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?


Chris Lehmann said...

Tell Shant that I said hi! Back in the 90s, there was a wonderful group of educators all affiliated with the New York City Alternative Superintendency. Shantanu was a big part of that group! What a great summer project for you!

JFHEARD said...

I loved reading your blog! It is interesting that, as teachers, we have so much to learn from the internet and how we can instruct, and lead, our students to new heights of learning. I have just come from an FCS conference in Dallas, and I am so disappointed with the quality of the out sessions that were suppose to provide us with new ideas to work into our never-ending lesson plans for fall. Between scheduling the most popular sessions at the end of the conference - at the end of the day, to HAND OUTS with websites that are suppose to enhance our knowledge, I was totally appalled with the knowledge of our presenters and the lack of technology savvy teachers that are teaching in our system today. I am not the most techno-literate teacher, however, I take classes and incorporate technology where I can find an opportunity. If I am lacking in the knowledge in a certain situation, I just simply ask my students to teach me! What a new concept! Empowerment for the students! Could that possibly lead to a new self-esteem or feelings of self-worth, accomplishment?? Imagine the conversation in carpool going home - "Guess what, mom, I helped my teacher today!" or a teacher/student relationship builder - "Wow, Johnny, you were an incredible help to me today, I could not have done it without you! Thanks for listening to me. I incorporate "photo story" and menu planning into my lessons during the year. I don't just leave projects until the end of the year. I even let the students create their own projects by asking questions and allowing them to seek their own answers on the internet! Another new concept! Teacher and students learning together! I am very happy to be a facilitator! As a teacher, I would be useless to my students if I did not learn something new every day! Have a great year of teaching!