I am in my 19th year teaching at Champlain Valley Union HS in Hinesburg, VT. While I am still an English teacher half time, the other half of my job is to be one of 3 Instructional Coaches at CVU. This is a fantastic position that is an honor and a gift to have, as it allows me the time, resources, and flexibility to dive into the world of education reform, the brain and learning, and pedagogical innovation in a way that full time teachers are not able. In that capacity, we spend time blogging and Tweeting and managing a teacher learning website (follow us at @cvulearns if you're on Twitter, or go to www.cvulearns.weebly.com or http://cvulearnsblog.blogspot.com).
As a member of this BLTN team, I am a mentor, and so far I am loving it. One of the biggest improvements over last year is the organization (thanks to Tim and Bill) that can occur in year two of a project. Everything is so much more defined and clear--something that was impossible last year--and already I think the project is better for it. The kick-off day was great--nice to meet everyone and start to get to know our learners, and important systems and structures were established that will allow everyone to engage more regularly and actively. It was a bit hot, but I don't think that will be a problem moving on!
I agree with Tim's ah-has...am I allowed to do that? First, the connection between the student bloggers and their readers is going to keep students engaged and will hopefully allow us to control the rigor by directing students in their inquiries. Also, this adds a level of authenticity to the project, as having real readers responding to their ideas will make them think a little more about the role of audience in change. Second, I am also really excited about the opportunity for teacher professional development (see how I am seamlessly stealing Tim's ideas and pretending they are my own?). Finally, and this one is all mine...I am already seeing how I am bringing in some of the design elements of What's the Story? to my teaching. We have an innovation project that we do with our 10th grade humanities students, and WTS has made me think about how to provide real audiences for them. Very cool.
Wonders...I have a few for sure. I wonder if we are going to be able to help students choose projects that are feasible. So many of their ideas as of now are vague or so large in scope that change seems impossible. I look forward to seeing if this changes as their blogs continue--if questions from readers are enough to narrow and hone and focus in on an element of an issue that resonates, yet is actionable at this level and in this amount of time. Another wonder I have is about the overall sustainability of a program like this--there is a lot of time, money, and other resources going in to making WTS successful, and is that replicable? I guess the idea is getting schools to offer sections that then come together around the state, or some such thing--which could work. Finally, I wonder if Common Ground Conference Center allows dogs, as we don't have a dog-sitter for the night and I think my lovely girls would have fun getting to know everyone!