous winners’ essays at cateweb.org.
E-mail manuscripts formatted in Microsoft Word to [email protected] Also, please
mail back-up, hard copy to:
Olga Kokino
CATE PWC Coordinator
3652 Brayton Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90807
Welcome to the Profess...
Bill Younglove
A professor should have something to profess, a teacher
something to teach, and a student something to study--to
learn.
– B.Y.
CONSIDER...
En route to Hawaii for the first time, the teacher wished to be
completely correct in referring to the islands.
Sitting next to the teacher, the deeply tanned, sandaled, whitetrousered, flower-shirted man seemed a likely native informant.
"Pardon me," the teacher asked, "is it Hawai'i or Havai'i?"
The informant instantly intoned, "Havai'i."
"Thank you very much," replied the teacher.
"You're velcome," came the tanned one's reply.
Four points need to be emphasized to novice teachers among you:
1. It is very important to possess accurate information
about your subject.
2. Meaningful communication is the key to understanding;
indeed, is the essence of English study.
3. Anecdotes will be remembered by your students long
after didactic lectures are forgotten.
4. A sense of humor can enrich--and sustain--your
teaching career.
GETTING STARTED...
The profession you are entering is not quite one-yet. That is,
honorable though teaching may be, neither Jonathan Kozol, Jaime
Escalante, Lou Anne Johnson, nor Erin Gruwell set the hours, wages, or
conditions of his or her teaching employment, as do doctors and
lawyers. You will, though, have an opportunity to shape curriculum--and
young minds. To do the latter, you must first gain students' trust. They
will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Here, Albert Maslow had it correct--physical/safety and social needs
before academic ones.
Your initial teaching question must be: What rules will I need, to
establish an atmosphere of trustful care, that will allow me to pursue
meaningful instruction? Your half dozen rules, writ large on the walls,
delivered in a no-nonsense fashion, the first day, about student on-time
attendance, movement, talking, use/maintenance of the classroom,
materials handling, operation of electronics, and dismissal, will set the
proper tone. Oh, and don't forget to share the escalating stages of
punishment for infractions--and rewards for compliance. After a
personal talk with the errant student, your first follow-up is a home call.
Embrace, to the extent possible, parents/guardians as fellow shapers of
the dear children they have entrusted to you. . In most cases, your real,
ongoing challenge will be the 80-15-5 principle--i.e., dealing with the
5% chronic rule breakers and the 15% disrupters, without alienating the
80% who accept reasonable rules.
PLANNING AHEAD...
“Is teaching an art or is it a science?” you ask. As with many
dichotomous dilemmas, the simple answer is "yes." That is, your daily
lesson plans, your units, and your curriculum design are the science.
Your implementation, your delivery, is where the art comes in. Your road
map lessons and your willingness to make the journey exciting are both
vital.
A good road map (lesson) plan contains, minimally, the Standard(s)
addressed (fewer the better), the objective(s) (limited) to be fulfilled, the
anticipatory set (student real-life connection), the procedure, (scaffolded
task, model, and check for understanding), applied practice, assessment
of objective(s), closure, and independent practice (often, homework).
While the model referenced here is likely a final product, your stance as a
learner in your own classroom will speak volumes about how students
can ultimately achieve.
While educator Jonathan Kozol, and others perhaps, would find this
Madeline Hunter lesson model too restrictive, Hunter herself offered
caveats (Hunter, 1985). Your knowledge of a wide array of teaching
strategies, in any case, should help you to invoke these essential elements
of effective instruction. Just remember to diagnose student needs at the
outset--to determine domain strengths--reading, writing, speaking, and
listening levels for each student. The only fair assessment is to determine
student achievement of objectives from this baseline information. If
Standards are not already prescribed by your school, draw up a key list
based upon, "I really can't believe the students do not know..."
EXPERT HELP...
At first, your many years of college study and book learning may
seem extraneous to the oft adrenaline and hormone-filled students in
front of you. In time, however, review the essences of such mental
mentors as Bandura, Bruner, Freire, Gardner, Goleman, Kohn, Maslow,
Montessori, Piaget, Rosenblatt, Rosenshine, and Vygotsky. Pay some
attention to well-conducted longitudinal research, but also zero in on
pathological studies by such as Axline, D'Ambrosio, Pelzer, and Sacks,
which probe: What went wrong here with the human mind? In time, you
may come to view your classroom as a laboratory for educational
observation...
In the meantime, if your principal does not assign you a mentor-department chair or other--seek one out, hopefully in proximity, Do not
hesitate to go to the mentor for every important question you have. By
the way, your location on campus can be very important--and definitely
request minimal movement once you are (re)located.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 14 –
GETTING THERE, DAILY...
SEEKING HELP...
Franklin may--or may not--have had it correct about the attributes
of early rising, but consider this: Your ability to become--and stay-organized will be the key to satisfying self, as well as the demands of
teaching. Once the school day starts, you may feel like a performer on a
stage. In reality, the roles you may be expected to play, at various times,
include boss and cop (for sure), coach, quality controller, resource
manager, staff developer (unless you do turn down college, parent, or
student aides), healthcare provider (Learn just what the nurse can/can't
do.), counselor, social worker, and family therapist. Few of these, you
will note, touch upon your college training as a scholar, researcher,
linguist, or cognitive psychologist. And now, thanks to Twenty-First
Century technologies, you get to be(come) a computer operator,
integrator, and maintenance person. Do not overlook, either, one of
your greatest allies, your librarian/media center person. Not only can
this specialist open your students' minds to the world of books and
research, but, often, with advance notice, s/he will present mini-lessons
on that ever-evolving world of digitized learning. Yes, you'll feel (a bit)
better if, by the time the parting of the Red Sea of students occurs (i.e.,
the first bell rings), you have checked your mailbox, copied necessary
materials, put information on the board, checked electronics--and said hi
to teachers on both sides of you and across the hall (as you may need to
park a recalcitrant student there later in the day).
Okay, so that first home contact for that 5%er "I don't want to be
here... I hate this class and you..." kid didn't go so well. Remember that
you will want to tap deeper into that village (that it takes to raise a
child). Besides those teachers in proximity, your mentor, and department
head, you should seek out any of the following available: RSP or special
education teachers (for any Individual Education Plan
interventions/modifications related to the Education Disabilities Act),
school psychologist, probation officer, counselors, and administrators, as
well as community liaison persons, PT(S)A officers, School Site Council
officers, and campus-assigned police officers.
One of the most effective "time outs" for the teacher and
recalcitrant student alike, after individual verbal warnings and home
contacts, is: Writing for Responsibility (See Appendix A.). Essentially,
the teacher requires the student at infraction time (or can be during
assigned detention) to write responses to the five behavior questions. As
the teacher, you later read carefully those reactions (Note how often
statements to numbers 1 and 2 are discrepant from what you believed at
the time.)--and, within 24 hours, write your response, returning a copy
to the student. If the student answers reflect sincerity in ending "the
situation," let the student know. If not, attach the Writing for
Responsibility (or lack thereof!) statements to a possible office referral.
As a school villager, you will need to befriend most staff, but
especially your room/building custodian, if you are fortunate enough to
have one, plus the principal's secretary, the main artery of the school.
Fellow teacher toxicity is another matter. Those nattering nabobs of
negativism, as Spiro Agnew's speechwriters put it, the ones who, from
their faculty lounge perches, castigate everything and everyone, especially
the students they purport to educate, are to be assiduously avoided.
UNITING THE PROFESSION
You may very well become an employee in a district where you will
be a dues paying member of a teacher union. If so, realize that union
representatives can be called upon to do just that--represent you, by
interpreting any contract teachers have with the district, bargaining on
your behalf, or even helping you to file a grievance, should it come to
that. Since due process job rights (euphemistically called tenure),
however, will not be extended to you for 2-3 years, you will want to
concentrate largely upon learning your craft.
