Category Archives: Class Notes

Class on Tuesday

“Learning needs to be hands on and when teachers tell you about their class in the beginning of the school year it sounds like it will bo so cool. But then they still teach the same things over and over and they talk and you listen. That’s it.” –Cortland HS student today


Dear Teachers, our agenda for tomorrow is simple. We will meet for c. 90 minutes and share our seminars (please bring folders for two other participants and me!) and then have an end-of-semester discussion* about constructions of “English” in relationship to who we are as English teachers. *Please review the Atwell “Afterword” in Beers and bring it to class. We will use it as a discussion starter.

If you have not yet responded to the blog post, “Sharing Your Thoughts.” from last week, please do so. You’ll find it below here.

I will be in my office before both the 4:00 and the 6:00 o’clock groups. Please stop in if you have books to return (oh so many!) and/or want to talk over any work you have done in our class. If you are taking 619** next semester, you are welcome to raid my office YA library for break reading.

I can extend the date (originally the 13th) for submission of unit plan reflections and critical articles through the weekend, but please no later than Sunday at noon.

Our groups for tomorrow are:

4:00–Jess, Jerry, Suzanne, Li Li, Raph
6:00–Donna, Ray C, Ray H, Mandy, Sofia

I’m not sure what room we will use yet but let’s see if G10 (I think that’s right) is open at 4. That’s the room downstairs next to the computer room — not our 506 computer room.

I am meeting with Allison and Jillian in Syracuse tomorrow morning.

If you have questions get in touch please. KES

**or if you’re not!


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On the 11th

Dear Teachers, I’ve sent a Banner Web email to everyone about next week. Options are an a.m. and an afternoon class or an afternoon and an evening class. Please refer to email and get back to me. Thanks. The goal is to accommodate everyone and still be able to complete our semester appropriately. Be in touch. KES


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Class Next Week

Dear Teachers,

I so wish we could have had a synchronous conversation tonight during our normal class time. I was able to do that at SUNY Oneonta with the Blackboard software they supported. It was fun! Have you done that w/a Web CT supported class at Cortland? Or at another institution?

Is it possible for us to meet earlier next week — and shorten our last class?

Or meet in 2 smaller groups, one of which could meet earlier? I know some of you would like that. And I would like to be sure there is time for those of you who would like to meet one-on-one to discuss course work, esp. the article for publication.

What do you suggest?

Our planned seminars are important and you have worked hard on this assignment.

It is our culminating project and deserves our full attention.

Let me know what you would like to do and I will respond. KES

P.S. Atwell anyone? Do post on the Beers’ “Afterword” separately or as the kickoff to your response to “Sharing Your Thoughts.”


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Sharing Your Thoughts

I am preparing the seminar groups for our class tomorrow night and thinking about all of you and the good work you have done this semester.

Would you please use the Atwell piece (“Afterword”) in Beers as a jumping off point to reflect on what you think is the most important work we have done together this semester. That will help me tremendously for future planning.

My big question: how are you thinking about ENGLISH (what English is? And teaching it!) in contrast to how you might have been thinking about it before 541? What has been most important to you this semester? What has been foundational? Transformative?

Recall Yagelski’s emphasis on a “pedagogy of possibility.” Where are you finding possibilities for the future in your own classroom in the work you have done in 541?

And how are your understandings (yes, overarching!) about what constitutes a progressive ELA pedagogy evolving?

This has been a new project for me and and it’s been challenging to include all of the things I have wanted to include in a one-semester Methods class. I have learned a great deal myself as any teacher does teaching a new course. The rule of thumb is that it takes 3x through any new course or content before a teacher knows the territory well enough to be confident about the content/organization, etc. etc. I can surely attest to that!!

I wonder if you agree with what I think have been the emphases in the class–in no particular order:

• focusing on critical literacies (multiple perspectives–Tyson/Appleman)
• honing a teacher’s voice speaking to other teachers (the YA lit article)
• writing for publication as a model for your own work with students (YA lit article)
• developing as an informed professional (NCTE membership, professional reading)
• considering transformative pedagogies (I have to say it–Gruwell!)
• focusing on collaborative and multiple structures that support adolescent readers (Atwell, book club)
• selecting multiple texts to engage a wider range of readers and readings (Beers chapters, unit plan)
• planning for teaching with the “end in mind” (UbD unit planning)
• establishing a classroom community (blogging, small group class discussions)
• investigating new literacies/new media (Beers chapters, your unit plans, etc.)
• honoring the truth that all kids can/want to learn – but from different texts and w/different tools (Beers chapters)
• gathering a toolkit of strategies to use to engage readers in reading complex texts (seminar assignment)

What would you add?

