Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making Gratitude

Tar River Writing Project
2013 Summer Institute Inquiry Exhibit
Making Gratitude: Re-Framing a Culture of Consumerist Learning to a Culture of Appreciative Learning through Making and Connecting in Genuine Ways, or as Mr. Tremayne Smith, Band Director at Rocky Mount High School says, “The grass is greener where you water it.”

Official Disclaimer:  This Inquiry Exhibit is not grounded in scholarly research, though it is somewhat informed by it.  My “inquiry” grew out of a need to find the “bright spots”  (Heath & Heath, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Broadway Books: New York, 2010) in my classroom and then transformed into a teaching demonstration I wanted to share in the summer institute.  It now has a new incarnation as an inquiry exhibit because at the heart of what I did and how I thought about it was experimentation and desire to find out if my intuition was on target, that creating a culture of genuine appreciation could lead to a positive learning environment.  Since then, I shared the demo and for at least one person that I know of, it was powerful enough to have lasting impact.  There were detractors, those who resisted expressing gratitude for anything, and that’s ok.  Sometimes we also need to be ungrateful, but that’s not really where I want to focus with this. Ultimately, I believe we humans want recognition and appreciation…and we don’t want it to be empty words and trite phrases…we want genuine connection.  As I have been participating in the Connected Learning MOOC this summer, and reflecting on how I would revise this demo to be an inquiry exhibit for this year’s SI, I have come to realize some unstated assumptions that framed my initial action in writing Thank You notes to my students, and in what I believe about the human condition.  I participated in the #clmooc because I wanted to be part of a digital learning community, and then when others *appreciated* something I had contributed, it made me feel great and kept the creative juices flowing.  Being grateful helps us pause our lives on positive things.  The more we pause on positive things, the more we encourage others to do the same by example.  The more we pause on positive things in the classroom, the more we shape our own thinking to have an appreciative learning stance as opposed to a consumerist learning stance.  We form community around highlighting bright spots and encouragement, even when we have to deliver critique, we have built relationships that can withstand the frustrations that can sometimes accompany new learning.  These are the assumptions I make about teaching and learning and how simply expressing gratitude can create a more positive culture of learning in a classroom community.

Connected Learning Principles
  1. Interest-powered (limited by parameters of thanking someone)
  2. Production-Centered (focused on publishing for authentic audience)
  3. Social Connection (builds relationships)

Literacy Focus – from the CCSS
  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

Ideas Influenced By:

Mental Floss. "11 Amazing Thank You Notes from Famous People". 

NPR Staff. Author Interview.  “Perfect Thank You Notes: Heartfelt and Handwritten.

Ramano, Tom.  Blending Genre, Altering Style.  Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 2000.
            Ramano advocates writing in a variety of genres to engage students with writing.

  Rodier, Anne.  “A Cure for Writer’s Block: Writing for Real Audiences.” The Quarterly Vol. 22, No. 2, Spring 2000.  < http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/817>.
            Students need opportunities to write for real audiences in order to build motivation, investment, and skill.  Rodier suggests that from authentic writing assignments students will develop skills to apply to other writing tasks, especially an understanding of audience.

The North Carolina Graduation Project Implementation Guide.  NC Department of Pubic Instruction, 2007. In this four component project students will need to write “thank you” notes to mentors and others.  

“Etiquette Everyday ~ Communications: Being Thankful, A Thank You Note Q&A.”  The Emily Post Institute, Inc.  < http://www.emilypost.com/everyday/thank_u_note_qna.htm>.

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