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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Resource Material

Here's a quickie overview of some of the great sites and such I encountered...

“This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams http://www.bu.edu/favoritepoem/poems/williams/

Seeking Diversity & 100 Quickwrites by Linda Rief
Getting the Knack by Stephen Dunning and William Stafford
Awakening the Heart by Georgia Heard
Teaching Fabulous Forms of Poetry by Paul Janeczko
Reading, Writing, and Rising Up by Linda Christensen
The World’s Thin Books by Joni Bodart
The Real Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
Making the Match by Teri Lesesne
Writing for Real by Ross Burkhardt

Quick Picks and Teens Top Ten lists

NCTE Mosaic Power Point!
This site rocks!!!

Free videos from Annenberg Media


Monday, November 27, 2006

Room 1704

Here is the podcast edition of Room 1704. Listen for the thrills of iTunes sabotage and what happens when four English teachers have a slumber party.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Blau NWP 11/17/06

Blau NWP 11/17/06
Originally uploaded by mnobis.
Click on the photo to go to flickr and see my incomplete notes from Sheridan Blau's fantastic talk at the NWP general session. I'm lousy at notes, but most of you aren't, meaning there are probably much better notes at the RCWP wikispace. Regardless, I thought his analogy of education to Eden's apple (you can't consume knowledge instantaneously, but rather must create it over time) was not only artistically done (and spot on!), but also a relatively courageous metaphor to use in the middle of the Bible belt.

Note: Since I originally posted this, the NWP has posted Blau's text here!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wilhelm & a new variation on technical difficulties

During one stage of my long night of flying back on Sunday (home and in bed by 3:30 am Monday morning and back to work by 7:00!), I had a nice chat with Jeff Wilhelm. He's from Ohio, and is a born again Buckeye fan. How did I carefully traverse a conversation with a Buckeye fan for whom I also have great respect? Let's just say my tongue hurts from the biting...

But seriously, he's a great guy who does good work (You Gotta Be the Book, Reading Don’t Fix No Chevies, etc.); plus he's founded an NWP site at Boise State. If you aren't familiar with him, check out his site.

As for the technical difficulties? I couldn't make a podcast because our conversation occurred during takeoff, when you aren't allowed to turn on electronics. I was forced to hold a conversation in 1990's style! So old school...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Great Quotes and Thoughts from the General Session at NWP

Great Quotes and thoughts from the General Session of the 2006 National Writing Project Annual Meeting – submitted by Elizabeth McBride

Writing for a Change – reflects what NWP is all about: writing is transformative, and writing to real audiences makes writing more meaningful and powerful – from Jim Gray

Sheridan Blau - “If I tell you my idea, you only have it. It is my job as a teacher to share the experience of the idea by creating a situation in which you can experience it.”

The test of true knowledge is not in its possession, (consumerism of knowledge, rather than making knowledge) but the use of it. Do not become an idolator of knowledge as if it were something to possess and hoard; to accumulate and spill out as if one were its source - this is false knowledge. Do not let your own expertise close you off from new learning. It is consistently found that those persons with greatest competence in their field, are more aware of what there is still to know. Those without such competence and experience or exposure, are more likely to think they know enough. “The most distinctive characteristic of the ignorant is less their lack of knowledge but their refusal to learn.”

The act of writing has been understood to be the most powerful instrument for the literate person to use to institute change. The distinctive features of writing have made it the powerful form of learning that it is.
Writing is, therefore, an instrument for true, rather than surface, recitational, performance-related and confined, false knowledge.

Good writing does not just happen; it requires instruction and those who care about what it is that someone has to say.

In Writing and School Reform – National Commission on Writing (contains Neglected Art hearings), it. says: writing should be at the top of our nation’s school reform agenda. Writing helps shape critical faculties.

Our prompt from the session: What caused you to stay in education for as long as you have? What were some of the things that were motivating and significant to you?

Keep these ideas out in front of you, not only to motivate you; but to inform your vision for education, for your teaching, and for your writing. By making individual efforts toward our common goals, NWP participants can make a collective difference.

Goodbye Nashville. I'm home

Wow, what an awesome conference. My mind is still swimming with ideas I'm mulling over. As I recount my experiences to my hubby, I keep thinking I've finished the stories and then I add "oh wait, I can't believe I forgot to tell you about..." and "oh yeah, (fill in the blank) was amazing." And so it is with this blog. When hoping to find a moment here and there to detail the conference, that moment was filled with amazing conversations, intriguing collaborative reflection, and staring at something around 2 million Holiday lights of the Opryland. And so I will try to capture that Nashville energy as we turn to a new school week.

Some of my highlights from Friday & Saturday (to hear about Thursday read a previous blog ;) that I’ve been pumped about include:

Learning statistics about the National Writing Project during the General session was very good. What stood out the most was the fact that many NWP teachers stay in the teaching profession…how inspiring! The energy was definitely present during this NWP session! The message of the General Session was focused on Writing for Change.

On Friday, I also was part of a panel presentation with Krista List-Leinberger, Mandy Williams and Leah Zuidema, titled “How Many Cups of Coffee does it Take to be the Compleat Teacher?: The First Year”. Over the past year we’ve been engaged in online collaborative reflection. Our reflection included following Hole and McEntee’s reflection protocol to dig deeper to uncover why certain things may happen in a classroom and what that might mean for our teaching. During our presentation we illustrated the work that we did and provided the opportunity for our audience to engage in collaborative reflection.

On Saturday I attended a session on multigenre writing. Afterward the session, I met Tom Romano! I’m even more charged about multigenre writing now!

I listened to Alice Sebold at the Secondary Luncheon. The Lovely Bones is one of my top 5 all time favorite books. I met her at the book signing. What a great experience!

Conversing with colleagues that affirm and challenge our teaching practice was great!

I’m thankful for this awesome conference experience.

Flickr Problems

Did you know that we have a limit on how much we can upload each month? I finally got Flickr to upload my stuff, ( 2 days later) and now I either upgrade to a larger/more expensive package or just wait til the month starts over. Do ya think it means for another 30 days or a calendar month, as in December it starts over? Grrrr. Thanks to Troy I was able to go through another route to post pictures. So, although you can't get there from here, we're getting there. Using all the different technologies and programs to manipulate said equipment raises more questions than answers; hmmm.

giving thanks for the lameness is good

Make that four times to make an ass out myself in three different cities!

