Monday, October 19, 2015

Bob Uhl's Opening Volley

Hello, all. I'm Bob Uhl, an English teacher at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vermont. This is my second year at FHTMS and my fourth year as a public school educator. I spent the first two years of my career teaching English at a middle school in northern California. Prior to that, I worked as a literacy tutor, substitute teacher, and piano instructor. I'm happy to be taking part in What's the Story as both a mentor and assistant instructor.

I'm a new recruit to What's the Story this year, and I'm loving it so far. The work I did with my colleagues over the summer at the Bread Loaf School of English was crucial in preparing me to take on the challenge. I felt a little nervous at first, having never undertaken a project of this nature, and I ran into some logistical roadblocks leading up to September's kickoff event. In retrospect, overcoming those obstacles set the right tone for the year, and I have been approaching my work both as a teacher and a member of this group with a renewed confidence and desire for growth.

One revelatory moment came when my school district informed me they could not accommodate the transportation request I had submitted for my students to attend the kickoff event at Middlebury College. It was my own fault for not making the request far enough advance. I knew then, though, that I would have to make a greater effort to plan farther ahead. Another such moment came after a couple of my students who had expressed interest in the project and attended the kickoff event decided to drop out. For various reasons I knew that their decisions were likely for the best, but it occurred to me that I probably should have spent more time selling the opportunity to participate in What's the Story to independently motivated students. I'll try this next time. Finally, I was pleasantly surprised by the strong show of parental support.

And a few musings: I wonder how my remaining students will fare throughout the remainder of the year. They're young, and to my knowledge none have much experience with this sort of project. Second, I wonder how much more interest will be generated in What's the Story at the middle school level by next year. I would love to double the number of participants from FHTMS. Finally, I wonder how the community will respond to students' finished products. I'm particularly excited to see about this.

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