Getting thinking about workshop 1, 2013

In the lead up to our first workshop we wanted to get the conversation started. (If you can’t make it to the first workshop then we wanted to suggest ways you might join the conversation despite not ‘being in the room’ for the first session.) This blog, the forum, website and twitter feed (@Stella2AU) should provide some alternative ways for all of us to stay connected and part of the conversation, regardless of our physical/geographic location.

If you’ve already registered to attend you should have received, via email, some narratives from the original STELLA project in 1999:

You should also have received a discussion paper about standards by VATE’s own Brenton Doecke, Monika Wagner and Paul Martin.

We think these texts are really interesting examples of ‘teacher writing’ and they raise a lots of important issues that many English/literacy teachers will be familiar with (and not only English/literacy teachers!). Of course, there are many ways to (try to) capture, recreate, reflect on and challenge our work through writing.

In the course of the first workshop we should get a chance to talk about these texts. Meanwhile, we thought we might get the ball rolling before the first workshop (or ‘around’ and ‘after’ it for those who are not able to come along) by raising a few discussion questions prompted in various ways by these texts. You might like to post some thoughts in relation to one or more of the following prompts:

  • At the end of Sarah Rutherford’s ‘original’ STELLA narrative, she writes: ‘I think we all have mornings like the one I have described here’. Tell us about a recent morning in your school or institutional setting.
  • At the end of Doug McClenaghan’s STELLA narrative about some inspiring ‘oral work’, he regrets that ‘Back in regular English classes things didn’t change much for these boys’.  Is this a question that you, too, grapple with in your day to day teaching? How do you deal with this in your work as an English teacher/educator?
  • Mark Howie asserts, in his STELLA narrative, ‘English teachers understand that context is everything’. How do you respond to such a statement? What ‘contexts’ do you feel most influence your work currently? How have these changed over time for you?
  • In their discussion paper, Brenton, Monika and Paul suggest that ‘Traces of the meanings that others ascribe to [the word ‘standards’] inevitably inhere within it, even when you wish to use it to mean something entirely different’ (p. 2). Are there some ways that you feel comfortable with the language of standards as it is used in your school or institution? Are there some ways in which you feel this language is ‘foisted on’ you and/or does not sit comfortably with you?

These are by no means the only prompts or topics that arise from a reading of these texts (you might want to respond in other ways of course), but we think they are a pretty good place to begin the conversation.

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