Let me pick myself up off the floor here.

As you may recall from the beginning of my post of only a few minutes ago, it is the middle of Saturday night and my lame ass is sitting in the Cyber Cafe at the Opryland Hotel, blogging it up, while some Lifetime Channel "A Wedding Story" drunkeness reels all around me (I'm not kidding, there was a black tie wedding in the conservatory here tonight and now all the sparkly people are wandering around with the sweatpants and paper kleenex crowd).

Did I mention I'm by myself in the CyberCafe? Loser. Apparently, other people do things on Saturday nights.

Just as I was pressing "publish post," the door to my own little corner of patheticness opened, and a familiar figure strolled in.

I peek up.

He stops. Looks at me. Sits down at a computer. Looks again.

Simultaneously, sheepishly, overlapping, a conversation. Me: "I know this is going to sound weird, but I was just writing a blog about you!" Him: "I recognize you, where do I know you from?" Me (stuttering, blushing): "Oh I've made an ass out of myself in like, various places, like Vermont and like Pittsburgh a year ago" Him: "You're the person who is so good at intriuging me with the way you open conversations! I know you!"

Commence 15 minutes of bliss.

The man can read my bloody mind.

"It's Saturday night, and here we are in this great city. What are we doing *here*?" he says.

"How's the writing going?" he asks. "Thought about going back to Vermont at all?"

A National Book Award finalist just asked me about my own writing!

"So, I guess we'll be seeing each other again in strange circumstances...where is it, New York, I think, next time we meet?"

"If you don't get a chance to stop by the session tomorrow, enjoy the (with sweeping gesture towards conservatory) biosphere out there."


Hard Love

It's Saturday night, I'm in "Music City," so what else would I be doing if not blogging, right?

Some highlights, and then a question/rumination I'd appreciate feedback on.


*attending a session of my favorite, favorite author...yes, the one I've made an ass out of myself with on at least three separate occassions now, in three different cities...I mean, seriously. :-P

*the Walden Media people giving Andrew (and therefore me) free passes to an advance screening of the new Charlotte's Web movie, due in theatres in mid-December, for 4:30 yesterday afternoon at the Opry Mills. Being a children's lit. freak, this is another topic I could go on about forever, but won't. For now I will just say that the thing wrenches tears out of ya yet...somehow...E.B White's text didn't need the addition of a Robert Redford voiced horse...or, more importantly, the new plot line that all of the barn animals find Charlotte creepy until the great and good Wilbur comes along.

*having enough people attend my session to hand out all my handouts and generate a list of people wanting emails

*talking with the ever wonderful Toby and ever fabulous Jennifer Ochoa this morning

*Donald Graves's suggestion that when you look at each student, you should try and think of 3 nouns: not adjectives, not verbs, but nouns

Now, the question/rumination.

In my session at NCTE, I discussed the importance of asking students to confront the ideologies they bring into the reading of a text. As part of this, I demonstrated my own thinking that I share with students about why I select certain texts; The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, in this particular case. I describe for them my experiences growing up in an all white northern Michigan town, my horror at the way my teachers and administrators chose to ignore all of the cruel and sometimes downright dangerous things my fellow students did to the one black student who moved to town in seventh grade and my determination, even then, to be a "better" kind of adult and teacher. One of the ways I try to be this person is through the teaching of literature.

Except...Thursday, I attended an NWP session titled "Under the Social Justice Umbrella: Using Literature to Combat Homophobia." And I realized, to my increasingly intense dismay, that every time I've tried to use a high quality book where the main characters are gay, I've not only encountered resistance but also...I've caved to that resistance. I don't think I am doing a good job of being that better kind of educator. I think I'm doing just like my teachers before me and turning a blind eye and disowning my responsibility to be the difference I wish to see in the world.

Suggestions? Thoughts?

Some Wonderful Saturday Sessions

I spent Saturday morning with a few hundred teachers in an affirming session with Don Graves. His new text "The Sea of Faces" is a collection of poetry that celebrates each student in a New York classroom. Graves insisted that testing is not teaching and encouraged us all to give kids time and space for writing about their lives.

"Let them write about the things they care about," Graves prompted. "Emotion is the engine that drives the intellect...it begins with the heart and goes to the head."

The middle level mosaic was a great afternoon session. Lots of powerful speakers: Harvey Daniels, Linda Rief, Kylene Beers, Terri Lessene (sp). Terri gave us a great booklist of high interest, accessible texts for high school readers. She told us to visit this website for a full list of quick picks and top ten texts at www.ala.org/yalsa/
This is an excellent resource for engaging our reluctant, older adolescent readers.

I was able to meet with RCWP folks in the afternoon and evening, and visit the exhibit hall in between. The 2006 NWP and NCTE was another superb learning experience full of rich texts and loads of professional connections.

Great Sessions Sat AM

I've typed my thoughts on my AM Sessions and added to my wiki...

I'll be working on the PM Sessions and the Middle Mosaic. There were so many great people and information; my head is FULL! Toby & Christine were there for sure. I'm sure we have a lot to share as we each sat at different tables. I hope to accumulate this info with all my links I've gained from my sessions. I love how many people didn't have handouts, but made ALL documents available on the web. SMRT I say! So, Troy, I hope we leave our stuff up a while because Lord knows I don't have time to digest everyone's info carefully... But over the next two weeks I'd love to really read other's session info!

Oh and Big Ups to Troy! What What! Everytime I ran into a Tech person from a different WP, I mentioned Troy Hicks and the reply was the same, "Oh your site is so lucky to have him." I graciously nodded in agreement and said that indeed, we are lucky to have Troy! I know other sites are jealous. Thanks so much for all your work Troy. It was well worth it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thoughts on NWP General Session

Kristine, Carie, and Mitch express their thoughts over lunch regarding the Friday AM General Session- Writing for a Change. Listen to the Podcast.