BUILDING THE PROFESSION
In time, however, you will, hopefully, want to take advantage of your
professional subject matter organization. In most states, local and/or
regional English councils, all allied under the National Council of
Teachers of English (NCTE), exist to serve their members. For a very
nominal sum of money, you will discover experts, comrades in the
trenches, teaching materials galore, and how you can effect change itself,
legally, through using your public advocacy voice.
MYTHIC HEROISM
Before many weeks pass, you may find yourself growing lonely. If so,
it is probably because you have, somehow, traded your significant others-and pets--for papers. Thus, if you have run out of clean clothes
completely, forgotten your loved ones' names, stacked unopened mail in
piles on the carpets, or noticed that your toenails may be edging their
way through socks and shoes, you must find more ways to handle the
paper load. Fortunately for you, NCTE has published a book with this
exact title (Golub, 2005), plus NCTE's current president proffers
further suggestions in a thrice entitled (lest you should miss the point!)
book about papers (Jago, 2005). As with all those other aspects of
teaching--the planning, the classes, the meetings, the home contacts, the
technology aspects--you must carve out personal rest, recuperation,
family and significant others time. To sum up: The only way to fix
education is to make all teachers superhuman; in the best Wayne's
World--NOT!
ADDING THE "ION" TO PROFESS...
Know, too, that like the American Medical Association for doctors
and the American Bar Association for lawyers, there are those in the
English Language Arts (ELA) Teaching Profession who have labored to
spell out the duties and responsibilities of K-12 ELA teachers.
Fortunately, the Central California Council of Teachers of English's
California Curriculum Study Commission drafted A Professional Code
of Conduct and Ethics for K-12 Teachers of English/English Language
Arts (Myers & Quincy, et al., 2006). The hope is that such a document
might serve teachers in the way that the Hippocratic Oath serves
doctors; that is, in matters of curriculum, teachers could legally refrain
from carrying out curricular mandates which would harm students.
AT THE GATES OF HELL
Such curricular choices will be among the most challenging ones you
make. Even in an era of state and federal mandates, you will still have to
determine what curriculum (from currus, currere, curia, – your students
will be in your chariot, running the course) is age-appropriate. Your
challenge may not be as great as Shulamit Imber's, however. This
educator, the Pedagogical Director of the International School for
Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Israel, had made numerous trips to
the Nazi death camps in Poland, exposing her young Israeli students to
the horrors behind the mountain of shoes and the gaping gas chamber
doors. In a recent year, though, when she stood, once again, with yet
another group of youngsters at the entrance to the Majdanek camp, she
did not want to enter, for her ten-year-old son was in the group. "I was a
totally different guide in that tour.... Suddenly, ...as a human being... I felt
more modest, caring, and more [misunderstood] than ever," she has said
(Imber, 2006). We definitely need to consider a golden rule for our
classroom curricular selections and instruction.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 16 –
APPENDIX A
KEEPING THE FAITH
For me, on my best days, those in which everything went right, I
left the school knowing that I could not have chosen an alternative
life's work more rewarding and fulfilling than teaching. That is not to
say it was easy. It was never easy. On my worst days, however, the ones
in which seemingly everything went wrong, I left the school vowing
never to return to the classroom again. My career was sustained
almost totally because, on my worst days, I pondered those best days,
the ones behind me, and the ones to come.
In time, too, sabbaticals, if available/given, can do wonders to
expand your teaching repertoire, experience new cultures, recharge the
intellectual batteries--and diminish your "to read" pile of young
adult, and other, literary (Can a four-year-old New Yorker really
contain anything of current interest?) and educational publications.
BENEDICTION
Blessed be your teaching endeavors as we at the "other end of the
hall" or of our careers thank you from the bottom of our hearts for
sending us students who hold the word "teacher" in the highest
esteem. Long may you have something to profess, something to teach,
and, always, much to study--and much to learn. You are welcome,
indeed.
Writing for Responsibility
(created by Bill Younglove, Long Beach USD and Jan Jesse,
Montebello USD, California, in 1970, as an alternative to students
writing "I shall not..." standards as punishment)
DIRECTIONS: Answer the following questions in sentence and
paragraph form, with your complete name and date at the top. You
will be writing to your teacher and possibly to any other students
involved. You will be discussing your misconduct.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
What was the rule (or rules) you broke? (For example, I was
accused of breaking the rule about keeping my hands to
myself.)
In your opinion, what were you doing or trying to do?
How did that behavior help you? How did it help your
classmate(s)?
How would you handle this situation if it happened again?
What would be a fair way to resolve this situation, in your
opinion?
REMEMBER: You can express anger you feel, but it must be done in
REFERENCES
Golub, J. N. (2005). More ways to handle the paper load: On paper
and online. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Hunter, M. (February 1985). What's wrong
with Madeline Hunter? Educational
Leadership, 42(5), 57-60.
Imber, Shulamit. (June 2006). “Teaching the
Holocaust to future generations.”
Conference at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem,
Israel.
Jago, C. (2005). Papers, papers, papers: An
English teacher's survival guide.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Myers, M. & Quincy, A., et al. (2006). A
professional code of conduct and ethics
for K-12 teachers of English language
arts: An interim report of the professional
code study group. Asilomar, CA: Central
California Council of Teachers of
English Curriculum Study Commission.
a constructive and sincere manner. I shall eventually answer your letter
in writing--and orally.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bill Younglove has taught at ten middle,
senior high, college, and university campuses
in Southwestern Michigan and in Southern
California.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 17 –
Aiming north on Thornton Road
Not quite Lodi
Aiming north on Thornton Road
Not quite Lodi
Mrs. Reyes at
Delta Sierra Middle School
Boarded up Victorian Square
Just a strip mall
Boarded up Victorian Square
Tinder grass, dry and tall
“Tuck your shirt in
Your uniform.”
Order, order in the
Hormone storm.
Dry fields hail firemen
Outside the oasis,
Left on Wagner Heights,
Straight to the oasis
Desks face west in six per row,
Alpha Smarts and Polaroids,
The teacher’s glances
Fill the voids.
Still distinct white paint with directions,
New pavement, new silver school with new
designs,
New basketball hoops,
And new bicycle parking lines.
Mrs. Reyes in plaid flannel and cowboy
boots,
A smile of warmth and trust.
She’s taught for thirty years.
She’s quick, fun, and just.
Heading to Core,
To learn some more.
Sixty students in a double room
Feel love in step at the door.
“Take three breaths and say,
‘I can do it. I can do it.’
The 59th annual Asilomar Conference will once
again take place at the Asilomar Conference
Grounds in Pacific Grove on the beautiful
Monterey Peninsula. Many of the sessions that
were scheduled for last year will be included in
this year's program with some new sessions
added. The sessions will prove to be useful for
both new teachers and experienced teachers.
There are also sessions that will provide
opportunity for personal growth for those who
may no longer be in the classroom. The weekend
will help to restore and revitalize attendees
wherever they may be in their teaching careers.
Asilomar 59
Scheduled for
September 24-26, 2010
Rooted in the ideals of the Bay Area Writing
Project, the Asilomar experience is more than a
conference; it is a phenomenon that acquaints
teachers with professional learning on an
intimate scale in a grandiose setting. Come and
engage in deep conversations; collaborate with
fellow teachers; share your expertise, ideas and
experiences; and become a part of small group
discussions that extend over the weekend. Come
and experience the founding principles of the
Asilomar Conference more than 59 years ago and
the power of teachers teaching teachers.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 18 –
Do the easy parts first.
That’s all there is to it.”
“Do I help you? Do I know you?
Did you forget to study?
Let me guide you. Let me give
You clues to get ready.”
She’s taught for thirty years
And she always has a plan.
“What here is good? What could be better?
How can I help you understand?”
“Take three breaths and say,
‘I can do it. I can do it.’
Do the easy parts first,
That’s all there is to it.”
Aglow with warmth, but firm,
She smiles in the room and in the hall.
Students smile as she reads aloud.
