Friday, January 29, 2010

What keeps you busy...

Life at Wayfarer House is always busy. People are coming and going, playing and working, learning and sharing all the time here. We all have stuff we’re working on. Some of it is collaborative, some of it is individual, but all of it is important and valuable.

I have a fair share of irons in the proverbial fire right now, myself. Several are continuations of projects from last year’s list, but there are a few that are fairly new and in their beginning stages. Here’s a selective list:

I’m developing a joint service learning project on the Dominican Republic and Haiti. My second-year students do a unit on this part of the world (the French kids get Haiti; the Spanish kids get the DR) that is focused on exposing them to the daily life and experience of the people there. This year, I’m trying to tie it into a story they read about a girl who realizes just how much she has as an American, with the goal of getting them to examine what they have and think critically about what, if anything, they can do to help those less fortunate. This year, one of my colleagues has been reading Before We Were Free, by Julia Alvarez, with her class. We both thought it would be fantastic if we could collaborate on something that brought our disparate classes together to share what they’re learning and organize something to help those countries.

I’m writing new stories for my first-year language classes. For the last several years, I’ve been using books by Blaine Ray (of TPRS fame, for those of you who might know what that is) as a jumping off point to practice the language they’re studying. I use them because they’re essentially the same between both French and Spanish, which is important to me because it’s very helpful to have the same curriculum for both languages. Anyway, the stories irritate the bejeezus out of the kids. They complain incessantly about the subject matter of them, and have asked me repeatedly if they can work with something different. Last year, I got some of my Spanish students to write stories themselves but, although they were incredibly creative and well-written, they weren’t versatile enough for me to use in French classes. I’m incorporating some of their suggestions and, with their feedback, I’m writing 10 small chapters for next year’s language students to play with over the course of the year.

I’m doing background for a paper linking Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple learning styles and the Five Basic Needs proposed by William Glasser’s Choice Theory. Teachers often have impressions of their students that are bound in certain (often mistaken) assumptions about what they’re capable of doing. In some cases, teachers assume that students aren’t capable of learning. In others, they assume that students should already be able to do things when they arrive at the classroom. At least in part, teachers make these assumptions because they do not have a full picture of their students as individuals. They often know nothing about them except what we see in class, and they’re discouraged from trying to learn more about them because, in the view of many, it crosses an imagined boundary of professionalism. In trying to link these two thoughts together, I’m exploring how teachers might effectively learn about their students as people and, through that, make accurate determinations about what they can do so they can support them well in learning efficiently, effectively and effortlessly.

I’m planning a bike trip to the Northeast Kingdom. The Morrison Family Reunion (part of Wifeness’ family) is held every year, the second Sunday in August. This year, it’s taking place in northern Vermont, right on the Canadian border. It’s beautiful up there, and it presents a wonderful opportunity for me to do a long bike trip. I did 400 miles to Lock Haven, PA back in 2006 to pick up my Master’s degree, but I haven’t been able to put a trip together since. A trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia in ’08 (650 miles) got scrapped for financial reasons. This trip will be about 250 miles right up the middle of the Green Mountains--an exciting challenge! I expect it to be a 3-day trip, but I might challenge myself to do it in two.

I’m organizing and hosting a Magic: The Gathering® tournament for the kids at my school. There is a solid following for this game at my school. The idea for a tournament came from a discussion I was having with some of the upperclassmen in my world, who thought it would be cool if we had something at school for the students who were competitive in just that geeky sort of way. This is my gift to them. Twenty students signed up, and they’ve been working feverishly for the last month to design singleton decks that are creative and deadly. They’ll meet most Fridays in February and March for an hour to pit their deck making skills against those of their peers. The winner gets school merchandise.

I’m training for at least two tri events and a ½ marathon. One of the tri events I want to do is in late May, so I have some work to do to take off winter weight and get my fitness up to standard. It’s proving to be tough; I’m having a hard time getting into a regular training schedule right now. I’m struggling to be patient with the weather and the training process.

I’m blogging again. I’ve been getting messages from the universe that I need to reach out to the people in my world and start having discussions and getting feedback from them. Here is where I get to put ideas out for general consumption, so I’m willing myself to stay focused on the habit of writing every day. You’d think it’d be easier than it’s been. I mean, it’s not like I don’t have enough to write about!

What have you got going on?


Mrs. Chili said...

Welcome back.

The start of the new term is keeping me busy - or, rather, the END of the old one HAS been keeping me busy; now I'm turning my sights forward. There are a lot of things we're going to do differently, both in my classes and in the school as a whole. I'm hopeful.

I'm registering for professional development courses and putting together an application for a teaching fellowship at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for this summer (that's due in two weeks. YIKES!)

I'm trying to keep in touch with my family. You know; the people who live in my house? Yeah... them.

For as much as I don't seem to score dramatic achievements, I manage to stay on top of the pile (insert image of Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewy trying to not get squished in the garbage mashers here)

Laurie B said...

Hey, welcome back! I'd stopped checking in very often but always happy to be able to read your thinking.