Writing for a Change

It's a toss-up for me when I think about what my favorite session was at the NWP conference. I was enlightened by the NTI session, but inspired and moved by the Writing for a Change- Boosting Literacy and Learning through Social Action, which is also the title for the book that we received at the end of this session.
Jenie Fleming from The Centre for Social Action at De Montfort University, Leicester, England came all the way to Nashville to spread the power and impact Social Action can have on students, teachers, and their community.
The core of Social Action, in my words, focuses on empowering young people, helping them take responsibility for themselves, community, problems, things they care about, and things they want to change. Blame is not a part of this, but rather moving forward to make things better through collective problem solving. The problem can be as small as "who's stealing the pencils in the classroom" to "why is our school falling apart, and why do we not have basic supplies?" Adults are not leaders in this process, but facilitators, asking the correct questions to get students on the right track to solving the problem of focus and taking action. This action of course includes a process of letter writing, reflective writing, public speaking, discussion and eventually action.
Women presenting at this conference proved that Social Action is relevant and effective no matter what the location, size, or makeup of the school and community. Elizabeth Davis of DC facilitates her middle school students in social action for equal educational opportunities, giving them a voice and power over their own education (see "The March on Philp Sousa, Chapter 10).
Activities in my round table session included "But Why" (pg. 127 in the book, since I know you'll buy it now), and "Movie Poster, pg. 121. These activities got us to the heart of things we would like to see change in for our own schools or districts.

Key Lime

You had me at Key Lime!

Troy thought he had his fill the fine "something French" beef dish while at The Stockyard, but then Phillip the waiter came out to seduce us with the desert tray. Troy’s eyes glazed over and he muttered “You had me at Key Lime….”

Beth overcame!

Beth busy doing an interview to make a Podcast!
She overcame her fears and just went for it! This woman (forget her name Beth) joined us for lunch on the floor of the lobby in the Airport Marriott where we were charging our Macs, iPods, and downloading some photos. At the end of lunch, this woman from the /Colorado WP agreed to be Beth's guinea pig!

New Teacher Initiative

Being new to the RCWP, class of 2006, I had and still have a lot to learn about the various aspects of NWP and programs offered to districts. My first session on Thursday taught me about New Teacher Initiative (see the Wikispace for notes and formal definition). I was excited to learn about such a program and admire those districts who have it in support of new teachers, k-12, cross curriculum. Eaton Rapids has a high turn over rate due to retirements, as well as a focus on writing across the curriculum. I could really see at NTI program fitting in for us. Curious about how one gets a NTI into the district, I asked Britton Gildersleeve of the Oklahoma WP what my first step would be. After asking this question for my Podcast, the answer was pretty obvious.... money!!!

In the airport, watching the game

Our plane leaves in 2 hours and we are biting our nails here at the Nashville airport. We were finally able to find a TV AND convince the locals to let us watch the game. At this point, the score is 7-21. I think we can rally.

Kelly Sassi: Writing on Demand

I am very lucky to have worked with Ms. Kelly Sassi on units of study for the new MME/ACT test in Michigan for Oakland Schools. She kindly let me follow her around to get a taste of what it is like to be a famous author and presenter at NCTE. I truly admire Kelly's commitment to good writing, even in the face of tremendous pressure from high stakes testing initiatives. Kelly reiterates what we all know as practitioners of writing: preparing students to write for the state test requires the writing process, revision, multiple genres, etc. Writing for an on-demand writing task is only one of the genres available to us as learners. Listen to our podcast for an interesting discussion on these issues and the ethical concerns that are raised in this high-stakes environment.

The NWP Stalker Strikes AGAIN!

In case you haven't been kept abreast of my stalking activities this year, my target was Bud the Teacher. I have been an avid reader and fan of this man's dedication to on-line communities. I was fortunate enough this year to actually have an "in:" Troy was presenting with him on one of the Tech Liaison strands at NWP. Bud was very gracious when I met him Thursday night when I literally jumped up and down in excitement. I am a Jack Russel Terrier. Here is my podcast interview with the man we all admire (please ignore the few seconds of interference from the bus engine).

Day 2 at NWP and NCTE

Day 2 at NWP and NCTE
We had an inspiring morning at the NWP opening session. The data on NWP from Inverness was so powerful…the thousands of teachers and children that benefit from this extraordinary professional development organization are in the many thousands. Sheridan Blau gave an inspiring speech, but I was in the rear of the domed auditorium and we couldn’t hear him very well. I sat with John Callahan from Meadow Brook WP later in the day and he said the speech was awesome. I’m sure that NWP will post it in text somewhere on the website.

I attended an afternoon session on students’ rights to their own language with Yetta Goodman, Geneva Smitherman, and Danling Fu. It was such a rich conversation with roundtables for small group discussion…but I got there late having been lost on the Delta Island in Opry Land. Yetta lifted out this quote from Alice Walker: “For it is language more than anything else that reveals and validates one’s existence.”

In the later afternoon I went to a session called High School Matters and was able to reconnect with Dixie Goswami. Dixie was nudging us to learn about the new fonts of knowledge that our students are engaged in…she said we have to rethink literacy and understand the new ethics of connectivity that the kids are working within. Dixie cautioned us that the gap between the texts the kids engage with inside and outside of school is widening. Jim Burke was there and reminded us about the need for both teachers and students to be able to think in stories and tell our stories.

A teacher from Oregon presented “The Reel World in Film” and showed a clip from a provocative documentary, “Born Into Brothels,” about children’s lives in a community in India.

By evening my head and heart were full. I’m off to hear Don Graves, so I’ll post again tonight. I leave for home early Sunday morning.

Presentation Overload

On day two of NWP, things kept hopping. As you can see from the many – and much more eloquent – blog posts here, we were all over the place today and having a great time doing it. Personally, I attended the rousing general session, “Writing for a Change” and then did two presentations: one on collaborative writing and the other on building interactivity into your site’s website. Both were well received, and I appreciate all the help and support that fellow RCWP TCs and other MSU colleagues have given me in getting ready for them.

Like Andrea, I am getting buggy, and it is time to call it a (18 hour) day. Off to bed for now...

Carol Jago's Recommended Reading

This afternoon I attended the High School Matters session and had the privilege to sit at Carol Jago's table. She passed out book marks with books she is in love with right now and recommends that we all read. She reminded us, too, that Orhan Pamuk, author of Snow, one of her recommended books from last year, just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. "See," she told us, "I know good books."