They are the true oasis,
Ten rows of six down to the wall.
– Maria D. Sanchez, © 1999
Keynote speakers are award winning author
Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina (Friday
evening) and Poet Laureate Robert Hass (Sunday
morning). Saturday evening sessions include
Mahbod Seraji, author of Rooftops of Tehran,
Greta Vollmer presenting Research in the Digital
Age: Classroom Activities, and State of the
Profession with Ed Farrell and Miles Myers. The
evening will close with opportunities to meet
and connect with teachers from throughout the
state in an Open Mic session and Board Game
social hour.
There is a special opportunity for schools to send
a group of teachers to attend the weekend to
work on school issues with the benefits of
attending the general sessions available to all
attendees. Contact Dan Wolters at
[email protected] for more information on this
opportunity.
Plan now to attend a stimulating conference in a
most beautiful and restful setting.
Go to www.curriculumstudy.org to download a
program and to obtain registration information.
Accelerated Reader:
A Disincentive to Creating Life-Long Readers
Derek Boucher
ast week a friend of our family came to us distraught after
her child, a student in a school district in the central valley of
California, read the adolescent favorite The Name of This
Book is Secret. Despite having a very positive experience with the
book, she failed her school’s Accelerated Reader comprehension
test. This resulted in a lowering of her English grade.
Accelerated Reader (“AR”) is a popular, expensive commercial
program used in many of our schools today. Last year, we
learned of another child who was discouraged by a school
librarian from reading Hemingway’s classic The Old Man and the
Sea because it was considered too low for that child’s reading
level.
As we transition into another school year, parents throughout
California have been notified that a portion of their child’s
English grade will be determined by completing novels, and
answering narrow comprehension questions online about the
story. The concept is simple: Pass the online test and the
student gets points that go toward their grade. No points are
awarded if the student fails the test. Fail the test, and the
computer won’t allow retakes. This program is very convenient
for teachers who simply upload the AR points from the computer
and translate them into a grade. No fuss, no mess!
But this is so typical of schools today whose lust for high
standardized test scores and short term gains often overshadow
the more important and difficult work of creating curious
learners and life-long readers. One might assume that adults with
long resumes and lots of letters after their name might ask the
question: What is the long term impact of this program on our
children?
Different studies suggest that incentive programs (reading to
get prizes or a grade) tend to have a deleterious effect on young
readers. When the incentives (or punishments) to read stop, the
children stop reading as well. This shouldn’t be surprising, since
performance and learning tend to decline when extrinsic
motivators are present (Kohn, 1999). In most schools today,
reading has not been presented to children as an inherently
pleasurable experience, but as a vehicle to get a prize or a grade.
Voracious readers understand that literature allows us to lose
ourselves in the world of a story. Avid readers engage in intensely
enjoyable experiences with plot and characters. In contrast,
programs like Accelerated Reader teach students to read literature
in a superficial manner. Students read with a mind to skim for
the facts they will need for the quiz, which is very different from
the thoughtful engagement we want to see when our children
L
open a book. One parent shared with me he is going to buy
Cliffs Notes so his child will be sure to pass his next AR test.
A study by Carter (1996) suggests that incentive programs
create a system where the “rich get richer.” Children who are
already strong readers will usually do quite well on
comprehension tests. In contrast, resistant readers become
demoralized when after struggling through a book they are left
with zero points because they failed their AR test. This
reinforces their perception that reading is not for them.
Here’s a challenge to educators who favor Accelerated Reader.
Choose any book you like. Ask a friend to read the same book.
After reading, create 10 narrow comprehension questions. Quiz
one another. Now don’t cheat! You can’t refer back to the book,
and you can’t discuss what you enjoyed about the story (too
subjective!). And, you only get one try. Now repeat the process
10-15 times in nine months. See how you like it.
About the Author:
Derek Boucher is a Social Science instructor at
Roosevelt High School in Fresno.
IMPORTANT FUTURE NCTE EVENTS
July 8-11. 2010, Indianapolis, IN
Literacies for All Summer Institute
“Reflecting on Our Practice:
Possibilities and Pathways”
November 18-21, 2010, Orlando,FL
NCTE Annual Convention, "Teachers
and Students Together: Living
Literate Lives"
Join the conversation on the NCTE ning
at http://ncte2008.ning.com/
See details of these and other NCTE
events at www.NCTE.org
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 19 –
Reading Langston Hughes
Jennifer McCormick
eading and writing are symbiotic. Good readers remain
conscious of literary structures as they read and ultimately
make choices about how to incorporate those structures into
their own work. Teaching, like reading, is a responsive act in that
neither teacher nor text function as the sole authority in the
production of meaning. The reading-teaching analogy stems from
reader-response criticism, specifically the work of Louise Rosenblatt.
Her description of the transaction between text and reader lends
itself to a dynamic conception of learning. “The view of the
reading process not only frees us from notions of the impact of
distinct and fixed entities, but also underlines the essential
importance of both elements reader and text, in the dynamic reading
transaction” (Rosenblatt, p. 43). Learning occurs under the
guidance, or apprenticeship, of the teacher and experiences relevant
to the learning context. The reader-response paradigm allows an
analogy between transactional reading and transactional learning. As
a metaphor, transaction becomes the common feature that the
reading and learning share, highlighting how the reader\writer
creates meaning and how the teacher guides learning. Each
transaction is similar to the electric circuit set up between a negative
and positive pole, like reader and text, teacher and student become
inert without the other(p. 44).
I argue that analyzing a text’s structural possibilities enhances a
student’s capacity to read like a writer, and that this dynamic
transaction best occurs under the guidance of the teacher. I now
turn to an example of how one teacher helped underscore the
reading\writing relationship by assigning writing that incorporated
an understanding of Langston Hughes.
R
The Assignment: ensuring the guidance of a text
In the middle of an academic year, Ms. Perlmutter, a sixth grade
language arts teacher, read three poems by Langston Hughes:
“Dream Deferred,” “I, Too, Sing America” and “Let America be
America Again.” At the time she did not know that these poems
would resonate with her students far more than the countless others
she had read before or would read during the year. “I chose the
Hughes poems because they were accessible. The voice is youthful.
The poet talks about dreams, which is a topic that resonates for
young teens. He’s also talking directly to an audience. Even in
“Dream Deferred,” he’s asking you a question.” Through Hughes,
Perlmutter enabled a sophisticated analysis of text.
By the time Perlmutter’s students had encountered Hughes, they
had read Lorca's "Muchos Somos," Alighieri's "Sonnet," and
Edson's “Oh My God, I'll Never Get Home" as part of a Language
Arts curriculum. The teacher’s awareness that Hughes’ work
resonated with students indicates a willingness to remain open to
dialogue and an understanding of why teaching must be interactive.
In her own words: “I never know what will emerge as the central idea
for a group of kids, so I need the space to pull in a poem.” The ideas
in Hughes’ work that moved these sixth graders centered on a
demand for full citizenship, “a place at the table”; these ideas seeped
into student writing in January and resounded that Spring as
thousands of immigrants marched in the streets of Los Angeles
carrying signs that said: “We all have the right to dream.” Perlmutter
chose poetry that captured the energy of a city, and as the Spring
progressed, student writing increasingly mirrored the life and
concerns of Los Angeles. By acknowledging that she must create
room for her students' ideas, she acknowledges that teaching is a
responsive act.
In order to support an interpretation and careful reading of
Hughes, Perlmutter highlighted:
– line breaks and their effect on rhythm and momentum
– the poet's use of metaphor
– the ways language emerges from and critiques social
practices
These features complement each other, and heighten one's
understanding of the poet's overall meaning. The following
discussion outlines the steps this teacher took analyze the effect of
language use on meaning.
