826 National

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I recently read about 826 National in the book Why We Write. The book helps profit the youth literacy program, which is summarized in the introduction as follows:

“It’s an innovative youth literacy program, founded in San Francisco in 2002 by the ever-innovative Dave eggers, now encompassing outposts in Boston; Chicago; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; New York; Seattle; and Ypsilanti, Michigan. Each chapter is housed in a quirkily named storefront (the Boring Store in Chicago; the Museum of Unnatural History in DC) in which after-school tutoring sessions and summer camps are held and from which volunteers fan out into local public schools to help teachers do their jobs – all for free.”

 

There are many youth litScreen Shot 2016-04-03 at 1.54.45 PM.pngeracy programs all over the country, but what really stood out to me about this one is how unique it is. Upon further research around their website, I found that 826 National has a “culture of creativity” which encourages risk-taking, experimentation and respect for diversity. I think it’s very cool that this programs encourages these children and tutors to explore and be creative in their work. I think we often view literacy as being very black and white, as is the common consensus of someone being literate vs. illiterate, but 826 National really hammers home that it is actually very complex, and can be really fun! It is evident that the program has been successful, between general statistics as well as the number of chapters.

I like how they do the unique storefronts, and I think this really sets the tone for program. You can tell that its fun and comfortable. The storefronts include The Pirate Store, The Secret Agent Supply Co., and the Bigfoot Research Institute. Each chapter sells little goodies associated with their storefront. I can imagine that this excites kids to go and participate in the program, and be excited about literacy.

You can read more about 826 National at http://www.826National.org

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For Writing: New Media

When faced with writing a paper vs. creating a Powerpoint presentation, I am almost certain that most students would pick the Powerpoint. Even if it means a presentation comes along with it. I have come up with a few reasons why this is a preference:

  1. It’s fun & easier to tackle/organize
    1. A paper is tedious, and with so much to do it is often hard to know where to start. With a Powerpoint, you can break up all your slides to keep your points focused and organized.
  2. Less is encouraged
    1. This is the college students favorite thing. Professors want clean slides, and actually encourage minimal wording.
  3. Forced to be concise
    1. In a paper, you often get going on some elaborate explanation when trying to add to a point. This is especially true when there is a minimum page number to reach. With a Powerpoint, you give the concise facts.
  4. Don’t really need to elaborate
    1. Any elaboration you might do will come by word of mouth, during your presentation. This is easy for a lot of people, as they find it easier to explain when it’s not down in hard print.
  5. Can add more to it with media
    1. Pictures, video clips, links to other websites, etc. My Biological Anthropology professor puts together some of the best Powerpoint’s, full of interesting media, that really keeps me focused and helps me learn, compared to just lecturing in front of the class. 

For Writing: Myself as a Future Tutor

I feel fairly confident becoming a Writing Center Tutor, as I feel I have a good foundation of experience helping other writers. I have been in a variety of Creative Writing classes and poetry workshops where we participate in workshops, where I’ve had the ability to read and respond to others work in a group setting. I generally don’t mind workshop, because I don’t feel like my feelings are getting hurt in the process, and I should’t be hurting anyone else’s. Workshop is mostly criticism, and I think that nothing should be taken personally in this type of exercise. I know I will need to tune up my speed of analysis when in the Writing Center: in workshop, you are often given a piece days before having to respond to it. I am worried about having to quickly respond to what I see in the Writing Center, having to read a piece of work and immediately have recommendations for it.

I have also worked as a literacy tutor for young Bridgeport kids for the past few years. I know this has helped me become more outgoing, especially in groups, and feel generally confident in the educational setting. I like to think tutoring comes kind of naturally to me, at least for the little kids. I like being with the elementary school kids because I am in a role between their peer and teacher: we can relate, but I still hold a little authority. I like being older, as I feel in control. I am curious to see how this dynamic differs in the Writing Center, since I will be working with actual peers, and how it affects my confidence going into the appointment.

For Writing: Professors Different Commentary Styles

I have been in classes where professors have left me copious comments, and classes where  I’ve only received a few vague comments. How much I appreciate each style varies on the assignment and its purpose.

