Camp NaNoWriMo

July is another opportunity to try and kick out the cobwebs and write! This year, my first, I joined the madness called Camp NaNoWriMo.

And, like “Nancy Kelley, a 10-year NaNoWriMo veteran,” my “idea of camping involves houses with four walls, running water, and a bed.”

You Are A Writer, So Start Acting Like One

Jeff Goins is perhaps the most quotable and readable writer in the blogosphere and beyond today. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed receiving his newsletters and been blessed by the tips on writing I’ve shared with students during the past year since I began reading his work. I read Wrecked when he first launched it during my weeks of going green, while commuting to work on the bus last summer. Then, I took up the gauntlet and got the intended thunk to the back of the head from his You Are A Writer, So Start Acting Like One. It’s provocative to the point of borderline cantankerous and I can’t tell you just what good company he makes! Go read him for yourself. Just be sure to pay attention. Goins doesn’t waste a word.

We don’t notice evolution, because it happens slowly over time. The same is true for how “quickly” our kids grow, how we achieve goals, and how we master our life’s work.

Integrity Matters

I sit at a booth in Panera Bread trying to stay warm as I grade Background Research submissions from students in Migrant Literature. Only one of the four submissions so far provides no evidence of plagiarism. It is a current too strong for me to strive against.

In class, I make remarks in passing and get a laugh here and there for my comic’s timing and delivery, but they do not attend, continue to steal, preferring to posture academically than be themselves. What more can I do after points have been deducted or assignments and classes failed?

Today, in Preparatory Composition…

The person serving as Perpetrator, whose task it is to select the opening freewriting topic and lead discussion afterward asked: What’s the best way to get help in edmodo? The person serving as Bystander set her phone for 10 minutes and we began. I wrote the following with a mind toward interrupting lemming-like behavior in evidence on the Introductions Discussion Board where not a single post made the distinction between listing responses to each question in the Is eLearning Right For Me survey and reporting their score on the survey as requested.

The best way to get help on edmodo is to ask a question. To ask a question, one must know what they don’t know. To know what you don’t know requires humility, engagement, care, and being awake in the world. To be any of these things means that we have, against all odds, managed to maintain and inhabit a corner of freedom in our minds despite all the hostile attacks of the media and capitalist society run amok.

To be awake in the world means to have broken free of the Matrix, to have liberated one’s self by thoughtful, disciplined, consistent, pro-social action. When one is awake in the world, one takes responsibility for the challenges reality places before us and does whatever makes sense. To know what makes sense, however, requires collaboration and a flexibility and resourceful resilience that many possess yet few call upon.

We have all suffered great, unspeakable losses, but having that in common should not require us to keep silence. We need to learn to grieve the losses and move on the better to celebrate what life remains. The life of our families, communities, generations depends on our relationships to ourselves, our Source and Origin, and one another. How does one maintain and cultivate such connections when media is pulling our attention toward things that matter less, away from things that matter most?

Edmodo is a microcosm of society. To flourish in either context requires self-directed learning and a persistence we have all mastered but that yet remains to be transferred. It is one thing to come to class and be marked present. It is another to be accounted for with actions that contribute to the whole and bring your goal a little closer than it was the day / class / moment before. We have all been conditioned to see differences. What if instead, we decided to see similarities and built on those?

I did get to ask students to consider thinking for themselves about instructions given before submitting any and each assignment, and several teachable moments opened up to discuss the format of the Freewriting Analysis that was submitted, the affective and unspoken curriculum that includes 21st century skills, but the Syllabus Quiz that they were eager to take at the beginning of class was given short shrift and so I will have to provide another opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery and discover where opportunities for growth yet remain.

Classroom Without Walls

As a lifelong learner celebrating 20 years in higher education classrooms, I decided to try some new technology for my preparatory composition class this year. So I attended an edmodo webinar and created a profile for each of my incoming students using profiles of various activists that I had seen in a Yes! Magazine article.

The idea was that students would research information about their activist identity having plucked it out of a hat on the first day of class. From there we would brainstorm interview questions for an oral history project based on what they had in common with their activist. A personal narrative, a book report, and the culminating activity, a “Come As They Were” party would become part of their portfolios.

As this is the seventh day of the semester and a holiday, I thought I would report the wonderful news. So far, I count it a personal best to have a 100% submission rate on the first assignment, 60% submission rate on the second assignment, freewriting analysis – a standing assignment and often the most complicated for previous classes – and it’s not due until 5 PM today, and two assignments already in that are due Tuesday at 5 pm.

Nice work if you can get it. So I sent the following in a post on edmodo:

I wanted to congratulate all those scholars who have submitted their first freewriting analysis. I see wonderful evidence of analytical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration and commitment to excellence in your work. I can’t imagine a better birthday present. Thank you.

Reclaiming Identities Through Migrant Literature

For as long as I can remember – at least since I began implementing servant leadership in the classroom to increase engagement – students have served as Discussant, Oracle, Colombo and Mr/s. Rogers. This semester, wanting to underscore activism, I changed the names of the roles to Perpetrator, Rescuer, Bystander and Survivor. Originally, perpetrate simply meant ‘to commit’. My goal is to inspire myself and others to commit to scholarship, compassion and transformation. A short description of each role (from the syllabus) is included at the end of this post. The purpose for this writing is to share what today’s Perpetrator invited us to consider and my response to her question.

What do you expect to learn about the culture / background you identify with?

“I identify with a culture of once-apathetic-now engaged activists. I hope to learn the steps from apathy to activism so I can blog about them and make a scalable model for educators who want their disciplines to matter to the species beyond the 21st century. (Note: It’s freewriting, so nothing is too off the wall to include.)

Why is being a species-level thinker so important to me? First I should define what a species-level thinker is. A species-level thinker is one who knows who she is as well as who she might appear to be in various contexts from various Big 8 Little 4 perspectives, and continues to think about the whole and moving toward pro social ends using pro social means.

It’s one thing to be a do-gooder but another to make a greater difference than sleeping with a clear conscience. Wrecked, by Jeff Goins, helps to clarify the distinction. I wonder if the Gipsy Kings-like music is distracting to others’ writing. So why is it that important to me that I and other educators unleash such initiative in the most effective and strategic ways possible? Because I believe life is beautiful and that the challenges we face as a species will require all of us to solve or take all of us out.

I look to the clouds and see the footprints of God in all His glory. I wonder why people don’t look up and take notice in much the same way [Shug] in the Color Purple said:

I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.  Shug

It’s a pity when lives are so embattled and people so submerged that we don’t notice the beauty of everyday things around us and within one another. There’s loud drumming in the next classroom drowning out the Alto (?) sax crooning in ours through Pandora…”

We went on to discuss the identities people hoped to learn about and whether what we believe is as important as why we believe it.


Service Roles Described:

  • Perpetrator: Selects in-class writing & dyad (paired discussion) topics related to the assigned reading /activities for the week. Moderates class discussion.  See Conversational Roles in Course Resources.
  • Bystander: Summarizes daily activities and upcoming assignments 10 minutes before end of class. Opens Thursday class by following up on Tuesday’s Discovery & Intention while Perpetrator is writing topic on the board.
  • Rescuer: Takes notes during class and posts to Service Notes discussion Board in Angel; collects week’s attendance, emails absent members. This prevents absentees from asking the instructor, what did I miss.
  • Survivor:  Serves as translator, time and peace-keeper to keep class on schedule. Observes class to identify random acts scholarship to be celebrated and muddy moments to be clarified. Reports before Bystander’s summary.