Class Notes: A Weekly Feature

Since leaving my last teaching job, I have done many things to keep busy and challenge myself. I self-published two  books,  I stretched my writing comfort zone to new genres by enrolling in a playwriting workshop that has resulted in two plays, and took an on-line poetry class.

I knit my first pair of socks, defying the advice of the local yarn store that insisted I could only do so if I took the class they offered. I followed directions on the pattern. While they won’t be winning the blue ribbon at the state fair, they’re warm, and remind me of what I’ve always said about knitting socks: why put time into something that’s covered by pants and shoes. Still, they’re fun to make and I’ll do a few more pairs. IMG_1043

 

Last week, I returned to the classroom as a teacher. I’m teaching creative writing at Link Community Charter School in Newark, NJ where I started my teaching career nearly 30 years ago. It’s part-time, 4 days a week, two classes a day of 7th & 8th graders.

Did I forget the energy required? Teaching, as any good teacher knows, isn’t all about content but about classroom management: how students enter the room, how materials are distributed, how attendance is taken, how grades are given, how questions as asked, how lessons are presented. I feel a bit like a 19th century schoolmarm in a 21st century environment. What I lack is the technology skills. White boards, Power School, and all sorts of other tools that are used to present lessons and manage data.

As a former English/Language Arts teacher, I mostly taught writing as an extension of reading- responding to literature, and prepared students for high stakes testing by drilling them with 5 paragraph essay topics. I tried to include some of the fun stuff, like short stories and poetry around the demands of the curriculum. April was poetry month, and that fell conveniently after the state tests, so we could relax and explore.

That was then. Now testing seems to happen throughout the school year, beginning next week. This school has delegated creative writing as part of its arts block. Each student gets a quarter of music, drama, creative writing, and fine art. So the challenge is to teach writing that doesn’t interfere with what the English teachers are doing and to enhance and engage students in writing. Who knows, some may realize they too can become writers.

There’s more to get used to. There seems to be more rules. There are infractions for not wearing the uniform correctly (thankfully I can wear what I want as long as I look professional.) Students leave their backpacks in the hallway and all materials are provided and distributed in class. IMG_1042

I plan to run the class as a workshop. Students will create a “heart” map and find their own writing territories. They’ll draft, confer and revise and create their own “chap books.” At least that’s my vision.

I’ll learn how to use the technology I need from the younger staff. Teachers are always students.

Stay tuned for a weekly update.

 

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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23 Responses to Class Notes: A Weekly Feature

  1. Wishing you much success and I know you will make a positive difference to all those lucky students and younger teachers you encounter. Happy new year!

    Like

  2. Gilla Stern says:

    Best of luck in your position! !

    Wishing you and your family –

    SHANA TOVA!

    REGARDS,

    GILLA

    Like

  3. Good luck in this new school year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an endeavor. All the best. This must be quite the undertaking. I look forward to your updates.

    (Great socks.)

    Like

  5. I would love to be one of your students Lisa! And those socks would be amazing in a Canadian winter. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my gosh! You are off to a great year with those lucky students! Love that heart map for writing. Not sure what it is but I’m sitting tight for your weekly updates. I’m also enjoying my teaching job and look forward to write more on my blog as well! Good luck, Lisa!! (hope you still get to knit and ride your bike, write plays and all (or some of!) your myriad hobbies!)

    Like

  7. Margaret C says:

    Lisa, you are a marvel of energy as always! I remember D. Charles saying that the first week(s) with first graders, at the end of the day she felt as though someone had taken her by the shoulders and spun her in circles, and I bet your 7th and 8th graders are just as [fill in adjective, please – I don’t mean intentionally “demanding,” more like max. focus and effort on your part]. Have fun!

    Great looking socks, too, just looking at them is warming. One of my earliest memories is of my sister knitting argyle socks while in bed with a broken leg at 19 or so. No idea how she learned, but guessing it was not a class.

    Happy fall, and happy new year to all!!
    m

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  8. Thanks! Always great to hear from you. My mother knit argyle socks when she became engaged– she said all her friends were knitting them for beaus, but then would break up and they’d have to resize the socks for the next boyfriend– so she said she’d only knit them when she got engaged.

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  9. I think these students are very lucky to have you, Lisa. ☺

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  10. Tell all. I am subscribing now to your back-to-school series!

    Like

  11. Huffygirl says:

    Schools have so many rules now, out of necessity mostly. Almost worse than, or at least as bad as healthcare; probably worse because minors are involved. I don’t think I would be very good at working in a school. Good luck. Love the socks BTW – they don’t look any harder than mittens, so I can’t believe one would need a class to make them.

    Like

  12. Leah says:

    This is so exciting! Looking forward to hearing how your teaching goes!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mazel! I know you’ll be inspiring, Lisa. I can’t wait to see how it turns out! Keep us in the loop. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  14. hugmamma says:

    I’m so impressed with your energy…and smarts! Ever think of politics???

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: Happy Earth Day! | cyclingrandma

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