My professors for Creative Writing classes have been the ones to leave me pages on pages of response to my writing. In France, my Creative Nonfiction professor would leave comments all throughout a piece, and then finish my filling entire sheets with handwritten comments. I appreciate this type of response, knowing that she spent a lot of time on my work and see’s enough potential in it to recommend changes. I had the same experience in my Poetry class at Fairfield University, where a poetry portfolio would have an entire typed response, outlining the great parts and things that needed work. This, too, showed the professors commitment to helping me develop the craft of creative writing. I find that professors are more likely to give these type of comments when you are in a drafting process, since you are really looking for constructive criticism and helpful feedback, and concrete things that you can work on for future drafts.

On the other hand, I recently wrote a paper for my ethics class, where I did not get the paper back; just an online note that gave the grade and said “good outline, analysis shakey”. I would have loved to see her written comments scrawled across my paper, to see how my ethical analysis is lacking, and specifically what sections need work. I have been wondering where this paper went wrong. However, there is nothing I am doing with this paper in the future, and my grade is final, so I suppose it really does not matter.

The Struggles of a Lazy, Procrastinating Over-Achiever

When thinking about the things that I really must motivate myself for, I was honestly a little embarrassed. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m a permanent resident of Struggle City. I have to motivate to do my homework and go to the gym. I have to convince myself in the morning to show up to work. I wouldn’t get out of bed most days without a personal pep talk.

I really wonder why this is; I’m not afraid of hard work, and I do well in general, whether at school or in the workplace. I have always been an over-acheiver, and really motivated once I get going. But the getting going always seems to be the issue. I wonder how I can simultaneously be a lazy procrastinator and accomplish as much as I do.

I found this article, which had an excerpt that I could really relate to:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/11387292/Why-being-lazy-and-procrastinating-could-make-you-wildly-successful.html

If you wait until the last minute to complete a task, you are forced to focus on the project at hand. According to Quora poster Caroline Sin: “There’s nothing like not having enough time to complete a project to make you realize what’s critical, and what isn’t.”

When it comes to personally motivating, I have found that I do best when under the gun. Nothing makes me work efficiently and focus like having a looming deadline in the next 24 hours. I know I could cause myself a lot less anxiety and self-loathing if I did what was recommended, and spread the assignment over a few days. But a paper due in 8 days just doesn’t seem that urgent to me… I have all week! Why would I read the night before my philosophy class when I have an hour in the morning to skim it over breakfast? The work will become a priority when it’s urgent, and it will always get done.

The same goes for completing unenjoyable tasks. Just like everyone else in the world, I am much more likely to do something when I like it. For example, if I am having a bad week at work where it seems there is just nothing for me to do, I will whine about it for extended periods of time. This is frustrating to my family, all members of the working and middle class who raised me with the strict belief that hard work equals success. I personally don’t feel that I should be chained to my desk for 8 hours a day if I can do the work in 5. My grandfather responded to this with, “What do you think everyone in the workplace does all day? We bullshit, acting busy when we already finished our work”. This is a depressing revelation for me as I enter the official workforce in the next year. The idea of being in a cubicle five days a week makes me nauseous. The phrase “nine to five” causes emotional distress.

I’m forced to reflect on my time in France when writing this post. In our society, we are so focused on goals, and success, and money, and achievement. Anything less than joining the workforce with a steady job is somewhat considered lazy, that something is wrong with you for not having that drive and motivation for that type of success. The French spend a significantly smaller amount of time at work than we do as Americans. In that culture, I greatly enjoyed their appreciation of leisure, and really recognized how it affected me when I did have to motivate. I was happy to do my work, as I felt like I was already allowed so much leisure time in my regular life. Everything was slow, without much pressure, so even having to sit down and do my work didn’t feel like such a struggle. I was expected to be a little lazy, maybe sleep in on the weekend, take a long lunch, and wasn’t considered a failure for not being constantly driven.

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“You will teach and you will learn” – Cuba’s Literacy Campaign

“Before 1959 it was the countryside versus the city. The literacy campaign united the country because, for the first time, people from the city understood how hard life was for people before the revolution, that they survived on their own, and that as people they had much in common. This was very important for the new government.”

— Luisa Yara Campos, Cuban literacy museum director

I learned this week that Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Upon further research, I found out that there was huge educational reform in Cuba under Fidel Castro, as well as agrarian and health care reform. Before the Revolution, literacy was 11% for city-dwellers, and 42% for those in the countryside.

I was most interested to learn the reason for such a campaign for literacy in Cuba. Pre-Revolution, there was a great separation of the urban and rural citizens. Volunteers from the city were often ignorant of the poor conditions of rural citizens until their experiences during the literacy campaign. The campaign forced members of different sectors of society to interact with each other, to be relieved of their ignorance of others conditions.

