Congratulations to Bread Loaf Teacher Network Advisory Board member Janet Atkins for reaching the finals of the Lanier Poetry Competition. Janet's comments, below speak to the role of developing one's personal craft as a writer and teacher. Learn more about the competition at http://www.lanierlib.org/ .
I have always believed that a teacher should practice the craft she teaches. And, so when Ken Lindbloom, editor of The English Journal asked me if I would like to write an article for the issue on Teaching in the Age of Incarceration, I told him I would consider doing so. I struggled for a long time with this topic because my son, Andrew, is currently serving time. What eventually came from the depths of my being is the poem that appears on page fifteen of the March issue of The Journal. Additionally, I have just been informed that my poem “Retrospective on an Empty Nest” has reached the finals in The Sidney Lanier Poetry Competition. The winner will be announced on April 27, and I have been invited to the awards ceremony to read my poem. Writing poetry is a way to have one’s voice heard. And it is also a way to teach that surpasses lectures, collaborative learning, digital presentations, or independent reading. Writing with and for one’s students is, by far, the most effective way to show the importance of crafting one’s thoughts to communicate with others.
Thanks to Lou Bernieri, Andover Bread Loaf, and all of the Lawrence partners, for sharing this video of the 2013 How to Eat a Poem Conference in Lawrence, MA.
Bread Loaf Teacher Network's Charlene Ortuno was one of two featured classroom teachers, and was joined by BLTN Director Dixie Goswami on this weeks's ConnectedLearning.tv webinar. View the program archive here.
LFDCS 6th grade Family Night
-Submitted by Lou Bernieri
The bitter cold – below zero with wind chill – didn’t deter families from
coming to the Lawrence Family Development Charter School last night, Jan
23, from having their 6th grade Family Writing Night. Over 150 were in
attendance (only 5 families couldn’t make it) to hear the 6th graders read
their work aloud. It was an inspiring event. These Family Writing Nights
began last year with the 4th grade and now have begun to spread to every
Before they began their reading, one student from each class was chosen to
read a collective letter created by each class to explain what Bread Loaf
meant to them. Before writing, they discussed what they wanted to say.
These are the kids sentences; they voted on what sentences they wanted in
the letters. Below is one of them:
Well, first of all, Bread Loaf is awesome. Many, many students enjoy
Bread Loaf. It is a privilege that we students at LFDCS have and we are
lucky. Bread Loaf is basically a group of people who get together to
speak the truth. Our writing comes from our mind, soul, spirit, and
finally our hearts. Bread Loaf lets us share part of ourselves and we get
to know each other better. When we share our poems, we talk about our
“real selves” and and it is our time to shine. It is also a great way for
us to express our feelings and emotions. We are allowed to write about
something we have “first-hand knowledge” about, which is ourselves, and
this helps us build more confidence and self-esteem. The prompts allow us
to have a voice in our classrooms and in the school and we have a chance
to “get things off our chest” instead of holding everything in. We trust
our writing so much more and don’t even get nervous sharing in front of
the class anymore. Finally it is a time when we get to be funny, nice,
happy, and sometimes even sad. This is how we, Mrs. Medrek’s class feel
about Bread Loaf.
News from Rich Gorham of Lawrence, MA:
In the last two weeks, thanks to the work of Bread Loafers, the city of
Lawrence hosted two extraordinary writers.
Last Saturday, January 12, Martin Espada performed a reading at El Taller,
the new cafe and community center opened by Bread Loafer Mary Guerrero.
Espada, originally from Brooklyn, is of Puerto Rican descent and has
written powerfully about Latino, class and other human issues. He has
published many books of poems, including Albanza (my recommedation for
your first Espada collection).
On Friday, January 18, Lawrence High School hosted Junot Diaz, the
Pulitzer-prize and MacArthur genius-grant winning Dominican-American
writer, whose three books (Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,
and This is How You Lose Her) have established him as perhaps the finest
American writer of his generation. It was Diaz's fourth visit to Lawrence
High School, thanks to the work of Bread Loaf alum Sean McCarthy. Diaz
requested that the event not be pulicized, and he spoke with a group of 75
invited students and teachers. To the students, all of whom had read Diaz,
he is an absolute star, a bigger celebrity than any actor, musician or
athlete. For Diaz's part, he came to Lawrence free of charge, and
expressed joy at the chance to meet with Lawrence students. He has, of
course, a standing invitation to return to Lawrence at any time.
Add to this readings in the city over the last ten years by Robert Pinsky,
Julia Alvarez and Seamus Heany, all facilitated by Bread Loafers, as well
as the parade of writers and artists who perform for Lawrence students and
teachers at the Andover Bread Loaf Writer's Workshop each summer.
We believe strongly in Bread Loaf's role in cultivating the literary and
artistic life of a community, and bringing the finest authors and artists
directly to our students.
a student in my Honors IV English class, mounted the only picture she owned of
her birth mother in the bottom corner of a white piece of paper and typed the
words, “so close yet so far” at the top.
