National Writing Project

Teachers Write About What Matters in E-Anthology

Date: July 24, 2009

Summary: Teachers are writing in a range of genres and exploring their classrooms and their pedagogy in a variety of ways in the E-Anthology's Classroom Matters forum.


Academic writing. Learning differences. Rhetoric and style. Social justice.

These are just some of the many topics that teacher-consultants have written about in Classroom Matters, one of three forums on the E-Anthology. Classroom Matters is the forum where new teacher-consultants can post their "professional" writing—writing about the life of the classroom.

While the Open Mic forum is a place for a range of genres (poetry to short stories to multigenre pieces) and A Day in the Life is a place for descriptions of the daily life of summer institutes, Classroom Matters is the place where teachers can describe demonstrations, post a position paper, share their teacher research, offer an op-ed piece, or review a book.

Although the work may go on to appear in national journals, this is not the objective. What is important is the possibility for exchange. As participants share their thinking with other professionals across the country, they all have the possibility of gaining further insight into their shared work and of having a dialogue about matters of the classroom.

Digging into Professional Writing

In his article "Professional Writing in the SCWriP Summer Institute," Sheridan Blau suggests that writing about the profession might include short articles, position papers, teaching stories, case studies, and reflections/meditations/think pieces.

Although the work may go on to appear in national journals, this is not the objective.

To help teacher-consultants better imagine what approaches they might take and what topics they might explore, Classroom Matters features a range of topic tags—key words that writers append to their pieces. The tags can also help in sharing professional writing so that ideas can build on each other and become vehicles for deep discussions about important issues.

At a glance, the tag cloud reflects the level of interest in various topics.

So, what did teachers write about in 2008?

Teachers posted pieces . . .

about their use of technology: "I also have come to realize that there is a moral imperative to re-envisioning myself as one who embraces new technology and fully participates in the 21st-century literacies these "gadgets" enable. . . . While there has always been strong anecdotal evidence of technology enhancing students' motivation, we are beginning to see more and more research showing how technology can act as a catalyst to empower marginalized, floundering students." (Mary Sawyer, Hudson Valley Writing Project, NY in "Who Me? Joining the Multiliteracy Frontier") 

about their classroom:"As lockers slammed randomly and sneakers' squeaky echo bounced off the walls, the tardy bell sounded down the hallway signaling 6th period. My classroom looked like a hurricane had just blown through it, with candy wrappers strewn about the dirt-covered tiles, pencils and random sheets of paper scattered aimlessly between rows of desks. I was sitting at my desk staring at the four-foot stack of ungraded essays . . . when a student stumbled into my classroom. Derrick, intelligent but a uniquely unorganized student, ran to my desk carrying the tattered and wrinkled up essay that was due the day before." (Katie McCombs, Jacksonville State University Writing Project, AL, in "Why I Teach")

about their profession:"Teachers, we have a problem! . . . But just like the movie, there are engineers (politicians) busy making plans to save us all. Behold! as my mind races onward, I am to only use the state adopted core curriculum for each grade level (despite having a combination of grades which also means different publishers)." Carol Updegraff, Redwood Writing Project, CA, in "Teaching and Apollo 13 Space Mission")

about new techniques for teaching writing: "Using an inquiry approach to essential questions to write feature articles provides students with the material that they need to write authentically. . . . Our students will engage with the curriculum only so long as it remains meaningful to them, and to be meaningful, it must begin and end with that which is important in their lives. Let's give ourselves over to them, for once, and trust that, with the right guidance, they can be the experts on their own thinking and produce writing that proves it." (Shannon Falkner, San Diego Area Writing Project, CA, in "Authenticating Writing Instruction: Using an Inquiry Approach to Feature Writing")

about issues of social justice: "I was in a school of a race of people whom I only knew through our television set. I never had thought that they were for real, or if they were, that I would ever meet any of them. . . . White people were the people of Superman, TV Westerns, Father Knows Best, and the news." (Peter Frau, Maya West Writing Project in Puerto Rico, in "Bottom of the Pyramid")

Teachers' Viewpoints Matter

The exchange of ideas among a diverse readership just might lead teachers to take the next steps toward readying a piece to be submitted for possible publication.

But no matter what teachers decide to do with a piece after posting it, Classroom Matters precipitates rich conversations among teachers across the country.

The E-Anthology's E-Team hopes teacher-consultants will continue to respond to this invitation—because, as in the brief examples above, what teachers have to say about what goes on inside their classrooms really does matter.

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