Writing Instruction and the Power of Audience

I am a big fan of Tim Stahmer’s blog “Assorted Stuff“.  Tim’s writing never ceases to engage and entertain, and his insights often mirror and sharpen my own.

I also read Jay Mathews’ column for the Washington Post, called “Class Struggle“, although I disagree with Mathews at least as often as I agree with him.  Jay writes from a non-educator perspective that frequently ignores the issues and logistics of actually educating our young people.

Last week, Mathews wrote a piece of the prospect of computers scoring writing tests and the challenges that go along with this.  Tim’s response is a nice bit about the habit of some “reformers” in referencing the educational experiences of their own lives, despite being reluctant to present today’s students with the same opportunities.  Mathews discussed the improvement that occurred in his own writing when he received real feedback from others while writing for a newspaper.  Here’s my favorite part by Stahmer:

“Most students learning to write today have any number of places on the web to post their work (not just a privileged space on the site of a major newspaper), in a persistent format that is aggregated in search engines, and an international audience.

Shouldn’t we make available to all students the same learning opportunities that assisted Mathews?”

Doesn’t Tim make a fantastic point?  Isn’t the strength of publication all about the feedback that we receive from others, and doesn’t that improve with the size of our audience?

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc


Zen and the Art of Technology Use

Change can be a bumpy road, but the view from a new perspective is usually worth it.  My move to a new team and grade-level this year is one such example.  Learning a new curriculum has been challenging, and adjusting to younger students has taken some time and flexibility.

Flickr user Darren Hester
Flickr user Darren Hester

These hurdles are nothing compared to the fantastic benefits that I’ve gained from the new members of my teaching team.  Each has her own skills and brings a unique voice to the team dynamic.  The result is–I humbly believe–the strongest team in our school.  We have the drive and ability to reach every child in a variety of ways, and the students can find at least one personality that they can relate to, and develop a relationship with.  I’ve written in this space before about the importance of divergent voices to my development as an educator, but it’s more than that.  One of my teammates is an amazing writer and photographer.  She is more reflective about her practice than most educators that I know.  She has amazed me with her ability to articulate ideas and concepts, and I am constantly envious of her gift.

Recently, she sent me an email with this statement:

When I recently reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I was struck with how you and I both exemplify the contrasting ideologies of the “classical” vs. “romantic” when it comes to technology in education. You not only enjoy using technology, but you derive great purpose and satisfaction from using your problem-solving abilities to maintain the equipment. You strive to understand the inner workings of the computer. I, on the other hand, highly enjoy the user-friendly aspects of technology, but have no interest in fixing or understanding problems should they arise. I get easily frustrated and choose to rely on others to maintain the equipment.

The problem in education is that there is a building full of romantics. Even when training is provided, the majority of educators view technology maintenance as someone else’s job, and, unfortunately, there is really no one on the payroll with that job description. With no real in-house tech support, the pressure and expectations rest on the shoulders of the few “classical” educators who not only possess the ability but also the desire to work with the maintenance of out-dated computer systems and blissfully ignorant, “romantic” teachers.

Wow, huh?  Not only does she pull in a fantastic literary reference, but she manages to clearly and eloquently explain the frustration that I have felt all year due to my new tech trouble-shooting responsibilities.  It’s not just that she can understand what is going on, but the way in which she expresses it.

What do you think?  Do you see these two “classes” of educators in your space?


Shameless Self-Promotion

All three active readers of Scripted Spontaneity should realize that I am not in the habit of using this space to promote my other ventures.  This week, though, I am going to put my integrity aside to share a little link love.

As some of you already know, I am working with the K12 Teachers Alliance to create a new teacher website which will be launching in January called TeachHub.  To drum up some interest, they have started a new interactive blog here.  There are daily posts about education-related issues of particular interest to teachers, and polls to gauge the perspectives of its visitors.  It’s in a rough state right now, but I would be so grateful if you would meander on over and post a comment or two.  The author, who will be editing the new site, is seeking any and all feedback.

Thanks in advance to my wonderful network of professionals!

photo credit: flickr user wilmmulder