Great Show! Great Crowd!

What a great way to get back on the boards. One more show GREEN cast. RED Cast let’s keep the energy and excitement up–call time is 6p. tomorrow. 

The cast party will be On The Border this Saturday at 4p. We hope everyone can be there. 

Chris

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Cast Party Tomorrow

We’ll have pizza and cupcakes in between shows tomorrow. I’ll collect $5 per person if you want to participate–adults are welcome. 

It’s been a great run. And Miss Hannah will be giving out her awards at the party. Hope you can stay!!

Chris

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T-Shirt Order Due

Julie Hyland needs your order by 10am. Please contact her ASAP. 

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Guest Blogging

While I failed to keep up with my blogging about the Civic Literacy course, I did manage to blog about blogging for the “Teaching Toolbox” with TCU’s Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence. Kassia Waggoner and myself composed three blogs about incorporating blogs in the classroom.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Simply follow the link …

http://tcukoehlercenter.wordpress.com

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But I Want You To Be Special…

David McCullough went viral this summer when he reminded graduates of the high school he taught at that they were not special, “because everyone is.” He did not mean to diminish their accomplishments, but merely point out that selflessness is the best personal quality and that “sweetest joys of life” are rarely ties to your perceived exceptionalism. I use that word—exceptionalism—because I fear it is a word our nation has internalized and failed to really interrogate what it means. McCullough was chosen by the senior class and I can’t believe they took umbrage to his oratory, but many felt many on the WWW felt he went too far.

I personally think his critics didn’t really listen to the speech and responded to the media soundbites. It has become unimaginable to think of not exalting the innate “specialness” of every single young person. Our helicopter parents lavish praise on our every sigh and sneeze. Yet I want you to be special in the way McCullough describes.

I want you to be special because you see our neighborhoods, towns, states, nation, and world as a community. A community you are actively engages in and part of. Your not special because you are terribly unique. You’re special because you are a member of a network. A community. We need you to be a citizen and an informed one at that. Willing to serve your community in any way you can and support your fellow members. I think when our young people become active members in their communities that DOES make them special and I think that is part of what McCullough is advocating. He wants to acknowledge the specialness of everyone and see ourselves as part of a larger community.

Spend a little less time worrying about yourself and engage with your communities … be special.

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Community Matters

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“And that was it. It was that simple. At that moment we stopped being a family and started being a family in italics.” — Abed

I will admit I love NBC’s Community, but the television show is not what this post is about. Abed makes the point about his ragtag study group becoming a family … or a community. We throw that word around a lot in our concept of the classroom, but what does it really mean.

Personally, I like the idea of building a writing community with my students. We share our writing. Work together. Engage in open and honest discussions. Yet are we really a community—do we ever really identify as community members? The term conjures up a physical space or place of belonging. Communities have homes, streets, and buildings. Individuals enjoy a collective sense of purpose as members of community and we often identify our community work as our civic duty or civic engagement. However, the idea seems both old-fashioned and a little outdated.

Our students recognize the community created by Facebook as a legitimate form of the word. Statistics have shown the vast majority of our Facebook friends are people who leave nearby and could be members of our physical community. Still the real community functions in a digital space with no terrestrial boundaries and identities often performed. We link to pictures, articles, and clips to express how we think or feel. Our “likes” define the subtleties of our personality. Often posed or staged photos represent our “real” life. We generate an idealized or performed identity of who we think we are or hope to be forming a community or network of individuals who appreciate the theatre.

I do not mean to imply Facebook is fake or we all take part in some elaborate Catfish-esque hoax on our friends and neighbors. But we do consciously construct our identity on Facebook—it’s simply the way it’s done. And don’t we do the same thing with our writing, even if were not as conscious of it. We know our writing will be read by a peer, a professor, or some noisy interloper long after we’re gone. Writers are always aware of the reader present—even if that reader is the writer him- or herself. Therefore, all our writing becomes an act of identity construction. We put our best foot forward—our best image for the community to see. So how does this affect the communities we join both real and imagined in the digital sphere?

I used to think a community was a place where I could make my voice heard. Where I was free to speak the truth—or at least a truth. The more I consider the concept of community and the way we use it in teaching, the more I suspect the imagined communities we create are vehicles for conformity and silence. They limit our freedom and our voice rather than providing a platform for expression. The give an individual a sense of belonging, but do they also impose codes and restrictions on our being.

I’m not sure I have the answers, but I plan to keep asking the questions.

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The ABC’s of Blogging

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A short post as I am very tired, but also invigorated. I led a discussion about blogging assignments with my colleagues this afternoon. I was challenged in exciting ways. And reaffirmed in humbling ways.

A is for Assessment. B is for Blogging–DUH. C is for Collaboration.

The reason I assign the blog groups in my courses is to encourage collaborative writing. I didn’t really understand collaborative writing when I created the assignment, but the concept was in my subconscious. I want students to create individual posts, but I also want them to work together on the writing. I encourage students to share the working drafts of the posts and take authority of every post—even the ones they didn’t write. Some students take this very seriously and work as a group. Other groups choose to operate as mavericks and let everyone do their own thing with little oversight or input. Guess which groups get the better grades?

I assumed students were making a decision about how they wanted their partnership to work. But now I wonder if I am adequately teaching collaborative writing. Do I provide enough instruction for students to practice collaboration. I want to explore this as the semester continues.

As for assessment…last semester my students informed me via student evaluations that they felt very anxious about their blog grades. It carried the same weight as a major paper, but I was providing no feedback. I did this on purpose. Blogs should be about students writing what they want to write, how they want to write it. I don’t want to get in the way. However, the reality is students care about grades and I grade the blogs. I am working on alleviating this tension.

This semester I am providing feedback after each blog posting. I’m not grading, but sharing my reaction to the writing. As a writer, I appreciate these types of discursive comments. But do students? I doubt it. Students want a number or a letter attached because grades matter to them. So how do I make my students happy without assessing their work in way that stifles their freedom?

I have a lot to think about.

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