Friday, 8 August 2014

Day 5 Summer Institute - the last day.

Day 5  Summer Institute - the last day of the Institute.

On Friday Mary and Ann provided the demos.

Mary began, as all our Fellows had, with an overview of her teacher journey and some comments about what is at the core of her work as an educator.  She noted that she loves teenagers ... 'and that really helps!'  She emphasised how important it is for her to provide a learning environment which is underpinned with a focus on self-esteem, confidence, dignity and respect.

In Mary's demo we considered poetry and talked about 'post it' poems.  We were treated to Randoms, reminded about William Carlos Williams and Raymond Carver, and we experienced Mary in 'teacher mode' giving us WWs - working wells - and reminding us not to drink in class!

We stood up, we watched, we listened, we wrote, we left the room, we returned.

We were engaged in learner-centred, active, values-driven approaches to writing.

In the second demo Ann declared herself a writer, which she said she had never done before.  It was a fabulous moment for Ann and for the group as we felt we had all travelled with Ann on the last leg to the point where she could make this statement.  Ann talked about her work, what had brought her into teaching and how at one point she had got lost as a teacher.  She noted that she had to change her pace - she is famously energetic - and to allow time for feedback and reflection.   She highlighted that her work is influenced by Barrie Bennett.

Ann emphasised the importance of happiness and that, in her experience, as stress reduces, confidence grown.  Given that her first passion is drama she drew on  influences from that world specifically, from Stanislavsky: method acting, emotional memory and the magic IF.

Ann's demo connected us again with imagination bringing us full circle to Monday's sessions and the ideas about imagination that surfaced then.  In her demo we warmed up physically and connected with the range of senses.

Ann remarked that working with colleagues over the week reminded her that she could (should?) write when her students write.  In addition, being at the Institute helped Ann to remember who she wanted to be as a teacher.

Friday, the last day of the Institute, also included author's chair over lunchtime.  During author's chair we listened to pieces that our Fellows had started on Day 1 and that they had worked on at different times throughout the week.  There were five authors who read to us on Friday: Chris, Mary, Eileen, Christina and Patricia.  The works were diverse and engaging - the variety intriguing and the worlds finely drawn.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to listen to these Fellows' writing: a most enriching and enjoyable way to spend lunchtime.

Lunch was followed by an invited contribution from Carmel Lillis, herself a very experienced teacher at many levels including on Toriaocht a leadership programme run by the NUI Maynooth Education Department.  Carmel encouraged all of us to see ourselves as potential leaders and she talked about the necessity to have professional conversations within our education settings.  Carmel urged us to think about how we can affect change and she drew on Alan C Jones' work which notes, amongst other important factors, the need for moral purpose, courage to act, situational awareness, sustainability through empowerment and modelling.  We were left wondering how we could build on what we had learned and experienced during the week once we return to our own settings.

The day finished with more writing and talking and a focus on the need for reflection.

We also began to think about 'what next?'

Friday, 1 August 2014

Poetry prompt - This Is Just To Say

This Is Just To Say

William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

I have eaten
the plums 
that were in
the icebox

and which 
you were
probably saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

Mary told us how she uses this poem when working with Transition year students, helping them to write poetry.

Day 4 of the Summer Institute

Today Claire provided us with a demo that had been inspired by her work with a writing group in her school.  She noted that she draws on Donald Graves work and his four essentials -  All Children Can Write.  She noted those essentials for us:

1. time 

2. child choice 

3. response to child meaning 

4. establishment of a community of learners.

Claire emphasised the importance of play and how at one point she had forgotten that play is important for all our students - for all of us.

She noted how much we need to remember that writers ask themselves questions about the world - not just about big global issues but also about the apparent trivia.  She talked about seeing the world afresh.  It triggered for me that line from Kavanagh which resurfaced now years after hearing it first but which has often echoed: 'And the newness that was in every stale thing.'  

As a group we played an A-Z story making game which led to a lot of laughter from the various contributions.  We followed this with choosing a picture from a newspaper, cutting it out, building a character and putting them in to a story.

Today we also had writing time with our groups in part preparation for the Author's Chair today.

The day finished with a contribution from Lawrence Cleary, from the Regional Writing Centre in University of Limerick who urged us to consider writing processes.  He used some of their wonderful 'How I write Ireland' footage to demonstrate the sort of questions we could ask of ourselves as writers and of our students.  He also provided practical advice about how to make similar videos to what UL has produced.
Tomorrow is our last day  ...