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Wonderful Life

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 4 months ago

Discussion of Chapter 1: It's a Wonderful Life


In this short first chapter, Kittle outlines some of her core beliefs:

  • Standardized testing does not rule how she teaches writing in her classroom.
  • The single greatest influence on a child's learning is the effectiveness of a teacher.
  • We don't tap into our students' passions; therefore, they don't care about what they write.
  • Students try to figure out what we want and deliver it -- they believe there is a correct way to write.





Go back to Reading Schedule.

Comments (8)

Anonymous said

at 10:11 pm on May 23, 2008

When I read this chapter, I highlighted the following quotes:

"[T]he factor that had a greater impact than all of the others combinedd was the effectiveness of the classroom teacher" (3).

"How come after all the time I put into commenting on that paper, he just turns to the last page to find the grade?" (3).

"We aren't tapping into their passions" (3).

"I told him how hard it is for teachers to hang on to what they know is right about teaching when criticism comes from every corner and test scores get the most attention in town" (4).

The reason I liked the first quote is that is is empowering to think that I can have such an impact on my students. It's also, frankly, daunting and scary. One of the reasons I wanted to read this book is that I wanted to learn to be a more effective writing teacher.

The second quote could have been me. I write copious comments on student papers and continually find myself frustrated when students flip to their grades and ask "Why did I get X?" I want to say, "Did you bother to read the page of comments I wrote?" That's not an exaggeration. I have literally written or typed a page of comments. So frustrating. I am eager to read the rest of this book because if it does nothing else but help me reduce the number of times I hear that question, it will be worth the money I spent on it.

Of course, Kittle is probably right that we aren't tapping into their passions. So how do we? Again, I hope this book will help.

Finally, the last quote interested me not because I have to deal with a lot of high-stakes standardized tests (I don't because I teach in a private school), but because I do think lots of factors prevent us from, as Kittle says, hanging on to what we know is right about teaching. If you substitute "test scores" for "grades," you'll have my situation exactly.

Anonymous said

at 10:17 pm on May 25, 2008

My copy arrived yesterday and I couldn't put it down. I have not spent any time with the DVD, but I am excited about incorporating some of Kittle's ideas into my classroom.
I imagine that many of us deal with the frustrations of students only taking an interest in the grade written on the paper and disregarding any of the suggestions and/or corrections given.
I also agree we're probably not tapping into student passions as often as we would like because it is easy to get bogged down with curriculums, pacing charts, and district assessments. Due to the demanding schedules of teachers, I think that it is also easy to overlook the students' needs to see us modeling the learning process. After teaching something for the third time in one day (not to mention how many years), it is sometimes difficult to maintain the enthusiam. One of my best experiences of late was when I taught a novel I had never read and told the students that I would be reading it for the first time with them. It was probably one of the best units I have taught. Students invested much more of themselves in the the unit and nearly all students participated in the discussions. Once they realized that I really hadn't read the novel, I think it freed them from the mindset of 'she's going to tell us what is important and what we need to know.' They realized that we were equals, all learning at the same time. I hope that some of Kittle's ideas will help to create that atmosphere again.

Jessica Osbourne said

at 10:24 am on Jun 2, 2008

I am in my last week of my first year of teaching. I work in an urban school teaching 9th grade English, and at times it has been a very discouraging year. Our district has been at war with the teachers' union over a contract, we are under tremendous pressure to meet AYP, and the students face real hardships I cannot even begin to imagine. For at least the last eight weeks I have been praying for an end to this school year, for summer to be here so I can refuel and focus on a new start next year. After reading Kittle's book over the weekend, I am feeling energized and excited about next school year. So many of Kittle's methods mirror what I want to do in my classroom, but did not know how. I was inspired by her take on standardized testing, that it does not have to get in the way real, authentic writing instruction. I loved her honesty too-so many books about education paint this "Dead Poet's Society" picture of teaching and we know that some kids will resist us, but we keep going anyway.