Here are a few of the books that I can't wait to go out and buy:
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
A Woman in Jerusalem by A. B. Yehoshua
Europe Central by William Vollmann

What great books have you heard about lately that are your "must read" list?

Too many hours of blogging

Enough Said.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's hard work to be so suave.

Get out of your hotel

Ann Patchett, author and Nashville resident, told attendees at last night's secondary kick-0ff to be sure to leave their hotel and see the real Nashville. So tonight Amy Kilbridge, Meg Kershul, and I decided we would leave the safe confines of the Opryland and Marriott and venture out into "real Nashville."

We headed over to Patchett's part of town near Vanderbilt University and dined at a fabulously swanky and delicious restaurant called Bound'ry. Bound'ry features free valet parking, a creative and eclectic tapas menu, and an incredibly understanding hostess who will direct you out of the "bad part of town" in which you end up lost and forgive you for arriving an hour after your reservation. (Not that that happened to any of us. Oh no, not at all)

Meg and I shared the sea scallops and buttermilk grits and wished we could have ordered another plate of the grits because they were so delicious. I followed that with a tapas-size order of roast dove (because I was curious to know why people in Michigan wanted to legalize shooting them) with pears and blue cheese. Meg and Amy both had the winter squash puree. Amy added a roasted beet salad, creatively garnished with pink grapefruit, and traditional southern shrimp and grits. We finished our meal with orange-infused creme brulee and tiramisu. The experience was highly enjoyable and very reasonably priced.

You can check out Bound'ry's menu and directions (trust us, use their directions, not Mapquest!) at http://pansouth.net/boundry-index.htm

To continue our adventures in "real Nashville," we know we can't leave Music City without checking out the country music scene, so we're planning to do that tomorrow night... Any suggestions?

How NWP Ruined My Life

This morning at the General Session, Executive Director of NWP, Richard Sterling, mentioned that NWP has ruined his life: he used to have a quiet life: taught a few classes, took the summers off. But NWP has changed all that.

As I listened, I thought “Yes! That’s right! NWP has ruined my life.” Here’s why:

When I participated in the summer institute in 2000, I was only a second year teacher. A newbie: young, idealistic. I dreamed of the day when I would know all the answers, when teaching would become easy and I could leave school at a normal hour and no longer grade essays at 4 in the morning. But NWP changed all that.

While I rarely grade essays at 4 in the morning anymore, teaching hasn’t become the easy, breezy job that my non-English colleagues who walk out the door at 2:35 make it appear. And I still don’t know all the answers. Even worse, I’m now the department chair, and I feel like I have more questions now that I ever have. How embarrassing!

What’s even worse is that, thanks to NWP, I’m not content to simply say I don’t know… Now I want to research my questions to find out! I didn’t become an English teacher to crunch numbers, but I have discovered a deep, dark, slightly embarrassing love for data, a love that I confess to my colleagues in a whisper with downcast eyes, flushed cheeks and a rapid heartbeat. Much the same way that my math colleagues confess that they enjoy reading.

Yet when a member of the NWP shared the results of their legacy study this morning, I realized that I am not alone. I saw hundreds of fellow data nerds around me frantically copying down her numbers: Half of all new teachers leave teaching in the first five years, but the median years of service for NWP teachers is 25 years. 98% of us stay in education, and 72% stay in the classroom. (By the way, if you’re a fellow data nerd, the next round of the Legacy Study will begin in January of 2007 for teachers who participated between 1995 and 2005. Look for it.)

So, I guess my dreams of making a six-figure salary and having a super cushy job have also been ruined by NWP… thanks to my involvement, I am now 22% more likely to stay in the classroom and 48% more likely to stay in education.

Thanks, NWP.

No, really.


Finally Online!

The Internet situation at the Nashville Airport Marriott is horrific.

I caved and agreed to pay the $9.95 per day to access the wi-fi (though I found this charge a little irritating). It became much more irritating when the signal in my first conference room was too weak to provide a consistent connection anyway.

My afternoon session was in a room that had a strong connection—to a different server. This server, I discovered after inquiring at the front desk, is not included in the $9.95 per day; it is for a service that I was told costs $250. Apparently the $9.95 per day wi-fi can only be accessed in the regular hotel rooms and in the lobby.

So this morning, I went to the lobby to access my $9.95 wi-fi in order to post my session notes to the wiki, but it wouldn’t work! I tried moving away from the conference rooms, closer and closer to the hotel rooms where the wi-fi is supposed to work, but was still unsuccessful.

Slightly annoyed, I once again visited the front desk, where I was told I should be able to log in from the lobby. When I showed the lady at the desk that I could not, she gave me a code to log in to the $250 network. I walked away, sat down, and realized that the code didn’t work. I went back to the desk where I was given another code. It didn’t work either. This happened a few more times before I had to leave to attend the General Session. At this point, the front desk told me that some people’s computers just work differently than others.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps), I am typing this on Microsoft Word and cannot post this rant because I do not have Internet access!

Hello from Nashville

I am feeling very fortunate to be here, not because it is Nashville, because truthfully conferences leave little time to actually notice any of the local sights. No … the reason for my gratitude stems from the opportunity to gather with other educators. Teaching can be an isolating profession without opportunities like NWP, to network, share, and learn from other educators. The exchange of ideas enriches me. Take the conversation I had with the folks presenting on using data to make the case for your NWP site coming down on the elevator this morning, the chat the teacher from California and I shared on our shuttle ride from the Marriott to the Willis Center, the exchanges waiting in the food line, even the small talk that occurs as you wait in line to use the restroom, all these moments grow together and are pivotal in re-energizing my commitment to learn more about technology, tools, and strategies that will advance my young students’ writing and learning. The issues, concerns, goals, and stories shared between NWP TCs scaffolds my learning, supports my determination, and helps build me up when other education mandates tear me down.

So, what I am now wondering is … through our flattening world … can this digital rcwp space (blog, wikis, and pod cast) allow a teacher to feel the support and diverse work extending from NWP in Nashville?


Well, here we are in Nashville and as far as I can tell, the only country western stars that I've seen are on the side of a bus. There are places to purchase the necessary fixin's to LOOK like a country singer, but I held off and didn't go there. Maybe tomorrow...

