Welcome to the NCWP

The Northern California Writing Project is a professional development organization devoted to improving the teaching of writing in our service region.

Calendar

October 2020
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
September 28, 2020 September 29, 2020 September 30, 2020 October 1, 2020 October 2, 2020 October 3, 2020 October 4, 2020
October 5, 2020 October 6, 2020 October 7, 2020 October 8, 2020 October 9, 2020 October 10, 2020 October 11, 2020
October 12, 2020 October 13, 2020 October 14, 2020 October 15, 2020 October 16, 2020 October 17, 2020 October 18, 2020
October 19, 2020 October 20, 2020 October 21, 2020 October 22, 2020 October 23, 2020 October 24, 2020 October 25, 2020
October 26, 2020 October 27, 2020 October 28, 2020 October 29, 2020 October 30, 2020 October 31, 2020 November 1, 2020

Author: Kim Jaxon

Dispatches: Last Names and Street Names by Kendall M. Smith

Dispatches: Last Names and Street Names by Kendall M. Smith

 

Welcome to NCWP Dispatches.

How do we chronicle our days in a time that resists narrative? Like living through a long body of paragraphs, by the time we get to the conclusion, the introduction has changed. The memory of March is a distant cousin to the reality of August. And so we write missives: a memo, a letter to an old friend, a late night text, a doodle in the margins. Or perhaps a recipe, a rant, or an unsent email draft–forms that hold the capacity for uncertainty, story spaces already ceded to unknowing. In other words, the ephemera of this moment. With this in mind, this summer, the Northern California Writing Project hosted a space for a group of teacher consultants to write weekly, tracking their experience, observations, and process as they navigated the transition between the initial pandemic response in the spring to the impending, more-intentional classroom spaces created for fall. We called them Dispatches. Representing a range of grade levels, teaching contexts, and expertise, these educators created a writing community where deep dives into anti-racist pedagogy wove through questions and concerns about teaching communities, daily writing practice and illustrated mini essays resonated with one another, and over time the fullness of our experience came into focus.  

Kitchen tables are now recording studios. Entire worlds are offered and built through the laptop’s persistent eye. Never before has the classroom felt at once so public, and so private, siloed in our homes or offices, away from students, colleagues, and campuses, trusting, hoping, our videos, documents, and discussions are finding their destination. As we stretch, week by week, into a school year like no other, we offer you the Dispatches from this summer’s writing, revised and expanded to include the ever-evolving challenges of teaching and learning, right now.

–Sarah Pape, NCWP teacher consultant and Dispatches coordinator


photo of author Kendall

Last Names and Street Names by Kendall M. Smith

Teaching during a pandemic has not been easy. Contrary to popular and misguided belief, this has not been more time off or an extended summer. Instead, this has been perhaps one of the most emotionally charged years I have experienced. I’ve noticed that the lack of control has amplified my frustrations, especially towards those who misjudge our students. Lazy. Disengaged. Unmotivated. These are just some of the labels I’ve encountered as we made the switch from in person to distance learning. Labels in general do not sit well with me, and while the chorus of critics has grown loud, I’ve started to question why I put up with these kinds of judgements in “normal,” pre-pandemic times. Those with the loudest voices are strangers to our community—haven’t lived where I have lived, where my friends have lived, where our students currently live.

I grew up on Cypress Street (and South Lassen and Elm, but that’s a story for another day), west of the train tracks, one block south of the middle school along Interstate 5. When I close my eyes, I see the retired Marine posting the flag every morning. I see the stop sign on the corner where my 7th grade boyfriend innocently kissed me for the first time. I see my Mema’s yellow house where visiting is best done in the front yard with cocktails in hand. 

Where I’m from, people are more connected than they’d think. All you need is a map of our town where just over 6,000 people are scattered over approximately 2.84 square miles. As kids, my pal Olivia and I could bike the perimeter in an afternoon. 

There are several pockets of Willows, each with its own presence. The east side of the tracks is different. On the east side, streets are named sequentially–First, Second, Third. When I pull up my students’ addresses and I see these numbered streets, I understand something many of my colleagues might not: they haven’t seen the shattered glass in the gutters, the overgrown yards run by feral cats, the sheets that hang in the windows as curtains, or the old sheds in the alleyways that have been converted into houses with ten family members cramped inside.  

photo of street signsWhen I pull addresses and see the streets named Crestwood, Baywood, Sherwood, or Glenwood (also known as “driftwood,”) I remember how during the winter rains, that these houses will take a hit from the flooding should they return. However, the names that mean the most to me have nothing to do with family pedigree. Instead they have everything to do with geography: avenues, streets, and county roads.

In Willows, one’s last name is social capital, and I mean no disrespect when I say this, but I do acknowledge that the pendulum swings both ways: one name might inspire a warm smile, while another summons a long look-you-up-and-down scowl followed by “bless your heart” as a response. We all know this to be the most kind way to say nobody cares.

Thanks to the union of the Spooner and Carriere families I come from a long line of rice and walnut farmers; the Carriere family in particular has five generations of farmers in its lineage. In Willows, this is the norm. This points to another norm upon meeting new people is to ask, “Now who are you related to?” or “What’s your last name?” Depending on our answers we come to varying levels of positive and negative perceptions of one another. It’s a Willows thing…

Surely, street names and last names are not the only thing that define our lived experience. While I can conjure up an image of someone’s background, I recognize how my judgments can be completely off base. And just like our video boxes on Zoom, these names never show us the whole picture. As we continue learning and teaching during this pandemic I think having this in mind will be especially important. What I’m left with now are dozens of black screens and some first and last names…that’s it.

I knew that through this new teaching model I would be in the homes of my students, but I did not consider how their homes would also be brought into my classroom. Piecing together names with street names has reminded me of how much school is an escape for so many. While taking a colleague on a tour of Willows, we drove through the parking lot of the biggest apartment complex in town. I explained how one of my students moved out because it was getting too dangerous. I used to live in apartments just like those ones. I remember feeling glad to leave them every morning to eat breakfast at my Mema’s house and then head off to school. Though decades separate me from those stacked apartments and my own family’s struggles, the fact that I’m a teacher here in this same place helps me see how much can change with time. Yet, I still wonder how is it possible to feel that out of touch from that life now? I teeter between guilt and gratitude. How can I use both to serve my students? 

The other day I popped into Willows’ local coffee shop, and some students recognized me and this allowed me to feel a moment of comfort. “Mrs. Smith?!” two young ladies exclaimed my name with surprise and excitement! I felt my smile spread across my face as I gleefully replied, “YES!” We hugged, we laughed, we chatted and said our see you laters. Thanks to moments like these I’ve come to appreciate putting a face to a name more than ever. I’ve also come to appreciate whatever students allow me to see. I know there have been other students who have seen me, knowing fully well who I am, but choosing to remain a mystery. As much as I want students to turn their cameras on, honoring their boundaries is worth the wait.

photo of classroom

Here I sit in my spare room writing this–four weeks into teaching via distance learning and yet I still feel so close to my students. They can’t help what their last name is nor can they help what street they live on, but they can define their experiences using their own perceptions as the final word. Each of them is worthy of the opportunity to exceed the superficial judgments we (myself included) place on them.

