A space to reflect on my readings and musings, scattered and rescattered


Beware the Blogger-Bots & the Tum Tum Tree...

So I was just sitting here thinking I should post something new to my blog. But I couldn't figure out what. Then, I remembered my beautiful 12th grade students who modeled the kind of writing I recommended all week. That is, they modeled the kind of writing you just do, the kind that happens when you put hands to keyboard and just write. Everyone asked, "So really, I can write about whatever I want? Okay. [Moment of breath] But why? Why are we doing this?" My response is to keep explaining (read preaching) that blogging is like going to gym and lifting weights. It works those writing muscles. A dorky, imperfect metaphor, I know, but a useful one.

So here's what happens when I write about my day...

Today was an interesting day. We did college prep work and lots of students made up work from days/weeks/projects they'd missed. I was struck by how little work I was grading students on for the second Marking Period. It feels like the weeks flew by and I'm wondering how we can accomplish more in our time together for the next 6 weeks. Now that a good chunk of the college applications are out of the way, I'm hoping we'll be able to pull of more research and writing.

One of the things that sticks out in my mind about today is the number of lost passwords (and usernames...) and frustration over blocked accounts. I'm learning that the teacherly instructions, "Write however you want, in whatever style you want. Just write." have ramifications beyond this liberal, linguistically-minded teacher's intentions. I just wanted to see thinking typed on the screen. And in the process I wanted to start building a writing community. The blogs did get many of us writing as a community more and, I think, reduced some of the stress and constriction of the blank page. Pretty cool. But "Write whatever style/language" got a more than a couple of accounts blocked by the ever-watchful blogger-bots. Oh, little robots we mean no harm. Cuz we writ3 161 [knowledge] of Lyfe? Come on blogger-bots, lighten up. Sheesh. Just cuz we spell with numbers and do in non-traditionally! I thought that's what blogs were for--a place to "represent" or doodle however you want. And then publish it. Guess there are limitations.

Thankfully we figured out how to get those accounts "reviewed" so that we didn't have to start over like we feared. Still, a lot of frustrated people. I'm kinda okay with that though. 'Cause we learn through it. Who knew there were blogger-bots? Okay, so a lot of my readers knew that. No jokes out how I should not be enrolled in a grad school program with technology in the title. No laughing. We learned together. And I wouldn't have asked them to write in Standard English, even knowing what I now know. I think a break from it does a writer good. We'll save the "proper" stuff for the "proper" place. Don't get me wrong, there is a "proper" place for formal discourse, and I want students to learn it, I'm just pretty sure it's not on here. I mean, I was getting ready to post a photo of my new hair style...until I realized I have big bags under my eyes and I don't want to snap my photo! LOL

Nite and happy early Thanksgiving. I, for one, can't wait for the pumpkin pie.



Rethinking Classroom Learning

People keep finding this video I made with a friend on media and education. Thought it was time to make it public for those who don't actually stalk me on Google like my Grandma does. This video shares the spirit of a video I have linked to before called A Vision of Students Today. Ours didn't get as many hits. Sorry, Brian...we're only up to 89 views on YouTube. Today I'm thinking deeply about how education should look in today's society and wanted to share this out, because it holds many of my thoughts on learning and literacy in the 21st Century.

Also, I just reread this important quotation and wanted to reflect on it again:
"Today's [student] is bewildered when [s]he enters the 19th century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment where information is scarce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns subjects, and schedules." --Marshall McLuhan

I'm doing my best to make my classroom into a place where "real" learning happens but the structures I have to work within make this a daily, minute-by-minute challenge. How do we make learning relevant yet live within the structures of schooling we're currently stuck with?

Dissertation Station

Sometimes I like to blog my intentions publicly. Usually, that's a bad idea 'cause it kicks me in the pah-tooty. But alas, today my hope is to get the writing juices flowing by posting my hopes on here. I'm headed out the door to work on my dissertation proposal at a coffee shop until time for dinner at home with the roomie! That gives me roughly 4 hours to work and even leaves an hour to go shoe shopping at the store I'll inevitably have to stop by on my way to the coffee shop.

