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The Classroom

The Classroom is a podcast by a middle school writing teacher conferring with students about the books they read and issues in writing. The podcast strives to give students a voice about the impact of choice in the classroom and the reality of what works for them in the teaching of reading and writing.
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Dec 31, 2016

On Back to School Night, as well as by email, I invited parents to participate in my podcast on reading and writing. There is no coaching, no pre-conference, no review of questions ahead of time. Parents show up on a designated date and sit down with me for thirty minutes. 

We talk. The Voice Recorder app runs.

In each case, conversations have run over thirty minutes. We discover that we do have a lot to share with one another about reading and writing.  I tell the parents that we will just keep talking but that I will extract an eight to twelve minute segment to reflect upon.

What strikes me immediately (in all of my podcasting with the parents) is how closely the parents' experiences and beliefs mirror much of the research on reading and writing that I have read. I find myself thinking about Donald Graves, Janet Emig, George Hillocks, Mina Shaughnessy, Tom Newkirk, Lucy Calkins, Nanci Atwell, Katie Wood Ray, Katherine Bomer, et al.

I am wondering how can parents' words and actions so closely mirror what the research has been telling us for decades, yet the actions regarding writing in education continues to drift further and further away even though we know better?

One of the most powerful moments in this conversation is when Amy exclaims, "Ohh! Don't be so afraid!" She is imagining a conversation she has had with her children again and again. Amy sees adolescents stymied by rubrics. They aren't helpful. At least, they aren't as helpful as we'd like to believe.

I keep coming back to the idea that what inside of schools resembles little of what happens outside of schools. And it makes me question the validity of how we spend our time inside of the classroom in addition to the validity of how we assess writing in particular.

In this excerpt, two parents (Doris and Amy) share how their personal experiences as readers and writings inform how they help their own children as readers and writers.

I'm struck that Doris and Amy acknowledge physical activity stimulates the brain to focus.

I'm struck that each sees the counterproductive results of adolescents dependent upon rubrics.

Not only am I struck that these adults write, but also I am struck that they can name the specific processes in their everyday lives that the research names as effective and authentic. Doris thinks about an idea for weeks--often while driving. Amy talks to friends about a subject, reads widely, and thinks about while jogging.

Since each of these parents knows that writing is an active process over an extended period of time--and each encourages their children to see writing similarly--perhaps more do as well. While we take our cue from the policy makers from above, we (the collective education community) may want to continue to reach out to have informal conversations with parents about reading and writing. We each have advocates and mentors within reach. We may not get 100% participation, but some parents will and some community members will if asked. 

Perhaps we can extend more invitations to parents to be engage us in conversations so that we might advocate for our community together. 

Every few episodes I will continue to insert excerpts from my conversations with parents about reading and writing. Enjoy the first with Doris and Amy!

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