For notorious dictator, Fidel Castro, the goal for the campaign (besides literacy) was to create a collective identity of “unity, [an] attitude of combat, courage, intelligence, and a sense of history”. Everyone in the country joined together for the common good, often displacing themselves to new areas to help in the quest of literacy for all. The effort was labeled a movement of “the people”, and gave citizens a common goal to work towards, increasing solidarity. By 1986, nearly 100% of the Cuban people were considered literate

I think the example of Cuba’s Literacy Campaign shows the great power of literacy sponsorship. Fidel Castro provided the resources and initiative for his country to seek literacy, and they responded with success and a newfound sense of unity. This is a perfect example of how literacy is community building.

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info taken from Wikipedia.com

Meaningful Writing Project

For the Meaningful Writing Project survey, I responded that the most meaningful writing project that I had done in college was a self-directed poetry portfolio for my Poetry I class with Professor Carol-Ann Davis. At the time, this project was really eye opening for me, as I was forced to deal with the baggage of my first home in respect to my father and my now mixed-feelings that I have towards the place. I has to draft many poems, and create new ones, all based around a theme I chose, which is the island. I felt like I grew a lot doing this project, even though it was frustrating and confusing at times. It was hard to get a good handle on it.

During my semester in France, I took a class in creative nonfiction. Here, we wrote many essays in response to prompts, and one happened to be on my father and his family. My professor asked me to draft this essay multiple times, and eventually turn it in as my final. What started as just about my absent father transformed into a story about Block Island as well, as it seems like these are parts of my life that coincide and need to be told together. This project was much more healing to me. I realized that I really made way, not only in my writing but emotionally, because the genre of the work was clearer. I didn’t need to worry about the poetics of it; I could say what I wanted to.

Here’s a video of Block Island:

Poetry for Peace

In third grade, I won a poetry competition in my elementary school. The prompt was “What does the flag mean to you?”. I wrote a poem composed of couplets, each starting with When I think of the flag… and followed by some patriotic tidbit. I recall sitting in the hallway of Deans Mill Elementary School, drafting it over, and wanting it so bad. They announced the winner’s names over the intercom at school, and I simply could not believe it. My family felt the mixed emotions of excitement for my recognition, and panic that I would have to read in front of a giant Flag Day ceremony on our playground blacktop the following week.

I barely remember the day. But I do know that this is when I developed a small liking for poetry. Of course, everyone likes being told they are good at something. I like doing well and I like winning. This was my first taste of that, which set me up to try to write good poetry up through my teenage years. This small interest led me to get my first poem published at age 17, and to eventually become the Poet Laureate of my high school class. My Flag Day experience came full circle when I wrote and read a poem for my high school graduation.

The Poetry for Peace event was not only adorable, but inspiring. These elementary and middle school students had so many simple and beautiful ideas of what peace was to them, centered around family and friends and small joys of daily life. It hardly seemed like anyone had nerves, as each student walked up to the mic and read confidently, followed by the crowd erupting with applause and cheers. The kids radiated pride. I loved that although the students came from very different backgrounds, economically and racially, between Fairfield and Bridgeport, they both had similar ideas of peace. No matter the amount of privilege, all children want is to play in the pool with their brother, or toss the ball around with dad, or sit in bed with a book.

My Flag Day Poem is still hanging on the top of the stairs in my grandparent’s house, framed and printed on patriotic stock paper. When I see it, I remember where my love of writing started. I hope that Poetry for Peace has the same effect, and provokes a love in writing in many of the talented students who read at the event.Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 9.56.28 PM

Survey: How does a “good student” write?

It was easy enough to ask five people to describe how a “good student” writes, as I share an apartment with five other girls. I approached each of them, either solo or in groups.

Sarah was washing the dishes.

“Sarah, describe how a good student writes”.

She responded that it helps to read a lot, and also practice often to get better. Good, strong vocabulary.

“Do you mean things, like, sentence structure?”

Sure.

“Well, that type of thing, too”.

Maddie, Maya, and Colleen were huddled over their homework in a bedroom. I was going to ask them individually, but decided to just open up the question to the group as a whole. Maddie was at a blank, and needed time to think about it. Maya and Colleen both answered that a good student writes in a neat and organized way. Maya originally thought the question was aimed around note-taking. When I asked her, ‘how do you know a good paper when you see one?’ she added that it’s done thoughtful and concisely. Maddie finally responded that a good student will engage the reader in their writing.