Woo Hoo. I'm kinda excited. I sat with MonMon (she hates that I call her that) last night and told her exactly how my dissertation was gonna to be structured and gonna take shape. She threatened to make me start using my digital voice recorder because she argued that I'd articulated everything I needed to articulate in order to get the puppy done. And yet none of the (supposedly complete and good) thoughts were on paper. A writing center sin I was told. In addition to her encouragement, I feel pretty deeply like my research questions are clear and solid in a way they haven't ever been before and the project, for once, feels like something doable--something I can reasonably accomplish in a year (or maybe is possible?). Perhaps even despite my propensity for overcommitment.

Since I'm posting this now, I'm going to hold off on writing out those questions or the orchestration of this project, but this I will say: I have figured out how I want to study 21st Century writing and literacy and think I might just have something small to contribute to the awesome field of adolescent literacies. Plus, I've fallen in love with the idea of teacher research and believe that my small study will matter...because I'm pretty sure it will matter to me, my students, and the awesome literacy colleagues at my school. If it matters to a research community or teachers elsewhere, that's just gravy.

Several things got me excited yesterday: (1) Sitting with super-fun students (the few who are are waaaaay behind) all day helping them get started on their blogs; (2) one of my favorite teacher at our school asking if she can join our "blog network"; (3) yet another uplifting, supercharged, collaborative English department meeting where my colleagues and I reflected and shared our hopes, dreams, successes and challenges; and most importantly, (4) spending time catching up on students' dynamic, powerful, and diverse blogs. To be enveloped in such an extended and supportive learning community is a dream that's made its way into reality.


Writing Centers...ahem, Studios!

Just wanted to put a little shout out to the Writing Center crew on here. I have recently been reconnecting to one of my favorite groups of people...those writerly writing center people. They're my favorite sort of folk because, as a group, they manage to do smart, sophisticated scholarly things AND stay grounded in day-to-day realities. Praxis. Yep, I see 'em gettin' it. A new blog called AntiRacist Writing Centers has been added to my blog roll and seems like it's gonna be pretty rad. It was just one of the products of a recent trip to Vegas for the joint International Writing Center/National Peer Tutoring of Writing Conference. Good stuff.

The conference theme was "new directions." What struck me with the metaphor was that no matter how many times you turn, you still pretty much keep going forward (with the occasional backing up, of course). In my life that means that I'm continuing this writing center/peer education work in a new context. Teaching high school English doesn't keep me busy I thought I'd work on opening a Writing Studio in my school. So excited about that and so excited by our budding collaboration with the FIT Writing Studio. I'm pretty sure Brian nor I knew we'd end up at art and design schools. Well, maybe he did.

In Peace and Writing,


Subway Advisory: Obama Wins!!!

A friend emailed and asked what it was like to be in a blue state after an historic election such as this. She is a liberal Democrat living in a college town right at the border of Georgia and Alabama. She's sick of all the drawn faces she sees walking around her town, while I'm daily, gloriously, reminded of what this country just accomplished by the New Yorkers around me. The photo above summarizes this well--it's a subway information sign, being used by station workers as a note of celebration. People's open joy has encompassed the subway every day since the election, put smiles on people's facing walking down the street, provoked joyful commentary at concerts I've attended from performers are well as organizers, appropriate hoopla from responsive audiences at these events, and a plethora of conversations cataloging responses to the "Where Were You When they Called the Election?" question.

I was in Brooklyn at a friend's apartment, leaning my head out her 10 story window to hear young people hooting and hollering in the streets. A colleague recalls unspeakable energy and enthusiasm in Harlem--at 125th & Adam Clayton Powell--tears streaming down faces everywhere. I cried at that moment and have sobbed several times since (mostly when watching BarackTV or his press conference). Mostly, however, "where I was" that night is less significant in my memory than where I was the next day. At my school my 12th graders and I made collaborative signs that read, "On Nov. 5, 2008, I feel..." I was struck by entries such as "EQUAL," written in all capitals. Equality didn't happen over night and the realist in me knows that racism still exists, but, it is inspiring to see that we've gotten this far, to let the cynic in me die down a little. My own sense of purpose in the world and my own commitment political action and activism has been renewed and revived. Obama's election will, I hope, make us ask harder questions, seek deeper answers, and pull us together to rebuild brokenness bit by bit.


