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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rockefeller Center Lights the Tree: Reflections on NWP in NYC

The NWP and NCTE conference in NYC was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. It was a highlight of my year and the recharge that I needed. From meeting and conversing with old and new friends to collaboration on important aspects of our work as teachers this conference inspired me.

As I reflect upon the wealth of ideas shared in NYC, I noticed that tonight the tree was lit at Rockefeller Center in NYC. It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago (where did the time go?) the scaffolds were surrounding this huge tree in preparation for the holiday lights. This year the tree reminds me to dream big and start small. I never imagined the shear mass of the tree before standing at the base of it with RCWP friends. I realize that sometimes teaching can be like that big tree. You can take the metaphor in different ways, but quite simply, I can’t imagine decorating that tree. I can however, imagine that to work on it you’d have to work one bulb at a time. So, just as there are many aspects to our work as teachers, we can address them one step, conversation, student, at a time. We dream big and imagine that beautifully lit tree, but start small, one bulb at a time.

From great sessions on digital writing, preparing for testing, starting a writing center, to reading policy, etc. (for details to sessions visit the RCWP wiki) we also had a great opportunity to learn and reflect on ideas with others at the NWP social. Meeting up with RCWP TCs was great. We walked by “The Late Show” to rodents of unusual size and Broadway show workers who were on strike, all on the way to our fabulous soup dinner. Yum.

I loved NWP and NYC. I was however, surprised that despite the advertising overload of Times Square, which makes the city feel like a constant buzz, I actually found it a bit difficult to gain internet access without paying quite a bit. So, if anyone knows the wi-fi tips for big cities, I am in need of some good tips.

Thanks for a great time.


Book Club Suggestions

After reading and discussing several provocative books this year, the RCWP Book Club is looking for book suggestions for our 2008-09 season. We're interested in everybody's recommendations and hope to maximize our input by utilizing this blog. Whether it's a book you've been wanting to read, a book you have read and would like to discuss, or a book you recently encountered in the latest catalog, we want to know about it!

Please add your recommendations by simply clicking on the "Comments" link below.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another funny photo

Like the Rodents of unusual size, this lovely lady surprised a few of us at Brazil, Brazil. She was showing the proper way to flush (in Brazil, I guess). In case you can't see Step 4, it says "Praise each toe for a job well done. Call the big toe, Chubs." I have no explanation for this. Pure silliness, I'd say.

"Rodents of unusual size? I don't think they exist..."

Name the movie that quote comes from (well, maybe it's only an approximation of the original quote) and win a remarkable prize! Here's another possible writing prompt. I saw more than one of these giant critters while wandering the streets of NYC. And I thought hitting deer sucked...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Enjoy our podcast from La Bonne Soupe in New York City!

Monday, November 19, 2007

For all you young revolutionaries in training, an evening with Jonathan Kozol

I would hate to be confused with those of you who habitually stalk innocent authors and activists or whatever, but I was able to find a front row seat at this event Thursday evening in front of Jonathan Kozol's name plate...and snuck a picture before security dragged me away kicking and screaming... Okay, I made that last part up. And that's Kathleen Blake Yancey hiding behind those flowers too. I also came away from the convention with an autographed copy of Letters to a Young Teacher. To date, the highlights of my own quiet protest to NCLB mandates have been to encourage a seasoned teacher, who was informed that after 30-some years in the classroom that he was not highly qualified, that he really ought to chain himself to his desk or something. "Come on, man," I told him, "You're from the sixties. All us young(er) teachers need some role models." Well, he didn't do it, as I'm sure you've noticed because you would have seen it in the news, but I still held out hope until the whole thing was worked out pretty much peacefully (if you consider the demoralizing of a master teacher peaceful). Anyway, the speech was as incredible as anyone who's ever read any of Jonathan Kozol's work might imagine. Thanks for the ticket, Liz!!!!

A Writing Prompt (or two) for You!

Since most shows on Broadway were shut down due to the strike, we had to find other ways of entertaining ourselves after the NWP sessions. I posted my formal NWP in NYC summaries and thoughts on our Wikispace, so I thought I'd provide a couple of images here for you as writing prompts. Consider this your Sacred Writing Time. Let these photos take you wherever you'd like to go- poetry, song, work of fiction... :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Music to my ears

This is what I love about NWP - and this is what makes the NWP conference unlike other conferences. Each of the two break-out sessions I attended on Friday either began or ended with a spontaneous guitar solo by one of the participants. In addition to the performances, the one session also utilized a pretty impressive variety of different technologies for multiple purposes. The presenter used a laptop and LCD projector to display his PowerPoint and his students' blogs. He asked two participants to use digital cameras to videotape portions of the session to represent their own personal points of view. Participants took notes on laptops and took pictures with their own cameras. Participants also multitasked using cell phones to take pictures and send texts during the session.

