Picture it: period 1 in our school. I bet it’s earlier than yours – we’re talking 7:08am. Bleary-eyed but excited by possibility, three English teachers sit in the front of a classroom filled with kids more bleary-eyed than we are, sitting in study hall.
For about two weeks, we talk. And draw. And think. We name things, trying to arrive at an understanding of quite how it is that teachers here in our department feel comfortable taking risks, trying new texts, inventing new schemes to channel students to find and explore their voices, connect with each other, learn meaningful things in meaningful ways.
After one of our early conversations, Holly creates a diagram that charts what she conceives as moving from study to practice, from theory to application. This helps us conceptualize the flow of energy, inviting us to explore each level and aspect of her visualization, giving us new and more language to identify where and why precisely we find ourselves in the position we do.
We think. And write. And read our thinking aloud, trying to name what it is we were / are feeling into a paradigm that could be then translated outward.
Taking a page from the Writing Project formatting, we share our docs and comment on each other’s pieces, identifying key aspects that resonate. We struggle to organize the flow of 4000 characters so that it mirrors our hazy conceptions until – once it does – it seems like we shouldn’t have struggled at all. It is so crystal clear how it all goes together.
Writing helps us think, as it always does. Epiphanies happen in the interplay between mind and heart and fingers on keyboards and sentences forming from neural pathways exploding through the dark abyss, creating new thoughts, new realizations, new lights of ideas that can never be dark again.
In the process of conceiving a presentation proposal to share our work with others, we create our own professional learning journey, talk through what we love, what frustrates us, what works, and validate the efforts of years of professional practice in the current reality of how things go in our spaces.
We bond, laugh, and learn that our capacity exceeds what we might have originally imagined. In the process of serving others, we serve ourselves.
Michelle G. Bulla is a high school English teacher and the 9-12 department chair at Monroe-Woodbury High School in southern Orange County, NY. She’s also a Teacher Consultant with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, and a member of the Executive Board for NYSEC. Find her on Twitter @china93doll or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.