Tag Archives: literacy

family literacy

Laura Bentley tweeted this question to me, Kevin Hodgson and the rest of the world earlier today:

@poh @dogtrax Who Inspired You To Write? http://bit.ly/cHfBol I would love to hear reflections from more of my WP friends & all =) #nwp

Kevin and I, unbeknownst to each other (since we responded almost simultaneously on Laura’s blog), both wrote about the influence our mothers had on us as writers. This from Kevin’s comment:

 I guess my inspiration was my mom, who was not a writer but a reader, and she shared her books and encouraged me to read what I wanted. It was that love of reading that sparked the love of writing in me, and in the back of my teenage mind, I had this idea that I could become a writer.

My friend and colleague Casey Daugherty also mentions her mother in responding to this prompt:

Writing gave me a new insight to its value when I started reading my mother’s daily journal entries a few years ago, (she passed away 25 years earlier) and I noticed my own writing began to change with it. So did my motivation to write.

And Brian Fay, another NWP friend, followed up on Twitter by writing:

@poh My mother inspired me to write by showing me writers to read and then fostering the idea that I could be one of them.

This is what came to me, and what I posted to Laura’s blog:

I don’t believe any one person inspired me to write. But I do have a distinct memory of showing my mom a piece of paper while she was in the bathroom getting ready for work. I must have been 5 or 6. The paper was full of my scribbles – child-like attempts at cursive. Despite her busy-ness, my mom took time to pick out the accidental humps of w’s and m’s and probably a few other unintended letters. I was amazed. I had scribbled something and it actually had meaning for another person. I understood then the power of writing.

The thing I didn’t say, for the sake of brevity, is that my mom is not a native English speaker. She immigrated to this country after the Korean War and still has difficulty mastering the diabolical nuances of English. Both spoken and written. My mom to this day will send me letters she has written so that I can copy-edit, make revisions, help her convey intended meaning.

She would never call herself a writer.

And yet, here I am, profiting intellectually and professionally from this act of scribbling – more digitally these days – and sharing those scribbles with others.

Here’s to you, Mom. And to all the parents and siblings and grandparents and guardians who’ve ushered us down this path towards literacy.



Filed under education

teachers teaching teachers

I was involved with a terrific webcast of teachers engaged in a far-ranging conversation about their new media classroom work and new literacy learning generally. The webcast is in advance of the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia next week.

The program was started by Paul Allison, a high school teacher in New York City (Flushing, in fact, where I was born) and a member of the New York City Writing Project. (Eventually, the webcast will be available online at the Teachers Teaching Teachers website.) Paul acts as host – the Charlie Rose, if you will.

I love the program because like most things constructed by resourceful teachers, the webcast is put together in McGyver-like fashion, seemingly with two twigs and some chewing gum, and yet it runs and functions beautifully. TTT, as it’s affectionately known, uses Skype and an educator-centered online space and the wits and talents of Paul and teacher Susan Ettenheim.

I’ve known Paul for many many years and have seen him do some pretty far-out stuff – my favorite, authoring videocasts while going for long runs. You had to have seen them, believe me. He’s an amazing thinker and a true believer in a democratic classroom. Paul wants kids to push the boundaries and to make school interesting and relevant for them again. His latest project – to have his students call in book reviews from their cellphones to a number that will aggregate their work.

I’m enamored of Paul and his work, though, not because it is experimental, though I do appreciate the courage it takes to experiment in this day and age. Rather, it’s because he can provide sound pedagogical reasons for  why he does what he does. And because he thinks very deeply about the art and craft of teaching with and in new media and is always apt to say something that makes you rethink your assumptions.

It was exciting to hear the work presented by the teachers on the broadcast – two elementary and one middle school, all from different states. Despite the pressures exerted on them to prepare their students for standardized tests, these educators – Robert River-Amezola in Philadelphia, Joe Conroy in New Jersey, and Chuck Jurich in Arizona – find the time to give their students the opportunity to become engaged, digital citizens.

So inspiring, really.

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Filed under digital literacies, education, new media