In the school where I taught, it was a strong part of our mission that everyone gave back to the community as much as possible. This shared value is with me in my University work and I cherish this work.
Professional Development for Local Schools:
When I first arrived to Syracuse, schools often wrote to the University seeking professional development on best practices for teaching writing. Some are specific to particular methods, such as the Collins writing method or 6+1 Traits. With fellow graduate students or as solo projects, bringing professional development on writing into local schools has brought many leadership roles: Collins Writing. I’ve often been fortunate to work with school districts, both public and private, on establishing CFGs (Critical Friends Groups) for building writing instruction, as well. Whether a one-day session or a year-long effort, the PD I’ve been able to provide has been very well received: Sample PD.
African American Read-In:
Dr. Marcelle Haddix placed an all-call to Faculty and Graduate Students in my department to participate in the 2009 African American Read In at Levy K-8 School in Syracuse on Tuesday, February 24. This event was sponsored by the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Black Caucus of NCTE and endorsed by the International Reading Association. The goal of this event was to make the celebration of African American literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities. Each year, schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the African American Read In, and I was excited to volunteer.
Hosting a Read-In can be as simple as bringing together friends to share a book, or as elaborate as arranging public readings and media presentations that feature professional African American writers. Our department adopted Levy K-8 School as the site for our Read In. For more information about the African American Read In: http://ncte.org/action/aari .
I put together a medley of African American poets and went to the school ready to play my part. I wasn’t prepared for over sixty students and my nerves went haywire (as one girls said, “You sure did sweat!”. I worked with the students for a half hour and then asked them to give me the words they have for their dreams. I took their words and wrote a quick “found” poem. I sent it to their class and the students sent me many thank you notes. It was a great day! (Gettin’ Heavy, Levy; A Poem to Celebrate Us All!)
Writing Group – CFG:
A big part of my Kentucky life was as a coach with a Critical Friends Group (About CFGs). For ten years, I had numerous opportunities to professionally work with other professionals to discuss our teaching practice, our concerns, and our hopes with one another. Our team of supporting teachers operated on a mission that together we could grow much stronger than if alone.
In the Spring of ’09, a school district contacted me and wondered if I could run a series of sessions on teaching writing. Because they were a k – 12 school, I asked if it might be better to put together a leadership team of 12 individuals to form a CFG on Writing Instruction. That is exactly what we did.
Sessions began with the use of a “dilemma protocol” where teachers from all grade levels and content areas wrote about the trouble they have with writing instruction. The collection was compiled into a larger dilemma of how their district can begin tackling the writing tasks necessary for the 21st Century. From the compiled list, the team stated goals, including the design of a k – 12 writing policy, for our meetings.
My job as a coach is to lead discussions and work with them on THEIR concerns. Our three hour sessions have been very educational and given me more direction of where I think I need to go with my own academic work (Writing CFG Session II)
On February 16, 2009, I presented to Graduate Students who are a part of the Student Organization of Literacy Educators and Researchers (SOLER) on the possibilities of using Web Logs (Blogs) as a place for us to professionally share our work. The conversation was parallel to the work I did for Dr. Rachel Brown’s class on blogging, but it was also a time for my peer group to think about how they might wish to use their own Blog to highlight their interests.