In her attempt to underscore poetic form, the musical and
rhythmic aspects of poems, the teacher asked students to distinguish
how poetry and prose look on the page. Some went on to write
poems that reflected the spatial organization specific to verse: lines
don't extend to the margin and vary in length. Others wrote
paragraphs. Perlmutter also focused on the relationship between line
and rhythm by reviewing syllabic accents. For instance, she asked her
students to write the number of syllables in lines of poetry and find
existing patterns. She talked about how poets break the line to pull
readers into the text accenting significant ideas, as in the following
example:
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
The breaks coupled with punctuation, commas and
capitalization, accentuate terms that reinforce the speaker's agency.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 20 –
The reader pauses after laugh, well and strong—lingering over words
that describe both physical and psychological well-being .
Metaphor is integral to the poet’s social critique—“they send me
to eat in the kitchen when company comes” – so Perlmutter
discussed how metaphor, conveys meaning.
Metaphor rests on complex comparisons, which requires a
perception of hidden meaning. Perceiving these meanings, or
interpreting the metaphor, entails that the reader look beyond the
surface, and make connections between distinct acts or objects:
sitting at the table with company equals acceptance-- a respect that
others have for how you look and act. Perlmutter guided student
perception of hidden meanings, the general similarities that ideas or
experiences share, through a series of questions that began with their
memory of mental pictures: "What does it mean to sit at the table
when company comes?" The question prompted sixth graders to see
the table as a site of social acceptance. By discussing how metaphor
is structured, the teacher also looked at how Hughes wields language
to critique social practice. Metaphor, in Hughes work, reveals the
realities of racial oppression. Perlmutter’s question initiated the
exploration of ideas that evolved around an ethical consideration:
how is racism reinforced through social practices? It reflects both a
critical and cultural reading of Hughes text, for it raises student
awareness of the social situation that influenced Hughes, and the
values that caused him to write poetry.
To understand how one sixth grade student wrote a cohesive text,
it is helpful to look closely at the rhetorical structures and the
discourse of "I, Too, Sing America." Hughes conveys a message of
black resilience through tone, repetition and metaphor. He speaks
directly to an audience in his opening lines. " I, Too, Sing America.
I am the darker brother." By positioning America as an interlocutor,
Hughes separates himself from his audience, forcing us to question
both the speaker's identity and America's. He then identifies the
speaker in the poem: "I am the darker brother." After this
declaration, which is powerful in its simplicity, he introduces the
metaphor that both structures and gives meaning to the poem: "they
send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes." Unlike the "I"
in the second line, "they" is vague, leaving space for the reader to
question the constitution of the collective pronoun. Who is the
"they" that sends the speaker to the kitchen, when company comes?
Hughes never mentions a white hierarchy, but when examining the
pronoun use the implication is unmistakable.
Then comes the line that signals a turning point: "But I Laugh."
By shifting from "they" as the subject of the line to "I," the author
shifts the momentum of the poem. "But I laugh" conveys an agency
that is resilient. Hughes belittles indignity through a voice(or tone)
that will dominate throughout the rest of the poem, moving us
forward and conveying Hughes' meaning—the I, or persona, will
rise up, despite an oppressive racism. Listen:
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong
Hughes carefully, chooses words to point out how the speaker
deflects derision in order to triumph—and bask in the realization of
his own power. Toward the end of the poem, "eating at the table"
becomes a metaphor for an acceptance that is inevitable. The author
pivots off "But I Laugh" in order to lead us to the rationale for that
acceptance—a rationale which he accentuates through his last
affirmation, "I, Too, Am America."
After reading Hughes, Perlmutter asked students to craft their
own poems: "Take a word, or a line, or an image from one of these
three poems, and manipulate it to say something you want to say."
She relied on a published text to elicit creative writing from her
students that they could not have conceived without reading
published work. Perlmutter expects sixth graders to manipulate
language to say something they wanted to say. The incorporation
of creative writing into a language arts curriculum reflects an
expansive view of literacy learning that promoted several students to
move beyond a simple replication of the poem’s pattern. They
created their own meaning through an aesthetic sensibility
Perlmutter facilitated. For one student, that sensibility entailed a
recognition of poetic structure, the pattern of the poem’s turning
(Theune).
Jordan, a twelve year old African American girl, responded to
Perlmutter’s assignment by composing “But I Laugh.” The poem
illustrates the author's capacity to forge meaning through a
particular genre, to skillfully use line breaks, repetition and spatial
organization to convey an idea. This student could not have written
her poem without having read poetry—specifically, in this case,
Langston Hughes. Her familiarity with both the way poetry is
structured, and the content of Hughes poem allowed her to say
something she would not have said on her own.
However, the structure and content of her work also indicate
that she moved beyond a simplistic imitation of "I, Too, Sing
America." By looking closely at writing as a means of expression
that incorporates and moves beyond the original texts that students
read, I illustrate the reciprocal relationship between reading and
writing—the way in which each process influences the development
of the other. My illustration speaks to the contention that when
students read like writers, they become more discriminating about
written language and use this discrimination to guide their own
writing. They thus look to written texts as sources of inspiration—
noticing organizational structures such as word repetition, the spatial
organization of printed language and the location of poetic turns.
Effective readers/writers are aware of how language is organized to
convey meaning. They see how syntax captures an audience and
understand how metaphor highlights the similarities between
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 21 –
seemingly different objects. Awareness of poetic structure reflects
and reinforces an awareness of audience. With this consciousness,
students not only write like readers, they read as writers—with the
craft in their heads.
I quote “But I Laugh” in its entirety to illustrate how Jordan
integrates graphic design, line breaks, repetition, imagery and
semantic complexity to convey the idea of triumph.
To write the poem, Jordan took a single line from “I, Too, Sing
America.” The line, “But I laugh,” is embedded in Hughes’ text— in
the middle of a stanza. A sixth grader may have easily overlooked
the line because of its position in the poem and its syntactic
simplicity, but for Jordan, the central idea of her work emerges from
these three words. Her word choice, in this instance, is stunning
because she pivots around language that is simple but meaningful.
Her choice reflects her
understanding of how Hughes
uses the line—to convey
resilience. She chooses the line
that structures the poem’s turn.
By carefully re-positioning
Hughes’ line in her own poem,
the young poet captures the idea
of triumph. As in "I Too Sing
America," [B]ut I laugh is
semantically loaded; it signals a
turning point in the text, and
sets a momentum that that
continues until the final stanza
when the poet leaves her
audience with the perfect
ending. She captures us
semantically—but the energy of
the writing reminds me of
music. The final line functions
as a coda. We are literally and
figuratively left on a high note.
As in Hughes work, the line,
“But I Laugh,” conveys the
poem’s significance: it deflects
criticism and expresses triumph.
Jordan draws on “I, too, am America” to forge meaning by
incorporating a pivotal line from that text, and by making the line
central in her own work, yet Hughes does not overwhelm her. She
wields an accomplished poet's language, but it does not wield her. In
other words, she never simply replicates syntax, but forges meaning
within her own text. She chooses "But I Laugh" as the title of her
poem, and then creates a text that is original. Reading may have
guided her own writing and her writing reflects her understanding of
text. But she relies on multiple literary devices in order to make the
text her own. She shifts registers between literary language and
informal speech. For example. “Forever more” sounds more like a
line from Edgar Allen Poe than spoken language, but “no place but
up” relies on metaphors, commonly used by young people who
speak of “put ups” and “big ups.” The young author also relies on
line breaks and punctuation to pull the reader into the text and
accentuate words like,
Freedom,
Joy,
Laughter,
And love
She thus understands how
spatial organization can
highlight terms that she deems
significant.
Perlmutter
sees
the
originality. Out of the fifty
poems, she chose “But I laugh”
as exemplary. When I asked her
to explain this assessment, she
said:
The assignment was to take
something from one of his
[Hughes’] poems, either a word,
a line, an idea, an image, and
write from that line or have the
line in the writing. And she
chose But I laugh, which comes
from I too Sing America, which
is more difficult poem for
students to access. So she chose
a poem that was much tougher,
and she manipulated another
author’s words to say something.