 I’m a Spooner, I’m a Carriere, I’m a Taylor, I’m a Carney, I’m an Enns, I’m a Smith. I’m Cypress, Elm, and South Lassen Street. Growing up I did not appreciate the stigma that came with these names. Now the stigma has evolved into a strength because I’ve come to understand the weight of last names and street names. We have forgotten the complexity of students’ lives because they are no longer physically there in the room with us. The Willows High School student I once was would not have shown my face and I would have hesitated to speak out, but I would have yearned to be seen and understood. As teachers, it’s our job to find another way to make every effort to reach our students. Because all we have are names on a black screen, we should feel compelled to inquire more about the unseen.

photo of the author Kendall SmithKendall Smith is a high school English teacher at Willows High School. She serves as an advisor for the Interact Club, co-advisor for the Sophomore Class, and aspires to bring Mock Trial to her site this upcoming school year. She completed her Master’s in Education through the Residency in Secondary Education (RiSE) Program at Chico State in 2017. Prior to that, she was an English tutor for Burmese refugees in Chiang Mai while studying abroad in Thailand as a Gilman International Scholarship recipient. The travel bug has since then inspired her adventures throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. In January, she and her husband were married on the island of Koh Tao joined by close friends. During the summer she teaches for the Upward Bound Program at California State University, Chico where she helps students write personal statements for college admission. In her spare time, she enjoys plotting her next adventure, paddling boarding with her husband, kickboxing with friends, and studying Vedic meditation with some yoga in between. 

 


Additional Resources

photo of people around a computer“Connecting Rural Educators: Professional Development Goes Digital” by Kim Jaxon and Amanda VonKleist

Kim Jaxon, director of the Northern California Writing Project, shares this post (originally written for the Connected Learning Alliance) about how her Writing Project site has experimented with using digital spaces to provide greater access to professional development for rural educators.

Rural Schools Collaborative

“The organization’s mission is to build sustainable rural communities through a keen focus on place, teachers, and philanthropy. RSC’s mission is realized through four signature efforts: The Place Network, Rural Teacher CorpsGrants in Place, and Impact Philanthropy.”

Exploring a School–University Model for Professional Development With Classroom Staff: Teaching Trauma-Informed Approaches” 

“Schools serving communities with high rates of poverty face the profound challenge of meeting the needs of students who are often exposed to significant family and environmental stressors and trauma. Classroom staff are vital members of school communities who often work closely with students with the highest needs, but they are typically not provided with professional development opportunities to develop skills for social–emotional learning intervention.”

Antero Garcia and Elizabeth Dutro’s “Electing to Heal: Trauma, Healing and Politics in the Classroom”

“Abstract: Among the lessons that emerged after the recent presidential election is a recognition that teachers are generally not prepared to address the intersections of healing, politics, and emotion in classrooms. Drawing on research, the voices of teachers, and our experiences over this past year, we call for more expansive conversations among English educators across perspectives concerned with creating safe, relational, anti-oppressive classrooms.”

 

Dispatches: Toward What Aim? – Reflections on Respectability and “Language of Power” by Anthony Miranda

Dispatches: Toward What Aim? – Reflections on Respectability and “Language of Power” by Anthony Miranda

Welcome to NCWP Dispatches.

How do we chronicle our days in a time that resists narrative? Like living through a long body of paragraphs, by the time we get to the conclusion, the introduction has changed. The memory of March is a distant cousin to the reality of August. And so we write missives: a memo, a letter to an old friend, a late night text, a doodle in the margins. Or perhaps a recipe, a rant, or an unsent email draft–forms that hold the capacity for uncertainty, story spaces already ceded to unknowing. In other words, the ephemera of this moment. With this in mind, this summer, the Northern California Writing Project hosted a space for a group of teacher consultants to write weekly, tracking their experience, observations, and process as they navigated the transition between the initial pandemic response in the spring to the impending, more-intentional classroom spaces created for fall. We called them Dispatches. Representing a range of grade levels, teaching contexts, and expertise, these educators created a writing community where deep dives into anti-racist pedagogy wove through questions and concerns about teaching communities, daily writing practice and illustrated mini essays resonated with one another, and over time the fullness of our experience came into focus.  

Kitchen tables are now recording studios. Entire worlds are offered and built through the laptop’s persistent eye. Never before has the classroom felt at once so public, and so private, siloed in our homes or offices, away from students, colleagues, and campuses, trusting, hoping, our videos, documents, and discussions are finding their destination. As we stretch, week by week, into a school year like no other, we offer you the Dispatches from this summer’s writing, revised and expanded to include the ever-evolving challenges of teaching and learning, right now.

–Sarah Pape, NCWP teacher consultant and Dispatches coordinator


photo classroomToward What Aim? – Reflections on Respectability and “Language of Power” by Anthony Miranda

It was a Wednesday afternoon in early-August, and my small department team and I were meeting at the start of the new school year. We’ve been working closely together for the last two or three years, co-teaching and mentoring across grade levels. I was thinking aloud, and as I spoke, I realized something that might fundamentally change my approach to teaching.

“So,” I said folding a neon pink Post It into a triangular shape, “I’m just thinking about this book I read and wondering whether the premise I’ve been operating on is wrong.” I pressed my finger down and creased the edges.

“I mean, how can I say that I want to center the margins and at the same teach academic language as the language of power?” I teed up the Post It and flicked it into my empty classroom.

My eyes moved to the small rectangles that held pixelated versions of my department team. “I’m just wondering about an approach that validates and affirms home language within a classroom where most assignments and measures of success are grounded in language that looks and sounds a lot like white, middle-class cultural and linguistic practices.” The faces on the screen considered this in silence.

For years now, I’ve been seeking to equip students from marginalized backgrounds with the ability to “code-switch” or utilize White Mainstream English in an effort to have students appropriate the linguistic capital necessary to navigate and game the social contexts that call for that language to be used. Chasing that idea has become my rationalization for staying in this profession, for showing up each August and rolling the stone up the hill once more.photo of classroom desk

I began applying this approach in my classroom while teaching in a small rural Northern California school serving a student population that was predominantly Latinx and overwhelmingly socioeconomically disadvantaged. After two years, I moved into a Curriculum Support Provider role within that district where I used this code-switching philosophy to shape and direct a district-wide writing initiative. Now, for the last four years, I’ve been teaching  7th and 8th English at a K-8 school near the Bay Area. When I became Department Chair last year, this “code-switching” philosophy became a central idea guiding our small English department.

However, this summer I was introduced to Dr. Baker-Bell’s Linguistic Justice, and her analysis of language and literacy pedagogies that fundamentally challenges this notion of “code switching” and has tied my thinking in the type of knot that demands untangling and unravelling. Her words forced me to reckon more directly with the fact that centering the margins entails de-centering whiteness.

