Monday, May 2, 2011

ALP Reflection- bookhenge

I think the majority of my thoughts about the ALP were documented in my video, but there is one thing that I really wanted to reflect upon and didn't get a chance to in the video... I am ready to teach. I mean, is anyone ready to teach? I just mean mentally and based on my hopes and where I'm at right now, I just want to be in the classroom... Is that so much to ask for? Next spring feels miles away and I know that I'll have a great time writing in the mean time and learning about a lot of different things, but the ALP experience taught me that I'm ready to be in a classroom and cannot wait for the opportunity to teach students. I realized how truly rewarding the teaching process is and how I am ready to experience that with a full classroom. I know that it will be stressful, that my students will not want to write at times or read at others, and I know that not everything is perfect in the world of education... but I am ready to apply the theories I've learned and get into some hands-on learning. It was amazing to see a student's process... I know my writing process, I know what I like to do and the setting in which I write and it was so great to see that my understanding of process is meant to guide students to their process, not simply to be replicated. There was so much to be learned from this process, but the thing that I came away with, pulsating like a loud drum, was that I want to teach and soon.


Post-FOKI!!! bookhenge

"My goal is to continually prepare my “professional” self by every means available to me. I don’t just want to hit the classrooms as an enthusiastic teacher that has his positive attitude bubble burst because he wasn’t prepared for the many challenges that face teachers every day. I want to use these classes and all the technology and information outside of these classes to equip myself for the task that is ahead."
1) I am pretty sure that I did this. "Every means available" had a lot to do with the technology involved in the class and how you constantly stretched us to use things we didn't know how to use. I feel like my growth using bookcasts aided me as a teacher to my students in the ALP process and that my professional self continually grew throughout our time together. I feel more prepared for a number of different genres, questions, and technologies as a teacher. My enthusiasm has been applied to new types of learning and for that I am very thankful. At the end of this goal, I state that I want to equip myself for the task that is ahead and I think that that definitely happened during this class.
"My goal in this class is to continue adapting my style to teaching the literature that I love. It is a simple task for me to read and soak in a great novel, but how do I share it with others? I certainly have friends that ask me about books and will bring out my opinions, and those are enriching experiences. However, it is my goal in this classroom to meet others who want the same kind of feedback and are willing to constantly challenge my literate self to not rest in stagnancy."
2) Bookcasts, book clubs, and other activities in this class certainly answered the question "but how do I share it with others?" I've always loved to read and enjoyed the process, but teaching is about sharing what I know with others and learning alongside them as we read. I feel like I learned a number of different ways for organizing my class' ability to share about what they read as well as techniques for myself in teaching the books that I love. I seriously can't wait to teach now that I have a number of options for informing students of why they should love novels. I don't believe that I "rested in stagnancy' this semester, so this goal feels accomplished.
"These games teach a number of modern skills and require a large amount of preparation and organization when you reach end-game content. The result was that I learned valuable skills while simultaneously growing to love fantasy even more. Every dungeon has a new story behind it. However, I have done very little research or implementation with these worlds and education. I see them as avenues to network and enjoy myself, but it makes perfect sense that these convenient technologies could enhance the learning experience. I can’t wait to find out more about this."

3) I enjoyed Second Life so much. I got to see what a classroom looks like inside a virtual world as well as getting a taste of author interviews in the virtual realm. Both of these stretched my understanding of what works in the virtual world and what doesn't. I won't go awkwardly into these technologies now when I understand that Second Life has a slight wait time when people are responding to a question. I also saw how much the teacher had to implement and explain and be patient with students who were struggling to use the technology. I love the idea of using virtual worlds to stretch teaching, but I have a much better understanding of the difficulties involved in doing that and wouldn't just jump into a virtual/technological undertaking without proper preparation and sincerity.

