Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Millenials

I think about the state of our world and economy pretty regularly. With my own two children just starting out in school and with myself and my husband both being teachers, I find lots of reasons to ponder what the future holds for both better and worse. Therefore, this passage struck a chord with me: a snapshot of how life has truly changed for this generation dubbed "millenials." Not changed because of technology or their helicopter parents or their commitment to community service ... but changed because the world has changed in all of the ways listed at the beginning of this sentence and more.

"What are youth doing rather than working? A great number of them are participating in an academic career, prolonging their academic career or planning their academic career. Currently, the higher education system is the refuge of the Millennial generation.

"One would think that this generation would become embittered and start blaming those that preceded them for making decisions that have disrupted their progression toward their life goals. As is customary with this generation, they remain optimistic about their futures, focusing on entrepreneurial pursuits, improving their knowledge base and camping out with Mom & Dad a little longer. They're also getting an early start on raising a family, sometimes even prior to marriage. By time-shifting their desire for kids with their desire for a career, they are creating an extended-family reality that hasn't existed in American society since the depression." (from YPulse, "Portrait of Millenials")

What will our world become when these highly educated (let's hope our education system is up to the task of their extended stays) and differently committed (family coming before the career? who would have thought ...) can truly join in?

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I went to a great presentation on the power of rereading given by Tom Liam Lynch at NCTE this past fall. I am now in the midst of a rereading autobiography project with my freshmen. They and I all chose favorites to reread -- I gave them just about a month to do the rereading while we were studying poetry in class. Now they are writing their first drafts of their rereading autobiographies based on the essays in Rereadings edited by Anne Fadiman. This project has been good for a few reasons:
  • We are trying to incorporate more free choice reading in our 6-12 curriculum overall, and this is a different way to do so. We like to offer variety in the singular threads (free choice reading, portfolios) that move from 6th to 12th grades so students stay engaged.
  • The majority of the students, when I polled them after they had read their books, said they loved rereading and I should definitely have next year's freshmen reread, and some even thanked me for giving the assignment because it helped them remember why they liked to read (that is success enough alone!).
  • A very small number of students said they did not think I should do this project again because they do not like rereading. I was very intrigued by this because I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not like to reread. Yes, there are books I will never reread, but I have never disliked it period. These students, as freshmen, have a strong opinion that they just do not reread. I have asked them to explore this in their autobiographies, and I am intrigued to learn more about what is behind this.
  • A few students, who liked the idea of rereading, said that they picked books that were too recent -- they remembered everything about them so the rereading was arduous rather than fun. This is great feedback for me to help guide future classes in their choices should I do this project again
I hope their autobiographies turn out as thoughtful as I think they will be based on the brainstorming discussion we have had. That will be the true test of this whole project!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wrapping Things Up

We have been having quite some snow for Virginia, and for a state that closes schools for a dusting, that means snow days. While I enjoy a surprise day off, it does wreak havoc on my lessons. So, last Friday, I had my poetry party with one section of freshmen, but alas, snow hit Monday and school was closed ... do I scrap the party for the other class to move on with the "real" work?

I was on the horns of a dilemma. We are reading Understanding by Design as a school, and I worried that my favorite poetry party was really not important -- that it was fun but that's it. Turns out this was a good worry for me to have because it made me think about why I love this day so much and why I was going to still have the party.

As the final day of our study of the poetry genre (I do not only study poetry in isolation by the way -- that is a topic for another post!), I bring in food and drink, and we spend the first part of class clicking through everyone's favorite original poems on our class wiki anthology. I project each student's poem, and they read it aloud. Then, as they are printing out their favorite poems for our bulletin board plus submitting poems to our school literary magazine, I play each of their recorded recitations.

The silence and attention that a group of freshmen give when their peers are reciting poetry, even when pumped with sugar from the donut holes I provided, is amazing and wonderful and every reason in the world to have this party. The reciters get practice, without me needing to call it this or grade it, on public speaking, and the class as a whole gets poetry rained down on them: poems their peers wrote, poems they themselves wrote, poems their peers love, poems they love, live readings, recorded skilled recitations. One of my students said it simply in her final reflective email: "I liked the poetry party and listening to what other people wrote."

Is my party UbD worthy? Turns out, it is. My students and I get to be with poetry in an informal and embracing way, and we end up celebrating our love of this oft-maligned genre. Another student wrote, "I learned that I really like writing poetry and will enjoy writing it in the future." My party will go on.