He did not simply write a
formula. She did not simply
repeat I will have a seat at the
table. She really made this her own.
Jordan’s ability to make the text her own comes from her
familiarity with poetic form. She knows how a poem looks on the
page because she reads poetry; she has been immersed in
opportunities to read, write and look closely at the poetry of others.
The link between reading and appropriating a text’s form becomes
clear in Jordan’s explanation of why she repeated lines at the end of
her poem: “I read poetry that repeats lines. Also I did not think
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 22 –
anyone would remember names and faces if I did not repeat the
line.” Jordan remembers how poetry is organized in published work.
According to Judy her capacity to organize lines on a page is an
indication that she reads proficiently. It is certainly an indication that
that Jordan is aware of how communication works, that it is a
manipulative act. As a manipulative act, one's use of language is not
only a means for seeing and interpreting our experience, it is a means
of creating that experience.
Next Steps:
The symbiotic relationship between reading and writing has been
documented. In a position paper for the National Council of the
Teachers of English(NCTE), Kathy Egawa describes the
relationship between these two processes as one that is inextricably
connected: "Writers grow in their ability to craft a particular genre,
say poetry, through being immersed in opportunities to read, write
and look closely at the poetry of others" (Egawa, p.1). The paper
goes on to say that writing is best developed through multiple
opportunities to write across the school day, and focused instruction
that builds on actual student work. The connection has been
recognized a prelude to success at the university level, as it is crucial
to the development of academic literacy. In Academic Literacy: A
Statement of Competencies Expected of Students Entering
California’s Public Colleges and Universities, the authors analyzed
faculty responses around required reading and writing competencies.
Simply put, “students whose abilities in critical reading and thinking
enable them to grasp an argument in another’s text can construct
arguments in their own essays” (Intersegmental Committee of the
Academic Senates, 2002, p.15). A pedagogical emphasis on poetic
structure can enhance a students’ ability to grasp the rhetorical
structures or turns embedded in genres such as the argumentative
essay After all, structure is ubiquitous: “almost everyone regularly
engages in structured thinking and speech, and many everyday speech
acts enact particular structures, contain effective turns” (Theune,
p.2). I argue that we can rely on it to solidify the reading\writing
connection for our students. By making students aware of a text’s
structural possibilities, we prompt them to read like writers.
Perlmutter never discussed how Hughes uses “But I laugh” to
signal the poem’s turn. Jordan sees the turn and uses the same line
to structure her own work. The first part of Hughes text deals with
the reality of a racist society—“they send me to eat in the kitchen
when company comes.” “ But I laugh” serves as a turning point for
the speaker’s ultimate triumph: “Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table when
company comes.” Hughes’ poem reflects a two part structure that
begins with a consideration of a present reality and ends with a
certainty that racism will be dismantled. I too sing America
illustrates a Retrospect-Prospective turn in that it captures the social
realities of the past, and the writer’s present, but ends with hope for
the future. Jordan echoes that structure with the certainty that “ I
will fly on silver wings.” Her structural decisions should be made
conscious. Perlmutter’s next step might have been to make this
structure visible to her students in the Hughes text and then to
bring in and discuss other genres with an identical structure.
Structural turns establish connections between ideas or emotions
within a text. They also establish similarities across genres. A
familiarity with structure provides the writer with creative and logical
tools to see a text before it is complete. “Acquainted with turns, one
can better see and even imagine a draft’s structural possibilities, and
further draft, critique and revise accordingly” (Theune, 2007, p. 4).
Acquainted with structural possibilities, a writer makes a text her
own.
References:
Egawa, Kathy. Writing in the Middle Grades, 6-8. Retrieved 7
December, 2009.
(http://www1.ncte.org/prog/writing/research/113177.htm)
National Council for the Teachers of English.
Heath, B. S. & Wolf, S. (2004). Art is all about looking: drawing
and detail. London: Creative Partnerships.
Intersegmental Committee of the Academic Senates of the
California Community Colleges, the California State University
and the University of California. (Spring 2002). Academic
Literacy: A Statement of Competencies Expected of Students
Entering California’s Public Colleges and Universities.
Neruda, P. Muchos Somos. Retrieved 27 July 2009 from
http://www.neruda.uchile.cl/
Rosenblatt, Louise. (1969) Towards a transactional theory of
reading. Journal of Reading Behavior, 1(1), 31-51.
Theune, Michael (Ed). (2007). Structure and Surprise: Engaging
Poetic Turns. New York: Teachers & Writers Collaborative.
About the Author:
Jennifer McCormick teaches in the Division of Curriculum and
Instruction at the Charter College of Education, California State
University, Los Angeles.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 23 –
A Tale of Three Students:
Meditations on My Craft in Dark Days
et me tell you about three of my students. The student whom I will
call Paulena was an average senior, earning respectable Cs and on
track for graduation. She was tall and statuesque, a member of the
dance team who kept a good attitude in class and did her best, though
English was a struggle for her. Around late November of her senior
year, Paulena vanished from class. I tried calling and talking to her
friends. They told me that her father had pulled her out of school to
work at Staples in order to make his truck payment. I got the legal
wheels in motion to try and counteract this, but over Christmas break,
Paulena turned eighteen and the law was helpless. Last I heard, Paulena
was still working and hoping to get back to school someday.
The student whom I will call Marisela was also a senior, like
Paulena, low in English skills but with a good attitude and always willing
to try her best. Marisela liked to run and was a pivotal member of the
cross-country team. In November of her senior year, Concordia
University in Irvine, California offered Marisela a full ride athletic
scholarship. Her father opposed her going. She was a girl, after all, and
why couldn't she get a job after high school. With tremendous
difficulty, Marisela disobeyed her father and took up her scholarship at
Concordia. I attended her college graduation. Her father at that point
had to admit it wasn't such a bad thing.
The student whom I will call Diana came from a very poor family,
but she was bright and hard working. In her senior year, she took AP
English Literature from me. She earned quite a bit of scholarship
money. At least three University of California campuses and as many
California State University campuses made her offers of admission. But
Diana's heart was set on UCLA. I recall the day she opened the letter of
acceptance from UCLA. She almost exploded with joy. AP instruction
briefly stopped in my class for a celebration. She started at UCLA two
years ago and is doing well.
All three of these young women are Mexican-American from poor
immigrant stock. We could launch into long discussions of their
families, of cultural expectations and attitudes regarding education
among poor immigrants, of cultural expectations of girls in regards to
education. There would be a lot to say about such things and I have no
doubt several books have already been written on the subject.
A lot of personal conclusions also might be drawn from these three
true stories: beyond what there is to say about cultural expectations and
the role of young women in Mexican-American families, one might
remark on how under NCLB, all of these outcomes are somehow my
fault. All that is on my mind as I recall these three young women. But
other thoughts are foremost to me.
And the first thought that strikes me is that if under the present law
teachers are blamed and praised for what is beyond their control, it is
because we have become behaviorists to the point of absurdity. We
opened the door for NCLB to come crashing down on our heads when
L
James Prothero
education writers and speakers began talking as if every student were
somehow programmable. We have darkened counsel with unthinking
reliance on BF Skinner because it made us feel there was no challenge we
couldn't overcome, nothing that couldn't be fixed. I see this as an honest
error, born of our burning desire to serve every student and overcome
obstacles such as Paulena and Marisela faced. But we made a bargain
like Faustus, and the bargain is costing us. By writing and talking as if all
educational problems can be fixed with the right spin, the right lesson
plan, we set up the expectation that all students can, necessarily will
succeed. We told politicians and “experts” who never taught in a real
classroom that we could be universally successful, and so they expected it
of us. For some schools like mine, those same experts and politicians
believed us, and have instituted policies that threaten the careers of
skilled teachers who happen to work in lower socio-economic areas.