Wiki Wiki Scratch

So, I've culminated my morning thoughts on a carefully laid out Word document and wanted to put it on my Wiki. But, my formatting wouldn't come through. So I added a link. Hope it's OK. Feel free to check it out!

Interview with Matthew Luskey

Matthew and I met when he rushed into the Nashville Airport Marriott and grabbed cookies for our shuttle ride. Listen to our podcast about the virtues of attending NWP.

Interview with Kristine from Thursday

In this podcast, Kristine and I wax poetic about the Willis Conference Center, food, and why people should be jealous of us.


James Patterson speaks to NCTE!!

I am sitting in the convention hall and have decided NOT to take notes, but rather to blog my impressions. First of all, I think I should have scoped out the Opryland hotel a little earlier. If I had, I would have found out that there is very little breakfast food in this place. I must have some food anxiety, because I am constantly worrying about when I will get some and where I can find it. I need to be at a 9:30 session, which means my next opportunity for food will be in three hours.
Our president-elect assures us that she does know how to spell “complete.” I do, in fact, feel reassured.
What I really enjoy about these things are the introductions of the people who are introducing the people who are speaking. The introduction of James Patterson includes waxing poetic about what a great audience we are (in contrast to the students in our classroom: we want to be here, we enjoy the “phrasing of a well-written sentence,” etc.) James Patterson also had 31 rejection slips before winning the Edgar award for best first mystery novel. He averages 4-5 books a year and 18 of his last books have been best-sellers. I find these ideas astounding. This man is a blockbuster writer—just imagine the dedication it must take to be that prolific. I feel taxed just posting my notes from the conference, let alone writing novels at the rate he does.
James proposed a program called “No Child Left on Their Behind” in response to the idea that our students are watching so many hours of television. He showed us an ad where students watching a video claim, “This is a really good book.” As if students are watching so much television that they don’t know the difference between reading and watching television.
I keep smelling the stench of garbage and, upon investigation ,realize that the double doors next to which I have parked my laptop are the double doors leading to the dumpster. Hmmm. Time to move.
James was in a psychiatric aide to work his way through college and this is where he met Robert Lowell, and the author of Girl, Interrupted, both of whom were patients while he worked there. John Copeland was also there. It was this cast of zany characters who first inspired him to write, if only to document the wild and crazy things they said. It makes me wonder about patient privacy: should he be telling these stories of these people?
He was told to “stay away from fiction” as an undergrad. He was told to write fiction as a grad student (perhaps a comment on the state of undergraduate education?)…eventually he gets on the best-seller list, even though it took a while (no one actually showed up to his first book signing). When the New York Times listed him as a bestseller, he thought this was a misprint and went to the store to check it out. He watched as a young woman picked up his book, read the back, and began to walk away with it. Then, to his dismay, she stole it!
Hollywood stories: loves Morgan Freeman. But on the set, the novelist rates somewhere below the caterer. The highlight, it seems, of working on Along Came a Spider, was when he was asked for an autograph while at dinner with Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Monica Potter, among others.
He likes that he sells more books than ANY other author in the world. He feels most gratified by the fact that his fans will tell him that he got their friend/spouse/child reading again.
All in all, a pretty interesting talk…although I must admit that I left early in order buy some tasty vittles. One upside of the searching for food: I ran into some of the undergrads from Janet’s class who recognized me as I stuffed my face full of peanuts( I know, I know: peanuts for breakfast!). I felt like a celebrity!

To Janet!

what, no paper?

At the general meeting, we really are using the equipment that we borrowed from the writing center. did you notice the ipod down the row? It's great to be able to electronically and almost automatically 'save' your thoughts while listening and processing what is being presented. Kind of like using a separate, spare processing unit. Even though I'm truly engaged in the discussion, my fingers can -all by themselves, it seems- note fragments of thoughts and ideas for further consideration. This year, the third annual meeting for me, I think I'm starting to really become more comfortable with the hardware; the processes are making some sense to me. Not that I really can do this all alone, and a BIG thanks to Troy for taking valuable time away from his groups to walk me through it once again. The oportunity to learn this stuff and actually use it is very exciting -Janet, we need more of this!! I overheard the possibility of some advanced training this summer focusing on technology and digital workshops. That would be exactly what we as teacher/learners need. Sign me up!

Trying to be resourceful...

For whatever reason, the RCWP wiki site will not load (I've been trying since yesterday afternoon). I think I created a separate wiki with a functional link to my notes from Thursday's morning session. Perhaps at some point I'll be able to add these to our real wiki...

What a Great First Day

What a great first day. I am always so proud to be part of the RCWP/NWP community. I signed up for the nuts and bolts summer institute session for Thursday morning. Mitch did a superb job of presenting our project. I’m can’t wait to download the monograph that was published of our CRTD format. Janet and Diana have worked on it for so long, and it is such a rich, thoughtful way of looking at teacher practice from multiple lenses.
It was so good for me to hear how Harriet Williams’ and Lucy Ware’s summer institutes take shape. Harriet’s site, Santee Wateree, has a kickoff boot camp writing day and Lucy’s site, Western Pennsylvania, does action research within their regular SI.

I was so impressed with the afternoon session I attended on “Using Youth Programs as Professional Development” on Thursday afternoon. Three NWP sites lifted up models for integrating writing camps for kids with PD for teachers. What a great idea. I just loved the first presentation from Oklahoma State. They had a great calendar showing the first week with teachers that was followed by a week working with kids. What a great idea.. a PD outreach for teachers affirmed by a writing invitation for students where folks can instantly implement the strategies they are trying out. They gave us a wikki stick and had us make a shape that meant something to us and then had us brainstorm desciptive words that came to mind around the shape and we wrote little poems. I made a fish sculpture from my first memory of feeling like an artist in elementary schools...having made a mobile fish sculpture in 4th grade. Here's my poem:

My fish sculpture
suspended in space
Dancing in the air
A school of swimming wire
Eyes popping out
Tail fins swaying
Walking through a sea of wire animals
Bobbing in the classroom wind
Calling us in

The second site from Great Valley WP in California created a PD week for teachers of ELL, followed by a young writers camp for ELL students. They lifted out how the prerequisites and scaffolds for successful PD with teachers which is identical to the needs for successful writing experiences for the students. Teachers felt successful because they were able to try out their new learning immediately.

