Last year around this time I was weeks into my first semester of teaching high school. I was in a specialized reading classroom in a medium-sized, sub-rural school and had planned to blog each week of my first year in order to track the journey. One of the more important things I wrote about was former teachers and my own experiences as a student. More than anyone besides my two parents, I owe thanks to former teachers like Gary Earl, Sharon Erikson, Tim Allshouse, Kent Rausch, Lisa Evans, and Margaret Weaver. In my journals, many entries have been rooted in my attempts to say “thank you” to teachers like them.
When I wrote “Formula for Success,” a little more than a year ago, I was just trying to put the next brick in my blogging wall. When I stumbled upon the “Rethink Learning Now” campaign website (which now redirects to its parent non-profit site) I saw a call to submit writing about experiences in learning. I can’t honestly remember what went through my head, but after browsing and reading through others’ stories, I pasted in the text of my most recent blog post.
Fast-forward to Spring of 2010. I had one semester of teaching under my belt, had been fortunate to go to two national conferences in Philadelphia and San Antonio, and was planning to move to Kansas City to teach at my current school in the urban core. Lots of changes, more writing done and posted to my blog, and lots of contacts made in online circles of teachers and writers. There had been a lot of unexpected surprises that year, but I wasn’t expecting to get this email from Sam Chaltain last Spring. My little blog post had been read and approved and would be included along with 49 other stories in a book–huh.
At this point, I had completely forgotten about the Rethink Learning Now campaign, my story, and I half-thought the email was a scam (sorry Sam) remembering the Who’s Who books which required people to pay money to publish their bio in a list somewhere. Boy was I wrong!
The book ended up being something more special than I imagined. Me? I thought. My story? Then Sam asked for my picture, which I later found on the cover–gasping at this would dramatically understate my shock. I’m still a bit dumbfounded by it; it still seems a little unreal. Like them or not, respect them or not, Steadman Graham, Al Franken, and Arne Duncan are all much more accomplished and public than I am and it’s strangely exciting to share the cover with them (my apologies to any other celebrities on the cover which I don’t recognize). I can’t wait to read their stories of learning.
Due out in February 2011, the book is going on tour to cities that represent its authors. I’m excited to say that Sam and the book will be joining me in Kansas City in March at a location to be determined in a partnership with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Teacher, parents, principals, and anyone with a stake in education should consider coming to hear and share stories about defining moments in their education. More to come on the event in March.
In the meantime, EdCampKC, an open-source PD event, will feature a session where a fellow NWP teacher consultant Nicole Gaulden Watkins and I will be hosting a dialogue on sharing stories of learning. There will be opportunities to participate online as well as in person at the event. This will help to promote a larger conversation in the context of the national attention on education today.
I am very excited about this book, the events around the country it will be connected to, and how it will impact Kansas City communities of learning. I’ve sent correspondence to Mayor Mark Funkhouser in the hope of adding his story to the collection in addition to the mayors of Washington DC and Los Angeles.
Do you have a story about a learning experience you’d like to share? Post a comment here and contribute to this national effort to shape a vision of learning for the future.