Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Teachers Tackle Their Own Summer Project
I recently had the pleasure of joining an online conversation with several teachers participating in a summer institute of the New York City Writing Project. Paul Allison and Shantanu Saha facilitated the 12-day NYC institute in which teachers were offered that all-too-rare opportunity: to be learners themselves.
By the time I caught up with them for a Skype conversation on Teachers Teaching Teachers, these teachers had spent several intense days learning alongside colleagues, exploring the potential of Web 2.0 tools to enhance writing instruction. Many work in New York's new, small high schools, designed to better engage diverse learners. One teacher, for instance, described his students as "overage and under-credited." Others teach in schools where the focus ranges from American studies to engineering to the construction trades.
What did teachers take away from the institute? One participant said the experience had caused him to rethink what "projects" are all about. Before taking part in the institute, he considered projects to be something that happened only at the end of a unit. Now, as a result of his own learning, he was getting hip to the idea that projects can be--and maybe should be--the centerpiece of instruction. Another had some fresh ideas for bringing graphic novels into literature studies, but worried that his request for a class set of Watchmen would never be approved by the more tradition-bound folks who oversee budget requests. I'm rooting for him--and for his students.
Thanks to Paul Allison for inviting me into this conversation, and a hat tip to all of the National Writing Project participants who dove into similarly challenging learning experiences this summer. What new ideas will you bring into your classroom this fall?