She told us that she loved her mother, even though she didn’t know her,
and that looking at the picture made her feel closer to the woman who gave her
up shortly after she was born. Ariella shared this story with us in November,
two months after the school year began and four months after I drafted I Live
Here: A Reflective Artifact Project.
the idea was a product of the short time I spent in a PhD program studying
ritual and secret revealing in popular American culture. The assignment asks my
seniors to select a different artifact every month, from some point in their
lives, and to reflect on that physical object visually and through language.
Revealing secrets is never mentioned. Although I thought the project was
creative, Ariella made me realize that the grace, compassion, and generosity
with which my students would interpret my directions and articulate their
experiences would far exceed any expectations I imagined. Often meticulously
and lovingly completed, the students’ visual and written presentations mask
painful stories that lay beneath the artifacts.
JoBeth Allen taught at the Bread Loaf School of English in the Program in Writing in 1997 and 2001, working with many of her Bread Loaf students year-round on social justice and equity in relation to literacy research and teaching.
From the NCTE website at http://www.ncte.org/awards/elemeducator/winner:
JoBeth Allen is the recipient of the 2012 NCTE Outstanding Educator in the English Language Arts Award. This award recognizes a distinguished national or international educator who has made major contributions to the field of language arts in elementary education. JoBeth Allen taught in the primary grades, including Head Start and Follow Through classrooms, before becoming a teacher educator in the language and literacy education department at the University of Georgia. She conducts critical action research and is particularly interested in the implications for students who struggle as readers and writers. She has had the opportunity to work in schools which focus on connecting with, learning from, and building on the strengths of families.
contributed by Lou Bernieri For 25 years the backbone of BLTN Lawrence has been ABL's Writing Leader program. Writing Leaders are middle, high school, and college youth who are trained to assist teachers and youth workers in literacy programs, organize workshops themselves, and serve as mentors for their peers and younger students. ABL has developed hundreds of Writing Leaders over the years, many of whom are now teachers.
On Friday, October 26, I had the privilege of attending the Oregon Academic Technology Society conference organized by Scott Christian, BLTN '94. From his position as Director of Academic Computing at the University of Portland, Christian has orchestrated the formation of OATS, Orgeon's chapter of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The conference was a remarkable gathering of K-20 teachers, with a keynote and concurrent sessions focusing around teaching challenges and opportunities in the "digital commons." Almost every session dealt in some ways with mobile devices and the prospects of the "flipped classroom." As Scott moves on from his post to a new leadership position at Oregon Health Sciences University, he will continue to lead OATS and to build the kind of community BLTNers have come to know as spaces for innovation, collaboration and professional trust. Watch the OATS website
for updates on OATS, and visit the presenter resource page for conference highlights and resources
Forbes (2012) and MetLife (2012) have recently identified teacher attrition rates at a record high. Teachers are leaving the classroom and many reports indicate the exodus has to do with teachers being the recipients of decontextualized professional development; not having access to professional or community membership or support; having to allow testing to drive curricula; and having the climate of teacher assessment provoke even the most gifted practitioner to question their own methods. Not many reports, however, are focusing on why teachers STAY in the profession. Looking through the old BLRTN magazines and seeing the faces of Bread Loafers who have long since graduated yet who are still using BLTN as a collaborative community for themselves and their students indicates a unique professional phenomenon, which is timely to study; specifically, the hub of user activity taking place through BLTN confirms that teachers ARE staying in the profession, ARE part of dynamic educative communities, and ARE able to successfully pivot between the rewards of teacher-centered and teacher-guided professional development like that established through BLTN and the necessities of popularized packaged professional development like that offered through many school districts around the US.
Having developed an interest in the longevity of teachers' participation in BLTN, I conducted a pilot study (2010) of my proposed dissertation topic with founding BLTN member and veteran teacher, Janet Atkins.
My data analysis and observations from the pilot study led me to discern preliminary answers to these essential questions: (a) What are Bread Loaf Teacher Network’s participants’ perspectives regarding the ways in which the Network brings about change in their lives and in their schools?; (b) How do these teachers construct a sense of community through their interactions with peers via the Network?; and (c) How do they articulate the essential differences between the professional development they have experienced through the Network in comparison to more standardized/traditional professional development experiences they have had? Answering these essential questions has implications for changing the types of professional development programs offered to teachers through national programming and for pushing back against rising teacher attrition rates at the local and state level. We want the best teachers to come to our schools and stay with our students because recent findings indicate that excellent teachers (as opposed to good, mediocre, or insufficient teachers) can improve student social and economic status well into their adult lives. Consequently, effective professional development and long-time teacher retention has as much positive professional impact on the teacher as it has on the students.
I am excited to continue working on this research this academic year with the help and contributions from a number of BLTNers. Check back for updates on the dissertation, to be completed by summer 2013.