Since I first entered the classroom, my dogged eared and margin-scrawled copy of Sharokkie Hollie’s Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Pedagogy has been central to my practice. I’ve talked it up so much that my school has adopted it as our 2020 Teacher Text. I’ve been adhering to this pedagogy with the rationale that I am teaching students the “game.” to play the “game,” and to change the “game.” In the text, Hollie directs teachers to Validate, Affirm, Build, and Bridge (V.A.B.B.) students’ linguistic resources they bring into schools. For Hollie, “Bridging is providing the academic and social skills students will need to have success beyond your classroom…Bridging is evident when your students demonstrate that they are able to successfully navigate school and mainstream culture.” I’ve implemented strategies from Hollie but also employed this framework as an evaluative lens for whether to incorporate new strategies by asking, will they help students bridge?

At this point in my career, my classroom walls are covered in anchor charts with academic conversation sentence starters. When Brianna shares a brilliant idea about her Literature Circle book with the class, I respond, “I love that idea, but, Bri, can we say it in a way that uses the sentence stems?” She complies and I follow up, “Hey, what a powerful idea, can someone rephase and build on,” I alternate stacking clenched fists, “using their Academic Conversation placemat?” Then we move to developing our ideas through color-coded sentence stems for argumentative writing. Administration might enter my 3rd period and silently view the lesson. Before leaving they drop a note on my desk, “What a language-rich classroom!”  The code-switching approach has certainly been effective in getting my students to “play the game” but despite my V.A.B.B.ing, the “game” persists unchanged.

In Linguistic Justice, Dr. Baker-Bell contends that frameworks like Hollie’s would fit into what she terms Respectability Language Pedagogies, which, “refer to approaches that view racially and linguistically marginalized students’ language practices as valid and equal yet instruct these students to use White Mainstream English to avoid the negative stereotypes that are associated with their linguistic and racial backgrounds by appearing ‘respectable’” (29).book cover for Linguistic Justice

But Baker-Bell, “Rejects the myth that the same language [White Mainstream English] and language education [that] have been used to oppress Black students can empower them.” In response to this “code-switching” framework, Baker-Bell points out that “I can’t breathe” was a grammatically sound and situationally appropriate statement that should have ended in Eric Garner navigating the social context in which he was situated.

Using Hollie’s framework, my goal has been to validate students’ “home language.” I’ve tried to communicate the value of the language and literacy practices that take place in the discourse communities that students participate in outside of school. But I’m wondering also about the impact of following talk of validating “home language” with privileging “academic language” within lessons through the use of sentence stems for academic conversations that are deemed “situationally appropriate” within the context of the classroom. The sum of this incoherence seems to equate to actually showing that those language and literacy practices from outside of the classroom that I just told students are valuable, in fact, have little to no value in this academic space. What Baker-Bell says makes this approach, and others like it, “dangerous and harmful to Black students [i]s they teach them to be ignorant of anti-black linguistic racism and bow down to it rather than work to dismantle it.”

Admittedly, I’ve been reflective of the mental gymnastics I’ve been performing to rationalize Hollie’s approach for some time, so a few years ago I began calling Academic English “the language of power” in my practice to try and acknowledge the asymmetrical power relationship between it and other forms. But without sustained explanation and inquiry into the construction of the “language of power” with students, it felt performative, at best.

This has been the problem I’ve been unable to shake, and that Baker-Bell so powerfully articulates, which is that code switching and bridging fails to develop in students a critical consciousness of the underlying reasons why Academic Language in the context of schooling has come to be deemed “situationally appropriate.” For Baker-Bell, to acknowledge the ways in which Academic Language is also a reflection of white, middle class cultural and linguistic values, “would be an effort in Black linguistic consciousness-raising that helps Black students heal and overcome internalized Anti-Black Linguistic Racism.”

As an educator seeking to center the margins, I want to be able to move from a focus on teaching the game and instead to engage in the sort of reflective analysis and instructional shifts that might decenter whiteness and dismantle the game. I’m beginning this sort of reflection by taking stock of what is shaping the language demands in my classrooms and naming the ideas and frameworks that influence my planning, design, instruction, grading and conceptions of student success. I’m starting with the end in mind and asking:

–    Does success in my classroom mean students have to “pull off” an identity that uses language and literacy practices that share affinities with White Mainstream English?

–    What are the end products I am accepting as proof of mastery of standards?

–    Which standards am I prioritizing when building lessons, administering formative assessments, and developing rubrics? What ideological baggage do these standards show up to the door carrying?

–    In my gradebook, which assignments are weighted more heavily and is there a particular register those assignments favor?

–    When using mentor texts within a genre study unit, how might I incorporate discussions of the histories of anti-black linguistic racism within those particular genres?

–    What are the opportunities that allow students to utilize non-academic literacies in my classrooms? Are these opportunities regarded as essential within the unit or creating superficial engagement and buy in?

–    In what ways are my definitions of rigor, participation, and proficiency dismantling or maintaining While Linguistic Hegemony?      

Through emails, texts, and back channel chats, my department team and I have been working through these ideas. We are now entering our 8th week of distance learning.  We are still navigating student technology access and issues. We are still working to understand and teach new learning management systems.  But as white (and white passing) folks, we are very purposefully trying to grapple with the contradictions inherent in the aims of schooling and an education for social and racial justice.

We ponder, wonder, and challenge ideas about our complicity and agency within this system that is simultaneously oppressive and brimming with emancipatory potential. Each day of each week we enter our classrooms, log into our Zoom sessions, and try once again to turn the tangle straight.

photo of Anthony MirandaAnthony Miranda is a 7th grade English teacher and department chair. His interests are in exploring ways of using language and literacy that enable students to recognize and navigate schooling as a complex institution, in designing connections between content and civic participation, and in ongoing, critical reflection of how teachers negotiate the tension between schooling, as an instrument of oppression, and education, as an emancipatory practice. Prior to teaching only English, he taught 7th and 8th grade English and History. He participated in the UC, Berkeley History-Social Science Project’s Teacher Research Group that focused on making explicit to students the historical thinking skills necessary for evaluating and more fully understanding historical narratives. He is also interested in exploring and evaluating language and literacy initiatives that support students from non-dominant backgrounds. As a Curriculum Support Provider for ELA/ELD, and through participation in site-based teams and committees, he has explored how organizational theories of change and models of implementation can leverage teacher expertise and include their voice in the process of change. Outside of the classroom, he can be found with his wife at museums and art galleries, hiking and biking, or making the rounds to the local breweries.


Additional Resources:

Book trailer for Linguistic Justice

Geneva Smitherman’s “Raciolinguistics, “Mis-Education,” and Language Arts Teaching in the 21st Century

“This historical moment calls for language arts teachers to be bold and courageous; to talk more and teach more about language and/as race—i.e., raciolinguistics—and to recognize students’ right to their own language as well as they right to choose the pronoun which they want you to use when you refer to or address them. Language arts teachers are ideally positioned to exert leadership in the rejection of English-only and Standard English-only policies and practices, with all their negative consequences for our 2lst Century multilingual, multicultural students” (10).

bell hooks Engaged Pedagogy, chapter 1 from Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

“Progressive professors working to transform the curriculum so that it does not reflect biases or reinforce systems of domination are most often the individuals willing to take the risks that engaged pedagogy requires and to make their teaching practices a site of resistance” (21).

