Learning to network

Networking is not my forte. AT. ALL. I go to professional development sessions or conferences on the district and national level and I get so wrapped up in my own head, thinking about how I will take this back to my students or school and I forget to talk to the people around me.

And in this way, teaching can be lonely.

But! I’ve recently gotten more involved in Twitter, especially after all of the time I freed up by giving up Facebook. This was my level of social networking proficiency, a few weeks ago:

And through Twitter I’m moving past this and instead learning to network productively and share thoughts about instructional practices or texts on a daily basis, instead of at the infrequent PD or conference. And tonight I engaged in my first #NCTEchat, about the Teacher as Writer, which was really my first Twitter chat … ever! It was exciting! (Here’s the archive, in case you missed it.) I honestly could have sat all night, communicating with educators across the world (including Mexico!), but my dogs were restless and needed a run to the dog park and the Hubbs needs help drafting a music review for his music appreciation class. Talk about writing! I love writing with my husband for his various classes. This is my favorite way to learn more about the way he thinks and to practice my questioning methods with my student writers (instead of just telling them how I would phrase things).

Before I had to tear myself away from the chat, I scribbled some highlights in my blog journal, that I mentioned here:

And here’s what that journal looks like, along with my messy work desk:


And now I’ll make sense of those highlights:

  1. Writing with students: Writing with students is essential. Sadly, I did not do enough of this last year. I debriefed a lot about their writing, and they wrote together, but only a few times did I engage in writing with my students. This, I will change. There were some great suggestions as to how to do this: revising some of my written work on the overhead with them, using Google Docs to model writing as they write, using Google Docs to write and edit with them, or using Edmodo as a tool for writing collaboration with and among students. I vow to use a little bit of all of these ideas!
  2. Mentor texts: Using mentor texts to teach writing. At one point, I asked about using graphic organizers to teach writing. The resounding response seemed to be that graphic organizers should only be used early in the writing process/learning to write a new genre. I definitely don’t sit down and use graphic organizers when I sit down to write a blog or an article for publication. But how do we find these mentor texts? I say, in EVERYTHING! In grad school, one of my favorite professors brought to class Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. In is, she describes her methods for collecting inspiration for dance. I don’t use this book as a mentor text in my classroom but instead as a framework for collecting my own inspiration.
  3. Sharing resources: Several teachers shared blogs but from clicking through several of them, I already have one favorite (which I already follow) Two Writing Teachers. I love, love, love Two Writing Teachers. I love the look/feel of their blog (which Catherine and I are trying to manage on our shared blog Not So Common) and their content. The topics are so diverse! And again, I found this resource weeks ago through Twitter and it has inspired many changes to my AP Literature curriculum. MANY CHANGES.

I feel invigorated, inspired and most of all, a part of community among English teachers. Now … how can we organize (or I can find an already existing) chat about Dual Language at the secondary level. What would the hashtag be? #DLHSchat (Dual Language High School chat)? But that looks like Schat. Which, when pronounced phonetically is slightly inappropriate!

In what ways do you network with other educators? Or what are your favorite Twitter chats?


Stayin’ alive! Stayin’ alive! Stayin’ alive!

Ah! ah! ah! ah! Stayin’ aliiiiiiiiiiive!


I bet you were singing that Bee Gees tune in your head!

And I’m staying alive! I made it through the school year in one piece. But maybe a little more burned out than I first realized.

My last post was in MARCH! About Ash Wednesday and giving things up for lent and procrastinating with distractors such as The Real Housewives of (anywhere in the country), trashy TV.

The blog nagged at me, after I lost momentum in March (apparently). But I spent all of my free time writing. Just not on the blog. Or on the novel/short story I’d like to someday begin writing. But on my National Boards for English Language Arts, Adolescence and Young Adulthood.

Holy crap. That was a lot of writing. And a lot of editing. And a lot of videoing myself teaching. And a lot of editing my videos of myself teaching. And a lot of writing about my videos of me teaching. And Holy crap. It was a lot.

But I submitted two days before it was due. And I took my written exam last Friday, before I left for our district’s last AVID Summer Institute.

I think I passed. I sure hope I passed. But I won’t know for sure until they release the scores in November. 5 months from now!

But I promise I won’t wait that long to post again.

I wish I really had written more last year. We did some amazing things at school and in class. Last year was my first year as Bilingual Co-Coordinator at school and the first year we had a PD committee, which I also sat on.  And those two things were certainly educational experiences and I wish I’d captured some of that. But nonetheless, there will be plenty to write about again this year!

I’m teaching AP Literature and Composition again at the 12th grade and I’ll also teach the AVID elective at 9th grade for the first time! This is the first time since I started teaching that I won’t have an English 11 class. It’s almost bittersweet. I love the curriculum and I’ll miss it but it seems like the last few years have largely focused on test preparation for the myriad standardized tests required for graduation. I feel like even if I had to struggle with test prep, I’ve tried to provide my English 11 students with enough strategies that they can be successful in 12th grade and hopefully college.

And this is the big question that I’m working out now: What level/strategies do my AP Lit and Comp students need to be successful in college?

In the past, I feel like I’ve focused more on content and composition, that I have on specific, applicable, reading and writing strategies. And I think that was a mistake. Yet, many of them are already efficient readers and writers. I just need to up the ante, so to speak.

I’m looking forward to starting the new school year and writing about the new school year. But first, I’ll be sure to finish and enjoy my summer vacation!