All in all, the class did wonders for me as a teacher and has me more anxious than ever to actually get into a classroom and start teaching. I learned so much and feel like I accomplished even more goals than I have listed above. Thanks again, Dr. Crissman!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Radical Blogging- bookhenge

I understand the idea of Radical Change. I know that the shifting world will constantly shift how literature is being produced, published, and distributed. A lot of our classes at NC State manage to challenge us to teach in light of these changes. I think that is a good thing. However, when it comes to literature, to poetry and prose, I am not particularly open to "Radical Change". This was only further confirmed by my reading of "Skeleton Sky". My reaction was honestly, "who cares?". I know this isn't the most open perspective to have, but I can't really help how I read something. I'm so used to artistic productions of literature. To reading Seamus Heaney's poetry and watching how he artistically breaks the rules involved, that this particular poem was just noise to me. I clicked, and clicked, and clicked. It seemed to lead me no where.
What does this mean for me?

1) I personally won't make too much poetry or prose that is under the radical category. Do I want to write a multigenre book one day? Yes, I have it planned out. But this poetry accessing digital tools so that it can be viewed in that format was just odd to me.
2) Would I use this as a tool in a classroom? Absolutely. I'd probably have to read a lot more literature and figure out what that poetry is supposed to look like/express/be. I thought about Skeleton Sky from two perspectives... As a creator, I didn't really find it that appealing. As a teacher, I would have no idea how to grade a work like that. I suppose I need to know the person, and knowing them would help, but I just had no reference for hw good/bad or acceptable it is.

I actually read a lot of the books on Dresang's list. I remember liking a lot of the books listed because of the reasons described for making them an agent for "radical change" at a given point in history. I thought of Will Grayson, Will Grayson as a representative of radical change. The way the two authors incorporate facebook posts, IM, etc. It brings the true high school experience further into the picture by accessing something that is digital. I also thought of Persepolis. Graphica continues to enhance literature by adding a second sense (that of sight) and appealing to a new way to read something. I really enjoyed the read because it was no longer just on me to imagine what the author had to go through. It enhanced the comedy AND sincerity of the work in my opinion. I thought Angela's surveys were very telling... For whatever reason, I assumed that most students would have read a graphic novel. I figured they were a popular feature of that generation and thus were very common amongst students. It seems clear that a lot of students have heard about and want to read graphic novels, but some don't even understand the concept. Still others have attempted to read them, but found them confusing and unenjoyable. For the most part, however, students wanted them to be incorporated in curriculum.

The key to me in Angela's article is the general belief that graphic novels bring out desires to read in "reluctant readers, especially males." Say no more. If getting guys to read is a particularly challenging part of English classes across the nation, why aren't we implementing the things they respond best to? Also, I love the thought taht most graphic novels are redos of classic stories. We don't have to jump to something completely new and foreign that way. It acts as a way to ease into adding these to the curriculum. I just think we should constantly strive to include things that make reading more attractive to our students. If that means incorporating graphic novels into our classroom, then it needs to happen.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Non-Fiction Thing bookhenge

 Aronson's ideas on the subject of non-fiction were compelling certainly. I must admit that I come from a love of fiction. I have always desired to write fiction, and excelled at things that involve my creativity with other worlds; as opposed to the creativity that non-fiction requires of people and how they present us with facts about our world/life/experience. The result? I read a lot of fiction, I wrote a lot of fiction, but non-fiction got ignored.

Enter college. I became an English major and ended up reading an incredible amount of both fiction and non-fiction writing. One of my favorite classes was taught by Professor Susan Irons, and it was our The History of American Literature. Wonderful class that really did a great job of searching for literature that covered the full spectrum of American history. Our teacher did a great job of acknowledging the fact that our view of history has a lot to do with who was the victor. We have, therefore, very little record of Indian literature and historical research that speaks to their side of the issue. She did a wonderful job of being a historian and a teacher of literature. She remains one of the shining examples against all of the atrocities that Aronson spoke of today in our historical/literature approach. Aronson talked about covering history from a variety of angles and that we can really figure out something by looking at all of the historical perspectives involved. My teacher emphasizes this when she suggested I read the book Killer Angels by Michael Sahara. It covers the battle of Gettysburgh from a multitude of angles. Another book she suggested was The March, about Sherman's march. The first does a great job of allowing us to see a battle from many different military perspectives. The March does a great job of fictionalizing the perspective of slaves as well as soldiers and southern ladies of leisure.
         The majority of the English classes I had emphasized and successfully incorporated non-fiction writing. My favorite was food writing class. You can find topics that students love learning about through non-fiction because it covers real things that they deal with and see in their everyday life. What student wouldn't love a non-fiction writing assignment on food? What if you brought in a certain food at the end of the week? Kids respond to the way we plan and prepare for them. I think history and other non-fiction topics are an easy way to remind/teach them things we can't accomplish through simple fiction.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Multicultural Book Awards- bookhenge

