It is autumn, and many ideas are falling through our minds like the multi-colored leaves beneath our feet. We are knee-deep in them, and we are worrying about lesson plans for the next day or week or semester, grades for the marking period, meetings with colleagues, extra duty assignments, and the curriculum itself. Now is the time to be dreaming and planning about next semester or next summer, not just counting the days to the next weekend or vacation. What I am suggesting that each of us do right now is go to links in this article, see what appeals to you, send for information or print out what you find to read during a faculty meeting, and check out the deadlines for application. I'll be honest, I have already done this, and I am highlighting selections and emailing for further information as soon as I finish this article. Why? I think that each of us has an obligation to ourselves to make time to research and plan our own professional development by doing what excites us and what will excite our students to learn. How does this connect to WAC/CAC? Directly or indirectly, each of the following suggestions will have an impact on your growth as a professional committed to communication across the curriculum. Let me introduce these possibilities with a caveat: This column only mentions a few of the many possibilities available to educators on the secondary level.
I have tried to organize these opportunities into either ongoing online and offline opportunities or summer workshops and travel opportunities. In the first category, I have to put in a pitch for ECAC-L, an ongoing discussion group based at Michigan Tech. Composed of educators at all teaching levels, this listserv is easy to join by typing the message "subscribe ecac-l" and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will hear more about summer work connected to this listserv in the summer workshop section of this column. Let me just mention that Michael Lancaster and Michael Lowry, both science teachers, joined me in the writing center last summer to carry on two-hour dialogues with participants on this listserv. It was exciting and truly educational for all of us to exchange ideas.
Another ongoing online activity is connected to Project Zero at Harvard University. By checking their Web site at http://wideworld.pz.harvard.edu, you can find their professional development interactive courses. These courses have been praised by many educators and focus on cross-curricular interactions while giving teachers practical applications for the work studied. There is further mention of Project Zero later in the column, also.
A unique opportunity and Web site that many educators outside New Jersey do not know about is Peter Murphy's Writing Winter Getaway. Focusing on all genres, the workshop described at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Atrium/9007 takes place each January on the weekend of the celebration of Martin Luther King Day. For years I have wanted to attend this workshop but have not been able to get there. Peter is an award-winning poet and teacher of creative writing at Atlantic City High School, so I recommend that you click on his name at the link and read his poetry, essays on teaching poetry to secondary school students, and online poetry writing lessons. If you can maneuver the Cape May Winter Getaway, I highly recommend the instructors of all genres, especially Peter, Penny Dugan, Madeline Tiger, and Mimi Schwartz. You won't be disappointed, and you will gather ideas for your own writing and the teaching of writing.
Also, an activity that teachers at any school may investigate is the formation of a Critical Friends Group. By going to the link at http://www.essentialschools.org/pubs/horace/13/v13n01.html, you can read the article "Networks and Essential Schools: How Trust Advances Learning" and get an idea of how these groups work. I attended my first meeting of our group last night. By definition, participation in a Critical Friends Group (CFG) is "a professional development process in which a group of six to twelve teachers (and sometimes administrators) from a school meet regularly, usually once a month, to share instructional practice, student work, and observations of classrooms." The CFG coach may come from within the school or be an external coach. All coaches are trained and endorsed by the National School Reform Faculty. During sessions, participants follow a protocol "to promote meaningful and efficient communication and learning." For instance, in our first session, we followed a Tuning Protocol that has set times for the introduction of a classroom practice, teacher presentation, clarifying questions, examination of the work, a pause to reflect on feedback, "Warm and Cool" feedback, reflection by the teacher-presenter, and a debrief. Especially in the first session, this protocol enabled all of us to focus on clear goals and responses that benefited everyone without teachers going off on their "in my class we . . ." digressions. One thing I did notice about the prepared materials is that they focus on many of the pedagogical foundations of WAC.
Once you have lined up some activities for the school year, you can begin what I call my "annual dream list." Sometimes it takes a few years to actually participate in some of the programs on your list, but it is worth the wait. There are many opportunities for summer programs that focus on areas you want to investigate. For instance, last summer Dickie Selfe offered a regional two-week ECAC workshop for teachers. He would also love to teach a national one either online or at Michigan Tech next summer. If you email him at email@example.com to let him know that you are interested in such a course, he may be able to get funding to offer it. The participants continue to share ideas on the ECAC-L listserv that I mentioned earlier in this article. This workshop is extremely valuable for all of us to experiment with new ways of improving learning across disciplines with technology.
Project Zero has its summer workshops at Harvard University. I know three people whose schools supported their attendance at a workshop, and all three have applied activities they experienced at the workshop to their own courses to improve student learning. Educational leaders and classroom teachers facilitate the Project Zero workshops that can also be found at their Web site http://wideworld.pz.harvard.edu.
Another outstanding source of study in the summer includes travel as well as a stipend. The NEH Summer Institutes and Seminars offer a variety of programs on just about any topic that fits in the category of humanities. Three summers ago I was selected for the seminar on the Pre-Raphaelites and Oscar Wilde in London. Two of my colleagues went to Greece and San Diego for theirs. Not only is the study exciting, but the collegial academic atmosphere encourages continued discussion and exchange of cross-curricular classroom ideas for years after the seminars. By the way, these courses are not limited to English and history teachers; one of my colleagues teaches science and the other, Latin. The people in my seminar also taught a variety of subjects; I think they like to have a diverse population for more in-depth discussion and study. The new list of offerings should be available any day at http://www.neh.gov/grants/guidelines.html. Deadline for application is March 1, but you need to allow yourself time to work on many drafts of the application before submitting a good, competitive one. Obviously, the more exotic seminars attract more applicants. An added bonus if you teach in New Jersey is an additional stipend from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Finally, some of us dream of taking time to actually sit down and write without interruption in a supportive environment with award-winning writers. Poets and Writers periodical offers a myriad of choices. Each year I send for brochures or go to the Web sites of workshops that I might be interested in taking. The year of my NEH grant I found an article in Poets and Writers written by a participant in the Spoleto Writers' Workshop and added that one to my list. I reexamined my list last fall and checked out the Web site for this workshop at http://www.spoletoarts.com/writers.htm. I emailed the director, C.J. Everett, to make sure this was not one of those "touchy-feely" workshops. His responses and interest encouraged me to apply by submitting the required ten pages of prose or poetry with my application. The setting in Spoleto, Italy, is wonderful for anyone living at the convent or in a nearby apartment. The writing instructors may be successful writers, but they are also experienced teachers of writing. The participants offered a range of talent that enabled us to share classroom experiences with teaching writing as well as professional experiences as writers. We all grew as both writers and teachers from the interaction at the two-week workshop and from reflection long after the workshop ended. In fact, I applied something I learned as one of the first activities I did with my seniors this year in our cross-disciplinary course.
Although there are many other programs available through online and local university graduate education programs, I hope these samples will start you on your search. If you have trouble finding out more about any of these programs, please contact me for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication Information: Childers, Pamela B. (2000). Faculty Development and WAC/CAC at Secondary Schools. Academic.Writing, http://wac.colostate.edu/aw/secondary/column2.htm
Publication Date: November 1, 2000