Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sunday Night Nerves

TeachaKidd, Lee Kolbert, tweeted this evening about presentation nerves and over planning. She said:"Ever feel like the "audience" of your next presentation will already know everything you're going to share with them & will all walk out?" I of course @ replied her that yes, I'd certainly felt that way. I feel that way now, anticipating tech workshops I'm slated to give soon.

I have felt that way in the past, presenting teacher workshops at Janet Allen's literacy institutes. During the institutes when the teachers who worked for Janet were out on the road, she used to tell us not to think that way. Not to feel that what we had to say was old hat or passé. We were/are readers. We were/are reflective teachers. We had ideas to share. She reassured us as we developed our teacher voices and our craft--she gave us more than just voice, but a platform for sharing. The literacy institutes forged my teaching philosophies and practices. What kind of teacher would I have been without Janet and "the Geese?"

For nearly 12 summers I traveled with Janet. At last count, I did teacher workshops in 20 states. Perhaps that doesn't qualify me for expert status, but some summers I was on the road for a full 8 weeks. Home on Thursday nights and out on Sunday mornings. We aren't traveling anymore, but I can remember those Sunday night jitters as we gathered to talk about the work at hand. I remember what it feels like to over plan and to wonder if your audience will be walk-out, know-it-alls.

They never are though, are they? If we truly are teachers and learners then we all have something to share. We all have something to learn.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Frou Frou Code

Can you read this?

#outer-wrapper {
width: 940px;
margin:0 auto; padding:10px;
font: $bodyfont;
There are a few things I understand there like width and pixel, font and outer, but I'm not sure about the padding. Code does not make total sense to me. Searching and researching does though. Lucky me!

I've been wanting to go to a 3 column format for some time, but haven't had any luck changing the html code of my Blogger template. This morning I'd thought I'd tackle it again in between posting to the English Companion Ning and reading blogs. You've got to love a good piece of technical writing. The elegant step-by-step of easy to follow directions. I found just such a source at the Three column Blogger. So between changing the layout and choosing a frou frou background template, I updated the blog. I'm not sure I like the frouf... the ribbons may be a little much, but I thought I'd try it on for a while. What do you think?

PS: Another cool thing I happened upon this morning? A site that prints your blog into book form. A little expensive, but you know the lure of print... : )

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Good Night, Walter Cronkite

Families tell stories. Stories when the cousins come to town. Stories saved for after the Thanksgiving turkey has been demolished. Stories that seem as familiar as Dad’s old windbreaker hanging in the front hall closet.
One of my family stories involves me and Walter Cronkite. I’ve always loved the news. News hour, the CBS news specifically, was sacrosanct in my house growing up. Walter Cronkite gave voice to that news and to my childhood. It is his voice, in addition to those of my parents that I remember most. If the news was on, we whispered if we spoke at all; mostly we listened. My parents say that I was an easy toddler. A story they’ve often told me about my growing up was about when I began to put myself to bed. I was maybe 2, if that.

Walter Cronkite was the nightly anchor; Dad a faithful viewer. I would sit and listen or play in the family room while my parents watched. My brother hadn’t been born yet. From the late sixties, I remember only the voice and the black and white T.V. One night according to Mom and Dad, at Cronkite’s nightly “Good night” sign off, I stood up, looked at Mom and Dad and said “Good night!” and went to bed. I was 2. I god blessed Walter “Concrete” every night in my elementary school prayers. His “good night” was it for me. His voice sent me to bed each night. What a figure he was to me in my childhood and later as part of 60 Minutes.

I have wanted to write him a letter since I was in high school. I am deeply sorry that I never did. Though I am sure, I am one of millions of fans, I will forever remember him and his voice. Good night and God Bless, Mr. Cronkite.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Can you keep a secret?

We're going on a Disney Cruise. We've been wanting to go since the ships started sailing, but as Rick says, "our dates never lined up." Well, we're going! Can you believe it?

I've never been on a cruise and I hear this one is awesome! They have a Pirate's Night dinner! Of course, we're going in costume. How much fun is this going to be? We're going to wear billowy-white pirate shirts, red sashes and black pirate hats--perhaps I'll glue-gun a few white plumes to the hats. We'll have pirate pants too: black. I think eye-patches will be too itchy, so we're skipping those, but Collin's hat comes with a stick-on goatee and mustache.

Collin has no idea. He thinks we're going to have a "beach adventure" before school starts. He thinks the pirate stuff that's started to arrive in the mail is for a family Halloween get up that we've been known to photograph and turn into Christmas cards. He thinks we can dress up as pirates for our Church's "Trunk or Treat" community event, but that he'll really get to be Harry Potter for Halloween (of course he will!). But really? We're going to dine as pirates on the Disney Cruise! Then of course, we'll use the costumes all year. So far so good on the secret side of things. He has no idea!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Writing with Collin

We've been writing. Collin and I, in the mornings after breakfast usually. Not everyday, but most. I am learning so much from watching him write that I find myself abandoning my own pieces to write about his process in my journal.

Though I've been trying to model different kinds of writing you might do (writing about an artifact, poems or short pieces), Collin mostly writes about what he did each day in his summer journal. He begins with 1 sentence. Thursday's was: "Yesterday I went to see the new Harry Potter movie." then he drew a picture of Ron after eating love-potion-laced chocolates. He remembered some of the words from the scene between Ron and Harry and he noted them in his stick person cartoon illustration. He showed me his picture & then fiddled with his pencil, the napkin holder, the lazy susan (we write at the kitchen table. So, I asked him to read me his first sentence. He did. Then I asked him if he liked that scene or not.

"Of course, I loved it!" he told me, so I suggested he write that next. He wrote, "I liked the part where Ron ate the love potion candy." He read me the sentence.

"Why did you like that part?" I asked.

"Because Ron ate the love potion..."

"You didn't like just because he ate the love potion did you?"

"Because Ron ate the love potion and it was FUNNY!"

"Ahh...there it is. Yes, because it was funny. Can you write that down to show your reason for liking that part?"

And we continued writing. I'd like it to be easier for Collin to write more, but I think what makes it easier is having the thinking in mind to write. What strikes me in all of this morning writing we've been doing together is how long it takes and how much support and encouragement Collin needs. Collin needs a lot of thinking time: to draw, to talk, to read and to look at words. It is time intensive. I wonder how this translates into his classroom experiences with writing (or my own with my own students for that matter)? He must get support from his peers, in addition I am sure to support from teacher modeling and instruction. Certainly he produced longer pieces this year in second grade (I have them in a file here in my office), but now I'm wondering how close to the teacher's model they may have been. I've been trying not to take over too much and just write with him.

What I'd like Collin to develop this year is some self-talk that will help him write with confidence. I hope I'm not overdoing it on the questions with him, but I'm trying to get that language to stick: what do you think the reader would want to know next? do you have a reason for why you liked it? does that make sense there?

We ended our day, that day, with Collin engaged in re-creating his Harry Potter t-shirt--in color no less. I think it's the first color he's used in his journal this summer. Hmmm...