This session gave me some great ideas for the first writing camp that we hope to do with our satellite site...We want to lure Rene up to help us plan for a Top-Of-The-Mitt Spartan Camp next summer.

By the way, Troy reported that Rene's session blew folks away yesterday morning. RCWP rocks! We sure did miss Janet last night at dinner. We love you Janet!

Checking in - NWP Thursday

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The NWP sessions had high attendance today! In the morning I attended a session on Writing Project in-service and in the afternoon I attended one on teacher leadership and vignette writing. Then it was off for our RCWP dinner. I met up with my co-presenters after our dinner. I’m surprised with the size of the Opryland how easy it still is to find others that we know. I had no idea about Elie Wiesel’s flight problems. I’m learning a lot about the conventions by reading other’s posts!

I can’t wait to share more. I’m looking forward to the General NWP session tomorrow morning. Thanks for posting folks back home. I have more determination to get to the hot wi-fi spots knowing that you’re reading.

Catching up from Wednesday 11/15/06 Anticipation

11/16/06 11:59am

Well, I am having a great time at NWP and NCTE, but I have had problems with wi-fi connections. So, instead of a fast report, I have a travel log (side note: I wonder how many genres we can report our NWP/NCTE experience in through blog spaces?) update of my journey on Wednesday.

Travel Log 11/15/06

11:00am: Capital City Airport

Well I’m sitting at the Capital City Airport anxious to travel to Nashville for the National Writing Project and National Council of Teachers of English conference. I picked up my “junior pilot” wings, so I am ready to be flying! I have window seats the entire ride today. I can hear some people a few seats away talking about heading to Nashville. They sound like they are in the field of linguistics. It’s sort of neat, there are several people waiting for the plane here and the buzz is coming from these two travelers…English teachers ;)

I am looking forward to the excitement of the conference that is exuberated from the gathering of English teachers. Time to board…

1:00pm Detroit Airport

I am looking forward to attending the NWP sessions all day tomorrow. I know that the collaboration with other teachers will be valuable.

I am also looking forward to hearing Elie Wiesel at the opening ceremony of NCTE. A few years ago I taught his book Night. This book provides an amazingly eye-opening experience of the Holocaust. I imagine hearing him speak live will be a thoughtful, powerful.

The many authors at this conference always bring excitement. When I mention this part of the conference to my students I see some faces light up in wonder about an author they are familiar with being present at the conference. Alice Sebold is one of my favorite authors. I remember the first time that I read The Lovely Bones. Stunning…chilling…an amazing read. I hope that I’ll get to see or meet the creator of the character Suzie Salmon at her presentation on Saturday.

On Friday afternoon I am presenting with three other teachers on collaborative teacher reflection. Our session titled, “How Many Cups of Coffee Does It Take to be the Compleat Teacher?: The First Year” focuses on collaborative reflection with teachers from various school settings. Our team followed Simon Hole and Grace Hall McEntee’s reflection protocol to discuss narratives of specific teaching situations. We’ll share our process as well as what we discovered about collaborative reflection.

The many authors at this conference always bring excitement. When I mention this part of the conference to my students I see some faces light up in wonder about an author they are familiar with being present at the conference. Alice Sebold is one of my favorite authors. I remember the first time that I read The Lovely Bones. Stunning…chilling…an amazing read. I hope that I’ll get to see or meet the creator of the character Suzie Salmon at her presentation on Saturday.


I’m here! Nashville, TN. At the airport I found out that I was on the same flights as Past-President of NCTE Dr. Patricia Stock. Patti and I know one another from Michigan State University’s Writing Center and the Red Cedar Writing Project. Patti and I shared a taxi to the convention center and explored the Opryland Hotel this afternoon. There we saw Randy Boomer, another Past-President of NCTE. I met some amazing educators by walking around with Patti  We headed to a seafood dinner delight this evening…yum.

Traveling and time changes have warn me out.

Signing off for Wednesday, November 15, 2006.

Meeting Two New TLs

This morning, Renee and I met two new Technology Liaisons before our "Writing in a Digital Age" session. Meet Matt and Marie in this podcast.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Moo-ving to the Stock Yard

Tonight, Ninna and Dawn coordinated a trip to the world famous -- and quite delicious -- Stock Yard Steak House. Carrie, Beth, Melissa, Andrea, and Kristine pile into the back of the "free" shuttle as we head across town to enjoy some RCWP company. We toasted many tonight, especially Janet, as she moves into her new role as associate dean!

See you at the general session tomorrow!


Originally uploaded by lewie73.
So, it's late. My room smells like a big fart, but I'm excited for tomorrow. The biggest bummer was that Elie Wiesel's plane would not take off due to weather on the East Coast and so they had to cancel his speech. He was going to try to phone in and talk a bit, but I did not stay for this. I think Amy K did! Hopefully she'll fill me in. I was so disappointed. If I had an I Pod, you would hear me screaming NOOOOOOOOOOO.
I will try to move on...
Sad and despondent... I lament the great speech he would have given, how the power of his voice would've hushed the room. How I would've been reminded how lucky I am and how it is my duty to educate my children of this atrocity. I would have been humbled and cried and felt renewed. dangit.

Interview with Pat Mumford

Listen to this podcast with Pat Mumford about the behind the scenes planning for the NWP this year.

Writing in a Digital Age

This morning, Renee and I participated in the “Writing in a Digital Age” workshop, one of the site development sessions for all site leaders. Because of this audience, it was nice to try and translate what typically falls into the realm of the techie into the larger conversations about how and why sites could use technology in their work. Check out the wiki entry to get a fuller description of who presented and what they shared.

You Do Good Work

Hi guys...

Just wanted to let you know that I'm sitting here in my living room in Michigan feeling very jealous and sad that I'm not there along with the rest of you. This is the first NCTE conference I've missed in a few years, and I'm already missing you all and wishing I could be there. Just so you know... we're on this end reading the blog and listening to the podcasts. Attending virtually is better than not attending at all. Thanks for keeping us in touch.