What we forgot is right before us in our every day reality in the
classroom. And that is, that free will is still alive and kicking. We forgot
that outside influences can be and often are more powerful than our
clever lesson plans. In our zeal to sound positive and determined, we
forgot that for the kid that is being abused at home, the kid that comes
from an illiterate family and has been frustrated for years reading in
English as a second language, for the kid dazzled by some video world of
escape via television, the movies, the computer, even our best lesson plans
are rather cold porridge compared to the sensory feast they are offered
elsewhere, or the all-absorbing tragedy of their lives. We forgot that it's
entirely possible for a teenager not to care because they simply don't see
the point, don't want to make the effort or feel that all the authority
figures in their life are pushing them around and they are going to rebel.
All these choices are theirs and we can't control their environment except
in the 55-minute-a-day spaces we are allotted, if then. We talk as if our
lesson plans can program success. But, even if we are behaviorists, we
would in honesty have to admit that our influence on our students is
very limited and that other influences are far more powerful. We have
fallen into the generalization fallacy that just because some human
behavior is changed by outside influences, all human behavior is changed
by outside influences. And we've defined ourselves in a way that let the
politicians come to the conclusion that education is the cure for poverty
and therefore if low socio-economic schools aren't performing at the
same level as affluent schools, it has to be the teachers' fault, because we
teachers assured the politicians that all students can learn, after all.
And we're paying for it. We put our faith in Skinner and embraced
the behaviorist model and now we're finding that the state has used this
as a pretext to appoint those of us who teach in low socio-economic
schools as de facto social engineers who were supposed to cure poverty
at a cheap price. They have assumed education was the road out of
poverty and we assured them all students can learn, and now it seems we
haven't produced as promised. So some of us are going to be scapegoats
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 24 –
for our collective error. We're the “failed teachers” in “failing schools”
who will be shown the door.
My second thought is that there is good news and that is that free
will is a gate swinging both ways. Yes, it does mean that students can
refuse to learn in spite of our best efforts. But I like it better this way,
despite the frustrations that reality routinely causes. If I really thought of
my students as programmable, teaching would be not a lot different than
teaching dolphins to jump through hoops for a fish reward. If I wanted
a job like that I would have applied at Sea World. But I'm not in the
business of programming facts into the heads of students in a uniform
manner despite the best efforts of districts to apply the state standards
in this fashion. I'm an English teacher, and therefore I teach Humanities;
I teach kids just a little bit more about how to be human. Sure, literature
and writing are my tools, but don't mistake the tools for the thing to be
created. We want intelligent, literate and free human beings to walk out
of our classrooms, not automatons that can parrot back standards, or
dolphins who will jump through the hoop for rewards.
Now let no one mistake me here. I do believe fervently that there are
best methods and that research makes a tremendous difference. I was a
1991 fellow of the UC Irvine Writing Project and could not begin to
tell you how much I learned, continue to learn from that experience. We
must pay attention to the research and use the best methodology for the
best results. To do otherwise would be unconscionable. But the
standards as presently constituted and tested fly in the face of what
research tells us is effective. As Kelly Gallagher has said, they are a
hundred miles wide and an inch thick. This semester I have been tasked
with drilling figurative language, irony and other literary devices into the
heads of ninth graders. They usually remember them for a day or two
and then we start back at square one. But the real problem isn't my
methodology. The real problem is these young people don't like to read,
and therefore don't read, and therefore don't improve, and therefore
don't like to read. They are caught in a downward spiral of illiteracy. If
they don't enjoy reading, why would knowing literary devices as the
standards demand even matter? What does it have to do with any reality
they know so that they might even recall the concept when the test is
over? But the feverish demand to address the standards leaves little time
to address the real problem of getting past what Carol Booth Olson calls
their “affective filters” and lighting the pilot light of their literacy.
In this second issue is an aspect of education that almost no
standard test can touch on or begin to measure. If in twenty-six years of
teaching I've discovered anything, it's that students learn what they are
ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it and not before, and almost
no two students learn the same things at the same time or speed. And
sometimes they learn what no one had intended. About five years ago, I
taught my seniors the poetry of John Keats, as I usually do. As extra
credit on my final exam, I offered my seniors the chance to respond to
the following prompt: “What of importance did you learn in senior
English this year?” I have learned to keep the question vague because I
often discover things that direct questioning would miss. I probably
made it vague that first time because I was tired and didn't think the
prompt through adequately. But I'm very glad now that I had that lapse,
or I would never have known the extent of my reach. The first time I
posed the question, as you might expect, some of the answers were selfserving, or servile. Others entailed serious attempts to recall the plots
and characters of poems and stories they had read. None remembered
much literary terminology. After all the days and hours I spent on what
the state test prescribed, they found literary devices too dryly analytical
to remember. But one student told me that a beloved family member
had died and they had been seriously contemplating taking their own life
until we read Keats. Somehow Keats gave that particular student the
courage to face existence with death as a part of reality. I doubt this
student scored very high on state tests and may not have impressed any
examiner of the standards. But this student learned something no
standards can ever test. If that makes me a “failed teacher” and the state
or district shows me the door, for that kind of result, I'll gladly go.
So here I am in these dark days, probably looking foolish and lonely
for standing up by myself against the majority of the educational
psychology establishment in my refusal to bend the knee before BF
Skinner and the behaviorists. But I'm not alone and I have hope. At
very least John Steinbeck is standing with me. I'm teach East of Eden to
my AP English literature and composition class and they are loving it.
The book’s theme is free will, timshel, the Hebrew word meaning that
one can choose evil or good. In a world of free will, students, like all
human beings, are messy and unpredictable creatures. But they are
humans, with freedom and dignity, if you please Dr Skinner. And I like
such a world far better than working in an “educational success factory”
that turns out automata that have the standards memorized. Sure, all
students can learn, but will they? Will they? In the end is a matter of
their will. I'm sure I helped Diana, but Diana did far more to help
herself. And I think I helped Paulena, though she didn't have what it
took to stand up to her father and demand an education as Marisela did.
I had no control over these choices made by these young women.
I will tell you about a fourth and last young woman. I will call her
Jessie and she's like the others and she's graduating this year. In her exit
interview she told how she was a poor student for her first two years of
high school and then at the beginning of her junior year, the light came
on for her and she realized she really did want an education. Here work
thereafter and in her senior year in my English class has been stellar. She
is planning to go on through doctoral work and become a clinical
psychologist. And she has what it takes to do it. So I have hope. We
are performing miracles, when students permit us to. So I will not beat
myself up when students don't want to learn after I've tried everything.
It's not personal. And I refuse to program anybody. Sorry. I don't
work at Sea World. Sure, I'll cover the standards, but I will go on
lighting flames first and watch for the unexpected miracles.
About the Author:
Jim Prothero teaches at Saddleback High in South Santa Ana as
well as Orange Coast College and Santa Ana College. He is a UCI
Writing Project fellow.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 25 –
THIS ESSAY WON THE SECOND
PRIZE IN THE CATE 2010
PROFESSIONAL WRITING CONTEST.
Teaching the Universe of Discourse
Chuck Dowdle
any years after being challenged to take a curricular “road less
traveled,” this is what a few of my former junior high school
students had to say about the journey:
M
Dear Mr. Dowdle:
“I have been slow in writing but want you to know how much I
have enjoyed your book. I can see the value for teaching purposes
but hope you understand the value to me as a student writer.
Throughout the early 70’s there was such an intensity that became
real to me again as I read the works of other class members. I
think we were trying to grow up too quickly, surrounded by the
fight for love and peace—Viet Nam and the Hippie children.
Your style of teaching encouraged honesty in writing and deep
thinking as well.
We were not just learning to write but to feel and see the value
in our fellow students’ work. Thank you for taking me back to
special memories and innocent times. You must feel proud to see
your creation come to life. Thank you for including my poem and
inspiring me to remember some very special ‘old friends.’”
With deep fondness, – Linda Escola, Seventh Grade - 1970
Dear Mr. Dowdle:
“Thanks so much for calling me. It was great to chat with you.
