As a member of this Online Book Club, you are expected to post to the book blog at least once per week between now and July 11 -- that's six weeks. You should finish your book before then, and you will meet during the Institute in your groups to extend the discussion and plan how to present the book to the others in the Institute.

Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Daunting but Necessary Challenge

(Please accept my apologies for being late to join the blog party. The end of this school year was extra hectic, chaotic, and challenging for me for a variety of reasons. Although I had the best of intentions in starting this when we were supposed to at the end of May, other things in life took precedence to ensure I was contributing to my best and fullest potential in my own school community, personal life, and this amazing EMWP community that I'm joining. Thank you for understanding, and I can't wait to discuss these ideas with you all more online and in person come July.)

Image from http://www.pixteller.com/img/275549
Over the last few weeks, as I've been struck by the extremes we face in our world - the extremes of love and hate, of support and fear, and of unity and division. In talking to a friend about the tragedy in Orlando, he made me think seriously about what I am doing in life and why. As a reporter covering the aftermath in Orlando, he expressed concern over the way that huge tragedies like this can almost become routine in the coverage. People are overwhelmed, concerned, and trying to find solutions, but these things keep happening. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Charleston. San Bernadino. Orlando. While we shared our dismay about the apparent endless cycle of shootings in our country, I explained my own love for my job as a teacher. Every day, I can see my own hope for the future. I know there is a lot that needs to change, I recognize that I will not be able to change it all in my lifetime, and I hope that I am giving my students the skills, compassion, and dedication needed to continue improving our world in the future. In the first chapter of Real-World Literacies, I had two main take-aways that helped me think about what some of those necessary skills are for my students and how I can help support their development in those areas as a teacher. First, I was reminded of some of my personal goals and expectations for my own teaching practice that I hope to reinvigorate next year, and second, I reminded myself that teaching well is an incredibly daunting but necessary challenge.

Goals for Teaching
The following are all quotations from the research brief and first chapter that resonated with me about what I hope to provide in my teaching. By no means do I think I do all of these things yet/well/effectively/all the time, but I hope I'm working towards them, reminding myself that like research, good teaching "is never 'done' but is an ongoing quest" (Lattimer, 2014, p. 13).
  • "Instruction is most successful when teachers engage their students in thinking, reading, writing, speaking, listening, and interacting in discipline-specific ways, where literacies and content are not seen as opposites but rather as mutually supportive and inextricably linked" (Lattimer, 2014, p. xii).
  • We need to "ensure that they [students] can critically respond to, critique, evaluate, and investigate that information or independently access new information that might complement or contradict the official knowledge presented in their textbooks" (Lattimer, 2014, p. 3).
  • For me as a history/social studies teacher, students should be "expected to revisit historical documents and interpretations with new questions to generate new learnings that have relevance to our understanding of both past and present. ... [and] to learn to question, read critically, suspend judgment, consider and effectively communicate new interpretations, and 'cultivate puzzlement' (Wineburg, 2001)" (Lattimer, 2014, p. 3-4).
  • "We must provide students with rich, inquiry-oriented learning experiences and teach them how to learn. We must explicitly nurture habits of mind that will allow students to adapt literacy practices in response to evolving contexts, technologies, and disciplines" (Lattimer, 2014, p. 4).
These four quotations highlighted the importance of helping students to develop skills and ways of thinking that allow them to reflect, question, investigate, and communicate their own learning. Again, I hope that I am working towards creating a learning environment for my students that does all of these things, but I also know that I am by no means where I eventually want to be - in part because of my second take-away from this chapter.

A Daunting but Necessary Challenge
After giving the overview of the two case studies in the first chapter, Lattimer (2014) writes, "Even if you're convinced that these five curricular concepts... hold promise for student success, you may still find the reach of the work in the Innovations Academy classroom a bit daunting" (p. 16). YES! I was both incredibly inspired and overwhelmed as I read that example. I loved everything about it, but kept asking myself, "How did she do this?" How did she connect with the experts? How did she figure out the community need for such a project? How can I do something similar when my content is focused on ancient world history and early US history? How much time did this take? How did they have the resources to get students to a university library, to have video editing and animations, to converse with local professors and experts? The project seemed amazing, but I felt a bit at a loss for how I could actually implement something similar.

However, despite my intimidation, I recognize that this is necessary. I need to find more ways to involve the community, to make my content directly linked to current issues and questions, and to give students real audiences for their work. This is what my students need, and this is what I need to think more seriously about over the summer. I can't wait to see what else the book has to offer and, more importantly, to engage in continued conversations and brainstorm sessions with everyone online and in the EMWP to figure out how I can work on this.

In short, this first chapter helped me keep in mind that, "Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." Desmond Tutu is credited with saying this, and it is a comforting reminder that even in the depths of a challenging school year - and challenging world events, there is hope in creating a better, more thoughtful future.

No comments:

Post a Comment