Drs. Carla España and Luz Yadira Herrera’s En Comunidad: Lessons for Centering the Voices and Experiences of Bilingual Latinx Students

En Comunidad brings bilingual Latinx students’ perspectives to the center of our classrooms. Its culturally and linguistically sustaining lessons begin with a study of language practices in students’ lives and texts, helping both children and teachers think about their ideas on language. These lessons then lay out a path for students’ and families’ storytelling, a critical analysis of historical narratives impacting current realities, ways to develop a social justice stance, and the use of poetry in sustaining the community.”

Dispatches: Course Design for the Now Times by Kim Jaxon

Dispatches: Course Design for the Now Times by Kim Jaxon

Welcome to NCWP Dispatches.

How do we chronicle our days in a time that resists narrative? Like living through a long body of paragraphs, by the time we get to the conclusion, the introduction has changed. The memory of March is a distant cousin to the reality of August. And so we write missives: a memo, a letter to an old friend, a late night text, a doodle in the margins. Or perhaps a recipe, a rant, or an unsent email draft–forms that hold the capacity for uncertainty, story spaces already ceded to unknowing. In other words, the ephemera of this moment. With this in mind, this summer, the Northern California Writing Project hosted a space for a group of teacher consultants to write weekly, tracking their experience, observations, and process as they navigated the transition between the initial pandemic response in the spring to the impending, more-intentional classroom spaces created for fall. We called them Dispatches. Representing a range of grade levels, teaching contexts, and expertise, these educators created a writing community where deep dives into anti-racist pedagogy wove through questions and concerns about teaching communities, daily writing practice and illustrated mini essays resonated with one another, and over time the fullness of our experience came into focus.  

Kitchen tables are now recording studios. Entire worlds are offered and built through the laptop’s persistent eye. Never before has the classroom felt at once so public, and so private, siloed in our homes or offices, away from students, colleagues, and campuses, trusting, hoping, our videos, documents, and discussions are finding their destination. As we stretch, week by week, into a school year like no other, we offer you the Dispatches from this summer’s writing, revised and expanded to include the ever-evolving challenges of teaching and learning, right now.

–Sarah Pape, NCWP teacher consultant and Dispatches coordinator


image of books and a robot Course Design for the Now Times by Kim Jaxon

Like many of my colleagues who think about digital pedagogy, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions from fellow educators as we shift to online teaching. Every educator I know is trying to get this moment right, to do our best to support learners. Universities and school districts are scrambling to support faculty and students as well, all with the best intentions. My own intention with this piece is to share course design practices and resources that might serve as alternatives to the primarily tool based, EdTech, approach. My fear: we’re worrying so much about solving problems of schooling that we’re forgetting to solve problems in our disciplines and in the world. More concerning, we’re allowing EdTech to rule our choices. Lots of companies are ready to sell us solutions for problems we didn’t know we had. At stake are our students (and teachers) and the ways their bodies are being controlled in the name of learning. We need to stop the outcomes, rubric, template, surveillance, plug in, packaged courses, frenzy.

I offer an approach to course design that moves away from “how do I take attendance” and toward “how do I support a newcomer to my community?” The suggestions are also guided by the most frequently asked questions I receive from faculty. Keep in mind, I never leave a class thinking “nailed it!” I humbly offer a process that I am constantly reflecting upon and revising.

One way to begin: a brainstorming session to understand your discipline

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to join a small group of international educators to think about professional development support for faculty who wanted to rethink digital pedagogy. We created an open site, Connected Courses, which you can access for resources: readings, example activities, webinars for course design. When we created the first sessions, we began by asking educators to consider the “why” of their courses; unlike a lot of course design, we didn’t start with content and outcomes (which are strange anyway: the learner should drive the learning outcomes, but that’s for another piece). We started with the why: why should students join our disciplines? Mike Wesch, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University, offered a model for thinking about the “why” by starting with our disciplinary identities:

As I contemplated the “real why” of my course further, I soon recognized that anthropology was not a bunch of content and bold faced terms that can be highlighted in a text book, but was instead a way of looking at the world. Actually, that is not quite right. It is not just a way of looking at the world. It is a way of being in the world. To underscore the difference, consider that it is one thing to be able to give a definition of cultural relativism (perhaps the most bold-faced of bold-faced terms in anthropology which means “cultural norms and values derive their meaning within a specific social context”) or even to apply it to some specific phenomenon, but it is quite another to fully incorporate that understanding and recognize yourself as a culturally and temporally bounded entity mired in cultural biases and taken-for-granted assumptions that you can only attempt to transcend.

Once we come to understand that our disciplinary identities shape who we are and how we work, you start to notice these differences. For me, I remember vividly an early meeting with two science colleagues as we planned to research writing in science classes together. I watched them enter my office, arguing about a question related to light that had emerged in their co-taught class right before our meeting. Leslie (physics) and Irene (biology) had come to my office deep in conversation; they looked around, searching for a white board in my space to hash out the disagreement. They could not believe I didn’t have a whiteboard: doing science and talking about science without being able to draw representations of science is, well, sort of unheard of as I would come to understand. Even if I had had a whiteboard in my office on that day, as an English professor, it would more likely have been in use for to-do lists. Tools, even whiteboards, do not serve the same purpose across disciplines. And yet, EdTech would have us believe that there is one tool to rule them all.student working at whiteboard

My chemistry colleague, Lisa Ott, echoed these ideas this spring, as we were facing online teaching: “…you certainly can’t be a chemist without pouring some shit in a beaker and seeing what happens. It’s an experimental science.” Lisa spent part of this summer with chemistry colleagues thinking about how to solve the problem of being a chemist: “working on inquiry-based at-home analytical chemistry labs using microfluidic devices. We had so many discussions about what it means to be a chemist, different ways to teach students the practice of chemistry, alternative assessments– everything moving away from plug-and-chug and test, test, test. Everything moving toward playing in the places where chemists live.”

photo of robot with pencilAn activity to try:
I invite faculty to take some time, even 15 minutes, to informally write about disciplinary identities and the “whys” of your field. Some prompts to consider:

  • What does it mean to be an historian? An engineer? A poet? A political scientist?
  • How do you move through the world and see the world (like Wesch describes above)? What questions guide your field?
  • What are the tools of your discipline?
  • What spaces do you inhabit online? For example, I’m on Twitter because all of the educators I collaborate with are on Twitter. Computer scientists occupy spaces in GitHub. None of my colleagues, or the ideas in my field, live in the LMS. I know for some of you, the answer would not be a digital space at all; it might be “in a creek” or “on a mountain” or “surrounded by cows.” In the now times, perhaps students can still set out for those spaces and use an online space to share offline learning.
  • Why should students take your course or become _____ists?

Apply your brainstorming session above to course design:

  • Ways of being: who are students invited to be in your course (beyond “a student”)? Do they have an opportunity to try out, even in failed attempts, what it means to be this kind of person? In art classes, for example, students are invited to gallery walks and critiques, mentored in ways of talking about art with other artists.
  • Ways of working: What does it look like to do history or political science instead of learning about history or political science? How can you invite students to work in the ways your field works? What does informal writing look like in your field (email exchanges? Notes on paper? Chats in front of whiteboards?)? How might you break down formal assignments or projects into the “behind the scenes” parts? Which platforms or tools does your field use? Github, Adobe Illustrator, Google Docs? How do you collaborate with colleagues? Again, using DropBox, Google? Exchanging Word documents in email? What if you were leading a workshop with colleagues in your field: which tools would you use?
  • Ways of situating: Where do your professional communities live online? For example, I point my students to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and invite students to sign up for their newsletter. I request free copies of NCTE journals and hand those out to students. I point them to educators to follow on Twitter and introduce them to Instagram accounts like WeNeedDiverseBooks. In other words, I point them to where the fish are swimming in my field, toward the communities my students want to join. Where do your professional communities live or share informally?