I always require a final reflection in any course I teach; but this semester w/the final class activity and your revising such an important paper, I did not assign a specific final reflection.

But if you choose to add pts to your unit plan grade, you have the opportunity to reflect in writing between tomorrow and the end of next week. I hope you will.

I look forward to reading your blog posts on this prompt and seeing you in class tomorrow night.

If you are on campus earlier than start of class, please stop in and pick up your unit plan before class. I will begin reading last book reviews and newly revised YA lit article submissions after our last class and will send feedback between now and the start of the exam week at Cortland.

I invite you to make an appt. to meet with me next week sometime if you would like to talk about your work and/or my assessment of it. KES


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Taking a Break? Read This!

If you’re in need of a break tonight, take a look at this wackiness from the TIMES education page today. Let’s just say this article focuses on cell phones and a hammer and there’s an angry professor in that company as well!!

How about prizes for the cleverest blog response to the article!!

You may need to register at the TIMES if you have not already done so to read the article. KES


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Some Fun with Theory

Take a look at how we might use a simple fruit to help our students play with theory. This is fun. KES


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The Joy of Being an English Teacher — Reminders

I’m finding this NCTE blog focused on secondary English Education very valuable for the opportunity to share teachers’ experiences. Last night’s discussion about the research assignment in RETRACING prompts my posting this example of blog talk at this site. I encourage you to read the middle and secondary blogs NCTE hosts. Do use the links in this post to click into resources, including the blogs, for middle and secondary English educators.

This post from the secondary blog is entitled “Students Who Sustain Me.” It provides a nice afterward on our discussion last night. This IS a wonderful life–truly–it is. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. KES

“Amidst my students who ignore directions, procrastinate, and plagiarize, shine the students for whom I do this whole teaching thing. A good percentage of my students work hard and honestly, but they treat researching and writing like tooth hygiene: annoying but not worth the penalty of skipping it. For a smaller, but significant percentage of my students, researching and writing becomes addictive. They fall in love with the intoxication of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I try to breathe these students and their enthusiasm in; its nectar needs to sustain me through grading the pile, after all…

One student wrote a rough draft of a thesis statement in favor of one group in an ethical dilemma, but when he turned in the final draft, he had completely switched sides. I don’t really care which side of the argument students choose, but I commented on his switch. “You noticed that, huh? Yeah, I wrote the first one before I’d really read any of the articles. That first argument was my opinion based on just stuff I’d heard other people say. But when I started reading the research, I just couldn’t feel that way anymore, so I switched my argument around.” Seriously, a speech like that from a student makes me weep. That’s all I’m really going for here, for students to learn to find their own information and form their own opinions. That’s why a democracy educates everyone, right? We don’t always get to see that kind of growth during one semester, so when I catch a glimpse, I savor it…

Another student came to me with her revelations. “I thought I knew about this subject,” she exclaimed. “But so much has happened with it in the courts during the last year or two that the whole issue is changing! This issue is so important to me, but I haven’t been paying much attention. I didn’t realize that the way our government works can change things so quickly! I’m going to write my Senator, and I’m talking to my family about making a donation to some non-profits that work on it, too.” Okay, I wrote about this student in my journal. I wrote a sticky note about it and stuck it to my monitor. While I’m weeding out those who copy/paste, other students are truly starting to care about their society and are beginning to understand how research and writing impact their relationship to the big, bureaucratic machine.

These students count as so much more than their total number or percentage. They will be leaders throughout their lives. I write about them to praise them, but also, to force them to occupy my mind a little longer. I obsess over those who quit or cheat or fail to engage; somehow, it is much harder to remember those who learn to fly. These students fill my spirit, and I believe their excitement will inspire many of their fellow students as well.”

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