In that case we were definitely plugged in, HOWEVER, our work over the last few days has also reminded me that the value of technology and twenty-first century multimodal literacies in English classrooms is still being held up for debate. In more than one session a few colleagues seemed to ask, "Is technology worth the trouble?" Through our work at RCWP I (perhaps 'we') have become so emersed in reading/thinking/talking about technology in writing instruction that the connection seems obvious. It is not so obvious to many teachers. In a few different sessions I was really challenged to articulate arguments for integrating technology - not just for the sake of using 'cool' technology - but in strategic and responsible ways that advance multiliteracies relevant to students' lives in and out of the classroom. Consequently, I have been reminded of the role NWP sites can and should play in advancing teachers' understandings of multiliteracies - and more than ever I see that RCWP is doing important things in technology leadership and has an important role to play within NWP.

Jim Burke Sighting

I'd like to send a shout-out to our comrade, Andrea Zellner, who is home preparing to give birth to twins. Andrea, this pic is for you, my fellow Burke groupie. At this particular moment we were sitting in the hotel lobby resting our feet when Jim Burke entered the gift shop. I snuck a quick - blurry- photo as he walked by. I would only risk this humiliation for you, Andrea.

(It's him, I swear. Eade and Nobis can back me up on this.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Photos from the NYC Writing Marathon

(left) Aram (aka. Mr. K.) plays chess with Carol at Washington Park…where Searching For Bobby Fisher was filmed.

(right) Our group wrote at Washington Park in the empty fountain.

Saturday in NYC

Well, we are nearing midnight on Saturday and this is the first time that Aram and I have found a reliable and affordable internet connection at a Food Emporium. There is clearly too much to write about and try to get it in all tonight, but there are a few things that I think are worth noting about the past few days.

First, I have noticed, especially in NWP circles, that the conversations about tech and writing no longer require any bit of a prefacing about why and how we should even think about using technology. It is simply an assumed part of the conversation. Contrast that with two years ago in Pittsburgh or a few years back in San Francisco, and I think that our field has come a long way in a short time. From the looks of the NCTE program, the argument about why tech is important still needs to preface the main ideas of the presentation (as evidenced in one session I attended today), but I think that the change is now fully underway.

Which leads to point two. In a small group conversation I had with other Lead Tech Sites teacher consultants today, we developed a central question from our lengthy discussion (which I hope to post as a podcast later) and it cuts to the heart of the matter:

Within the context of new state requirements for teachers and students to use technology in the service of literacy, how can writing project sites affect school policy and infrastructure that continue to block internet sites and applications as well as other opportunities to compose in digital environments.

Well, the store is closing, so that is all I can post for now. More when I get another reliable connection. Safe travels to all who are heading home today and tomorrow.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Let's put our heads together

Picture a Writing Center on the banks of the Red Cedar...in the year 2020. Teacher-leaders come and go in a seamless stream of transition due to the mentoring program started shortly after the turn of the century. Long gone are the days when "transition" meant uncertainty. Picture 25 programs for all ages on all eight days of the week all working together like a row of Radio City Rockettes. You may say "how," but hesitate to say "never" when you are in the Times Square Twilight Zone.

Today's Site Leadership session started me thinking. We need to do some thinking about the future. Our baby (RCWP) will be all grown up and needing therapy in 2020 if we don't take steps now to develop a long-range plan for her...a vision, dare I say, of how things may be when we are reading about our baby in the news from Burcham Retirement Home.

Would people be willing to take a day or dare I suggest a weekend (dare, dare) to do a visioning retreat? If we sat down and looked at how our baby is put together (can I leave this analogy, please?), we could put together an organizational structure that allowed for continuity and increased depth/strength over the years. Other sites have some good ideas on this topic and I bet we could fashion some pretty awesome plans.

Who's with me? (Don't leave me hangin' like Bluto in Animal House here people).

"Everybody's brother,"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NYC, Here We Come

Well, it's that time of year again.

Our dormant blog will light up over the next few days with posts from the 2007 NWP Annual Meeting and NCTE Convention. Here, we show our enthusiastic smiles as we wait in the Lansing Airport.

Melissa and Jill just arrived, too, so perhaps we will get ambitious and record a podcast before our flight leaves. If not, there is some time in Detroit to catch up, although they don't have free wifi (yeah, Capital City Airport!) so don't expect to hear it until much, much later.

We hope that everyone else traveling tonight and tomorrow has a safe trip and we look forward to seeing you under the lights of Broadway.

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