Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hanging In, Hanging Out, and Hanging On: A Collaboration Begins #SOL15

Dana in the big square; me in the little one!
During the summer I learned that my friend and colleague Dana Huff, who blogs at Huff English and whom I met through the Folger Shakespeare Library, would be teaching English Literature and Composition for the first time next year. As I will also be teaching English Lit and Comp for the first time, Dana and I decided to meet up via Google Hangouts and discuss the course and our plans. 

For more than 1:45, Dana and I talked, but we didn't confer about AP only. Nope. We chatted about the challenges of HANGING IN for the long haul in our maligned profession. We visited about HANGING ON in the face of reductive, pseudo education reforms that run antithetical to our notions about pedagogical excellence. Of course, we spoke about HANGING OUT throughout the school year and offering support to one another in our AP Lit and Comp journey as we share best practices. 

For our first Google Hangout, here are some of the things we discussed: 

*First day plan: Dana shared her plan to seek input about student goals and obstacles they face. At one point she made a comment that reminded me of the ONE SENTENCE project I used for a MACBETH lesson. This has inspired me to change the lesson to one about universal themes in literature by having students write about and share their life theme. 

*Assessment and Revision: Dana reminded me that the College Board wants to see a plan for student revision built into the required audit syllabus. I like Dana's suggestion for requiring students to revise essays that fall below a 5 on the AP nine-point scale and offering all students an opportunity to revise. 

*Whether to teach the course thematically or by genre: I shared my AP by the Sea facilitator's thoughts about a thematic course and how I changed my mind about teaching the course as separate genre studies. 

*Dana told me about the acronym TWIST, which refers to tone, word, image, style, and theme. We also talked about TP-CAST and the various other AP acronyms. We both realize we have the AP Vertical Teams book with these resources that we can use. 

*Dana had a great idea about having her course go full circle by revisiting the questions she began with at the end of the year. 

*Class size challenges: Dana teaches in a private school that promises to keep class size low, and I am in a public school. Dana's two sections of AP are below 15, and I have one section of AP w/ 19 students. (Many of our seniors take dual enrollment English through ISU.)

*Books we're teaching: Both Dana and I received complimentary copies of Carol Jago's Literature & Composition: Reading, Writing, Thinking (Bedford/St. Martin) book, and I also received a copy on Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound & Sense, Twelfth Edition (Johnson and Arp, eds. (Cengage Learning). We chatted about the merits of both books and like both. Additionally, we talked about some of the major works we're teaching and the challenges of teaching new books and those our predecessors taught. We both have visions for the class that align more with our constructivist philosophy of learning. 

*My facilitator shared a huge file of materials with participants in the workshop I attended. I shared this with Dana, as well as the syllabus I composed for the audit. Dana is sharing her documents with me, too, but she has the unenviable task of retyping many since she did not get a digitized copy of the resources. 

Finally, before ending our visit and waving goodbye, I suggested that Dana and I keep notes about our collaboration during the year and consider writing about it together next summer. I asked Dana if she had ever seen a book about or read an article about sustaining and making a collaboration such as ours work. We both see this as a gap in the professional literature. 

Near the end of the hangout, I snapped the screenshot above and later posted it to FB where another friend from the Folger saw it and commented: "Hey, I'm teaching AP Lit and Comp for the first time next year, too." Dana and  I invited Julie Bowerman to join us, and we later added one more to our merry band, one of Dana's friends from the Kenyon Writer's Workshop. 

Now we are four newbie AP Lit and Comp teachers ready to read, write, reflect, and rehash the challenges and rewards of our new teaching experiences. We're ready to HANG IN, HANG OUT, and HANG ON together! 

*It's Tuesday and time for the Tuesday Slice of Life challenge presented every week by the merry band of teachers at Two Writing Teachers. Head on over to TWT for more slices. 


  1. A wonderful mantra to start the year: Hang in, Hang out, Hang on together-Best of luck.

  2. Wishing you guys the very best year. Sounds like you have made your tribe and chosen your slogan.

  3. I love it! Collaborations like this do so much to push us professionally and sustain us personally. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sounds like you two had a great hang out! I love the TWIST on TP-CAST. Very cool and likely easier for kids to remember. I hope you have a great year in AP Lit! It will be my first year in a while not teaching AP Lang. We have so many IB tenth graders this year that I didn't have enough room in my schedule. No AP for me this year, but I'll stayed tuned for ideas because good ideas work in all classes for all students.

  5. This was awesome! You took very good notes. I need you because I didn't do that last time. I am glad we are doing this.

  6. This is delightful! So great to hear of this teacher collaboration. Your post exudes "invigoration" from the relationship! So much fun hanging out!!