I have to be honest. Book awards? I understand them, appreciate them, but nothing could be further from my mind. I rarely notice stickers of achievement on books or put much store in anything other than the opinions of well-read friends. Now, would I appreciate an award for a piece of my writing? Yes, the more the merrier. For right now, though, as my writing career falls behind for a more dramatic victory, I feel very distanced from the world of book awards. I feel like there are certain circles and audiences that will view the novels that win certain prestigious awards in a new light and base their reading schedules on those same awards, but that is not that case for this guy.
                Thus, Aronson’s initial essay struck me as more of a social commentary than a commentary on the state of book awards within the ALA. However, I chose to put myself in the shoes of someone who had worked incredibly hard on an African American character. Maybe I poured over library books about the deep south and did my best to extract quotes and voice and tension from old articles, pictures, and newspapers. I really did my homework and the character I created really jumps off the page. I love the way he moves through the plot, the way he grows as a person, and how authentic he feels. Let’s go crazy and say I capture this perspective better than any other writer in a given time frame (a year, a decade, whatever). I’d be very upset that my character, who reflects a certain people from a certain time in a particularly genuine way, cannot be up for an award like the Coretta Scott King. Aronson’s point about their being multiple awards that require someone to be a specific race for eligibility being similar to two dot’s forming a line (a line that can include an infinite number of points) seems sensible. I agree that awards, no matter how distanced I feel from their significance, cannot exclude author’s based on their race. If you are excluding characters or genres in the hopes of honoring specific features of literary quality, than by all means. But, as a writer, I would be incredibly disparaged by the idea of exclusion through skin color. Aronson honors the origination of such awards and the necessity for facilitating literature within and for races that had not previously been recognized, but we are at a new place in literature. These “racially based awards” seem like a step backwards instead of a pathway to honoring authors who deserve it. While the awards may really seek out spectacular literature, it seems tainted by the lack of availability to others who wish to create stories and characters deserving of consideration.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Melinda Awards Reflection, bookhenge

Once again, I was thankful for the livestream that allows us to go back and experience the classroom setting even if we've missed it. I wish I had been there for these awards! Everyone seemed like they had a lot of fun and we could see a number of young students speaking unabashedly about the books that they've read. I highly enjoyed the fact that students, teachers, and potential teachers meshed so well during the awards. Here are some highlights from watching the archived version:

1) Hearing about all the books... If I didn't read a certain book, I now have a feel for what kind of book it is and whether or not it's worth reading. Unfortunately, a lot of the books on the list that I had wanted to read had been difficult to find in the libraries. I had really wanted to read Rot and Ruin, and from all the reports and discussion that happened at the Melinda Awards, that desire seems justified.

2) Seeing students confidently talk about literature. They didn't have to worry about what the group would think or what people watching live might think, they just had to defend why they enjoyed something. That alone made this a worthy night to me.

3) Collaboration. So many different people working together for the sake of literature.

4) It was kind of hilarious. Perhaps not with the comedic flair that backs the Oscars or Grammy's, but it was enjoyable to watch and I know I would have been laughing if I had been there.