I recognize the desire to limit the amount of platforms, tools, webspaces we are asking students to join or sign up for. This point is not trivial. But we are doing students a disservice, we are gatekeeping access, when we hide the communities they want to be a part of and only play in schooled platforms. Students do not need proficiency in learning how to use the LMS discussion board, the way to submit essays in TurnItIn, how to navigate a publisher’s textbook and quiz bank, and the worst, how to take a quiz while being proctored, and yet so much of their education is a series of lessons in schooled practices, not the rich practices of our fields. When people say students need a templated experience so they can more easily take our classes, I call BS. Students are already asked to use a ton of tools; how cool would it be if they were using tools that exist in the world, in their fields instead. Trust students; they are capable. They desperately need and want to play and learn for real. In fact, they may have an easier time navigating our disciplines when the spaces look different, not similar. The various spaces allow students to try on various identities: geographer, poet, chemist, sociologist… The LMS assumes they have one: a student.

tl;dr: who do students get to be in your classroom and what do students get to do in your classroom? Is the thing you’re asking students to do a thing that people do in your field? Is it a thing people do in the world outside of school? Carefully select any digital tool based on the answer to those questions. Ask yourself if your colleagues would recognize the tool. If you must, use the LMS for your syllabus and a calendar and then get students out of there and into the communities and spaces of your field.

One next step: building community and attention to noticing

By far, the question I am asked most frequently is about classroom community, stemming from the fear of its loss. For what it’s worth, here are some ways I intentionally design for community in online classes. Some of these ideas are no doubt things many of you are already doing:

  • Surveys: A week or so before the semester starts, I send students a survey. I ask about their technology access and comfort, including some lists with choices of specific tools. Since I teach writing, I ask about their experiences and views with writing in their lives. I leave some open questions so they can share concerns or ask me questions. This semester, I’m asking how they would prefer to receive weekly updates: in announcements, in email, on our website, in an app like GroupMe. I’ll post updates in most of these places, but also create personalized ways to share information (a small group who chooses GroupMe and a group who chooses email, for example). I see this as a simple copy and paste issue that may make their life easier: they can opt-in to how they want to communicate. I send surveys about once a month to see how things are going in our class: I ask what is working, what is not, suggestions for adjustments, all anonymously.
  • Videos: I record weekly videos to supplement the announcements. I try to do these outside, borrowing from Mike Wesch. He has a great YouTube series here you can subscribe to. I plan to level up this semester by trying out his “mixed tape” idea for weekly updates.
  • First week and its importance: I see the first few weeks as crucial to community building. I start with the obvious: introductions.
    • I use Currents (formerly G+ Communities) since students do not need a separate log-in; they can use our campus log-in since we have Google Suites. Since many of my students are future k-12 teachers, introducing them to the Google Suite of apps is important since most school districts use this platform. Everything we use is something they can try out to use in their own classrooms. For the introductions, I give them some choice of format: video, short writing, audio, a series of images. I model an introduction too.
    • I comment as quickly as their introductions appear in the Currents community and make connections on their posts, often sharing a link to a book, a film, something connected to their interests that also connects to the ideas in our class.
    • I email/communicate immediately on the first week and establish the weekly routines.
    • I offer reading/writing activities and respond within days on that first week. They will keep doing fabulous work when they know someone is reading it and engaging with it. We think so much about student engagement, but do we demonstrate our own engagement with their ideas? Even in a face to face class, I never go over the syllabus on the first day: I use the first day to model the ways we will work all semester. If I hope they’ll talk to each other, read things, write things, make things, then we need to do that on day one; if I go over the syllabus, then that’s what I’ve just modeled as the most important thing. Go over the highlights of the syllabus another day or week. They can read it. The same goes for online: do the things the first week that you hope you’ll do together all semester .

Noticing and celebrating student work

  • Review board: I’ve written about the use of a review board previously in articles about large course design. This passage from “Epic Learning…”students

As an example of one structure that supports, and more importantly, makes noticeable, the scholarly work of students, I ask students to participate in a “Review Board.” Each workshop team sends a representative to meet with me for an hour outside of class time each week. The Review Board is responsible for reading the work of their peers and nominating a writer to be featured in class. We end up with nine featured writers — one from each workshop — and we pick a few to talk about in the large class. The review board’s job — back in the large class — is to present the writing, talk about why they think it represents some of the best thinking that week, pose questions to the featured writer about her choices, and celebrate their peers. I am always impressed by this small Review Board team: without prompting they will often ask “what was the purpose of the writing this week?” Or they will say, “we featured her work last week; we should make sure someone else is featured.” The students recognize that the writing is intentional and that we value the ideas from as many students as possible in our class. Each week, a new batch of scholars emerge and are highlighted in our space — and over time — we build a community where the students are noticed.

  • Featured curators: In a few of my classes, I ask students to be responsible for noticing great ideas from our class and their peers. Everyone has a chance to curate ideas once: they are invited to review the work our class has produced that week and write a blog that highlights the work. You can see an example here. And again, since most of my students are future teachers, noticing interesting thinking from students is a practice I hope they try out. 
  • Ongoing amplification: I always use the weekly updates and reminders to amplify student ideas. I often mention students and their ideas/questions in the weekly videos. I include short passages from their work, awesome questions someone asked, “golden lines,” which are favorite sentences from each students’ writing that week. Sometimes I ask them to highlight a favorite sentence from a peer or from their own writing; they send these to me and I include them in the update.

A note about synchronous and asynchronous approaches to community: One response to a fear about the loss of community is an attempt to duplicate community through platforms like Zoom. If a course is discussion heavy, it is challenging to imagine ways to redesign without class discussions. Students want connection too: in surveys from spring, they asked for more connection to their peers and faculty. We all miss each other. In the many years I’ve taught online, I’ve never used Zoom or a synchronous model of teaching. I have found that asking students to write, read, make, share, celebrate can stand in for “talk” in class. They may not be asking for a synchronous approach, per se; they’re asking to be seen and heard. An asynchronous approach, with routine deadlines, gives them flexibility in their busy lives. Amplifying their work, asking them to notice each other’s work, helps all of us to feel seen and heard.

I use Zoom (or Google Hangouts or Skype) to collaborate with colleagues, so I understand the affordance. But, the way we’re using Zoom in classrooms does not look like the ways I use it to collaborate with my peers. When I use these platforms with students, I invite them to use the platform like I do with colleagues: webinars, virtual writing retreats, consultation sessions. In fact, the virtual writing retreats have been quite successful. We meet to check in, we work offline, then come back together for feedback. I can imagine building, making, playing with all kinds of ideas in this simple structure: check in, go do a thing, come back and get feedback on that thing. An opportunity we have in this moment is to connect students to colleagues in other places, students at other campuses who are researching similar ideas. We can invite an author to talk to our class about a reading on Zoom. I’m hopeful that we can all continue to imagine intentional ways to use video platforms.