This Really Happened in America

I'm proud of my country at the moment. This really happened. We really elected a candidate for the people and for the world last night. We might still have some things to accomplish (read: Prop 8) but I'm pretty darn happy.

Being in a blue state right now is a pretty glorious thing. I am surrounded by mostly happy people. On Wednesday morning, people were quite literally walking around smiling on their way to work. The energy was contagious and heart-warming. I had to wonder, "What if we all felt like this every day?"

We were plenty happy enough to overcome would-be kill joys. Last night, I was on train with some stodgy, rigid Wall Street jug heads who were openly discussing their fears of the President-Elect. It was clear that the rest of us on the packed train were listening to them with a mixture of surprise and slight annoyance, wondering why they were on the train not riding around in their town cars. But it didn't even make a dent in our joy. It just brought it out more. I leaned over to the older lady next to me, who'd been sweetly eyeing me as I commented on student papers. I said, "Are there really Republicans on the train?" She giggled back and said, "Yeah, there is still work to do..." And then we spent the next 20 minutes enjoying each other, talking about that work, and talking about the young people who were telling us that they now felt that they could "Do anything in American because a black man had been elected president of America"



I have been really anxious for the last few days about the election. I've been feeling frustrated about the status of my absentee ballot. Feeling disenfranchised. Feeling foolish. Feeling like I wish there was more I could do...not just vote, but get voters out. My tiny little donation to MoveOn, just doesn't feel like enough.

But, alas, this morning when I woke up, the metaphorical birds were singing and I felt overjoyed. I was quite simply happy. And certainly for no other reason than that today is election day. I somehow have a good feeling. I have HOPE, which is something I don't have all that often in terms of the political process. Happy happy happy, joy joy joy. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I was walking down the street humming "I've got sunshi-i-ine on a cloudy day...when it's cold outside."

Then, when I stopped for a cup of coffee, the attendant and I were smiling, laughing and chit-chatting about how excited we were about Obama and just how hopeful we were. My coffee tasted extra good.

Peace & Hope, DJ


Meet the Parents

This post feels really unfinished, but I want to put it up anyway. I've been reflecting on how much our families influence us lately, especially given the election today and my differences with my family. We probably won't talk today, it's too uncomfortable. Only my grandparents will be voting for Obama. My parents and I can't even talk about politics anymore. It's just too painful, we're just too different and too invested and emotional about our own ideas.

Anyway...what I write about below was prompted when I met the grandparents of the little one below--the parents of a good friend of mine. The significance of "Meet(ing) the Parents" much more than a silly movie trick to promote awkward situations, it's actually pretty intense in real life and not just in dating relationships. Meeting someone's parents tells you a lot about them. It's always so interesting to me what I learn about my friends when I finally meet their families. When you're younger and you and your friends still live at home, it's so much more natural to get to know your friend's parents (at least it was for me). Meeting the parents was much more routine and seemed more like a part of life, than a source of precious information about my friends and what makes them tick. It was just ordinary. I didn't think about it much beyond, Oh, Jess's mom is "just like that" or Ben's dad "won't let him stay out late." The family dynamics were also visible, even if I wasn't openly reflecting on them. I was noticing. As we get older, things change, we build our own families and networks, and we are more detached from those original shaping influences.

Yet evidence of the influence of those original family networks is still visible. When I met my good friend's parents last week, I was overwhelmed by how much more I felt like I knew/understood about her. Her folks were hilarious and charming and politically engaged and interacting with one another in very overt, almost caricatured ways at times, relishing in their interactions with one another. The way her parents interacted with me was also very telling, especially alongside the Yiddish Zeyda (Grandpa) tee-shirt her dad was wearing as well as his role as nurturer and his pride in nurturing the little one.

These musings are also making me think of Open School night at UAMA, about how much I feel like I learned about my students in seeing them with their families and loved ones for a matter of moments. "Meet(ing) the Parents" is certainly complicated than a the Hollywood gimmick, but I'm left with few words that do sufficient justice to explain exactly what I learned, even though I know I learned a lot.


Viva Las Vegas!

This photo represents the best part of my trip to Sin City. I gambled a total of $9 and spent most of my time ooing and cooing and snuggling this beautiful 3 month old.

There was a fancy dinner involved here.

It's clear which one was the most spectacular.