Margin Notes

Welcome to Writing Workshop #CyberPD

Jul
09

I am a week behind with my first #CyberPD post, so here I am reflecting on Week 1 in Welcome to Writing WorkshopWeek 2…

In the first 3 chapters of Welcome to Writing Workshop, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman introduce readers to the structure of writing workshop and the conditions that make it successful for all writers, including the teacher. These chapters focused on the community- and identity-building aspects of writing workshop. Here are some of the quotes I captured in my notebook while I was reading:

  • “It’s our belief that every student can write—even the ones who have stopped believing in themselves as writers. All students have stories to tell. All students have opinions. We take what children come to us with and help them shape what’s inside of them into writing on the page.”
  • The structure for writing workshop is simple: it is student-centered and based on the belief that students become successful writers when they write frequently for extended periods of time, and on topics of their choice.”
  • “The focus in writing workshop is entirely on the writer. We help writers develop the skills, strategies, and craft that will sustain them across multiple pieces of writing in various genres.”
  • “Establishing a writing workshop begins with the work we do to help our students feel safe and secure. We create a social environment where students can share their struggles with others and benefit from listening in to acquire the problem-solving methods of their peers.”
  • “Building a writing community starts in September, but sustaining a writing community is a year-long effort. It starts with the teacher and important, achievable goals: to build and sustain a classroom writing community that fosters trust among students and to clearly establish shared values about good writing, the work that writers do, and respect for others’ work.”
  • “A teacher participates as a member of the writing community by writing, often modeling during minilessons, writing in her writer’s notebook and referring to it often, and sharing examples of the kinds of writing she does outside the classroom. When you share parts of a letter you are going to send a friend, a card you created for a birthday, or a post on your blog, you are lifting the level of writing workshop by becoming another writer within the community.”

 

Being the Change Week 3

Jul
16

This is the third week of #CyberPD and the focus is on Chapters 5 and 6 of Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.  You can read my previous #CyberPD reflections here and here.

Chapter 5 is about Finding Humanity in Ourselves and Others.  We are reminded that it is critical to recognize that “the social constructs under which we live can lead us to classify, label with symbols, and eventually dehumanize individuals and groups (p. 101).”  Sara suggests two important steps to counteract the resultant othering:

  • We fight these destructive forces by finding and examining our humanity first.
  • While we are working to build kids’ capacity for empathy, we can honor how they see the world.

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Being the Change Week 2

Jul
09

This is Week 2 of #CyberPD and we are reading and sharing our thinking about Chapters 3 and 4 of Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.  You can read last week’s post here.

Chapter 3 focuses on Being Candid and we are reminded that “candor requires a self-awareness and sincerity that isn’t always easy and doesn’t always feel good in the moment (p. 42).”  As in the previous chapters, the lessons, Seeing Our Own Bias, Understanding Microaggressions, and Refusing to Let Others’ Biases Define Us, set the stage for honest dialogue and reflection.  Because this can be emotional and challenging work, Sara offers strategies from her own experiences:

  • Share personal stories.
  • Pause and be present.
  • Honor each student’s identity.
  • Unpack terms in context.
  • Try this work yourself first.

I’ve been reflecting on the inquiry-based nature of this work.  When we start with the lived experiences of participants, both teacher and students, we are able to identify, name, and understand our experiences as a community of learners.  When Sara begins a lesson by asking, “Has anyone heard or seen this word before?” she is sending the message that the audience has important ideas to share and that she values their contributions to the learning.  This is a small but powerful shift away from centering the voice of an “expert” in the dialogue by defining the term for the group. (more…)

Being the Change

Jul
04

This summer I am participating in #CyberPD, a community of learners who are gathering virtually to read Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.  Many thanks to Cathy Mere (@CathyMere) and Michelle Nero (@litlearningzone) for organizing this learning opportunity.

In the Introduction to Being the Change, Sara Ahmed provides this context:

“This book is based on the idea that we can develop skills and habits to help us comprehend social issues and participate in relevant, transparent conversations.  Social comprehension, like academic comprehension, is how we make meaning from and mediate our relationship with the world.  We understand that the meaning making, or socialization, is learned, not inherited (p. xxv).”

She offers a few guiding principles for creating safe spaces where this kind of work can happen:

  • Do the Work Yourself First—and Often
  • Keep the Focus on the Kids, Not on You
  • Consider How You See Your Kids
  • Be OK with Silence and Discomfort (aka, Don’t “Save” Every Moment)
  • Decenter Your Normal
  • Enter with Humility
  • Remember that Progress Takes Time Effort, and Heart Work

I’ve been reflecting on these guiding principles and identifying the ones that come easily to me versus those that require more intention. Many of these principles challenge me to be more aware of the language I use and recognize that my language derives from the lens through which I see the world.  Does my language reveal my inherent biases and beliefs? Am I unintentionally centering my world view and marginalizing those whose experiences are different?

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