What I dream about for the future of higher education in particular is that we support faculty and students as they figure out how to use the web and digital tools, like, for real. We need support in thinking about copyright, surveillance and privacy, accessibility, access, and equity. We should have spent the last 10 years inviting people to learn about the web, to really know how to navigate and make decisions about tools and platforms. Instead, we invited people to work in sandboxes behind schooled walls in the name of being safer or more accessible. Unfortunately, using a campus tool does not make it any more accessible: faculty who upload a reading as a jpeg instead of a pdf into the LMS did not make the reading accessible, for example. Faculty who upload all their student photos with email addresses without student permission are not making the space safer. Moving forward, we have an opportunity to use this moment to learn more about digital practices that live beyond any one tool. We have an opportunity to learn about the affordances and constraints of the web.

photo of Kim Jaxon

Kim Jaxon is a Professor of English (Composition & Literacy) at California State University, Chico and Co-Director of the Northern California Writing Project. Her research interests focus on theories of literacy, particularly digital literacies, the teaching of writing, course design, and teacher education. In her research and her teaching, she uses a variety of digital platforms to consider the affordances in terms of student learning and participation. She is currently a featured contributor for Connected Learning Alliance and the co-author of Composing Science: A Facilitator’s Guide to Writing in the Science Classroom. This spring, 2020, she was named Outstanding Teacher at Chico State and was previously awarded the California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) Teacher of Excellence-College Award. You can contact her on Twitter (@drjaxon) or on her website: https://kimjaxon.com/ 


Additional Resources:

If you’re interested in resisting EdTech and need support, here are current resources you can point to when talking with administrators or fellow educators:

Resources for accessibility in course design:

California Writing Project Black Lives Matter

California Writing Project Black Lives Matter

We, the directors of the 15 California Writing Project sites, stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We are saddened and horrified by the murders of the past few weeks—the latest manifestation of the racism that began 400 years ago with the colonizing of what is now the United States.

This is who we are and what we see
The CWP is a community of educators dedicated to collaborating with teachers K-University to improve student writing. Now, more than ever, we are seeing the power of words, in speech and in writing, as an energy that can transform individual lives and break down oppressive systems. We are encouraged by this time of collective raised awareness, and by the growing number of people who have found the words that capture meaning for themselves and for others.

The moment has given us pause to reflect on our work. We have not been explicit enough in communicating our vision of the future–a world where all students have the capacity to write powerfully towards the purposes they most care about. As teachers, we work within a system that continually perpetuates inequities. We seek to be a partner in the humanizing revolution that abolishes these injustices, making use of our positions and the particular power each of us has. This revolution must include all of us, of all ethnicities and races, working alongside those who have borne the brunt of our country’s most racist beliefs and systems.

This is our pledge
While a social justice stance has been the backdrop of our work these past 40 years, we pledge to intensify our efforts.  We will dedicate ourselves to nurturing a community that comes together through writing and teaching to address anti-Blackness and other forms of racism in our society and our schools.

We will encourage students, teachers, and organizations to use the written word to elevate the voices of those repeatedly marginalized and threatened.  The ability to respond to the world with the written word is one of the greatest tools we can offer. We will use this tool to disrupt the status quo, to shed light on injustices and effect change.

Further, we commit to creating safe spaces for teachers to listen loudly and engage in difficult conversations about matters of race, to sitting with the discomfort that allows self-examination and growth.

We must all break the silence.

In solidarity, California Writing Project Directors –
Tim Dewar, CWP Executive Director and South Coast Writing Project
Nicolette Amann, Redwood Writing Project
Louann Baker, Central California Writing Project
Martin Brandt, San Jose Area Writing Project
Kim Douillard, San Diego Area Writing Project
Kate Flowers-Rossner, San Jose Area Writing Project
Lauren Godfrey, UC Irvine Writing Project
Kim Jaxon, Northern California Writing Project
Peter Kittle, CWP Statewide Office
Agnes Mazur, Inland Area Writing Project
Carol Minner, Great Valley Writing Project
Katie Nguyen-Lake, CWP Statewide Office
Faye Peitzman, UCLA Writing Project
Karen Smith, Area 3 Writing Project
Katherine Suyeyasu, Bay Area Writing Project
Laurie Stowell, San Marcos Writing Project
Juliet Wahleithner, San Joaquin Valley Writing Project
Jenn Wolfe, Cal State Northridge Writing Project

Applications open for our 2020 Summer Institute! (Postponed)

Applications open for our 2020 Summer Institute! (Postponed)

Like many programs across the globe, we are sad to say that we will be postponing our 2020 Summer Institute until summer 2021. We are, however, working on some alternative formats for supporting teachers. More information coming soon.

Stay safe everyone and thank you for everything you’re doing for students!

 

We hope you will join us or recommend a colleague for the 2020 Summer Institute! This summer, we are looking for teachers from across grade levels and disciplines who are in their first five years of teaching. Our goal: support our new, rural educators and connect them with other peers in the area who think about the teaching of writing.

Deadlines, dates and location?

  • Friday, March 15: Applications due.
  • Saturday, April 25: Pre-Institute gathering on the Chico State campus (lunch provided)
  • Summer Institute takes place 9:00-3:00 each day on the Chico State campus on the following days:
    • Monday to Thursday: June 15-18
    • Monday to Thursday: June 22-25
    • Monday-Tuesday: June 29-30.
      • Participants must be able to attend all days including the pre-institute gathering

 

Meet the NCWP Summer 2019 Fellows!

Meet the NCWP Summer 2019 Fellows!

This summer we are hosting our Summer Invitational Institute with a bit of a twist: we invited some incredible new teachers–teachers who are in their first five years of teaching–to join us for our Beginning Teacher Design Institute. These fellows will work together in June to share teaching practices and reflect on the teaching of writing in their classrooms, which span kindergarten to college. We believe these educators will offer new insights to our summer institute and new ideas to support local teachers. The fellows will imagine and design professional development for other new teachers in our service area.

Meet the 2019 Fellows!

Haley Hansen
Haley Hansen
Los Molinos Elementary
Sarah Darling
Sarah Darling
Shasta High School
Anthony Miranda
Anthony Miranda
Sierra Vista K-8
Jessica Bruce-McNeely
Jessica Bruce-McNeely
Alta Mesa Elementary School
John LaPine
John LaPine
Butte Community College
Samantha Brooks
Samantha Brooks
Colusa High School
Taylor Erickson
Taylor Erickson
Enterprise High School
Sam Roy
Sam Roy
John McManus Elementary
Katie Gorman
Katie Gorman
Buckeye School of the Arts
Abby Ott
Abby Ott
Willows High School
Kendall Enns
Kendall Enns
Willows High School
Joe Willis
Joe Willis
Feather River College
Sarah Morrison
Sarah Morrison
Boulder Creek Elementary
Samantha Brooks

Samantha Brooks teaches 9th grade ELA in the rural town of Colusa, California. Before entering her fourth year in teaching, she looks forward to beginning a graduate program through Arkansas State University online in Adolescent Literacy. She is also thrilled to be collaborating with fellow new teachers in the Northern California Writing Project. Samantha earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from the University of California, Davis, which is close to the tiny town of Esparto, where she grew up. She enjoys the small-school atmosphere, but also appreciates the “professional distance” between her workplace and the town she lives in now: right here in Chico. Aside from teaching, planning, yearbook-editing, and student-supporting, Samantha has a newfound (or, found-again) love of reading for pleasure. She has incorporated a significant amount of choice-reading into her curriculum, and is often found at local thrift stores, scouring the book section for contemporary young adult novels. She is always accepting donations to her classroom library 😉 One of her goals is to get students to write more about what they read, and more easily see the connection between reading, writing, and agency in this world.

