Teacher see, teacher do

NaNo screenshot

Anyone who follows my posts knows that more often than not, if I give an assignment, I do the assignment. Maybe that comes from proving it’s do-able; maybe it comes from all those years in my childhood of forcing my little brother to play school. I just like both sides of school – the teaching and the learning.

Passion Projects provide the perfect opportunity for both, and my DigiComm students have just chosen their projects and will be posting, researching and learning in earnest this week. During the couple of days of brainstorming and solidifying our projects, someone asked what my project was going to be. Believe it or not, I told them, I’d actually been thinking about it the previous few days. I’d considered learning about world religions and providing some sort of report and presentation comparing the ones I chose (and had time) to learn about. But then I realized that would take time away from something I’d planned to do with my November – something I’d attempted last November and hadn’t been totally successful. That’s when I realized I could make NaNoWriMo my Passion Project.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month and it excites and inspires official and could-be novelists from all over every November. You sign up at the NaNoWriMo website and join thousands of others who are lining up at the starting gate. NaNo offers motivational emails, badges for accomplishments, forums where like-minded writers can share ideas (and lose time they could be writing), as well as writing buddies – someone to hold accountable and help hold you accountable, if everyone is doing their job. Last year I had two writing buddies, one from Oklahoma City and one from somewhere in Great Britain. We had a few email convos, but in the end, we were all busy, and it didn’t work out the way I’d imagined.

This year, I have a local buddy, someone I work with on occasion, and we will be able to share progress, even though we’re writing in different genres.

By way of demonstration as well as to get myself organized, I used the graphic organizer I had created and noted a couple of driving questions: Can I draft a novel (50,000 words) in a month? and What can I learn in this process? I noted what research I needed, some of which I’ll admit that I already have. I pin a lot of writing articles and blogs on Pinterest. In the mentor section, I listed the co-worker and that I would try to hook up with writing buddies through NaNo, as well as try to find real mentors, possibly beta readers at some point, through Twitter. I listed the steps to my goal as I saw them at that time. Heck, everything is subject to change – just like in the first draft of this novel. But you have to start somewhere, right?

We will all, including myself, post weekly updates on our progress, and we will each present – TEDTalks style – at the end of the semester. I have lots of examples from teachers who have gone before me.

What I hope to learn and to teach my students is that we are all in charge of our own learning, ultimately. We can’t passively sit at a desk and wait for teachers and professors to feed us our education. Sure, some of that is required in order to get that coveted piece of paper at the end of the trail and to get that nice GPA that tells those we love that we were compliant when it counted (but tells our future bosses or clients absolutely nothing about our skills, knowledge or capabilities). We have to know what we want and go after it. Learning is a lifelong endeavor, and we must be active in pursuing knowledge and knowing from where and from whom to gain the best education.

If you could take 20 percent of your week to learn anything you wanted or to create a project to do some good in your community, what would you do?

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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