Anonymous said

at 11:56 am on Jun 2, 2008

I am ordering this book today and hope to catch up with you ladies this week. Jessica, Hang in there! I have neen teaching for 12 years and I spent 4 of those years teaching in urban schools. Teaching in urban areas and inner city can be quite a challenge, especially for first year teachers. I was often very discouraged. If I can offer any suggestions, please let me know.

Anonymous said

at 8:09 pm on Jun 7, 2008

From Tammy in Arkansas on June 7...

When my husband noticed that I had started reading this book, he said, "You are reading for work." (Up to this point I had taken a "fiction" vacation with James Patterson's character Alex Cross and helped catch several serial killers!)

So, yes, I'm working in the eyes of my husband...and beginning my "play" time!

Writing Beside Them is a great way to begin my professional development for the summer of 2008! (If I don't count the required nine hours I have already completed since school dismissed for my school district.)

I like this lady's spirit and energy and philosophy! I appreciated her reminders that "teachers make the difference, not tests." I have always believed that if a teacher simply teaches, then her students can't help but be prepared for any mandated test.

I also liked her comment about tapping into a student's passions. I attempted (that is the key word! I'll make many improvements to that project by implementing more backwards designing!) a multi-genre research project and received tremendous feedback in my students' journals about how they appreciated being given choices. While initially groaning about the 1500-word minimum, they soon exceeded this minimum goals as they experimented with genres and began to "vent" about their topics.

Lisa Huff said

at 8:22 pm on Jun 8, 2008

I'm pumped about reading this book. Tammy and I have just finished a two-year program call Lit Lab--the concept of turning our English classrooms into reading and writing workshops. I agree with the concept but came away from the training feeling short-changed: the program focused on the research and theory (important concepts) but provided little application of the concepts--the part explaining how we return to our classrooms and "do this." This book looks different, and it seems to be one of a precious few titles aimed specifically at high school English teachers. That excites me. I think it may bridge the missing gap with the Lit Lab concept--at least in the area of writing workshop.

As Dana mentioned, Kittle's underscoring the power of the classroom teacher rang true to me. The fact that we're all here, taking control of our own learning is proof positive that we understand the concept of being a lifelong learner. Sadly, I don't think all teachers do, or maybe they just don't yet understand how Web 2.0 tools allow us to connect like never before, that each of us, no matter what school setting--whether supportive like Dana's or sometimes oppressive like Jessica's--can support us in our efforts to continue to learn, to improve.

Another point that struck me was Kittle's emphasis on in-class reading time. I've struggled with this concept--knowing the research supports it but feeling unable to carve out time for it in my too short time with students. I'm making a commitment to reading time next year! Her quotes from students (pp. 72-72; I know I'm getting ahead!) convinced me.

Anonymous said

at 10:31 am on Jun 9, 2008

Hello to all of you. Lisa invited me to join your discussion and I truly hope that is okay. I hesitated because I thought you might want to rant and rave about my ideas without me peeking over your shoulder. But if you're okay with this, it will be really good for me to hear what you have to say and respond to your questions. I just finished teaching A block on senior skip day... so I had five students present, all the ones who had signed up to present their multi-genre projects. And it is 85 already (no a/c of course) so I was expecting cranky Monday morning nonsense. Instead I got honesty, courage... I wish you could have been beside me. One girl shared her project on rape. She trembled as she read, but she wouldn't stop. Her two-voice poem on what the research says and what it was to live through it was incredible. And my camera's battery went dead mid-read. Of course it did! But it was one of the moments in teaching when you say, 'Yes, this is why I'm here.' So... now I need to grade all of those projects. arrrgh. Thanks to all of you for reading my book. I mean that. It's an honor to have it read by such committed, smart professionals like you. Have a great end of your year, Penny.

Anonymous said

at 7:59 pm on Jun 9, 2008

Penny, I hope I speak for everyone when I say we're delighted to have you join us. I am glad that means we get to pick your brain when we have questions. I have been busy with end of year stuff, too, but after this week, I should be able to get more involved in the conversation here. I look forward to your contributions.

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