Jessica Bruce-McNeely

Jessica Bruce-McNeely is a 4th and 5th grade combo teacher at Alta Mesa Elementary School in Redding California. She is interested in technology, World History, and outdoor education. In her spare time Jessica spends the majority of her time outside exploring with her husband.

Sarah Darling

Sarah Darling is in her first year of teaching English in an American high school and is currently at Shasta High School. She teaches CP English II, Basic English II, Yearbook, and Literacy Lab. Before teaching at Shasta, she was living and teaching English in South Korea for two and a half years. She went to teach English in South Korea because she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a teacher when she originally started the credential back in 2011. She decided to teach English in South Korea to find out if she liked it or not. She LOVED teaching. She had to come back and finish her credential. Literally, had to come back to finish it: the deadline to complete it was approaching. American high school is vastly different, but she is glad to be here. Each of her students brings something different to the classroom. Each of them is a new world that she wants to help open up for the world to see and for them to experience the world. Sarah has no awards or accolades. On her wall in the classroom, she has various student drawings and random things the students have found and given to her, proving that even a teenager really is a child at heart.

Hannah Duran

Hannah Duran grew up in small town Cottonwood before moving to Chico in order to attend Chico State University. She received her BA in English Studies with a minor in Linguistics and she currently teaches freshman composition while attending graduate school. Upon completion of her MA this spring 2019, Hannah plans on pursuing her Ph.D. in order to one day teach at a 4-year university. Some of her current research interests include rhetoric, composition, literacy, and linguistics. When she is not willfully indulging in her studies, she enjoys coffee and reading, watching movies with her husband, being outside, and spending time with her family and friends. She works closely with first generation students in EOP through the Summer Bridge program and in FYC.

Kendall Enns

Kendall Enns is a high school English teacher and Herff Jones yearbook adviser at Willows High School. She completed her Master’s in Education with an option in Curriculum and Instruction through the Residency in Secondary Education (RiSE) Program at Chico State in 2017. Prior to that, she was an English tutor to Burmese refugees in Chiang Mai while studying abroad in Thailand as a Gilman International Scholarship recipient. The travel bug has since then inspired her adventures throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. Next January, she and her fiancé will be married on the island of Koh Tao joined by close friends. Normally she spends her summers teaching for Upward Bound, helping students write personal statements for college admission, but she wanted some time off for professional development. In her spare time, she enjoys plotting her next adventure, training for her first half-marathon, and studying Vedic meditation with some yoga in between.

Taylor Erickson

Born a southern Californian, Taylor Erickson moved to Redding in July 2018 and is thrilled to be on the north side of her native state where there is less traffic. She currently teaches 9th and 10th grade English at Enterprise High School in Redding. Last year, she spent her first-year teaching high school in Santa Ynez, California working mostly with mild to moderate special needs students. Though she never saw herself as a teacher after graduating from UCLA, she is glad to have directed her focus on public service. The best part of teaching is when a group of 30 teenagers actually listen and follow directions. The second best part is when they debate each other using academic language. The third best part is when that troublesome student admits that they actually missed you when you were absent. In her free time, she enjoys high-intensity exercising, organic plant-based food and brainstorming book ideas (which are gestating in her mind, waiting to be birthed into actual books).

Katie Gorman

Katie Gorman graduated in 2009 with a Masters Degree in Education from Simpson University with a Preliminary Administration Service Credential. She is a Kindergarten teacher at Buckeye School of the Arts. It is her first year at Buckeye. She loves teaching kindergarten because she can help kids see their potential and develop a love of learning. She is married and has three wonderful children. Her hobbies are mostly whatever sports her children play. Katie and her husband volunteer to run a Flag Football League every spring, with over 200 participants this year. Last Christmas, she organized a toy drive for Children’s First Foster Families and raised over 400 toys for foster youth.

Haley Hansen

Haley Hansen is an English teacher at Los Molinos Elementary. She teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Los Molinos is a small farming community 25 minutes north of Chico. With the entire school K-8 only having about 300 students enrolled, Haley teaches all of the middle school students at the school. In addition to being a classroom teacher, Haley is one of two English Language Development site coordinators in her district and focuses her work on Los Molinos Elementary. As the site coordinator, Haley ensures all ELPAC testing is completed, trains teachers in ELD methods and strategies, and collects and analyzes data regarding the English Language Learners (ELLs) at her site. Haley was awarded the English Department’s student of the year at California State University, Chico in 2016 where she majored in English Education and minored in Linguistics. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Haley continued her education and was accepted into the RiSE program. Here, she obtained her California single subject teaching credential in English and her Master’s in Education. Her professional interests include culturally relevant teaching, language preservation, and self-reflection as a teaching and learning strategy. Her personal interests include spending time with her dogs, lifting weights, hunting, fishing, and all things crafty.

Keaton Kirkpatrick

Keaton Kirkpatrick teaches first year composition at CSU, Chico. He recently earned his MA in English in the Language and Literacy Pattern with plans to pursue his Ph.D. in Literacy Studies. He researches mentorship, classroom management, and digital communities relating to composition and literacy. He also works closely with students in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Chico State as both a mentor and an instructor.

John LaPine

John LaPine earned his MA in creative writing & pedagogy from Northern Michigan University (NMU), where he worked as a part-time teaching assistant for two years, while volunteering as an associate editor of creative nonfiction & poetry for the literary journal Passages North. He is also a poet, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in: The Rising Phoenix ReviewHot Metal BridgeThe /Temz/ ReviewGlass: A Journal of PoetryUnder the Gum Tree, Rhythm & BonesMidwestern Gothic, & elsewhere. John is currently in his first full-time year teaching English at Butte College, focusing on literature, poetry, creative writing, first-year composition, and critical thinking. He is on the committee that organizes WordSpring, an annual creative writing conference at Butte, and recently worked as editor for After/Ashes: A Camp Fire Anthology, a compilation of creative work about the Camp Fire, as a way to raise funds for fire-affected WordSpring attendees. John is also (slowly!) working on producing a podcast called Queer Americans, which seeks to document and project the voices of queer-identified Midwesterners. You can find more information on his website or follow him on Twitter @JohnLaPine

Anthony Miranda is a 7th grade English teacher at Sierra Vista K-8 in Vacaville. His interests are in exploring ways of using language and literacy that enable students to recognize and navigate schooling as a complex institution, in designing connections between content and civic participation, and in ongoing, critical reflection of how teachers negotiate the tension between schooling, as an instrument of oppression, and education, as an emancipatory practice. Prior to teaching only English, he taught 7th and 8th grade English and History. He participated in the UC, Berkeley History-Social Science Project’s Teacher Research Group that focused on making explicit to students the historical thinking skills necessary for evaluating and more fully understanding historical narratives. He is also interested in exploring and evaluating language and literacy initiatives that support students from non-dominant backgrounds. As a Curriculum Support Provider for ELA/ELD, and through participation in site-based teams and committees, he has explored how organizational theories of change and models of implementation can leverage teacher expertise and include their voice in the process of change. Outside of the classroom, he can be found with his wife at museums and art galleries, hiking and biking, or making the rounds to the local breweries.

