Saturday, September 15, 2007

where am I now?

We’re back together at the AI post-institute meeting and beginning it as is our usual custom—with Morning Pages. I wrote the prompt and am suddenly realizing that I’ve broken more of the rules than I normally do. For one thing, I did the bad-teacher thing and asked everyone else to create a timeline without creating one for myself.

I guess that’s not completely true. I wrote a ridiculously ambitious one for my sabbatical proposal, and according to that, I should be finished with a draft of my book by the end of the semester. Cue hysterical laughter here.

Let’s just say I probably won’t get quite that far. In terms of where I am right now, I have been writing a good bit, but not much of it is fit for human consumption at this point. In fact, I’m a little adrift (See what I mean? Even as I write this, I’m wondering, is it okay to admit this in a public forum?). Or, more generously, I could say I’m still exploring. I’ve been reading very widely (and am amazed by the echoes I see that reflect back to this project—to interconnectedness and cultural change, for instance) and writing lots of questions and lists of topics/issues to think about later. Now later is here. And as for keeping up with blogging…well, you can look at the date between my last entry and this one and figure that out for yourself.

One new development that I’m very excited about, though, is that I’ll be starting a new book club in Beth Lewis’s classroom in a couple of weeks. Beth works in an alternative school and has pretty free rein with the curriculum, so we’re currently contemplating books that are “edgy contemporary.” To give you an idea, we’ve been tossing around titles like My Heartbeat and Rule of the Bone, and since our last meeting, I’ve thought about Perks of Being a Wallflower, Imani All Mine, and Chanda’s Secrets.

So what do I need to move forward? I need to begin reading texts that are more focused on this topic directly. For instance, I want to see what others have to say about how we use stories to make sense of our lives, how entering storied worlds can lead us back out into our own worlds and help us understand them in a more expansive way. I also want to get back to the search on civil discourse that I began last spring. I also need to talk with Rebecca and Cam to get a sense of their timelines for book clubs in their classes this year. Rebecca and I wrote a rough outline for our NCTE session this summer, and I think it would be a good way to focus our work. Finally, I want to get back here more. Writing has also been a way that I make sense of what I’m learning, and that brings me to my next point.

Here’s how the Inquiry Group can help today. When I told Beth that I still felt very exploratory in my thinking, she reminded me why this project is actually important to her as a teacher. I want to figure out what it can teach me as well:

Why do I feel deep in my bones that this is what I want to know right now—how to make a difference in our world through the “mere” act of literacy? Can we talk about why this project might have some social significance to you as a teacher and to others?


Rebecca said...

I would echo Beth's sentiment that the exploratory nature of your project (and the fact that I am a Cindy groupie) is the reason I signed up.

For me, I became a teacher because I wanted to do for others what my teachers did for me: help give me an understanding of my place in the world and lead me to believe that the world is ultimately a good place where people can make a difference. Literature is the perfect vehicle for this type of discussion. It allows us to imagine the possible and explore the unknown all at once. Literature also provides us with a safe place to reflect on our own views and experiences in the world. I'm biased, but I don't believe any other disapline allows students to do this.

Personally, exploring the idea of literature as a way to help students interact in the world allows me to believe that what I do matters and makes a difference. I'm not just teaching them vocab for the SAT or grammar rules for CSAP, but teaching them something that they will be able to carry with them out into that mysterious place we call the "real" world.

Natalie said...

Hmmm, I'm not quite sure how to answer your question. For me, as a teacher, the most beneficial thing I've done is self-reflection on the process. But then I'm a very process-oriented person. Perhaps outlining the process in writing and breaking it into components would be helpful. First outlining what has really happened - and then outlining like you're just starting, you know, the "ideal" process that we only know from 20/20 hindsight.