Gill was in her room. She said factually, organized, and concise. 

“I’m a bad writer, so anything I wouldn’t do.”

I noticed that everyone was frazzled by this question. I had to clarify or narrow the question (create a constraint, I suppose) for each person to feel comfortable to give me an answer. It seems that everyone used themselves and other students as a focus point for what makes good and bad writing. Gill, a math major, was particularly hard on herself!

I find it interesting that most of the answers have to do with form, and not content. Organized, neat, and concise. 

I liked how Sarah answered the question; she told me how good students seem to become good writers. The OGFWT talks a little about this in the Common Misconceptions of Writing Instruction. Is reading and then writing about great literary works a good way to teach writing? My mom always tells me that if I want to write, I need to read first. I can understand how reading good writing by great writers can serve as an example of what to do, ourselves. Not only in form, but also in content.

I think my own answer would be somewhat like Maddie’s: To engage the reader. This is a big part of it. I also believe that a good student will answer the question in their writing, whatever that question may be, asked or not. I think clarity is important, and all my roommates said. A good student writes to answer the question, or maybe prove a point, in the most clear and concise way possible, while engaging the reader.

Service Learning at Cesar Batalla

It was the summer before my freshman year of college, and I was filling out a survey for the next months orientation. Here, we had to pick a theme for the group we would be placed with during orientation, and also take an FYE course for the fall semester. I contemplated joining the General or Sports group, but something about Service Learning peaked my interest. I had never heard of Service Learning before, but I had done plenty of volunteering throughout high school, and it seemed like this would be a good choice to be placed with other students with a somewhat similar set of values of me, based partially on service.

During this fall semester, I was brought to Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Since then, I have worked as a liaison between the Fairfield University and CB in a variety of different roles. Each semester, my involvement as a liaison has changed and helped me develop a variety of different skills in different contexts.

For that first semester at Cesar Batalla School, I worked with two second grade students, Alexiel and Brian, who had just come to the U.S., and were learning English as a second language (ESL). During this time I developed basic tutoring skills, as well as the proper methods to relate to the young students. Along with this, I gained a new perspective on what affects privilege can have on a person. This semester sparked my passion for Service Learning in the educational environment, and the skills I learned during these few months provided a foundation that I still reference all the time to other Fairfield University students.

The following semester I returned to CB through the help of Melisa Quan, who set me up in a second grade classroom. I had no idea what I was walking into in this environment, and simply walked in blind with my few months experience working two-on-one with Alexiel and Brian. Mrs. Coyne, instead, had me lead reading groups of five or six in a smaller, separate classroom. In this situation, I was given much more independence, as I was sent off alone with groups of students who often had varied reading levels. I was given minimal direction, and had to develop structure to get my students on track and excited to learn. Here, I learned some amount of classroom and group management, as well as how to master the difficult line between authoritative figure and peer/friend to my students. This was the semester I felt I really connected with the students. I especially loved Malik, a student who struggles with a little stutter as I often do. It was such a privilege to work with Malik, and share some of my experience and advice with him, as CB school does not have a speech pathologist, a privilege which I was given at his age.

After my freshman year as a tutor, I was invited to be a Service Learning Associate for the following Fall semester. I have been an SLA for an English class that works within a pullout method, like I did my first semester with Alexiel and Brian, as well as an Education class that goes into the classroom to assist the teacher. I feel lucky to have worked in both of these settings in my first year of tutoring, as I recognize the difficulties and can give advice to Fairfield students in both classes. I have experienced both myself, which makes it easy to facilitate classroom reflection and discussion, as I can relate with the Fairfield students or give an example of my own time tutoring if need be. I have thoroughly enjoyed my role as an SLA. Assisting both Fairfield professors and students with their classes at Cesar Batalla gives me the opportunity to share my passion of Service Learning with others, in hopes that they can see the benefits it reaps for both groups in Fairfield and Bridgeport.

From being a tutor, myself, to facilitating excursions and reflections with Fairfield Students as a Service Learning Associate, I have developed an incredibly broad skillset and knowledge of Bridgeport, Cesar Batalla, and Service Learning in general. I hope to extend my skills and expertise further and learn more in my ever-developing role as liaison between Cesar Batalla School and Fairfield University. This semester I am transitioning into a new role, one which was held previously by a graduate assistant. I am excited to see where this internship with the Service Learning Department takes me, and I am so grateful that I signed up for that orientation group. It was a decision that has shaped my entire college experience.

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