Glorious Work: Conversations with Eileen

Morning Friend,

I don’t know if you can hear this but my house is humming: clothes are being washed, Dana is here cleaning, the Ladies of the View are squabbling about Oscar nominees and me, I’m just enjoying a sunny morning with time to write after an early morning exercise workout at my gym.  All I need to add in guitar practice and I’m all good.

So I’m smiling right now.  Dana is going wild, catching me up on her adventures and I’m clicking away,  sifting through two action-packed days of work.


Tuesday, at Highland Falls Schools with our inquiry teacher team!


Andrea and I put in our time planning the day as a mid point to the goals of our project.  I think that instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m just going to rework my late night reflections written in the darkness, with Tuvia snoring to my left 🙂

This was a wonderfully rich and full day for everyone, I think… hope!  It was for me.

We began with a fresh, new digital piece I created from  classroom observations and the last workshop day to motivate the group into a reflective Writing into the Day writing prompt.

As usual, I was working from plenty and during one of our planning conversations, just before vacation, I committed myself to a new piece that we could use to inspire team reflection on how they have benefited from our work together.

I was mildly overwhelmed and often, in the two weeks of break, opened my computer, clicked  around a bit, watched a few clips and escaped from the program  without making any progress on a new piece.  As I got closer to the end of the holidays, I started worrying about the time it would take to share something from each of the teacher observations I’d made and then, when I least expected it, BRAINSTORM!

 How about a focus on just one teacher who had participated in my protocol group as well, so we could view her whole process with one of the two strategies we modeled with the team on the first team workshop day.

 I worked up a piece, a case study on Nicolette, a young science teacher open to experimenting and moving out of her comfort zone. She opted for the Believing and Doubting strategy that I had modeled in a workshop. She hoped  to push her students to look at both sides of an issue. We then got to look at a piece of her student work during the second team workshop using the HVWP protocols, introduced by Mary.

The group commented on what they noticed about Nicole’s work and then they took time to reflect on their own experiences as a member of this inquiry team.

Everyone responded positively, commenting on successfully using the modeled strategies and sharing at the team sessions with their peers..( I have more now for a revised piece :))

In the next segment the teachers shared their wonderful pieces modeled on the 5 image story from a workshop recently created by Andrea and myself. Again, they took the strategy and made it their own, working it into their curriculum.  It will be wonderful to share some of their work when Andrea and I present this workshop again.

NEXT UP: Sean O’Brien was a perfect HVWP presenter.(Thanks Tom) 

 He had a wonderful way of connecting with each individual teacher and then sharing his work with the group in an open and authentic way. He set up a nice framework for MG projects, building on my initial intro during the last team team and then moving the group to his student projects so the group had concrete  moving them to a continuing conversation of next steps for their MG work.

It was great too that Sean was able to see their work before he presented his workshop giving him a better sense of what they could do and where we are hoping to go with this.

After lunch,  Andrea offered another MG strategy, the two voice poem, anchoring it in Science and Social Studies around the Tsunami event, using a variety of resources and the web tool, The team again worked through the process, creating  their two-voice poems in groups. Again, the team got another reading/writing strategy that they could use with students.

To help the group move to next steps, Andrea,created a chart to give the team the big picture, visually moving them from where we started, what strategies they now have in their tool box, and where we are headed.

There remains the disconnect with some teachers who don’t see that these strategies are not independent of supporting the teaching of their content. HS teachers in particular are still focused on the racing to cover information. They don’t yet see that their classrooms can  be more student-centered with the kind of strategies we are sharing, but they are open.

The last hour was spent thinking deeply with a MG chapter we shared during the last session that’s filled with strategies. The HS teachers are dealing now with their im-class midterms but between now and February 8th, (our next full team session) most of the MS teachers will probably experiment with more of the strategies and will have student work to share at the next session.

Additionally, at this upcoming February session the team will work with their partners to settle on an issue to study, then select articles to have their students read,  and create a MG list of strategies their students can choose from for their project work. 

Finally we will share the digital essay that each student will compose as the final piece of their project.  Troy Hicks shared two excellent pieces of student work with us during our collaborative keynote and Andrea will offer tech support in having each student create a web page in Google Docs to house their digital essays and MG pieces for this unit.

From February-March teachers will be able to determine when they can work on this unit and during this period I will join them to support and document their classroom work, interviewing their students as well.

There’s more to say, but it’s now 12:30 and I have another video to work on for the HVWP tomorrow.

It was a day to remember!

See what I mean? And I still didn’t share anything about yesterday in New Paltz.  I almost didn’t make the trip up from my house. In an early morning conversation with Tom, I started wondering if I had enough to do there.  A hour up and then one back home.  Would it be worth it?  After a call from my buddy Jackie, sure, of course!  I left for the Apple store and a session with my new techie bud, Maersk for some last minute support before I presented another new piece to the HVWP team of Tom, Diane and Jackie.  Yikes… This piece is a new challenge, a teaser for the Young Writer Camps scheduled for the summer.  This year we are more focused and this piece will be used to build interest and answer questions for the parents who will send their children to us.  Okay… I had something good, I thought it was good but would the team?

I had lunch with Jackie to catch up and adjust to the world of our writing project and then we moved to the school, to set up for the screening… I clicked the computer and it began to play…silence and concentration from the audience and as usual  I was wired in my silence.  Tom broke the silence…comments started to fly and I stopped the flow to share the feedback I wanted (first time for that!)  Consider the time and effort will you.  Then we can move from there.  Silence… and then the conversation slowed down and softened and I was open to next steps…

Really, all good, but there is a lack often, of how we need to look and value the work in question.  You know what I mean?

Up in Tom’s office, with the Gunks just outside his office window, the sun would be setting as we talked and planned and reconnected.


You know, it was worth the ride…

And it wasn’t over… I had to get back to a dinner out with two of my favorite people: MaryClaire- wonderful former student…and mom Mary …school/friend/mom… What a wonderful walk back on memory lane and then into the present 🙂

How wonderful it was to see them and everyone else.

I’m so rich in friends and stimulating work, don’t you think?



Categories: Highland Falls School Dist 2012-13, Hudson Valley Writing Project | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Glorious Work: Conversations with Eileen

  1. Lani

    Wishing you were my teacher…….you inspire me.

    First days of the semester were amazing, but today not so much. Does everyone have trouble getting undergrad students to buy the textbook! I negotiated a price reduction with the publisher….and am using the book for a potential of 2-3 of their 2nd and 3rd year classes. I know they have been burned before, buying books they never used…..

  2. Sweet cuz! I think you have to stick to your guns with requirements. It’s not fluff right?

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