My Summer Institute Reflection

July 18

Summer Institute Reflection:

This morning on my drive into class, I heard a recording of Robin Roberts, anchor of Good Morning America.  She apparently underwent a bone marrow transplant last fall and has stayed incredibly emotionally strong through it all.  She frequently quotes her grandmother, who said, “Make your mess your message.”  It was the first time I had heard that saying, but it made me think of my journey this summer and the LMWP Summer Institute with my 16 fellows.

When I was first introduced to the project, there was a “mess” in my head.  It sounded like something I wanted to do, but what was it exactly that I would do.  My colleagues tried to assure me that it was writing and reading of my choice, both academic and personal.   I couldn’t envision how that would work, and what would I have to write about?  Plenty, it seems!

My next “mess” was my writing.  Not only what would I write about, but with what voice and for what audience.  Naturally, I settled into my own voice, my inner voice.  The voice of a 47-year-old wife, mother, and teacher.  I am sure I have other voices, but for now, this is my comfortable voice.  I have written about memories, immediate issue, such as middle age and poop, and about my daughter.

Another “mess” was my reading.  What would that look like?  We, my fellows and I, started off with a book “waterfall” of sorts, each choosing a book, perusing it for two minutes, and  passing it along.  (I am definitely using this with my students and their choice reading books!)  From that experience, I choose my first two reads, Rethinking Rubrics and Rethinking Silence in the Classroom.  I gleaned information from both of those and wrote my annotated bibliographies about them.

But when it was time to move onto book three and four, I was at a stand still.  Initially, I set out to read about Common Core, but no books on that subject were available.  Then Lindsay said something to Colleen in my reading group that freed me to read for myself, and I did.  My next two books were Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, both of which I have loved and plan to keep by my desk.  Beyond that I have quite a reading list.  I have purchase three books off Amazon, have four or five on hold through KDL, and have quite a growing Wish List on Amazon, including a Common Core book.

This reading fervor was a surprise to me.  I thought I’d focus on my writing this summer, but my thirst for academic reading has also be renewed.  Part of that I credit to just be back “on a campus.”  A college setting invites learning.  Plus, my fellows have inspired me and given me “food for thought,” as well as topics and experiences to investigate.

The changes I’d like to make personally and for next school year are still a “mess.”  I am hoping this afternoon to make a list of takeaways and things to remember.  So many of the teaching demonstrations had strategies I want to employ, such as Tom’s Silent Socratic Dialogue, but I also want to remember little insights.  For example, sometime yesterday, someone (Rachel maybe?) said that students want us to like their writing, and I realized that that, especially in beginning, was what I wanted from my writing group.  I wanted them to laugh at the appropriate times and voice the nuances of emotion they felt with a particular time.  Those gave me confidence to write more.  But am I that supportive of my students?  If I was, would they like writing more–and write more?

As a side benefit, I have embraced more technology.  Just using a laptop daily for me is new, and surprisingly, I am becoming better at it.  Also, I have chosen to use Google Docs, so I could access all my writing here and at home.  I had some exposure to it before, but not this much.  Then there is the blog.  I am going to start a personal one called “All Things Kim,” so I can keep my voice and blog about all parts of me, professionally and personally. might also be something I’ll look into for a classroom page.  There is a lot of pressure at our school for teachers to have their own websites, and I am starting to see some value in them, so it is a consideration.  Who knows, maybe there online teaching will be in my future!

Finally, what revisions to the institute need to be made?  Frankly, I am not sure any do.  In hindsight, I can see everything had a purpose from the interviews, to the first dinner, to the changing of seats, to the writing marathon.  We have been treated like adult professionals and have acted accordingly.  It will be an interesting change not to have Lindsay next summer, but I am sure Susan and Kari will add their own flavors.  Bravo, I say!


I have two colleagues in mind for next summer’s institute.  Both would be assets to the group as well as workhorses.  I sent their name to Sue Spears, but I will work on them on my end too.

I may also be interested in the Action Research.  I’d like more information on the requirements.

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