All in all, I thought the night seemed tremendous. I'm not sure how many students were there (it seemed like a number of the same ones came up with regularity), but for those students it is sure to be a memorable experience. I think it also gives us a great idea of how to run a book club in whatever local areas we end up being teachers and the best way to try and honor those books through ceremony and fun. Thanks for the example of a good time and a good literary book club.

bookhenge , #bookhenge

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Speaking to a Young Writing Club- bookhenge

The following is the general outline I used for speaking to a Young Writers club at Carrboro High School yesterday. They took it a lot of different, great directions with their questions, but I got to relay just about all of this information to them.
Writing Group Tomorrow
First off, I’m not some stud writer… I’m not published… and I’m not even yet licensed to teach, though I’m working on all three. My goal, for right now, is just to write. To make it a habit, to make it second nature (A habitual writer is someone who writes while they're not writing... you walk into a room and what you see can be salvaged for literary purposes, your experiences funnel into the creation of your works)… and as hard as those first three are, writing everyday can still be hard. But I have to write, I remember I was a junior in high school and I slaved over the first chapter to a book… It was the fantasy series I’d always dreamed of writing, and I very shyly asked my teacher to read it. And the next day she surprised me by saying it was one of the best things she’d ever read. She then forced me to drop Spanish and get in the Creative writing class where I spent 2 wonderful years and wrote 150 pages of one book, before deciding it wouldn’t work and writing 150 of another book… that I later decided wouldn’t work. So whats the point? I can’t stop writing, my teachers taught me that I had a unique perspective and a creation to offer that no one else would… And that’s the first thing I’d have you guys walk away with today.
-          You have a unique perspective
o   You see things, notice things, experience things differently
o   Even if we all went through the same exact events, same exact  life: what you pull out of it is different? Scene: One notices a tree, one notices the bird, one notices the sun reflecting off the water.
o   Go to any art gallery and for the most part, when you look at a landscape painting or a painting of a small village, you’re going to choose different things. What does this mean?
-          1) You offer a unique perspective, and if you choose not to write, we’ll never get to learn from it, we’ll never get to see what you would have seen, we’ll never hear that story they way you would have told it, and we wanted to, because here’s the other thing
-          You go to that same painting and you both notice different things right? One of you see’s the beautiful birds that are barely specks that the artist drew, and one loves the way the light falls on a barn at the edge of the village… And you might not have noticed that, but when they say it… you really look at another perspective, another side of the painting. In essence, you get reminded that there was more than one beautiful part of that painting.
SO, I know that’s a pretty deep start and from there its going to get a little more on the practical side… what can we do? How do we become more effective? How do we take this “unique perspective” and actually write?
My second piece of advice: Just write.
-          Journal, write poems, write short stories, work on novels.
1)      If you’re not writing 3 times a week (but why not more) it’s harder to come up with topics, its harder to sustain projects, and it’s harder to behave as writers
2)      Our power is patience… You just never know when it comes to inspiration. Sometimes it will take writing a whole book before you get to the really good idea that’s actually worth writing about.
a.       Anne Lamott- “Just get it all down on paper because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go—but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”
b.      Personal example: I wrote 150 pages of a certain book, and realized I wanted the story to go differently… I sat down and wrote 150 more pages. After re-reading them both in the months that followed… I knew neither would be a publishable work. Just no chance. BUT, still today there are things in there worth salvaging. I take a character, or a setting, or a reaction, or a scene and I find a perfectly good use for it in writing that is much crisper, much more likely to be read by someone. You never know, until you’ve written and written what will be useful to you and what won’t. But never throw things away, because you don’t know when that character on page 33 will want to come bursting into another story you have… and it will be that much easier to re-create him if you have the source.
3)      Don’t limit yourself to form! Stuart Dybek's story "Paper Lantern"- Started as a poem, longer poem, short story, then full story. It released images he might not have had otherwise.
4)      Another reason to always be writing… Beyond the Pale, it’s by an editor/publisher that is speaking on YA literature. Disconnect between the writers and the teenage life they want to capture. Its been so long that their much improved writing skill cannot connect with actually being a teenager… Journal, write down your feelings and ideas and thoughts and struggles and keep that with you because one day you’ll look back, and have a much better perspective perhaps of how to capture all of that and turn it into literature. And there you are, in the pages of that journal waiting to be funneled into a real work that can actually connect with teenagers, or whoever your audience might be.