I cannot tell you what a profound influence those two periods of
7th grade English with you wound up having on my life. It was all
those assignments written in a fat cursive hand in a red spiralbound notebook that I still possess that made me realize how
much I enjoyed writing and think of myself for the first time as a
“writer.” After decades in newspapers, winding up at the San Jose
Mercury News, I have been at MSNBC.com for more than nine
years now, so I was among the pioneering crowd in Web
journalism. These days, I am a national writer based in Redmond,
Washington. Below are some of the stories I enjoyed writing
most:”
Cancer series: www.lowblow.msnbc.com
Profile of a Town Icon in Waveland, Miss.
Profile of a Cop from Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Season’s Greetings from a Hurricane Zone.
Fondly, – Mike Stuckey, Seventh Grade - 1970
Mr. Dowdle!
“I want you to know that your class was instrumental in my
development as a person. Several years ago, I wrote about you in
my autobiography for my graduate school application. In junior
high, I was not what one calls a “dedicated student.” I really did
not enjoy school. Your class, your manner of teaching was
sanctuary for me. You challenged us. You addressed us as
“people.” We all thought this was funny at the time, but on some
level it felt respectful. Most of all, you were encouraging. You
taught me how to write poetry! You gave me an important means
of expression when I needed it most. You created an environment
where I could experience success.”
What a gift!
Your friend, – Suzanne Dieter, Seventh Grade - 1981
These testimonials from former students were nice to receive, but
what the students were not aware of was that if I hadn’t been given a
gift by James Moffett, there’s no way they would have received one
from me because I would have been teaching English the same old way
I always had. But I was given a gift by him; I did take the road less
traveled; I did make a personal choice, and that choice made all the
difference in the world for my students and me.
This whole process of reeducation began on May 23, 1968 when
a group of English teachers was invited to meet with the California
English Textbook and Framework Implementation Committee to
discuss in-service education for teachers of English. The State of
California had $100,000 available for this project, and they wanted us
to tell them how to spend it. Can you imagine anything like that
happening today? We decided that a massive in-service education
program in English was the best way to spend the money, and the
project was begun.
One hundred teachers of English from throughout the state were
selected to attend two one week training sessions at the Asilomar
Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, and three of us from
Santa Rosa were fortunate to be among those selected. At those
training sessions ideas were exchanged in small groups of about twenty
to a group, and major innovators in English from some of the top
universities in the country spoke to us about their work and then
participated in question and answer sessions which sometimes ended in
heated discussions.
One of the major speakers at the conference was James Moffett,
formerly a research associate in English at the Harvard Graduate
School of Education, and it’s with Mr. Moffett’s work that the real
nuts and bolts of my story begins. First came Drama: What Is
Happening, a fifty-four page booklet Moffett had written about “the
use of dramatic activities in the teaching of English.” John Maxwell
who was Secondary Section Chairman of the National Council of
Teachers of English at the time said, “In brief, Moffett’s thesis is that
one learns about language, literature, and composition in a coherent
way by participating in the experience of creating discourse: writing
plays and short stories, poems, and other forms; or acting, interpreting,
and creating drama in diverse and realistic situations.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 26 –
In Mr. Moffett’s conception, discourse should be arranged along a
continuum, extending from the person as an inner-speaker (soliloquy)
to a speaker-about-things (essay).” This idea made so much sense to
me that when I discovered that the booklet I was reading was only a
chapter from another of Moffett’s books, I got his Teaching the
Universe of Discourse and read it, too. I shouldn’t say I read it. I
should say I studied it, mastered the sequence of ideas in it, and
applied them in my junior high school English classrooms for the last
twenty-three years of my teaching career. Never again would I teach in
what I would call bits and pieces. Now my whole English program
had connectedness; it was integrated. Forevermore, my kids would
always be put through a sequence of oral dramatic and narrative
activities before they’d ever be asked to write an essay or a poem about
a topic. Each year we examined life itself as a topic in this series of
language activities, and the following poems are products of the
process that resulted during two different years:
Life
To love, to laugh, to play the game of life,
Each man alive seeks to survive at least,
Through one life’s span to rise above the strife
That each day brings between the times of feast.
The feast is love, a giving kind that must
Be shared to be enjoyed. The giver takes all.
The game goes to the stronger man if just
He never looks for gain in love at all.
You haven’t time to waste;
The rats have started running.
Live!
The world is sinking fast.
You haven’t time to waste.
Dance!
Yell!
Do wild things to be regretted!
Get married young!
It don’t make no difference when you do it.
It never works nohow.
Kiss the shadows of the past farewell.
They are gone, so sings the knell.
Death and life so transcendental,
Of no importance.
How could they be, they are so easy come by.
The Gods sit on their chaise lounges,
Spitting grape seeds at their creations!
Mankind doesn’t own the world;
They rented it from God.
The deed is being torn.
We sit on earth in the wastes of our existence
And hide behind the shield of our illusion,
Pretending we simply cannot die.
The Gods sit on their chaise lounges
And spit cherry pits at us!
Man sits in crowded cities,
Existing not living.
Producing children out of boredom,
Sentencing to fight the fight we fought and lost.
His soul and all his life are spent in search
Of why we’re born and why we die and how
We span the time between like swaying birch
Wind-bent and battered, uprooted and forced to bow.
But always the hope that the pain will be shared by one other
Who loves you as deeply as a lover or parents or brother.
– Cory Antipa, Ninth Grade – 1967
Teenagers
Beware,
the
Gods are eating avocadoes!
– Kim Haylock, Eighth Grade – 1970
This journey through the genre (monologues, dialogues, short
plays, letters, logs, diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, biographies,
chronicles, short histories, short stories, essays and poetry) became an
exciting trip for my students and me, one that lasted for many years and
that wouldn’t have been possible without the work of James Moffett.
This poem is to be read fast and desperately,
preferably in three breaths.
Hassle, Fight, Stab!
Who wears the nicest things?
Who throws the wildest parties?
Who makes out?
Who takes pot?
Who has the friends?
Who has money?
Who got busted?
Hypocrites! I scream in all my arrogant omnipotence,
No better than those I scream at.
Belong!
Get with it!
Get in!
Works Cited:
Dowdle, Chuck. Kids Can Write! Pittsburgh: Red Lead Press, 2007.
Moffett, James. Drama: What Is Happening: Champaign, Illinois:
National Council of Teachers of English, 1967.
Moffett, James. Teaching the Universe of Discourse : Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968.
About the Author:
Chuck Dowdle taught junior high school English with the Santa Rosa
City Schools for thirty years. His Kids Can Read! and Kids Can
Write! are both available at www.redleadbooks.com.
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 27 –
R
U
esearch
pdate
Navigating the Waters
Barbara Bartholomew
Dear First-Year Teacher:
I sometimes think that the best part of teaching is the
revisiting and retelling of those things we have mulled over so
many times that we cannot possibly find one more thing to say
or love about them, but then somehow mysteriously do. For me,
that moment comes several times a year when I tell a little story
from the chronicles of Jean Piaget.
When he was still a teenager, Piaget conducted ongoing
experiments on water mollusks in a small, personal challenge to
the “survival of the fittest” theories of Charles Darwin. In one
memorable trial, he changed the physical environment of the
developing young from their calm, natural habitat to one
consisting of rougher, more turbulent waters. What Piaget
discovered was that the undeveloped tube-shaped mollusks he
had begun his experiment with gradually altered form under the
harsher conditions, becoming more spherical in form and
physically resistant to their challenging surroundings.
In this early biological experiment we see two of Piaget’s
landmark ideas in their infancy: adaptation as an active response
to the environment and accommodation as a means of getting
what is new and unexpected to fit, despite what must change for
this to happen.
When I tell this story, it embodies for me a perfect tale of any
number of things: how individuals learn, how they adapt, that
biology isn’t fate (or is), that from early ideas (Piaget’s) tall oaks
grow, the possibility that the new and inexperienced individual
can see things and take actions more veteran colleagues might
miss and so on, depending on where I am in my thinking at the
time and how many liberties I wish to take in retelling the story.