Andrea... if you see Jim Burke this year, get an autograph for me. :-)


The perks of "being" Janet Swenson

Well, Janet, we do indeed miss you. For an update, my bag did show up on time, with no exploded toothpaste and tonight is Thursday: also known as Grey's Anatomy day.
Here is a picture of your room at the Nashville Airport Marriott. You can see that Carrie is working diligently on her wiki and blog posts in the corner. We can do this because we have an upgraded room with internet access included. Ahh, the perks of being Janet. We promise that, in return for letting us steal your room at this very nice hotel, that we will blog, podcast, and wiki our hearts out until we can again be with you.

Perks of Being at NWP: Stopping "that's so gay"

If you frequently hear "that's so gay" in your school hallways or find yourself struggling to combat homophobic attitudes in your students, you need to read about this session:
this afternoon I attended a fantastic session called Under the Social Justice Umbrella: Using Literature and Writing to Combat Homophobia, featuring TCs from the UCLA Writing Project.
The group decided to tackle LGBT issues through the popular teen novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

For activities related to this and other recommend texts, check out a full recap of the session at http://rcwp.wikispaces.com/Christine_Fisher

Minnie's Dress and "Stalking" the Leaf Lady

So here I am at the Opryland Hotel, wandering and wondering. Minnie Pearl's red gingham dress is displayed prominently in the Cookie Shop. My new friend, Marie, (who assured me that the chocolate chip cookies were zero fat/sugar/carbs etc) had lots to tell me about country celebrities who had frequented her establishment, although I should admit that if any of today's stars were in front of me I probably wouldn't know it. There are large busses with celebrity photos splayed across the exterior-I'll try to pay attention. The halls here are all decked. The Christmas lights came on yesterday for the season, and there are wandering groups of Teachers of English admiring the sights. There was an amazing leaf-creature slithering around the lobby. Her viney tendrils moved so slowly that you didn't even notice at first that she was actually moving. Pretty impressive place... and that's not even considering the awesome amount of knowledge gathered here to celebrate literacy.

Already Improved!

My second session, Thursday afternoon, and I am feeling very proud of myself, as I use wikispaces, yes, wiki! Me! I'm creating wiki posts, taking notes on MY sweet little imac notebook. Who would have thought it folks! I have some great pictures, but flickr is unfortunately NOT uploading. Grrr.

I'm anxious to add to the wiki page (did I just say that?) and get feedback from others...Janet, where are you? You are missed!

So, in less than a 24 hour span, I am no longer nervous about contributing to the rcwp blog site, wikispace, and adding pictures. Unbelievable what a small amount of success can do for the soul.

I am already planning ahead to next year, with great enthusiasm and eagerness, hoping to tie in NCTE as well.

What will the next 24 hours hold in store?

Blogging versus podcasting, one thing I notice...

I notice how drawn I am to the podcasts...how much more I feel like I am virtually attending the conference when I can hear the voices of those I don't know. I just listened to Andrea's second podcast, and I felt like I had been sitting at the table with them. Now, Andrea...if you can just also upload a picture... ; )

Interview Protocol from South Coast Writing Project

This was from the SCWP and their interview protocol for understanding the impact of their professional development on classroom practice. Please see the notes at Following the Writing Project into the Classroom.
First, Andrea was interviewed using an early draft of the protocol.
Second, Charlie was interviewed by Andrea using the most recent, edited protocol.

Podcasting with Mitch

In this podcast, Mitch discusses his upcoming presentation, Janet Swenson, and the importance of "representing."

I need an adult

I am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to board to Nashville. I resist the urge to grill my fellow passengers about whether they are heading to the conference, too. I have a deep-seated fear that I will turn into one of those people who chat up the person next to me regardless of their clear annoyance with my trite babble.
You see, when I get nervous, I babble. And flying makes me very, very nervous. So I babble more. I had to stop myself from butting into the conversation between two concourse employees: “Really? You’re going to get a vasectomy? You lost your house because of your child support payments? Wow. Now, that’s an interesting story. Would you mind telling my iPod?” I manage to restrain myself; however, I did stare longingly hoping they would get the hint and talk to me.
See, babbling. Babbling=nervous. Right now, I am nervous about the following things: a) my toothpaste will explode in my luggage and seep out through the double Ziploc bags I placed it in b) I won’t have toothpaste at all because my bag will be lost and c) my plane will crash before I know what happens between Meredith Grey and McDreamy.
I am a terrible flyer. I grip the handrails, take sharp, deep breaths whenever there is turbulence, and have been known to openly weep upon landing. This trip is particularly hard because no one is with me to explain how the airport works. I am constantly asking stupid questions (I am always convinced I am in the wrong line) or panicking about where the bathroom is. Arrgh. They just announced that they oversold the plane!! Don’t panic. Must remember deep, yogic breathing.
In a few hours, I will be in Nashville, a competent educator ready to blog, wiki, and podcast with the best of them. In the meantime, I need an adult.

Initial Thoughts from the Airport

In this podcast, Melissa, Kristine, and Beth share their initial thoughts about heading to the NWP/NCTE meetings in Nashville on November 15, 2006.

En Route to Nashville

Getting there is half the fun, right? Earlier this evening, a small group of RCWP colleagues made their way from Lansing’s Capital City Airport (look at their happy faces!) to Nashville. While we look calm here, our flight connecting flight was tight, as we had to rush through the terminal in Cincinnati (only to trace their steps back to the gate for their connecting flight, leaving just ten short minutes after the previous one had landed). But, we eventually found ourselves in Nashville. Most of us went on to take shuttles and cabs to their hotels. And one, who found himself, but not his luggage, had to wait.

Now, see, I am usually a light traveler. All carry-ons for me, a tip learned from my father the road warrior. But, as I planned for this year’s NWP Annual Meeting, knowing that I would have the advantage of a ride with a colleague from the airport, I took the luxury of packing the big suitcase. The one that you have to check. The one that, inevitably, will get lost.

In Lansing, I kind of chuckled to myself when the man at the counter handed me a baggage claim number. Who ever needs these things, I wondered, not knowing that my skepticism would soon be part of my undoing. Now, it would be even worse if I had throw that little sticker away, and make a better story, but I didn’t. So, back to the story and my arrival in Nashville.

