Now What?

So what now? The Eastern Michigan Writing Project summer institute comes to an end on Friday. By lunch time today, our ePortfolios will be completed. Tomorrow we celebrate our accomplishments during the institute with administrators from our districts over lunch. On Friday we pack up our space at the Student Center on the campus of Eastern Michigan University, where we have lived as a learning and writing community for the last 5 weeks. Then we will head to a local pub to share our writing and how we have evolved as Teacher-Writers, Teacher-ConsultantsTeacher-Researchers, and friends. I predict that there will be much hugging, blubbering, and loud laughing. Actually, I started the waterworks last week. It isn't that I mourn the end of the institute because there is no way I could maintain the level of intense learning for too much longer.  My tearing up is more about catharsis. I was carrying around more baggage about myself as a learner and a professional than I ever realized. I will also miss seeing my friends' faces and hearing their laughter and stories everyday. The summer institute opened me up to new possibilities that fed my brain and my teacher soul and will be able to help sustain me professionally and personally for many years to come. I'm not ready to quit teaching yet. I wouldn't have said that a month ago.


As part of my demonstration lesson on "Hand" Writing last Thursday, I asked the observing teachers at the EMWP Summer Institute to fill out a reflection chart based on a draft of their own "hand" writing that they had produced during the session. They were asked to write their favorite sentence, phrase, and word from their draft and also a possible title for their piece on the chart. I wanted to experiment with ways to create poetry with their "hand" writing snippets. I printed their words from the charts onto business cards. Then I attached the printed business cards onto adhesive backed business card magnets. The words, phrases, and stanzas were cut apart and placed on a large magnetic white board. Then I began to play with the arrangement and spacing of the words. My thought was that it would be an interesting way to show revision as the adding, taking away, or rearranging of text. I'm also thinking about how I might use this process to poem-ify content area texts. I plan on sharing this idea with my colleagues at EMWP on Monday.

Writing In My Head

Images collected from the
Writing Marathon.
I'm trying to process why the EMWP Writing Marathon on Friday won't leave my brain. Why was it so powerful? At each stop along our journey, my course was the same: walking, looking, snapping pictures, then writing. I didn't write a tremendous amount. I had lists, paragraphs, thoughts, words, and noticings. After trekking across Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, my group met our other EMWP compatriots for food and sharing at a local pub. At that point I became aware of my mental and physical fatigue. After all, I had just finished a marathon, right? As I ate, I was aware of the layers of conversation around me and felt comfortable just listening. I was struck by how the intensity of the experience had bonded us together as a community. When the group gathered to share a piece of their writing from the day, I listened. I didn't share anything, which is unusual for me. I kept thinking about writer's workshop in classrooms I've worked in and remembering those kids who chose not to share. But why didn't I share? I could blame it on tiredness, which was authentic, but there was something else. Was that something else the same feeling that kids experience when they don't want to share? I learned much about myself on Friday. One clear insight was the amount of writing I do in my head before I put words on   paper--much more than I ever realized.

Field Trip!

The first day of the EMWP summer institute felt right. My brain was exhausted and my heart inspired. Today we will be writing all day around the immediate area of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. I have my teacher-writer bag packed with essentials: mechanical pencils, pens, paper, sticky notes, writer's notebook, iPad, digital camera, Clif Bars, and coffee money. I'm also bringing along Carl Anderson, Peter Johnston, and Jeff Anderson--not the actual people, but wouldn't that be amazing? I'm bringing, How's it Going?, Choice Words, and Mechanically Inclined. Partly because they aren't terribly heavy and partly because as I was building my demonstration lesson, I noticed the heavy influence of these teacher-writers on my own thinking and teaching. During this day of writing, I plan to spend time reading, reflecting, and writing to find the connections between their work and my work. I feel goofy like a 3rd grader all geeked-up for a school field trip.

Demonstration Lesson Worries

This Thursday marks the first day of the Eastern Michigan Writing Project Summer Institute 2013. Since I present my demonstration lesson on June 27th, I've been spending many hours. building and revising my lesson. Even though I have presented in front of teachers countless times, this feels different. Most of my presenting has been with elementary teachers. Looking through the participant list, the institute teachers and facilitators are primarily middle school, high school, and college. There are only three other people, other than me that teach in elementary. And of those three, only two focus on lower elementary grades.  I'm not sure if any of the participants are special educators either. Being a speech therapist, I am a complete oddball. I am finding it hard to put myself in the shoes of my audience. The lesson that I am drawing my demonstration from was taught to K-2 children with speech and language impairments. I have no guess as to how my audience will respond. Will they be able to relate to my students or what it takes to support kids with writing at this age?

Going with Weebly

Audience and purpose. Audience and purpose. Audience and purpose. As I repeat those words in my head, I continue to wrestle with my demonstration lesson for EMWP. And I volunteered to present during the first week of class! Deadline, audience and purpose--and form, oh, geez, form. My EMWP group is not primarily elementary teachers (audience). These professionals come from KG through college (more audience). I need a way for this diverse group to see and hear my students--to hear what I hear when I teach. I am concerned that middle school, high school, and college level teachers may have difficulty visualizing how very young writers, writers with speech and language difficulties, navigate the writing process (audience and purpose). I also want to create a demonstration lesson presentation that is meaningful and useful for me (more purpose). I decided to go digital and create a Weebly site to house all of my information, references, audio clips, and photographs of student artifacts (form). I considered creating a PowerPoint and also played with Movie Maker and may include these pieces on the Weebly site as I continue my learning throughout this experience.

Screen shot of my Weebly site. Still in process but has to be ready soon!

Putting the Pieces Together

School was over last Friday. I am proud that I survived--barely. As I wrapped up my year with a flourish of IEP's and Medicaid billing, I also worked at creating and implementing a lesson that I could use as the required demonstration lesson for the Eastern Michigan Writing Project summer institute. With three weeks left in the school year, panic set in. What was I thinking? I was no longer a coach and I wasn't working in classrooms during writing workshop. I talked to a colleague who was more than willing to allow me to visit her class to teach some lessons, but I would have to cancel or reschedule my speech students. I might have been able to justify it if I had speech students in her classroom, but I didn't. For me to cancel students with IEP's to work with other children would be inappropriate and unprofessional. Rescheduling would have been a nightmare. Also, I knew I wanted to use bits and pieces of a previous lesson using "hands" as a topic for writing but my thinking about it was all over the place.  I had to find another way. I decided to teach the lessons to several speech and language impaired students on my caseload.  I'm not sure why I didn't think of it sooner.  The goals of the lesson matched nicely with many of my students' IEP objectives. One of the primary reasons I wanted to be a literacy coach was to assist children with language learning challenges to be successful in their classrooms. I wanted to study the oral language-reading-writing connection in the classroom rather than a therapy room. Now that I am back in speech, I have this opportunity to use my experiences with reading and writing workshops and my passion for literacy and apply that learning to how I provided speech and language therapy. It makes my brain both wired and tired trying to put the pieces together.
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