Sarah Morrison

Sarah Morrison is a first grade teacher at Boulder Creek Elementary School in Redding — a school filled with mentor teachers who are willing to answer 20 (million) questions in order to help her survive and thrive in a classroom filled with 6 year olds.  When she’s not tying shoes and thinking about unicorns and the floss and all other relevant first grade things, she’s out being an aunt looking for baby dinosaurs with her nephew, exploring the coast of California, visiting family, biking with her German Shepherd, scheming her next international adventure, and decorating and redecorating her house.

Abby Ott

Abby Ott teaches English Language Arts at Willows High School, where she is about to begin her third year. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English Education from California State University, Chico, and she earned her single subject teaching credential and a masters degree in Education through CSU Chico’s RiSE program in 2017. Her favorite thing about teaching is getting to spend all day with teenagers, who she thinks are some of the best people in the world. Abby is a lifelong northern California native, and a proud connoisseur of local hiking trails and campsites. When she’s not teaching, lesson planning, grading, or directing the school play, she spends every possible minute adventuring outdoors with her husband, Ben, and her dog, Remi. She is an avid hiker, backpacker, and traveler, and hopes to check summiting Mount Shasta and visiting Asia off her bucket list this year.

Sam Roy

Sam Roy is the Reset/Onsite Suspension Teacher for Chico Unified School District at John McManus Elementary School. His classroom roster regularly consists of kindergarteners through fifth grade where he uses mindfulness and restorative justice techniques in the classroom with each student. Prior to the Reset role, Sam worked in the tech industry for five years as a training manager, using educational techniques he learned at the University of San Francisco with adults in tech. Sam attended seminars and conferences led by Brene Brown and Simon Sinek and applied their methods of leadership and vulnerability in the tech sector workplace. He also wrote grants for training tech with the Employment Training Panel with the State of California during his tenure as a manager. Before his life in the tech sector, Sam received his Master of Arts in Teaching and his California Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco, with his thesis centered on project based learning focused on social studies material surrounding feudal Japan. Sam taught fifth through ninth grade in the Bay Area, ranging in topics from homeroom to civics to world cultures to American history. While in the Bay Area, he was the site leader for the Washington D.C. 8th grade trip and he also coached Jr. High boys and girls soccer and baseball. Sam resides in Chico with his wife, his daughter and son, and their dog. He enjoys lots of things, like comic books, roleplaying games, Magic The Gathering, and drawing.

Joe Willis

Joe Willis: Ever since early childhood, I have been exploring forbidden zones in garages and back yards to figure out how things work. Targets of my inquiries ranged from mechanical things like power tools, toasters and radios to insects and flowers, especially insect-flower codependency. This led eventually to discovering literature that brought a science perspective to imaginary themes in poetry, fiction, and the essay. Writers such as Steinbeck, Thoreau, Twain, and Shakespeare were studied superficially in high school. Strange as it may seem, I was first led to deeper appreciation of such writers through conversations in bars with my biology professors. I suppose the seeds were being sown all along for a career that would shift slowly but steadily from teaching science and math in conventional ways, to curriculum writing with interdisciplinary approaches that sometimes got me into trouble, to my current love which is living in the Sierra (which is a singular noun, by the way) and teaching writing and literature classes at Feather River College.

 

 

Hello from the New NCWP Director!

Hello from the New NCWP Director!

Kim Jaxon, the new NCWP Director, with students from her first year writing course at Chico State

Hello fellow educators and welcome (or welcome back) to the NCWP site!

We’ve recently updated our website in order to highlight a couple new projects we are excited about: A Beginning Teacher Design Institute and, starting in February, local teacher featured blogs. The blogs will give you insights into area teachers’ classrooms and ideas they have for teaching writing across grade level and contexts.

Beginning Teacher Design InstituteNew teachers are perfectly positioned to know the particular challenges that can be part of the first few years. This summer (June 2019) we are launching an institute specific to the needs of early career teachers. Fifteen teachers–kindergarten to college in their first five years of teaching–will be invited to design writing support for other new, area teachers. We will alternate this institute every other summer with our traditional invitational institute. Please share the application with the fabulous early career teachers you know: LINK to application HERE.

NCWP Teachers WriteOn: In February, we begin our bi-weekly blog series featuring local teachers. These blogs highlight insights into best practices and ideas for teaching writing across the disciplines. We will offer the option to sign up for our monthly newsletter so you do not miss these blogs. If you are a local teacher who has participated in a Summer Institute in the past, and are interested in writing about your teaching, please apply to our Saturday session led by local writer Sarah Pape. The workshop will be held Feb 23, 9:00-3:00, on the Chico State campus. More information and application here: LINK  Applications due Feb 15.

In addition to our new projects, we have a lot of activity in the NCWP at the moment. Carla Truttman, an amazing high school teacher from Yreka, leads our College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP). Currently, Carla and other local teachers–Shawni McBride from Corning High School, Robbin Jack from Shasta Unified, and Tracy Dickinson from Etna– are working with teachers at Maxwell and Princeton High Schools to think about research, argument, and claim driven writing practices. The team will meet with other teachers from around the United States in Atlanta in February to share insights into the C3WP program.

Amanda Von Kleist and Lindsey Nemec are currently leading a year long professional development series with Fair View, AFC, Cal, and Oakdale educators to support writing across a variety of disciplines. Robbin Jack is currently designing a summer civics writing camp for youth in Siskiyou County that will be held in July on the College of the Siskiyous campus. And, we recently completed curriculum design work with the National Parks that will be made available to local teachers.

I am thrilled to be taking on the challenge of directing the NCWP. My own adult children are 7th generation in this area: my ties to this community run deep. Recently, I’ve focused attention on supporting local teachers who were impacted by the fire. With two local elementary educators, Monica Brown and Amy Niess, we’ve started Color a Classroom with Love.

(Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico)

We are connecting teachers with support networks through a Facebook group and a website: LINK HERE. My future teachers at Chico State are working with me: we are in awe of the incredible work these teachers are doing to support their students. If you have not watched the documentary about Paradise Intermediate Schools efforts to relocate to the former OSH building, you can find the video on our Color a Classroom site. There is also a For Donors page if you are interested in supporting local teachers who were impacted by the Campfire.

We are grateful to all our teachers and the incredible work you do every day to support students. WriteOn.

Kim

Kim Jaxon, Director NCWP

Follow on Twitter: @drjaxon

Kim’s website