There is that moment of excitement that one gets, like a pet waiting for its owner, when your bag comes out the chute at the airport. You know what I am talking about because I have seen more than one person crooning, “There it is, there it is!” as if a long-forgotten childhood toy, a distant, well-loved relative, or winning Lotto ticket came flying out of that chute. But, there is that moment of sadness when you, and perhaps a handful of others, are standing there, the anticipation waning, the concern beginning to mount. Will I see my bag soon? Tonight? Ever?

As the line shut down and the lights went off, I knew my fate, I headed to the lonely corner of the airport where beleaguered travelers find themselves. When I went to the counter—you know, the one in the little room off to the side that says “Baggage Claim,” as if you will actually claim something while you are there—I was one of only two people waiting. Apparently, at least one other person made the plane in Cinci while their baggage didn’t. When I got up to the counter, I was asked the typical information. Name. Flight. Bag description.

Have you ever tried to describe a suitcase? If you haven’t, they have a handy-dandy guide, laminated, resting on the counter to help you differentiate between hunter and forest greens. Thank heavens.

Then, the kind clerk looked up my baggage claim ticket number. My saving grace! “It will be in at 9:00,” he said politely. I hope I didn’t sound rude when I replied, “Do you mean 9:00 PM or 9:00 AM?” He smiled, and said “PM,” not saying much more after that. Hotel. Cell phone number. Sigh.

So, this is all to say that my Nashville adventure is off to quite a start. Having never lost a bag myself, I have never had the privilege of having an airline lose one for me either. Hopefully those unscrupulous folks who might tamper with unattended luggage don’t get their hands on my stuff and it is delivered safely to my hotel later tonight. If not, well, I, well… Well, I hope that my little baggage claim ticket helps me hit the suitcase lottery.

See you all tomorrow at the NWP Annual Meeting!

PS – My ride came in an hour late from his flight in Detroit, as did my luggage. So, we finally left the Nashville airport and got to the hotel. Whew…

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Podcasting experiences

Troy is incredibly patient with my podcast attempt!

Sample podcast for prep for Nashville

Take a listen to my sample podcast.

Training Session 2006

Here we are; getting ready for the trip! So much to learn!

From "Up North" to "Down South"

Three"up north" teachers are ready to rock and roll into Nashville. I am so happy to be bringing along Stasha Simon and Cossondra George to their first NWP conference in Nashville! We are so excited to meet with folks from our home site and anxious to meet folks from around the country.


We are way too excited for Nashville! Just look at Troy's face:


As a first-time Convention participant, I am looking forward to discovering what the Convention will bring to us, and how we can better bring the experience of the Convention to our co-horts as well as our teacher and writer friends back home. In particular, I am thinking that this may be a wonderful way to introduce the Red Cedar Writing Project to those in our districts who are not yet familiar with it!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So, one of my English teacher friends, isn't an English teacher anymore - he's a rockstar. You can check out The Hard Lessons (the band was formed of all teachers) and vote for them to perform on Good Morning America at:


Trust me...you'll like it!

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Learning Continues

learning around the table
Originally uploaded by bgrl0824.
I actually did it! Uploaded a photo onto flickr, found it, and then blogged it, too. Now, will it be possible tomorrow? I hope so, and I'm even taking notes!

Andrea & Paul NWP Annual Mtg Pittsburg

Are they amazed at their incredible tech talents? Paul and Andrea post their first podcast at the 2006 NWP Annual Meeting in Pittsburg.

Heather knows how to use her flickr

Originally uploaded by cjfish87.
Heather learned how to use her Flickr account at the November 6 meeting to prepare for our NWP trip. Flickr and Blogger work wonderfully together.

Accepting New Challenges

Hi everyone! After surviving 2006 @ RCWP, with some whining and waves of being overwhelmed with technology...I have accepted the Nashville challenge. I cannot believe it! I am taking my newly purchased imac notebook, using technology on purpose??? to communicate with all of you?

So, be patient. Be kind. I'll do my best for everyone.



A city I have not been to in TN. Went to Memphis, but passed up the trip my family took to the Peabody to watch the ducks come down the red carpet. I was young and went to the mall instead. Went to Knoxville when I was 9 for the World's Fair and remember buying a jersey where the arms and bottom of the shirt were cut and "fringed out" so to say. Now finally I will be able to visit Nashville. I'm so excited to be with others again who share many of the same interests. Plus, I can not WAIT! to hear Elie Wiesel talk. That I'm sure will be the highlight of my trip by far. Ready for the fun to ensue!

RCWP Meeting to prepare for NWP

Yes, this information is exactly what I need. Hurrah, now I can add revisions to my own classroom page too!!!

Hey, ya'll, we're going to Nashville!

On November 16 and 17, the RCWP will be podcasting, blogging, and wiki-ing from the NWP convention in Nashville. Even if you can't join us in person, you can join us digitally! Tune in on the 16th...

I'm goin to Nashville...

OK,I have the 'I'm Going to Jackson' song, (changed to Nashville!!) going around and around in my head. Things are crazy at school with conferences, home visits, and everything, so of course instead of doing the things I'm supposed to be doing, I'm daydreaming about the trip. Last year was amazing- the blogging, the poscasting, the sessions, the company! And I'm wearing sparkly things, and aiming for big hair, -not because it's Nashville, but just BECAUSE I CAN. So when I accost- oops, "interview" passersby, I'll blend. Looking so forward to the colleagiality, the learning, the stretching... Stay tuned.

Phone home...

For the first time in about two decades, I don't know whether I will be able to attend NWP/NCTE this year. What a relief to know that, courtesy of my RCWP colleagues, I will be able to virtually attend...as a matter of fact, now that I think of it, I will be able to "see" and "hear" more than I could have if I were there!

Go, Team! Get that info!!


I'm going to Nashville - Hurray!!!!

I am soooooooooooo very excited about heading to Nashville next week. I can't wait to recharge my fall teacher batteries through conversation and reflection on teaching! Thanks for being my collaborative reflectors RCWP!

I am excited that Alice Sebold will be at NCTE. I am also very excited to share my experience with my students. They are looking forward to reading about my conference experience.

Here is a picture of our planning meeting on 11-6-06

WOW Meeting

WOW Meeting
Originally uploaded by littlegirlvik.
This is a test

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Podcast Test

Here is an Odeo Test podcast.