Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let it Snow!

Like many teachers and students in the Mid-Atlantic States, I've been experiencing a week of snow days. After quickly reminding my envious friends that I must make these days up on fairer days, I settle in to catching up on grading papers, replying to student blogs, and prepping for next week's classes.  Then calm.

A chance to think, to mull, to surf, and to read unlike what I had been accustomed to save my salad days of grad school or dog days of summer. Being unable to get out of the house, with two feet of fluff on the ground and a few more inches falling, I'm granted that rarest of commodities--time unscheduled.

Time to be reflective, creative, thoughtful, intellectual, sentimental, and focused.  I'm catching up with the September issue of Educational Leadership and the November issue of English Journal. I'm chairing a curriculum committee on 21st Century Learning Standards and both have periodical have offerings on the topic.

In EL, Terrence Clark's article "21st Century Scholars" tell of a program inspired by the curriculum framework of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. "The district's high school developed a program that gives students the opportunity to build an impressive electronic portfolio documenting an array of mind-stretching experiences, which take place outside of regular school hours in the afternoon, evening, on weekends, or during vacations."

In EJ, Jim Burke's piece for the English Journal's "From the Secondary Section" column, presents "Reimagining English: The Seven Personae of the Future."  He gives Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future an English teacher's perspective and profiles a lucky seven archetypes for the Millennials in our English courses.  These personae have one common denominator: imagination.  Burke lists:
storyteller, philosopher, historian, anthropollogist, reporter, critic, designer
It may seem that some of these are far afield from how we English teachers have thought of our craft. Burke argues:
This is the future we must imagine, the one in which our students will live. These are the personae they will adopt and adapt as society and the workplace evolve. Some will wonder where literature is, where culture can be found in this model. Yet I see our rich tradition of literature and language, rhetoric and composition, prose and poetry already existent in all these roles. It is simply time to reimagine how our discipline might be reenvisioned.  
Even without these personae in mind, many English teachers know that their work has helped students who have gone on to create, innovate, and cope with cultural change.  Now to remain relevant our cultural change Burke joins the chorus of Daniel Pink and Ken Robinson (and many others)  in calling us to make imaginarion, creativity, and collaboration the brain, heart, and soul of our courses.  More on the challenge of this in a future post.

Right now I have some shoveling to do.

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