Why Your First Assignment of the Semester Should Be a Narrative

An interesting shift has happened over the last couple decades in the world of business. The spreadsheet loving, dollars and cents world of business has fallen head over heels for the decidedly unspreadsheet world of storytelling. This can be best seen in the evolution of advertising. Even during the 1990s, commercials were largely information/tagline dissemination vehicles (see below). For example, car commercials at the time spent most of their time giving numbers concerning the price, reliability, gas mileage, and longevity or showing random montages of Americana followed by vague taglines like Chevy’s “Like a rock” or  “The longest lasting, most reliable trucks on the road.”

Compare that to Chevy’s 2014 Super Bowl Ad (below), which shows a young woman’s coming of age with her dog, Maddie. This ad gives no information about the car whatsoever and every frame is connected to a story. Even the tagline at the end, “A best friend for life’s journey” signals a shift towards story.

Continue reading “Why Your First Assignment of the Semester Should Be a Narrative”

Relationship-Based Writing

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In one of my first posts of this blog I talked about a subject that I think doesn’t get nearly enough attention: writing is really hard.

We all know that it is hard, but I’m not sure that during our day-in and day-out dealings with student writing we appreciate enough how incredibly hard it is or how hard it can be on us. I mean take me for example. I teach writing, I write a lot, I have a deep understanding of how writing works, and I’ve got a generally good track record with writing. And I still struggle to find the right words, agonize over choppy constructions, lose my train of thought and grow overwhelmed trying to find it again, and face waves of exhaustion and worry almost every time I sit down and put my hands to the keyboard. Continue reading “Relationship-Based Writing”

Creating a Narrative of Progress

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Since the new year I have spent a lot of time doing two things: responding to a massive stack of student essays and slowly working through Thomas Newkirk’s Embarrassment: And the Emotional Underlife of Learning. While some might pity me for spending much of my week off reading and responding, I am not one of them. First, the week before I chopped three (!) novels off my to-read list and didn’t so much as think about school. And second, Newkirk’s book–which explores how our emotions (teachers and students) often slow, obscure, or outright obstruct learning–is a remarkable text. I can’t think of a more important educational book that I’ve read this decade. And reading it while simultaneously responding to student writing felt like an extended revelation of sorts. So much of what Newkirk described was so clearly threaded throughout my students’ words, and thanks to him I had more tools than ever to help the students whose embarrassment, fear, lack of motivation, and low self confidence were clearly standing in the way of their writing.

In fact, I was so struck by the book that over the next few weeks, I want to share three distinct tools I got from Newkirk in the hopes that these tools will help you to better manage the teacher and student emotions that impact your classroom. Today, I want to start with a phrase that I have already committed to the core of my teaching practice: create a narrative of progress Continue reading “Creating a Narrative of Progress”