As you have probably witnessed, teachers have been known to
take liberties in what they do, yet probably not as many as
others take with what they think teachers do.
I would like to share two threads of thinking with you as you
begin to form your teaching identity—one from the conventional
school of public opinion and another from the unconventional
school of teacher thinking. Each will serve as a guidepost as you
accommodate and adapt to your new environment.
You will, however, need to understand the other side of
education to balance your thinking and your practice.
Where there are schools, there are politics. The first rule of
being effective in your job is to understand this. As a result, you
will need to know where the winds blow. For instance, according
to a just-released Public Policy Institute of California report,
almost two-thirds of Californians think that there is not enough
funding going toward their schools and that schools should be
sheltered from further budgetary cuts. This is sound thinking and
tells us the public cares about its schools. As survey results
continue, the viewpoints reflect mixed encouragement, however.
Almost 75% of adults in this state believe that there is a
grave issue on whether schools can deliver as a result of the
budget. In fact, 85% say school quality is a dire problem.
Because public opinion is a powerful thing; it will determine
much that affects your classroom experience. Do not be
surprised that voters are in favor of teacher merit pay or that
their thinking on this may or may not be in line with your own,
e.g. that length of teaching service should not figure into the mix
or that student test scores do matter in determining who gets
extra money. Some other points from the PPIC report:
• Almost 70% of California voters see the dropout rate
as a defining issue in education. They want it fixed and
would like to see teachers in high need districts make
more money to work there. They would also like to see
extra available funds diverted into high need districts.
• Over half of voters think that high schools are doing a
poor job in preparing students for college and the
workforce. Approximately 40% of parents feel
unprepared to help their children with their studies at
home, while maintaining the dream and expectation
that their children will attend college.
• Contentment with the neighborhood educational
enterprise remains surprisingly high, with 70% of
parents giving their local schools high marks. Note to
new teacher: Let this guide you when you observe your
principal siding with parents over teachers.
UPSHOT:
THE CONVENTIONAL THINKING
English teachers are storytellers and interpreters of the word.
The public can be both a wise and a stern task master,
unaware of the impediments we face in doing our jobs. They
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 28 –
want to see results. When they do not, their view of school
efficacy is low. Your best means of assuring parents are happy
with your work is to keep them in the loop, maintaining an open
line of communication. Further, stay active in your union. It is the
union’s job to argue your point to the legislature and to the
governor and to the press. Conventional thinking can only be
changed through active engagement on your part.
Available: Californians and Education, Public Policy Institute of
California, April 2010.
http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_410MBS.pdf
THE UNCONVENTIONAL SCHOOL
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer,
it sings because it has a song
– Maya Angelou
Sometimes in the search for the best way to reach students,
we overlook the obvious. The most fundamental and important
piece of writing we teach in elementary school is personal letter
writing, the basic norms of which date from the Middle Ages
proving that there was a pedagogic world before the textbook
industry. By high school, with the exception of the business
letter, letter writing instruction has been largely supplanted by
report and creative writing. Yet the evocative nature of the letter
and simplicity of its narrative delivery nonetheless make it a
natural forum for writing from the heart and from the gut.
On a recent visit to the traveling Vietnam war memorial wall,
I was stilled by the notes and letters that spontaneously follow it
as do medals, battalion hats, and haunting photos. One in
particular stood out for me, not only for its artlessness but for its
ability to convey the real cost of war.
sharing communities, much like those that spontaneously erupt
at the memorial, stands in stark relief to the rote lessons in
today’s classrooms. In the Boxed Voices project, participants as
diverse as preservice teachers and secondary students identify
meaningful objects associated with an historical event or person.
These artifacts, including letters, are assembled as part of a
group learning process, much like a small memorial that attracts
participants who wish to make attachments to move a life event
into a learning moment. Thinking, writing, conversation, inquiry
research, and reflection provide an immersion experience for
learning.
See: “Authoring Histories and Literacies: The Boxed Voices
Project,” Trisha Wies Long in Language Arts, March, 2008.
In another novel use for letter writing, researchers at the
University of Delaware asked students to write a letter arguing
for less out of school work. From this goal-centered task, they
were able to identify seven novel rhetorical strategies students
employed to construct argumentative discourse. The authors
Dear David:
Just thought I’d write. When I wrote this letter, I’d
never seen a clearer night. The breeze was blowing like
the ones you always enjoyed, and the crickets still can
sing me off to sleep.
Talked to Kate the other day on the telephone. She
said she was doing better, trying to adjust to being alone.
She said she’s going to take some classes in the fall, you
said you’d take one with her when you got home, as you
recall.
Well, mom’s been meaning to see you, but the work’s
just never done, and Dad just sits around and stares.
Well, I just know that they’re real proud of you, you
served your country like you had to. It’ll take a little
time, but they’ll be there. I guess I’ll miss you most of all.
You were more than a brother, you were a friend…
Bringing our students together to form engaged learning and
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 29 –
suggest that teachers who wish to teach their students to argue
persuasively must target the teaching of relevant background
knowledge needed to judge an argument’s acceptability and
relevance. Focus for developing such student judgment should lie
in understanding a) the writer’s purpose, b) those argumentative
strategies that suit that purpose, and c) critical questioning
strategies that can be used to test an argument’s soundness.
See: “Do Goals Affect the Structure of Students’
Argumentative Writing Strategies?” Ralph P. Ferretti, et al. in
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 101, No. 3, 2009.
UPSHOT:
Let imagination, observation, common sense and research
guide you in thinking and teaching outside the box.
OF INTEREST:
• Lit2Go—A unique online literature trove from Florida’s
Educational Technology Clearinghouse consisting of hundreds of
free books and stories in both MP3 and pdf format. Authors span
from Walt Whitman to Ovid to Comtesse d'Aulnoy. Alas, no
Gary Larson. Available: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/
• Awesome Stories—If you are a fan of Read 180, you will
love Awesome Stories. The site can be used for either grade level
students looking to enhance their knowledge of texts or for
remedial students needing the extra boost of background
knowledge and visualization. The website, first launched in 1999,
specializes in helping educators and individuals find original
sources, located at national archives, libraries, universities,
museums, historical societies and government-created web sites.
The website features a calendar of historical videos linked to
important events in history that occurred in that month.
Available: http://www.awesomestories.com/
• 2010 Reading Institute, Anaheim, CA , July 19-21—If you
have been considering extending your credential to include
Reading and Literacy, do not miss this free conference by the
sterling Center for Instruction on behalf of the U.S. Department
of Education. While the conference covers PK through Grade 3
literacy, the information you will receive will be useful and
pertinent to working with remedial students. Teachers, coaches,
principals, and State and District Administrators are welcome to
attend this important event. There is no registration fee.
Available: For more information about the 2010 Reading
Institute, you should visit the 2010 conference website at
http://www.mikogroup.com/2010readinginstitute/
R.I.P. California State
University Bakersfield Reading
and Literacy Program—Our
wonderful literacy MA program
has fallen victim to the budget
cuts and will accept no more
students. While our literacy
graduate program was always
well-enrolled, our numbers
were not sufficient to save us.
My colleagues Mahmoud
Suleiman and Kristina LaGue
will remain in Teacher Education
next fall and I will be joining the
CSUB English Department as,
yes, an Assistant Professor of
Reading and Literacy. Plus ça
change, plus c'est la même
chose.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Barbara Bartholomew is an
Assistant Professor of Reading
and Literacy at California State
University Bakersfield. Email:
[email protected]
– California English • Vol. 15.5 • June 2010 • page 30 –
CATE 2011 in
Sacramento
February 11-13
“NEVER
MORE
CRUCIAL”
CATE 2010 in Los Angeles
was a powerful weekend,
full of collegial fun and
learning.
Call for Proposals is now posted on
www.catenet.org/cate2011/index.htm
Questions? – contact Michelle Berry at [email protected]

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