Category Archives: Teachers as Scholars

Back on the Case: On Being Named a #hfellows Heinemann Fellow

I’ve written about how this year has been difficult largely because I’ve not felt as intellectually challenged as I have in previous years. As a teacher-scholar that has always found something to think deeply about, work on, or consider, that I had to grapple with that issue was one that made me think seriously about the reasons why many of us both choose teaching and choose to pursue lives beyond teaching.

Then, though, a series of events happened. The first was that I collaborated with colleagues to produce a wildly successful Educators of Color Conference that convened so many amazing educators of color sharing their work, celebrating excellence, and simply exhaling together.

The next was being named one of 11 educators from across the nation as a Heinemann Fellow. A primary undertaking over the next two years of this fellowship is to conduct an action research project. Essentially, I get to think deeply about what has been happening in my classroom and focus on a question I’d like to set about investigating. I’d been taking lots of notes during our initial meeting last week, but when our leader, Ellin Keene, began explaining why it’s important to follow our hunches and to think about what is most curious or most troubling about our teaching, I felt my gears start to shift into motion again. 

I have hunches all the time. I ask questions all the time. I write them on Post-Its and in notebooks that I rediscover randomly. For the most part, though, I’ve not spent any meaningful time thinking about how to answer them because of a host of reasons. Largely, though, I’d venture that I’ve not felt compelled to pursue them because I’ve had neither the time nor the compunction to do so on my own. Such a realization is a huge one for me, as when I began teaching I was largely a lone wolf, content to work on my own (for better or for worse). It was only once I got my teaching sea legs that I realized how much more powerful (for myself and for my students) it has been when I go with others. And here I should add that the reason I have been able to remain intellectually engaged over the last two years has been because I have a fantastic colleague that refuses to let me do things alone. Refuses.

Now, though. NOW, THOUGH. Two of my strongest academic experiences were shaped with the help of other people. In graduate school, there was the Dissertation Support Group (the DSG), comprised of three of us working on our Ph.D.s We met often, pushed each other through completion of classes, exams, dissertations, and now, tenure for one of us. Then, there was the Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color (CNV) for NCTE. I was part of a larger cohort of 10 of us that were defending dissertations, applying for tenure-track jobs, figuring out where they fit: in a secondary classroom or in academe (me). In both of these experiences, I was a part of something greater. I was a member of a family. And man, I got some incredible work done!

As a Heinemann Fellow, I am part of a cohort again, and they are some of the most interesting educators I have met in a long time: dedicated, smart, doing great work with young folks. And we’re all doing the work together. TOGETHER. 

Getting back to the research: I had two of the best qualitative methods professors I’ve ever had and I remember both of them talking about hunches and then setting out to see where the data takes you. That, to paraphrase Anne Haas Dyson, is what it means to be “on the case.” I remember being vaguely terrified because, well, that meant that hunches might or might not pan out and what then?!

I’ve come to realize that the what then is actually where the magic happens. That, as one begins to listen, to think deeply, and to simply be willing to be open to what one sees, truth reveals itself. That truth is oftentimes nothing close to what was initially anticipated, but that is okay. Being brave enough to ask the questions is what starts this entire amazing process.

Being named a Heinemann Fellow has reminded me to be brave enough to ask the questions again, and to follow where the case leads. I am beyond excited about this next part of my journey.

 

 

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Filed under Heinemann Fellows, Professional Development, Teachers as Scholars

Teachers: Stop Giving It Away for Free

I’m returning from blogging over at Single Mom So Far, where I spent March participating in the Slice of Life Challenge created by Two Writing Teachers. It was quite nice to work out my current feelings about motherhood and how my life has changed.

We are brilliant teachers: more people should benefit from what we know.

During March, I thought a lot about teaching and some writing projects I finally think I’m ready to undertake. I also had some conversations with fantastic educators. They are brilliant teachers of young people at all levels and abilities. The biggest oversight is that administrators and even other teachers don’t seem to realize that these experts are either next door to them or within their buildings. We sit through PDs that these folks could teach effectively and responsively, yet, they are never asked. On the off chance that they are finally asked to do something, there is often no compensation for the time invested for preparing an excellent PD.

It drives me nuts.

I did the same thing: offered up my resources, thinking and knowledge because I was so flattered whenever someone asked me. It finally took a scholar I admire to remind me that I should not be giving this information away for free. And that’s what I want to remind my fellow teacher-scholars: we have expertise that is valuable. Think about all the emails you’ve fielded about folks wanting to ask you questions about what you’re doing in your classroom. It’s because they know that we’re doing amazing work.

I’m not saying to set up a Teachers Pay Teachers or Gum Road account, but, at the very least, we should learn how to negotiate better. Think about the best lesson plans and units we’ve written. Someone needs those. Think about the presentations we make. Someone would most likely pay for us to present those somewhere (particularly if it’s a business or company of some type). Why not even create a short ebook and sell that like Dave Stuart Junior (I love him) or the Cult of Pedagogy?

We need to stop underselling ourselves. It’s not a matter of modesty: we’ve all seen too many bad instructional materials, know that we can do it better. Thus, we should. And we should attach some sort of value to what we do because if we don’t, people will keep taking it until we have nothing left. Know your worth.

A few other suggestions:

  • Consider consulting: what are you really good at? Determine a rate and use that to either approach potential places (conferences are great for this) or to have it on hand when they come to find you (this can happen, particularly if you begin putting your awesome work out there). It’s better to have a number in mind. Also, don’t forget to account for the time you’ll need to prepare, travel, etc.
  • Have some sort of online presence: a website (lots of free ones are available but I’m being convinced that it makes sense to set up something that a pro designs–maybe)
  • Make a list of everything you’re good at and make that your calling card. I love it that Marie Levey-Pabst offers organizational help for teachers. It’s brilliant! My wonderful friend Lillie Marshall has parlayed her love of traveling and teaching students into presenting at conferences all over the world and visiting incredible locales. She is a brand and it is her passion: she’s found a way to make it work for her. We need to take notes and use these teacher scholars as models.

It’s that whole idea of “whatever you are, be a good one” (Lincoln). We are good at what we do. We need to get better at making sure others know that, too.

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Filed under Professional Development, Teachers as Scholars