Final writing from last morning of ESWPN workshop:

"What I Can See" by Lisa

A precipice. Dark and limitless, with no proper footing with which to safely stand. I look out at my future, at the large undertaking I am about to engage in, I take one last breath, and jump in.

Stage 1: Direct eye contact transmitting like ideas back and forth. Heads bent over pen and paper with nods of assumption and sideways tilts of thought and reflection. Teachers as consummate professional leaders sharing with each other. Confidence without fear and trepidation, confidence that lends itself into an understated current, a momentum of change coming down the pike.

Stage 2: Little fingers moving to the sketchy rhythm of ink scrawling on paper, minds fixated on one goal. Delicate faces transformed into driven individuals with thoughts about identity and reflection. Feet walking towards desks with a sense of deliberation and readiness. Minds set on a thought that says that no, tests are not what defines my education for I have surpassed the ‘standard’, I have grown past my self-proclaimed limits.

Stage 3: Meetings of like minds on a hazy July afternoon confer about their experiences. Thoughts and feelings are transformed in the traditional way with silent reflection, paper serves as the only communication between abstract and concrete. Sharing results in smiles and recognition at a job well down. Was it work? Yes. Was it difficult? Of course. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Change was scary, but it was a necessary vehicle with which to stay afloat, to ride the tide, to grow and evolve. Sitting across from my fellow colleagues, I smiled and exhaled. It has been a job well done with much more work to do. But I felt proud to be a part of this group, for it was the writing project that initiated necessary change. Looking off in the distance what once seemed dark now seemed light. They were the ones that maintained stability; they were the ones catching me so I would not fall.

From Lynn:

Teachers must regularly engage in conversation about student performance. What is working in this classroom? Why is this working? I realize now how important it is to look at student writings and determine how lessons and assignments could be enhanced. Ultimately, this perfect response to the CCS would be achieved through teachers frequently visiting their colleague's classrooms and branding together to determine what is and is not working. Judgment, intolerance, scrutiny, indifference, superiority, check these at the classroom door because good teachers do not educate children with these ghosts stand besides them.
"Teachers teach teachers"

From Charlene:

Writing across content areas is:
  • Doable
  • Can be short "sound bytes"
  • Rigorous
  • A vehicle to unlock new understandings/discoveries
  • Needed daily
  • Important
  • Expected
  • Embedded in assessment
  • Worthwhile
  • Journaling/ entry and exit slips/ quick writes/debate preparation/all genres
  • Evidence laden
  • Assessment itself
  • Interactive/collaborative
  • Creative
  • Transformative/Transforming

From Kathy Dudley: District response to the Common Core State Standards

Response to CCSS
Team meetings must no longer focus only on the problems of our students, but must be proactive forums where the agendas are designed to address the standards, the categories under which standards are grouped, what is missing from the standards, and a pairing of English teachers with a social studies, math and science teacher so that we can consult with those colleagues regarding writing strategies, and we glean other nonfiction materials inherent in the curricula of those colleagues. This could be the most powerful piece, where one team meeting per week, or one half of each of the three team meetings would be used to address CCSS, collaboration with English and other teachers, sample lessons, using the NWP writing assignment or a variation thereof to develop lessons that are rigorous and meet the CCSS.
We must forget about teachers doing lunch duty. Now is not the time to waste 45 minutes babysitting in the lunchroom. That time should be spent analyzing lessons, student work, and the CCSS. If the new standards truly level the playing field, we can finally shine because we ALL know what success should look like. A separate task force should be critiquing the new standards, finding holes in them and plugging those holes with more reasonable and rigorous frameworks.
Now is the time to capture the excitement and momentum and subvert the anxiety into activism: activism in the school room, in the lessons we plan, in our critiques of ourselves, our colleagues, our lessons, our students, communities and our state education board. We must forge alliances with parents, taking pledges from parents and students about study habits, homework completion, reading, and everything the research and our experience deem necessary to create authentic educational practices and outcomes.
Study successful schools where students are not concerned by test scores because they score well. What are the demographics? Are the tests and standards biased toward a certain region, income group, ideal that leaves our schools out of that mix?
We will need to conduct research, use marketing strategies, and a whole lot of other initiatives before we even set one foot into a classroom and open our mouths to begin a lesson.
So much energy is needed. We must take a holistic approach and like a well honed army, fight for the best school for our students, the best conditions in which our teachers will work, great community relations, parents and other adults in the classrooms. This is perhaps the beginning of the new sixties, a heady time full of change, striving for true excellence, and giving the state a run for its money.

From Nicole Marti:

I think a perfect response to the Core Standards would be one of recognition and empowerment. I think we should recognize in the Core Standards what we are already doing rather than see it as a threat or a mandate that we will not be able to live up to. We should see the standards and understand that these are the basics of good writing, that the content of these standards are implicit in good writing assignments and good student work. Also, perhaps the standards could inform us on ways to enrich our teaching of writing, new directions to explore or places where we can go more in depth with what we are already doing.
My fear is that the Core Standards are going to be considered a threat, a new, alien list that we must comply with or lose our jobs, a strict mandate that does not allow for creativity and forces us to change the good work we are already doing.
I think it is valuable to think of the standards instead as a baseline, a way of evaluating students who are underserved, a minimum requirement and thus not a comprehensive view of all writing, not an exhaustive account of what teachers will do in the classroom. Just the basics, perhaps the fundamentals in some ways.
It would be nice if our approach to the Common Core allowed us to feel recognized, validated, heard and proud of the hard work that most of us have been doing with our students.
Even better would be if we felt more open to exploring writing in new ways, incorporating more creativity and authenticity into the writing assignments we give our students, allowing for more choice, greater depth of knowledge, more sustained writing on a topic over time, an enhanced use of the writing process, revisions, editing, a consideration of real ideas, opinions and voice in student writing. Much of this is often lacking when we teach writing through formulas and templates that help students get ready for tests. The writing is meaningless to them most of the time and they don’t come away with a feeling that they are indeed writers. It would be even better if our students felt more empowered as writers as a result of the Common Core, if they felt they had more of a chance to use written language to express genuine thoughts about issues that matter to them, and if they felt that they had an opportunity to explore issues of importance to them through research and investigation. That would be an even better addition for the students, and for the culture of the school when it comes to writing. Fewer rules, more ideas.

From Denise Maltese
Dear teachers:

The common core standards deliver a skeletal framework outlining the basics of what you will teach. It’s up to you to put some meat on those bones. We’re aware that you are already teaching what’s in the standards; however, we’d like you to consider taking your course outline, calendar, and/or curriculum and matching it up against the common core. Make sure that you’re hitting all the points of the standards, and you’ll be covered.

Our concern, then, is not for your ability to meet the common core- you’ll do that and go beyond the standards. We are, instead, concerned about the way that the common core is currently assessed. We are aware that the assessment hardly scratches the surface of the standards, which, as mentioned in the above paragraph, is a thin frame of what should be done in classrooms. And that means that the standardized measures are anorexic, lacking body, richness, and purpose.

As a result, we’d like you to develop a portfolio of work that shows the depth and breadth of what you do with kids. We know that we’re about to face difficult times- having to work within the new laws and the state evaluation system of teachers and principals. We want you to feel supported and to know that we’re aware that you’re already doing excellent work in your classrooms. We expect that the changes will create anxiety in teachers, concern about the union’s role, and frustration in our community. Let’s stay together. Let’s stay together.