As school system administrators begin their preparations to have teachers (then students) to return to their respective campuses, I’m sure they will be looking for top-quality professional development sessions— ones that are also affordable. I have three all ready to go:
- Peer Reviewing within a Writing Process
- Start by Listening: Ethnographic Experiential Learning through Community Partnerships
- The Humanities & The Local
In Peer Reviewing within a Writing Process, I provide secondary ELA and social studies teachers with insights into how I have used a highly structured syllabus containing a multi-step, student-centered process that has students using writing to learn. In my classes, writing is not the “test” to measure learning, but the method by which the students learn. Two tenets within the National Council of Teachers of English’s Professional Knowledge on the Teaching of Writing – “Writing is a process,” and “Writing is a tool for thinking.” – show that students should be taught that writing in school is more about the process than the product. In fact, a solid final product is nothing more than evidence of a process well done! (This workshop was originally designed for the Elmore County Board of Education for its ELA teachers.)
The Start by Listening workshop, which has been presented at the Center for Arts Education at the Boston Arts Academy and at last year’s Arts Schools Network Conference in Dallas, offers a framework for how teachers can think about employing experiential learning, which is not just “taking a field trip.” Without effective scaffolding and a capable guide, a field trip is little more than a day out of class for most students. However, by regarding one’s community and surroundings as opportunities for real-world learning, teachers can help students to become life-long learners who see the world immediately around them as valid and important. But first the teacher must start by listening: to the community, to the students, and to the circumstances within the school.
Finally, The Humanities & The Local, which was originally designed as a day-long workshop for the Alabama Humanities Foundation, leads teachers through the process of seeing local culture and history as an endless supply of fodder for the ELA or social studies classroom. Surrounding every school is a local community that is rich with folkways, nuances, and backstories, all of which were created or put there for reasons that could be geographic, social, cultural, religious, or political. When students connect the multidisciplinary lessons of the humanities to the world immediately around them, they can understand that the realities encompassed literature, history, sociology, psychology, and political science exist all around them.
Each of the three workshops can be adapted to the needs of any school or group, and all three are cost-effective. Each of the workshops could be organized, for instance, within a two-hour, four-hour, or eight-hour timeframe. My rate for the presentations is simple: 100% reimbursal for travel expenses and $75 per hour of presentation time. I would suggest that the presentations are best for groups of 20 teachers or fewer.